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A Lockpicking Practicum With Schuyler Towne

January 7 @ 6:00 pm - February 4 @ 7:30 pm

In this 5-part seminar, learn the basics of lockpicking, examine how locks are portrayed in popular media, and design a lock from scratch.


This course will cover the anatomy of locks, the fundamentals of how to pick them, and a number of things that aren’t fundamental at all. Over the course of five sessions, we’ll familiarize ourselves with the tools in a lockpicker’s kit, learn how to pick a basic pin tumbler lock, and decode a combination lock. We’ll also think about keyspace reduction, examine lockpicking in popular media, and even design a new lock from scratch. By the end of this course, you’ll not only be equipped with a handy practical skill (and the tools needed to put it to practice) but you’ll also have unlocked a new perspective of the world around you, as well as the world portrayed in popular media.

Note: This course is designed for participants 18 years of age and older. If you would like to take this course and are under 18 years of age, please reach out to us prior to enrolling.


There are five total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on five Thursdays, beginning January 7.

Session 1 (Thursday, 1/7, 6–7:30 PM ET): How locks work + how we pick them

Session 2 (Thursday, 1/14, 6–7:30 PM ET): Pick types

Session 3 (Thursday, 1/21, 6–7:30 PM ET): Security pins

Session 4 (Thursday, 1/28, 6–7:30 PM ET): Keyspace reduction + combination locks

Session 5 (Thursday, 2/4, 6–7:30 PM ET): Let’s make a lock


This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that meets over Zoom. Students may be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.

In most cases, instructors will use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Classroom, instructors will be using this platform to post resources, discussion questions, and assignments, when applicable.


Students will be expected to practice picking locks between sessions. There will be a one-hour video assigned after our fourth session to prepare students for their final class.


Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to the class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access your course via Zoom on each scheduled date and time.


Schuyler Towne is a research scholar at the Ronin Institute studying the history and anthropology of security technologies. Before turning fully academic in his pursuits, he was a competitive lockpicker, frequently winning competitions in America and losing them abroad. He has been teaching people to pick locks for 13 years and has provided lockpicking consulting for a wide range of people, from manufacturers to mystery authors.


Prior to the course, students will receive a set of lockpicks, several pin tumbler locks, materials for repinning those locks, security pins, and two combination locks.


This online course is offered by Atlas Obscura. Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive, community-driven guide to the most incredible places on the planet and is now an award-winning travel company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.

Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 25 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed via a recording that will be shared within 72 hours after each session airs. Class recordings for lecture series will be available with a temporary password for up to two weeks following the final session of the course.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses.


January 7 @ 6:00 pm
February 4 @ 7:30 pm
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