It’s one of the most frustrating things anyone with a file cabinet can experience: losing the keys and not accessing important documents. If you’ve ever found yourself in this position, you’ve probably tried to look up how to pick a file cabinet lock.
You need to consider several things before you learn how to pick a file drawer lock, such as the lock type, the construction and durability of the cabinet, and how urgent it is for you to open the lock. If you plan to dispose of the cabinet after picking the lock, then you should just consider prying the lock open. It will destroy your cabinet and ultimately render it unusable, but if you are throwing it out anyway, it won’t matter. Here are some other methods that you can consider before you try to pick your file cabinet lock.
First, Try Contacting the Manufacturer
If you’re not in a hurry, the best thing you can do is contact the manufacturer of your filing cabinet to request a new key. Before you contact the manufacturer, you should have the cabinet model and the number of the lock cylinder ready so that they can check if they can send a spare key.
Don’t be surprised if the manufacturer requests documents that will prove that you are the filing cabinet owner. You can ready documents such as the original invoice from the purchase, or any earlier requests to fix the cabinet if you have them.
Contact a Locksmith
If you don’t want to risk damaging your file cabinet and don’t have the time to wait for a reply from the manufacturer, you can also try contacting a locksmith. Locksmiths are trained to open locked file cabinets without damaging the structure of the cabinet. They will bring special tools to help them open the file cabinet quickly and easily. However, locksmiths often charge high rates to open locked cabinets. These rates can even dramatically increase depending on your urgency and the complexity of your cabinet.
Purchase Bump Keys
Have you ever heard of bump keys? Bump keys are another way on how to pick a lock on a file cabinet without using the actual key. You can visit any hardware store and buy a set of bump keys for less than $10. Bump keys are designed like “skeleton keys,” which means that they can be used on any lock.
When you purchase a set of bump keys, look for the key that appears the closest to the lock on your file cabinet. Insert it into the lock and bump and tilt the key around to try and open the lock. However, this method is not 100% foolproof, so don’t expect it to always work.
When All Else Fails, Pick the Lock
If you’re at the point where you’ve exhausted all your options, you may need to learn how to pick a file cabinet lock. The biggest downsides of this are that you can accidentally jam the lock or even destroy the inner mechanism, or you won’t be able to pick it at all no matter how hard you try. However, if you are set on learning to pick a file cabinet lock, you can use either paper clips or a nail file.
Using Paper Clips
Here is how to pick a file cabinet lock using a paper clip:
- Straighten out the paperclip while leaving one of the ends bent.
- Insert the curved tip of the paperclip into the keyhole of the lock. Make sure that you insert the paperclip vertically so that the curved end pushes down on the lock pins inside.
- Move the paper clip from left to right to find the right way to push down the pins and open the lock. Do this slowly and gently so that you can feel the pins being pushed down. When the lock turns to the side, you have unlocked the filing cabinet.
- Once you have unlocked the cabinet, slowly remove the paperclip, making sure not to move the pins inside.
- Pull-on the handle of your cabinet and keep it unlocked until you find a replacement key.
Using a Nail File
You can also use a nail clipper file to learn how to pick a file cabinet lock. Here is how you open your locked cabinet:
- Use a nail clipper file that is small and slim and has a curved tip.
- Insert the nail clipper file into the bottom of the keyhole, pushing it in as far as possible. As with the paper clip’s curved edge, use the curved edge of the nail file to feel for the pins inside the lock.
- Slowly move the file left to right to find the proper fit into the pins. Once you find the right position, the file should easily slide in and out of the lock. This will take some time before you find the right position.
- Jiggle the file up and down slowly to unlock the mechanism. Most file cabinets have around five locking pins, and you’ll need to push down these five pins to unlock the file cabinet.
- Move the file into the unlocked position. Generally, you will also hear the locking mechanism collapse, which means that you have successfully unlocked your cabinet.
There you have it, how to pick a file cabinet lock using either a paper clip or a nail file. Keep in mind that these methods are not 100% guaranteed to open your file cabinet, and there is a chance that you might jam the lock even further. You also run the risk of bending your nail file or paper clip. If you have the time and patience, it would be better to contact the manufacturer and request a new key, or if you have the spare cash, you can hire a locksmith. Otherwise, if you plan to get rid of the filing cabinet, you can pry the drawer open. Find out more about Cabinet Locks.