Escape Room Atlanta: Tips & Tricks
So you want to be the next Houdini, and enter the mysterious world of escapology? Escape rooms have given you a taste, but you want more. Well, it is tough work, and it requires quite a bit of commitment. Not only a commitment to the craft, but a dedication to learning, and always improving. Here are the basics of what you need in order to become a real-life escape artist and succeed when you play an escape room in Atlanta with Mastermind.
What You Need To Know
Before you can become a true escape artist, you need to know the basics of bindings and locks. How locks work, how picking them works, how to open locks faster than picking them, and how to practice your skills. Once you have all of that, you can move on to building up your reputation as an escapologist.
Basic Lock Functionality – There are many different types of locks, but the most common is called a pin tumbler. These are the ones with the zigzagged rectangular shape for a keyhole, which have the key that looks like a saw. When you insert your key into a lock pin stacks are moved so that one pin in each stack falls above a certain point, and another falls bellow. The cuts on a key are what raise the pins to a particular height. If the wrong key is inserted, these pins will not all be at the right height, so the lock will bind, unable to open. Picking centers around moving those stacks to the right height one at a time.
Basics of Handcuffs – Your average handcuffs use a system of a single strand of metal, riveted to a double strand. The single strand has teeth that drag against a locking pawl inside the cuffs. They can keep tightening until there are no more teeth left to catch on the locking pawl, then they can slide through the double strand, unlocking and free to lock again. The locking pawl only allows the single strand to tighten, without being able to loosen. The key releases the locking pawl so it does not catch on the teeth, and then the cuffs can be removed. A secondary lock can also be used so that the locking pawl and ratchet are immobilized, so the cuffs cannot tighten or loosen. Picking centers around moving the locking pawl so the ratcheting mechanism is prevented from working.
Practice And Research – The more you understand these devices, and practice your manipulation, the faster you will be able to escape. The more skills you gain, the more things you will be able to escape from. Experiment with not only picking, but with bypass methods, such as shimming, and find the weaknesses that are inherent to particular locks. All of the information you need is available on the Internet, and what is not there is accessible through finding a mentor (which can be assisted through the internet). And if you do not practice, you will lose your ability. Lock picking is a perishable skill, so a failure to practice will result in you starting over.
The key to escapology, similar to the motto of the Boy Scouts of America, is always being prepared. Knowing how to escape is only a part of the escaping process. The next most important thing is having your tools, or at the very least, the materials to make the tools you need. You may be challenged by your friends, strangers, and there is always the possibility of a life and death situation. Anytime you fail to get out of your restraints, you lose face, dampen your reputation, and endanger yourself. A true escape artist is prepared to get out of any constraints when they are buck naked in the shower…but you can work towards that. For now, you just need to have these items always on your person, so that you can always rise to the occasion.
Lock Picks – An everyday carry lock pick set should have several tools, which you are proficient in using, and work on most locks. The best lock picks to have in your kit are a standard hook, Bogota rake, half diamond, and a few tension wrenches in a variety of sizes. All of these can be placed in a case, which should be designed to keep the picks from spilling out, or moving around so that they are not where you last put them.
The Bogota rake is the most universal rake, and it used to open low and mid security pin tumbler locks by simply taking the tool in and out of the keyway (while tension is applied). Raking requires little skill and focus, perfect when you are strapped for time or it is hard to focus. The half diamond can be used for quick picking too, as well as Single Pin Picking (SPP). For the best results, when trying to SPP a lock, you cannot go wrong with a standard hook. Depending on where you live, the types of locks being used may require picks with slimmer profiles (due to tighter keyways). Having several tension wrenches is very important because, without the right tension, that lock is not going to open.
Shims – There are several types of shims, all of which will be useful to carry with you. Padlock shims, have the appearance of a flattened sailor’s hat curved at the center, and you should always have at least two of those. (One for each side of the shackle). The other important shim is the handcuff shim. They are small flat rectangular pieces of metal, which are very easy to conceal. Something like a rogue’s ring can be purchased or constructed, so as to hide the existence of the handcuff shim.
These devices will allow you to open items with less range of motion, and in less time than it takes to pick a lock. Know that shimming is not always an option. Certain high-security devices take special precautions so that their products are not susceptible to shimming or bypass attacks. In cases like that, you will need to pick the lock.
Handcuff Keys – Handcuff keys are almost completely universal. They vary ever so slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The principal will, however always be the same. If the cuffs are double locked, you need to rotate the key clockwise to undo the secondary lock, and then back around counterclockwise to release the locking pawl that is preventing the ratcheting mechanism from allowing the single strand of the cuff from loosening (if that didn’t make sense, then you need to do some more research on handcuffs). There are universal handcuff keys that will work in all standard (not high security) handcuffs. These can be concealed very easily, and they can even be placed on the aglet of a shoelace.
Paper Clips – When you have your rings, shoelaces, and pick set taken from you, you will need to make improvised tools. Paper clips are great for making lock picks. Without a pair of pliers, they will be far from ideal, but they can still be serviceable. Make a hook and a tension wrench. The easiest way to make your hooks is to bend one end of the paper clip in the keyway of the lock. For the tension wrench, we will assume you do not have pliers, so you need to just use a bend in the paper clips and twist the metal in on itself, making a small circle. That small circle will be the ‘L’ of your tension wrench (the end you place in the keyhole to apply tension).
You will not need a tension wrench for handcuffs, but you may need a stronger piece of metal than a paper clip to undo the double lock. The locking mechanism for the secondary lock on police issue handcuffs is very strong, and will bend your tool before it is able to unlock anything. You can try and slam your cuffs, and shake the locking pin loose. This will leave you to deal with the standard lock only, which you should be able to pick with the paper clip. But all of these makeshift tools will be a far cry away from the professional tools a locksmith would use to open your door during a house lockout.
Bobby Pins and Binder Clips – Both of these materials are stronger than paper clips. Binder clips are even pre-bent, perfect for handcuff picking, and strong enough to undo the secondary lock without bending or breaking. Bobby pins have the feat of flatness, which allows them not to bend when you are using their edge to manipulate a locking device. The hard construction of both of these items makes it hard to bend them into a specific shape, and they are rarely useful for tensioning a lock. In a jam they may be just what you need, so never leave home without them.
With all of this information, you should be able to decide for yourself if escapology is right for you. It requires a bit of research, constant practice, and a mindset of persistent preparedness. Do you have what it takes? Find out by setting down the path of escape artistry and trying an escape room in Atlanta with Mastermind Escape Games!
Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.