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How to Pick an Old Trunk Lock? – 2 Simple Ways

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to pick an old trunk lock

Antique trunks have existed for a long time and have been used all over the world. Ranging from safekeeping treasures to storing important documents, trunks have proven its usefulness and worth.

However, if you have an old trunk stored inside your house, which you most likely lost the antique steamer trunk keys, it might be difficult to open without damaging the lock or the trunk itself. In this article, I will show you how to pick an old trunk lock and retrieve what it contains.

Simple Ways to Pick Old Trunk Locks


Before diving into how to pick a steamer trunk lock, you first have to identify what type of lock you are dealing with. The different types of trunk locks have a certain way of lockpicking.

1. Opening a Pin Tumbler Lock

Lockpicking a pin tumbler lock will be almost impossible if you do not have prior experience in picking locks. To open a pin tumbler lock without a key, you have to learn first how to pick simple locks.

Between the raking style of lockpicking and single-pin picking, the preferred method to open a storage trunk with a pin tumbler lock is through raking. The raking method of lockpicking is simpler than the other one, since you can pick the lock with minimal practice.

To do steamer trunk lock picking with a pin tumbler lock, you can do the following:

  • Step 1: Prepare your rakes and tension tool for lock picking.
  • Step 2: Wiggle your rake inside the keyhole in and out with varying angles and varying speeds.
  • Step 3: At the same time, decrease and increase the tension on your tension tool.
  • Step 4: Repeat steps two and three until you feel that all the pins on the lock have been sitting on their own ledges.
  • Step 5: Keep the tension on your tension tool until the lock opens.

Unlike the warded lock, pin tumbler locks do not have a skeleton key or a master key most of the time. However, if your trunk uses a new padlock, there is a chance that there is a skeleton key that you can find online.

2. Opening a Warded Lock

As opposed to regular locks, trunk locks cannot be picked with a bobby pin. The warded keys are designed with notches that keep the incorrect key from going inside the interior wards of the lock.

Therefore, skeleton keys are manufactured and modified to go past the interior of the warded lock. Trunk locks are more secure, that’s why you might need a skeleton key to open a warded lock.

To open a steamer trunk with a warded lock, follow these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Prepare your skeleton key. A skeleton key, or a warded lock pick, comes in different profiles depending on the warded lock.
  • Step 2: Stick your skeleton key inside the keyhole, and twist it back and forth.
  • Step 3: If your skeleton key’s grooves interact with the locking mechanism, the lock will then open.

The History of Antique Trunk Locks


For a long time, different types of antique trunks have been used in businesses and private matters. These products differ in shape, color, and size due to varying manufacturers.

With the rise of antique trunks came the popularization of trunk locks and hasps.

Hand-made trunk locks were already popular way before the 1830s. This changed when industrialization came into play in 1836 and gave birth to a new age of this type of lock.

In the 1920s, the process of producing the new era of trunk locks came to a halt as the adoption of modifications to manufacturing these locks was done. As a result, the alterations to the mechanism of the latest product can still be observed.

The production of steamer trunks was a booming economy for America back in 1860-1900, which prodded the need for locks for steamer trunks. This resulted in the emergence of trunk companies making their own locks.

However, many of the trunk companies outsourced trunk locks from companies which manufactured large locks. Eagle Lock Company trunk identification shows the use of warded locks.

Types of Antique Trunk Locks and How to Identify Them


Trunk locks come in different shapes, sizes, and lock mechanisms depending on the manufacturer. As of now, there are two popular antique locks — warded locks and tumbler pin locks.

1. Identifying a Warded Lock

When people imagine an antique key, most of the time, they are imagining a key for a warded lock. A warded lock is proven to be not complex with the following identification features:

  • The rectangular grooves and the rounded shaft exhibited by the lock are two of the defining features of the warded lock. The keys that go inside the warded lock are often designed with rectangular cuts.
  • Inside the warded lock’s keyhole, we cannot see any pins. The steamer trunk lock diagram of a warded lock also shows a very open keyway.
  • The keyway of a warded lock is also occupied with a cylinder. This cylinder acts as a guide for the orientation of the key as you insert it.

2. Identifying a Tumbler Pin Lock

Due to the popularity of warded locks, tumbler pin locks are not often used for antique trunks. However, some new and old padlocks still use tumbler pin mechanisms to secure the trunks.

If you are unsure if your antique trunk is secured with a tumbler pin lock, here are some of the defining features:

  • You will be able to determine what type of lock you are dealing with as you check the key. The key for a tumbler pin lock comes with grooves and dips down the blade up to the key’s shoulder.
  • If the key is nowhere to be found, you can check if the pins inside the keyhole are present or not. In a tumbler pin lock, pins can be found inside if you shine a direct light inside it.
  • More often than not, tumbler pin locks are used for padlock mechanisms.


Avoid damaging that precious antique and dump those unnecessary tools. You have the right to have the peace of mind knowing how to unlock an antique lock and knowing what’s inside the old storage.

Learning how to pick an old trunk lock is a walk in the park. Knowing what type of trunk lock first will set you in the right direction to open antique trunks that you have.

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