In this article we’re going to cover the best types of tools for cutting locks and how to use them, along with specific tools you can buy online or in your local store.
Also, some tools that you probably already have in your toolbox can be used if you find yourself locked outside your property or forget your bike keys. We’ve included those as well!
1. Bolt Cutters
Bolt cutters are the simplest tool for cutting locks. They are basically a pair of really sharp scissors. For additional force, they have a fulcrum joint so that less applied force produces more impact.
Easily available online and in hardware stores, bolt cutters come in a variety of sizes. The bolt cutters with the longer handles provide more leverage for greater power.
PRO TIP: Heat the part of the lock to crimson red with a blow torch (if you safely can). It will cut easily like butter.
Bolt cutters are also great tools for cutting fencing, light to medium gauge chains, and other soft metals. If the padlock is chained, then you also have the option to cut the chain.
In such a combination, use the bolt cutter to cut the link of the chain closest to the padlock. This way, you keep the padlock intact and undamaged. And if you later find the key, you can unlock and reuse it easily. Cutting the link closest to the padlock also helps you pull the slack from the chain to secure the lock to the next link.
If it takes you a good drive to reach the property where you are conducting a forcible-entry operation, it is a good idea to have an alternative method ready as well.
The following DIY tutorial shows small bolt cutters at work:
There are many great bolt cutters available on Amazon. With the next-day delivery, you can easily get back on track if you’re in a sticky situation.
For example, Tolsen Bolt Cutter is a great choice. It’s big, tough and heavy. The hardened heavy-duty steel blades are effective for cutting tough locks. Its non-slip rubber grips makes it comfortable to use.
Higher in price is the WORKPRO Bolt Cutter. Available in different sizes from 14″ to 30″, this bolt cutter is fairly compact. The long handles provide the necessary leverage needed to cut a bolt with ease.
While you are in for buying a bolt cutter, we also recommend buying a pair of safety goggles. That’s for safety in case a part of the lock flies off while cutting.
2. Reciprocating Saw
Also known as Sabre saw (or Saber Saw), a Reciprocating Saw is a handheld saw. The short for Reciprocating Saw is Recip Saw. It is commonly used for demolition and remodeling.
Recip saw can be used to cut through different types of materials including wood, metal, PVC, and nails. So, it can be a powerful tool at hand when you find yourself locked outside your property.
A reciprocating saw has a reciprocating blade that rotates and moves back and forth in front of the saw. The metal grinding blade of a recip saw can be used to cut through the bolts on the lock.
The following video shows a reciprocating saw at work:
Makita Lithium-Ion Cordless Recipro Saw is my preferred choice. It has variable speeds which can come in handy if you need to cut through a lock quickly. Blades can also be installed and removed quickly without any tools. Thanks to it being lightweight (only 8.3 lbs with battery) and being only 19-1/8″ long it’s easy to carry and handle in small spaces.
We highly recommend wearing safety goggles and a face mask while sawing metal. This is a precaution to prevent metal dust from flying into your eyes. The mask prevents the metal splinters from entering your lungs.
3. Angle Grinder
An angle grinder is also known as a side grinder or disc grinder. It is a handheld power tool built for grinding and polishing.
These tools were originally developed for rigid abrasive discs. However, with the development of an interchangeable power source, they are used for cutting a wide variety of materials. Plus, they have attachments that can be used as required.
For example, a diamond blade attachment on an angle grinder is perfect for grinding through bolts in the lock.
The angle grinders are powered by an electric motor and compressed air. The electric angle grinders are cheaper but the compressed air ones are more cost-effective. In addition, the electric angle grinders need only one outlet, so they are more portable out of the two.
If you are only looking for using the angle grinder for cutting locks occasionally, we recommend an electric one as it costs less. It takes only a few seconds to cut a lock with an angle grinder:
PORTER-CABLE Angle Grinder Tool is a great budget pick if all you need a grinder for is to cut through locks. It has 3-position adjustable side handle which can be useful if you’re cutting a lock from weird angles. It’s under $40 on a discount at the moment of writing, so I hope the deal is still available as you’re reading this.
If you are using an angle grinder to grind your way through the lock, make sure you have safety goggles and a face mask. Remember that the process will generate a lot of sparks. We also recommend that you have a fire extinguisher nearby, in the event of something catching fire.
4. Cutting Torch
A cutting torch is similar to a welding torch, but it can be identified by the oxygen blast trigger. The blast trigger can be altered for a lever. The metal being cut is heated by the flame. When it becomes cherry red, oxygen is supplied to the part by the oxygen blast trigger. The flame temperature can get as high as 4000 degrees.
The cutting torch is the most powerful tool for cutting through locks. It uses oxygen and gas to virtually melt the bolt to cut through it. A cutting torch consists of two large tanks containing pressurized gas and a flow regulator. The flame is generated at the head of the cutting torch. Extra care should be taken to keep the torch head undamaged. Any damage can lead to an unwanted fire.
The following video shows this powerful tool at work:
Cutting torches are fairly expensive. The lowest price you are going to pay for a decent cutting torch is around $300, and that’s the Victor Technologies Torch.
I used this torch before and it has a large handle that feels just right. I’ve noticed that some customers are complaining that only the hose is made in the US, the rest is made in China. I don’t think that has any impact on the quality whatsoever, as the manufacturing process is the same regardless of the location.
Again, consider other tools for cutting locks before you consider investing in a cutting torch. It’s a high-end addition to any regular Joe’s inventory. We’d call it the “last resort” if you think none of the other tools would work for the lock you are looking to cut through.
Wherever there is fire, there should be a fire extinguisher handy. Safety goggles, face masks, and safety gloves are necessary safety measures when cutting a lock with a cutting torch.
Always keep an eye for any signs of damage on the torch head. If damaged, it could lead to a fire.
5. The Double Wrench Method
If it is only a one-time and very rare incident that you got stuck out of your property perhaps you can break the lock by using good old wrenches from your toolbox. This is how:
- Place the two wrenches in the lock perpendicular (at a 90-degree angle) to each other as shown in the picture.
- Apply inward force and the lock will break open.
- You might need to try a couple of times before the lock breaks so keep trying till you succeed.
6. Crow Bar and Hammer
At this point, you might be thinking we are just helping intruders. But look at the positive side. The more you know about how to break the locks, the safer you’ll be.
This is how you break open a padlock using a crowbar and a hammer.
Basically, you keep the lock in place using the crowbar. Then you hit the lock with sheer force using a hammer. This method is loud but works great.
Well, now you know locking things with a simple padlock isn’t as safe as you thought. Many homeowners use these locks to secure their garages and storage sheds. Turns out they can be cut with many tools. So do read our article on the most secure garage doors if you are looking for a better way to secure your valuables in a garage.