Cracking a Master Lock

Cracking locks, busting safes, heisting diamonds from high-security vaults — it's every little girl's dream.

beautiful graphic promises to make those dreams come true. By the San Francisco designer Mark Campos, the illustration walks you through the technique for cracking a classic Master lock

And today, I tried it.

I carefully opened the lock packaging and removed the sticker from the back without looking at it. With no prior knowledge of the answer, I began my quest for the combination.

The first step has me pull up on the handle to feel for the last number. It was awfully satisfying to feel the mechanism catch at some numbers and not others. From the twelve places the dial catches, the graphic provides the algorithm for knowing which number is the final digit in the combination. Mine was nine. The diamonds are nearly within my grasp now.

With the last number known, it comes down to working through all the permutations. Fortunately, prior knowledge of how Master locks work means there are only 100 possible combinations. Around attempt 50 or so, things were looking pretty bleak. I thought I might be spinning that dial for the rest of my life. Then I remembered that a crack thief needs to focus! So I focused. And on attempt 74, it gave:

Opening a lock whose combination I didn't know was damn cool. Even if someone else gave me the instructions.

Beautiful infographic authenticated. Childhood dream accomplished. All in a day's work. 

I'm a regular Parker.

About this site

    Katie Peek is a science writer and astronomer who is figuring out how to give voice to information and data. This web site is a log of her voyage.