Analog Hacker Raises $20k to Make Handmade Lockpicking Tools


You want a retro hobby with hacker cred? Try competitive lockpicking, which I'd bet is coming soon to a hipster bar near you.

Schuyler Towne is a graphic designer, maker, and lockpicker. That's him in the video up there showing off his tools. A week ago, he launched a project on Kickstarter, the micropatronage site, asking for $6,000 to begin manufacturing his own line of steel lockpicking tools. He's already gotten over $20,000 in contributions from more than 250 backers.

What explains the response? My guess is that people trained in (digital) security want to understand its physical manifestations, too. Add in the oft-expressed desire of the computer-chained to "work with my hands" and you've got a hot idea.

In a real sense, Towne is an analog hacker. He even got his start at the sixth annual HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference, where a competitive Dutch lockpicker had set up shop to teach people the basics of the dark art.

"I didn't know anything about locks. Didn't even know how they worked and didn't really care to know... [My friends] dragged me along to a talk that Barry Wels, the head of The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers, was giving. Barry is this very charming, very smart Dutchman who gave the most remarkable presentation. Watching him open locks on stage was like watching a very subtle, understated magic show," he told the Kickstarter blog. "His organization had set up a lockpicking "Village" at the conference and I went over there and picked the first lock I would ever open. By the end of the afternoon I was teaching the basics to other people who had gathered around. I was instantly hooked."

[Thanks to technology writer Quinn Norton for pointing out his success!]

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