Learning how to pick locks as part of a magic show can enable you to amaze your friends. Professional magicians who pick locks usually take one of three approaches, and an amateur can do the same. Stage illusionists pick a lock with hidden tools, operate with a lock they've modified to only appear locked, or use sleight of hand to substitute a lock they know all about for one the audience thinks they're attacking.
A magician sometimes hides a small set of lock picks in his or her mouth. Lock picks are tools that resemble oversized toothpicks crossed with tiny dental tools. Using these tools, a wide variety of modern locks are easy to open. A sensitive-fingered illusionist can open a lock nearly as fast as it can be unlocked with a key. It's not magic, though; it's practice.
Hidden lock picks are the secret to some handcuff and underwater escapes. In the case of an underwater illusion, the magician is indeed motivated to act fast.
Padlocks and handcuffs can be modified, of course, by anyone who has a machine shop or who knows a good machinist. Even when an audience member called up on stage declares a lock to be secure, it is often easily opened. Sometimes a lock will be modified to swing open like a door when a tiny catch is turned. Other times, it takes a twist to open a modified padlock. The point is that these locks open easily -- but not in response to the normal motions a naive or collaborative audience member might use.
Trick padlocks and handcuffs are not generally sold to the public. People with mechanical skills and tools can sometimes make their own by cutting open locks and experimenting.
Sleight of hand
The easiest way to deal with locks is sleight of hand. Because most people enjoy a sense of mystery, it's not difficult to substitute an open or a broken lock for the genuine article. Such locks don't have to be modified or attacked because they're not locked in the first place.
If a lock is out of sight for a second, it can be exchanged. It's possible to hide trick or open locks on the magician's body, on a glass rostrum with silvered spots, in an assistant's clothing or in the back section of an apparently transparent tank or booth. It's also possible to use chains with weak links to remove an entire wrapping of locks and chains and to substitute trick locks binding genuine chains.
No amateur should ever try a trick involving underwater antics, suspension, burial or anything airtight. However, anyone who is willing to practice distraction and a line of patter can easily amaze his or her friends. They'll love to be fooled.