5 Tried & Tested Ways for Cutting a Lock (Using Bolt Cutters & More)

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How long has it been since you last ventured into your garden shed? I’ve been there, trying key after key, but nothing seems to fit. And believe me, resorting to a safety pin often proves fruitless on those age-old locks.

Over the years, I’ve gathered insights and solutions for such dilemmas. In this guide, I’ll share the best strategies I’ve discovered to tackle this issue.

How to Cut Off a Lock: 5 Methods

Method #1: With Bolt Cutters

I’ve turned to bolt cutters more times than I can count, especially for this issue. Bolt cutters excel at cutting through locks, light to medium gauge chains, and other malleable metals. 

If you’re ever faced with the choice of cutting a padlock or a link, I’d advise cutting the link closest to the lock. That way, you can still hold onto the padlock’s key for future use.

Method #2: Using an Angle Grinder

Using an angle grinder may require some form of experience to avoid any injuries. If you’re new to using this tool, it would be best to use other methods for your safety. 

But if you prefer this method, make sure to don safety gloves first. Keep all cables and flexes behind you for extra safety. 

cutting off a lock with an angle grinder

Position the angle grinder on the lock’s shackle. Turn on the device and slowly push the cutting wheel against the metal. The friction caused by the cutting creates harmful sparks and fumes, so make sure that the room has sufficient ventilation and open windows or doors for enclosed spaces. 

Maintain a firm pressure enough to cut through the metal shackle. If you’re opening a lock in an open area, use a GFCI (RCD) adapter fitted to power the angle grinder. 

It’s best handled by someone who has the experience and can focus on the task on hand. Never use this tool when you’re tired, or it can affect focus and pose a safety hazard. 

Method #3: Using a Hacksaw and a Propane Torch

I’ve occasionally had to rely on the propane torch and hacksaw method to cut through padlocks. Not every workshop has these tools on hand, so I typically see this as a last-resort strategy when dealing with particularly stubborn locks.

person holding LENOX Tools High-Tension Hacksaw

The first step in this process requires heating the steel with the propane torch. Once the metal starts to glow, let it cool before using the hacksaw to cut through it.

Method #4: With a Dremel

Working almost similar to the angle grinder, I use a Dremel in cutting a lock because it’s more accessible and efficient.  

To do this, don safety gloves and goggles first. Assemble the Dremel and place the cutoff wheel on the shackle at a perpendicular angle. Just put enough pressure to cut through the metal. 

Method #5: Using a Cutting Torch

When you have exhausted all other options to cut a lock, a cutting torch could do the trick. Don’t be intimidated by cutting through locks with a torch. If you have one, start by opening your oxygen tank and turning the acetylene to about 5-6 PSI (quarter turn). You can set the oxygen tank at 45 to 50 PSI.

torch and a padlock

Fire up the torch and reduce the acetylene until the black smoke is gone. Then, adjust the oxygen until a white cone flame appears. Cut in a back-and-forth motion until it goes through the metal shackle.

Safety Tips and Reminders

FAQ

Can a bolt cutter cut a Master Lock?

You can not cut a Master lock using a bolt cutter. Since Master locks are made of hardened steel, using a standard cutter will be insufficient for this task. If there’s a shackle, you can use the bolt cutter to get to the Master lock.

When it comes to cutting a Master lock, especially when shackles aren’t present, you might need more robust tools. An angle grinder, cutting torch, or the combination of a hacksaw and propane torch often does the trick for cutting through the steel lock.

How hard is it to cut a lock with bolt cutters?

It is hard to cut locks with bolt cutters because of the metal’s thickness and the limited space to insert the tool. Padlocks are made of steel alloy [1] and hardened steel resists standard bolt cutters.

Conclusion

Cutting a lock is tricky, but there are multiple ways to do it. Experience in working with sophisticated tools like angle grinders and cutting torches ensures you’re cutting safely and surely. With these tips I provided here, you can efficiently cut locks in no time.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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