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

torch and a padlock

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How long has it been since the last time you opened the garden shed? You try all the keys, but none of them seems to fit the lock. Using a safety pin may be futile on age-old locks. 

To solve this problem, our tool experts have scoured far and wide and detailed all the best possible solutions in this guide.

How to Cut Off a Lock: 5 Methods

Method #1: With Bolt Cutters

Our team has used this countless times for minute issues. Bolt cutters are great to cut off a lock, light to medium gauge chains, and other softer metals. When you have the option of cutting either a padlock or link in this type of combination, cut the link closest to the lock. You can still keep the key for this padlock for later 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. 

To use this tool, 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

The propane torch and hacksaw method are often used as a last resort to cut padlocks. Since not everyone will have this tool, it is usually a last resort to use to cut a lock. 

cutting off a lock with a 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, we 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 means to cut a lock, a cutting torch could do the trick. There’s no need to 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.

However, we find that cutting a Master lock would require more efficient tools like an angle grinder, cutting torch, or hacksaw and propane torch if the goal is to cut through the steel lock when shackles are not present. 

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. When you follow the tips our specialists provided here, you can efficiently cut locks in no time.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen and women. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson