Although we have used the union strongbolt for this guide, the process is identical for the new generation of ERA Fortress locks, the old warded fortress locks as both locks share the same internals and levers, making the picking process identical for this.
We begin by looking at the levers used in this lock. Above you will see a typical high and a typical low lift lever, it is obvious on first sight that each lever only has either 1 top fence anti pick or 1 bottom fence antipick, no lever has both top and bottom fence anti-picks. When looking at all 7 levers, one significant point is spotted immediately, Only levers 1 & 2 have top fence anti-picks with no anti-picks on the bottom fence. Levers 3 to 7 all have bottom fence anti-picks with no top fence anti-picks.
Above is a typical top fence antipick and a typical bottom fence anti-pick (indicated). At this point we take note of the distance between the top of the top fence and the anti-pick on the bottom fence of the low lift lever, its a good 7mm to 8mm. This simple observation simplifies the picking process for us significantly and allows us to use one of two simple 2 part processes to defeat this lock, dependent on how new the lock is and how worn.
Process of elimination
It becomes obvious at this point that if all levers are lifted 5mm to 6mm and no more than this, then all low lift levers ( levers 3 to 7 ) should set in the gates, and only the high lift levers ( levers 1 & 2 ) can possibly enter the anti-picks. So if all levers are lifted 4mm to 5mm in turn, the low levers will set and the high levers will enter anti-pick.
So we insert the pick and wire into the lock and apply a light tension to the bolt. We then lift each binding lever in turn no more than 6mm each, the lock will go into anti-pick. We then tickle the bottom of each lever with our pick wire. Any lever that moves is a low lift lever as set, any lever that is solid and has no movement is in anti-pick and is a high lift lever, so memorise the positions of the high lift levers in the lock.
We now have to options to pick the lock
We can maintain tension and position our pick wire underneath a solid lever, then apply a modest lifting pressure to the lever, you will feel the wire strain slightly, at this point slightly decrease the tension on the bolt a fraction at a time, until the wire under modest lifting pressure begins to lift the lever, as soon as the lever begins to lift, we reapply our tension to the bolt. If only one lever was in anti-pick then the lock should open, if more than 1 lever was in anti-pick, then move to the next lever in anti-pick and repeat this process until open.
So important notes to remember
A) Don’t lift any lever more than 6mm initially!
B) By tickling each lever identify where the rock solid levers are.
C) Apply a moderate lifting pressure to the solid lever
D) Maintaining this lifting pressure start decreasing the tension on the bolt a fraction at a time, too much and all set levers will fall, so a fraction at a time!
E) As soon as the lever begins to lift, quickly reapply full tension to the bolt.
This process of jumping out of anti picks is simple to do once practiced, its just a process of coordination between bolt tension and lifting pressure but this process can be difficult when locks are brand new and antipicks are at their sharpest and best.
If you experience this, then use the 2nd picking process below – but process 1 should work 9 times out of 10 for you.
On the rare occasion the antipicks are too sharp to jump out of them then follow this process:
Once we have entered the antipicks by lifting each lever no more than 5 to 6mm, we again tickle each lever in turn with our pick wire, identifying the position of the rock solid levers with no movement, it is essential we memorise the position of these levers.
Once we have memorised the position of the solid levers lodged in anti-pick, we release tension on the bolt and reset all levers. It is then a simple process of picking the identified solid levers high (7mm to 8mm) and picking all other levers low (4mm to 5mm), the lock should then open as avoids the anti pick hazards.
Following these processes will with practice, give surprisingly quick results when picking the Union Strongbolt or ERA Fortress style locks (with older generations of warded fortress using the prelifter pick rather than the RPCP 5g )