This page is not really a review of the Bogota tool. Many folks can attest to the Bogota's effectiveness in opening locks. Locksport champions like Schuyler Towne have shown us what a great tool this is. Instead we will focus on comparing several styles of this tool against each other. The end goal is to find out the best pair overall.
What are Bogotas
Longtime lp101 user raimundo has become well-known throughout the locksport community for inventing and producing these beautiful tools. He produces them by using various tools (esp. a chainsaw file) to shape short lengths of street-sweeper bristles. Raimundo then finishes them by polishing them to a mirror shine. The classic Bogota is a rake-like tool with 3 humps and is named for the mountains that surround Bogota, Columbia. One of the things that makes these tools unique is the undercutting of the humps. By removing material from these mountains, Rai eliminated the weak points that are found in commercial picks. In Bogota-style tools, the thickness is consistent throughout the pick and thus there is no weak point for pressure to build on leading to bending and possibly even breakage. By removing this material from the underside, it also makes the pick more mobile inside the keyway.
Thought was also given to ergonomics and usability. The first thing that a user may notice about these picks is the unusual shape of the handle. It is bent twice and approximates the shape of a pistol grip. This shape lends itself well to the scrubbing/jiggling motion for which the tools are designed. It also allows the handle of the pick to be used as a tension wrench. This dual-use is central to the design of the Bogotas; they are made in pairs and are meant to be used as such. These pairs are kept together by a clever combination of a spring and safety pin. Not only does this keep the two picks of the Bogota pair together, it also allows them to be pinned up in the user's clothing.
Raimundo did not stop after producing these 3-humped picks and continued designing variations. The second tool in the classic pair was a single-hump version that resembled a half-diamond pick but had the advantages of a Bogota design. A variation called the Sabana came later which had two humps seperated by a flat section. The latest versions are a Bogota interpretation of the King and Queen picks called Monserrate. These were crafted using a smaller diameter chainsaw file in order to be more effective on high-low bittings.
Tools Under Test
Raimundo asked me to test these new Monserrate picks, Raimundo was very generous and sent me a large sampling of his Bogota-style tools including this new design. I figured it'd be fun to go a step forward and test everything. The tools included the classic 3-hump, half-diamond, Sabana, Monserrate, 2-hump, and 4-hump variants. After sitting on shipping planes for several weeks, the tools finally arrived in Ethiopia (a miracle in itself). As usual, the tools look great and have the famous mirror finish. I can't thank Raimundo enough and hope that these results are helpful. I should also mention that he currently distributes these tools through Matt Fiddler's site.
Test Locks and Methods
No test is going to be comprehensive enough to fully determine the effectiveness of a tool. I went with some simple 4 and 5-pin cylinders that are relatively easy to open. The locks used were: Domus 4-pin, GSM 5-pin, Geo 5-pin, Tri-Romb 5-pin padlock, 5-pin Kwikset. No security pins are installed in any of these locks. Each round of testing involved spending 20-30 seconds trying to open the lock two times. Tension was applied using one of the Bogotas and this process was repeated for each style of pick. If the lock was not opened in either of the two tests, the pick was given a score of 0 for that test. If it opened one time but not the other, the score is 1. If the pick opened the test lock both times, the score given was 2.
The first round of testing was conducted by me using a jiggling motion. In other words, up and down jiggling while moving the pick in and out of the keyway. The entire length of each pick was utilized in each case and tension was feathered and occasionally released. This method is not perfect but seemed good enough to provide a comparison between the different tool styles. The second round was performed using this same technique but I was not the person doing it. I was fortunately enough to find someone willing to help me with this test that had never picked a lock before. He patiently tested each of the locks against each of the picks (twice). Before this round began, I made sure to provide some minimal instruction and he was able to open a lock a handful of times. This ensured that he knew the general motion and tension needed. The second round ensures that we have information about the performance of these tool in "unskilled" hands. The third was just like the 2nd except a different newbie picker helped out. The final round of testing was conducted by me and used a classic raking/scrubbing motion using the full length of the picks.
Round #2 - Unskilled Jiggling #1
Round #3 - Unskilled Jiggling #2
Results Per Lock
Here we try to determine the best overall tool for each lock. Although these results are specific to these locks, they likely coorespond to the features in the cylinders. These features probably exist in other locks that are not under test.
- Geo - The two-hump pick seems to be the best tool for experienced pickers. There is no clear winner for unexperienced folks, but a 4-hump Bogota is likely the best.
- Domus - Monserrate-Aft is the clear winner in all cases here.
- Kwikset - In experienced hands, the Monserrate-Aft did not work well, all others did. For newbies, both Monserrates did not perform well.
- Tri-Romb - The 2-hump was a clear winner for experienced folks, but scrubbing worked very well for all variants. Newbiew found great success with both Monserrates.
- GSM - The 4-hump was best for this lock for all testers.
Results Per Pick
Next we'll try to draw some conclusions about each of the tools under test from the results.
- Bogota - Performed very well on all locks except the Geo.
- Half-Diamond - Did well in the hands of one unskilled picker and in the skilled scrubbing test; did poorly in other tests.
- 2-Hump - Worked well in experienced hands and medium-well for unskilled folks.
- Sabana - Performance very comparable to the half-diamond.
- 4-Hump - Similar to Sabana, but better overall.
- Monserrate-Aft - Worked well for unskilled folks for specific locks, not as consistent for experienced picker.
- Monserrate-Fore - Worked great for newbies in some locks, worked great for experienced tester in the other locks. This result is interesting because it implies that if the newbie and veteran exchanged tips on technique, the tool would be very effective on all of the locks.
If anyone notices any trends or patterns in tha above data, please let me know. At this point, I think the best pair for experienced folks might be Bogota/2-Hump. For newbies, try out a Monserrate-Fore/Bogota pair. The next step in this testing process is to take a closer look at the technique used and try to refine it. I plan to use accelerator data from a Wiimote to find the ideal jiggling/scrubbing motion. Also, feel free to shoot me your thoughts on the accuracy of these results or my poor testing methods :-)