Historic Lock

The History of Locks

What is a lock?

A lock is a mechanical or electronic fastening device that can only be released by a secret key, fingerprint, card, token or coin in order to release it.

What is a key?

A physical key is a two part device consisting of a blade with the secret code of information, and a bow that protrudes in order to be turned.

The key contains the secret information and only the person with the correct key is able to open the lock.

Ancient Origins

Locks have been in use for over 6000 years. The earliest known lock and key device was discovered in the ruins of Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria. Locks such as this were later developed into the Egyptian wooden pin lock, which consisted of a bolt, door fixture or attachment, and key. When the key was inserted, pins within the fixture were lifted out of drilled holes within the bolt, allowing it to move. When the key was removed, the pins fell part-way into the bolt, preventing movement.

These locks were frequently made of wood. They were large and crude. The key was awkward and resembled an oversized toothbrush.

The type of mechanical locks traditionally known in the Western world today are called warded locks. All metal locks are thought to have been in use in the UK since 870. The key is said to have been invented by Theodorus of Samos in the 6th century BCE.

Affluent Romans often kept their valuables in secure locked boxes within their households, and wore the keys as rings on their fingers as jewelry. The practice had two benefits: It kept the key handy at all times, while signaling that the wearer was important enough to have money and sufficiently affluent to have jewelry worth safeguarding.

Modern Locks

In 1778 Robert Barron managed to design and create the first double acting tumbler lever lock. His double acting lever lock required the lever to be lifted to a certain height by having a slot cut in the lever, so lifting the lever too far was as bad as not lifting the lever far enough, the principles behind this lock still remain today. In 1784 this lock was improved on by Joseph Bramah from Barnsley who designed a lock that remained unpickable for 67 years and is still in use today.

Modern locks became widely available during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. In 1818, the British Government had a competition to find a lock with a unique key following a burglary at the Portsmouth dockyard.  Jeremiah Chubb developed a lock that thwarted lock picking attempts and included a mechanism to alert the owner that someone had interfered with the lock. He was awarded £100 after a professional lock picker tried for 3 months to crack the lock. Chubb joined his brother Charles in business selling locks and later patented a burglar proof safe.

The earliest patent for a pin tumbler lock known even today was granted in 1805 in England to Abraham O. Stansbury. In the USA Linus Yale Jr invented and patented a small flat key with serrated edges as well as pins of varying lengths within the lock itself, an improvement of a design invented in ancient Egypt.

Barring some improvement in key design since, most of the locks today are versions of the Bramah, Chubb and Yale designs.

What is a locksmith?

Locksmithing is a traditional trade, and in most countries requires completion of an apprenticeship. The level of formal education required varies from country to country, from no qualifications required at all to a simple training certificate awarded by an employer, to a full diploma from an engineering college. In the USA a locksmith is required to carry a license.

Locksmiths may be commercial, mobile, institutional, or investigational (forensic locksmiths). They may specialize in one aspect of the skill, such as an automotive lock specialist, a master key system specialist or a safe technician.

Historically, locksmiths constructed or repaired an entire lock, including its constituent parts. The rise of cheap mass production has made this less common.

Today locksmiths work at high-security safes and strongboxes, or service electronic locks by making keys for transponder-equipped vehicles and implementing access control systems. Frequently they are called upon to secure households, commercial businesses, and institutions such as schools or to assist people who are locked out.

At Keypad Locksmith besides the traditional services that we are happy to provide, we specialize in providing aesthetic and secure locking systems for estates, museums and assisted living facilities.

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