Throughout history, locks have been a mainstay of security for individuals and societies alike, protecting priceless artifacts, valuables, and even knowledge. Designed to keep intruders out, locks have evolved significantly over the centuries with the development of new materials, mechanisms, and techniques. Today’s lock designs are vastly different than the traditional locksmithing techniques of our ancestors—but it’s important to remember and appreciate how far we’ve come. Here’s a closer look at the history of traditional locksmithing techniques.
The Ancient Past
Locksmith techniques date back thousands of years, with some of the oldest known locks dating all the way back to 4000 BC in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Before metalworking technology was developed, early locks were most commonly made of wood. These locks were created out of wooden pins placed into posts around the lock’s circumference. When a door was locked, a user inserted a key with pins that were specifically designed to fit into those holes, unlocking it. These locks, while effective, were easily broken and thus were not used on important buildings or items.
The Middle Ages
The Middle Ages saw the development of metalworking technology, which opened the door to the development of metal locks. The first metal locks were developed in the 15th century, likely in China as it was one of the first places to have an active iron casting industry. These locks were of a complex mechanism design, known as a combination lock. A combination lock is a lock that opens with a user-supplied password made up of letters, symbols, or numbers. These locks were easier to produce and harder to pick than their wooden predecessors, making them a trusted security measure for both individuals and institutions.
The Industrial Revolution
As manufacturing technology improved during the 16th century, so, too, did locksmithing techniques. Better metallurgy and technology meant that locksmiths were able to develop smaller and simpler mechanisms, as well as use different shapes and metals for their locks. This resulted in the addition of components like warded locks, padlocks, and lever and spring-loaded door locks. During this ha;age, locksmiths developed the use of pins in lock cylinders as well as the development of master keys, which had two sets of pins and were capable of unlocking multiple locks with one key.
The Modern Era
In the age of the internet, security options have only grown. As technology advances, the locksmith industry has adapted in order to keep up with the changing times and the increasing security demands of the modern world. From electronic door locks to connected smart locks, it seems that everything can be unlocked with the simple swipe of a finger or a few taps on a phone these days.
No matter what type of lock one uses, the importance of the traditional locksmith techniques and the industry as a whole should never be taken for granted. The impact that the locksmith trade has had on our everyday lives and the collective level of security of our societies cannot be overstated. While there is a lot of change ahead in terms of security, the locksmithing techniques of the past have created a strong foundation for the future.
The Emergence of Traditional Locksmithing Techniques
From medieval dwarf smiths to modern-day security experts, locksmiths have been called on to protect vulnerable valuables since antiquity. Locksmiths in their traditional form have been around for centuries, their primary focus being to secure physical objects such as doors, windows, safes, jewelry, cash, and other items of importance to their temporal owners. Beyond providing an obvious and lasting benefit to their patrons, locksmithing has also found its place at the center of many challenges and inspirations in the past.
In the past, the practice of locksmithing was also firmly rooted in close association with intelligence. The knowledge of how to create and manipulate mechanical devices to open locks quickly became a closely guarded trade secret through the ages, and generations of sons and daughters often followed in their parents’ footsteps to become locksmiths themselves. In this world, the key to success was a strict code of secrecy, and any slight indiscretion could lead to disastrous consequences.
The Ancient Art of Locksmithing
The ancient art of locksmithing is believed to have originated from the Middle East, Egypt, and India. Customers of royal temples there kept their gold, jewelry, and other valuables in secured wooden boxes that required complicated locks with pins, bolts, and levers to open. It is thought that the very first locksmiths used crude and basic tools to craft these security measures, designating them to the doors, gates, and other entrances that needed them.
Historians believe that the first recorded group of organized locksmiths was active in Egypt circa 2000 BCE, while a famous locksmith from the Middle Ages named Hamahmad was mentioned in texts from 2BCE to 1BCE. Through this era, the craft of locksmithing evolved, and locks made out of metals such as bronze, copper, and iron first appeared on the scene.
The Progress of Locks Through History
Since ancient times, locksmiths have been the cornerstone of preventing illegal entry to restricted spaces. Through the invention and innovation of different kinds of locks, they’ve developed various tools and techniques to manufacture, repair, and maintain these devices. As the science and technology of locksmithing has progressed, the security measures have become more sophisticated—advances such as the creation of warded locks, the hand-made fine pins, the introduction of the pin tumbler lock, the introduction of the safe tumbler lock, and the use of modern lock designs are all epochal achievements for locksmithing throughout history.
The Modern Era of Locksmithing
From the primordial beginnings of the craft, locksmiths around the world have adapted their skills to secure the latest inventions and technologies. In the early modern period, locksmiths received further recognition in society as security conscious individuals. Heavily guarded royal estates such as the Tower of London also displayed clean lines of locksmithing for their civilians and visitors.
Remarkably, these principles have remained the same for centuries. Designers, tinkerers, and crafters have also gotten involved in the industry, resulting in a surge of creativity in the form of innovation, security, and new designs.
Today, operating a locksmithing business, such as Locksmith Columbus, offers specialized lock services such as key making, lock replacement, lock repair, lock installation, emergency lockouts, keycard systems, and much more. These services are used for residential, commercial, and automobile applications as well as security mechanisms in high-tech industries. As with any profession, proper training is required to expertly handle different types of security hardware.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
The most important thing that locksmiths do is provide customers with peace of mind. Whenever someone finds themselves locked out of their car, home, or office, a professional locksmith will always be there to help. By providing fast, reliable, and certified solutions, they are there to help you in a time of need.
Though locksmithing has come a long way in terms of technology and innovation, the primary and most important focus of locksmiths remains the same: helping protect valuable items, destinations, and memories in times of need. As technology evolves, locksmiths will continue to innovate with it, finding new ways to help improve security and offering their services to benefit people all over the world. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and the need for security will never go away.