Category : Lock History
Posted on July 3rd, 2020 0 Comments
Different locks are measured according to different Grades. These Grades help residential and commercial property owners determine what the general security level a lock provides. In this brief blog post, the lock installation experts here at Chicago Locksmiths will provide some detail as to the different types of lock grades.
Posted on December 23rd, 2016 0 Comments
Locks serve a primary purpose of helping protect valuable possessions. From The ancient locks made of rope knots, to contemporary electronic locks, there’s a plethora of lock types in both history and contemporary society. In this blog entry, I’ll review some of the most widely known and popular types of locks.
These popular freestanding locks were first invented in ancient Babylon and Egypt, and are greatly portable. The first modern padlock was patented by Harry Soref in 1924, after founding the Master Lock company.
These padlocks require a specific sequence of numbers in order to unlock – they may have a single or many dials – however single dial locks are more secure than multi dial locks. This type of lock was invented by James Sargent in 1857, and updated by Linus Yale Jr., of the famous locksmith company. These locks aren’t the most secure, as they can be easily picked or broken into.
These key operated locks vary wildly – some can be rekeyed, others cannot – so if you have the non rekeyable variety, and you lose the key, the shackle will have to be broken.
These locks are approved by the Transportation Security Administration for luggage securing – they can only be opened by TSA employees to inspect luggage. Unfortunately, these locks are notoriously easy to pick.
These ultra secure locks are often used in homes or outside doors along with a somewhat less secure lock. They are widely based off the jimmy proof lock invented to deter and prevent burglars from entering homes and offices.
Single Cylinder Deadbolts
This is the most commonly used deadbolt in homes in the USA. They can be installed with an additional flip guard which prevents the thumb turn from turning, preventing it from being able to get picked.
Double Cylinder Deadbolts
These even more secure deadbolts require a key on the inside and outside of the lock, but can be a safety hazard if there’s an emergency that requires a quick exit – so they are prevented from being able to get installed in many residential situations in the USA.
These deadbolts can lock doors from the outside and inside, and is a combination of single and double cylinder deadbolts, that has a key cylinder on one end, and a thumbturn on the other.
Jimmy Proof Deadbolts
These deadbolts are most commonly found inside homes and apartments, and are easy to install as they are surface mounted – and are much more resistant to strong force or interference than the usual deadbolt.
These locks are found on doorknobs and are commonly paired with deadbolts. They are a rudimentary type of spring lock, and aren’t the most secure, as they can be easily knocked off the door.
Lever Handle Locks
These locks are commonly found in businesses or institutions and are most often used in interior doors – but they are also rather insecure, as they can be somewhat easily broken off.
Mortise Cylinders and Rim Cylinders
These are a secure alternative to deadbolts, and can be found on sliding glass doors or in retail environments. The difference between mortises and rim cylinders is that the latter has an extended tailpiece that is threaded through the door into the lock, while mortise cylinders have a side-thread, and are directly attached to a mortise hardware that gets installed into the door.
These locks are used in institutional and large commercial settings, as they can easily allow for key changes without full deinstallation. They are operated with either standard operator keys, which can lock and unlock the lock – or control keys, that remove the main core from the lock, allowing for a replacement core to be inserted.
These low security screw based locks are the type that can usually be found in mailboxes or filing cabinets – the ‘cam’ is the back part that operates as the latch for the screw base.
These locks are operated electronically, with either a coded card that gets inserted, or the entry of a numerical pin code. The codes can be easily changed, but they can be hacked, so they aren’t impervious to all burglary attempts.
These locks operate in conjunction with a programmed code on one’s smartphone – through an application commonly included along with the purchase of the lock itself.
Posted on July 13th, 2016 0 Comments
Ancient India Locks
During the reign of the Emperor of Annam, expensive valuables were locked inside large blocks of wood that were kept on islands or inside an elaborate pool inside the courts of the palace. They were protected by a crew of crocodiles called guardian angels, that were fed so little that they were always starving – to go inside the water would mean you would get eaten.
Gordian Knot Locks
Rope cords made of fiber were used to secure doors for hundreds of years. The famous Gordian Knot, tied by GOrdius, the King of Phrygia, was secured to his chariot – it was foretold by oracles that it’s untying would be accomplished by the man who would go on to conquer Asia. When Alexander the Great couldn’t untie the Gordian Knot, he cut it apart quickly with his sword – giving way to the expression “cutting the Gordian knot” – meaning providing a swift solution when other lighter methods don’t work.
The Gothic Ages Locks
During this time period, locksmiths created beautiful ornamental locks with vast intricacy. THey would emboss, engrave, chafe, and etch onto metallic locks, creating security devices for the finest courts throughout Europe. Castle doors would be secured inside ward locks, domes that would often be covered in mythical symbols and characters, as well as metal coloring, known as the Niello process.
Colonial America Locks
During Pioneer days, home’s keys would often hang outside the door as a length of string – the doors were latched from the inside with a wooden bar or belt that would drop into a hollow area in the jamb. A piece of string was attached that would be threaded to the door’s exterior. The dangling string would signal a welcome to visitors, who could simply pull the string and open the door. This is the origin of the phrase “our latch string is always out.” as an expression of hospitality.
Spanish Architecture Locks
In 17th and 18th century Spain, there was a general dislike of locks. In order to stay safe, a block would collectively hire a watchman to patrol the neighborhood who owned keys to their homes. In order to leave or enter their home, a homeowner would clap their hands in order to signal the watchman to come.
Deep Sea Locksmiths
Charles Courtney always wanted to be a locksmith, but ended up a deep sea diver. Fortunately, he was able to meet his dreams when he started getting hired to open locked safes on sunken ships – retrieving millions of dollars for salvaging operations.
Animal Shaped Locks
Throughout history, high end locks in the shapes of animals were made in order to delight homeowner’s and frighten off superstitious intruders. From elephants and hippopotamuses, to stranger forms like flowers or even scorpions, locks of every specific shape or size exist in history.
Posted on July 7th, 2016 0 Comments
Skeleton Keys have always carried an element of mystery as they have been central plot devices of many mystery and detective stories. However, despite their shrouded reputation, there’s no magic or mystery to skeleton keys – they operate according to simple mechanics. Let’s learn what skeleton keys are all about.
What are they?
When most people hear “skeleton key” they think about an old fashioned looking key with an extended neck and rounded/decorative top. There are actually two kinds of keys that are known as skeleton keys. Old fashioned skeleton keys work with old fashioned warded locks – these are only really found now in older furniture, however due to how easily they can be picked, these hollow locks aren’t really used anymore. These locks take skeleton keys, barrelled, rounded shaft keys. The projections inside warded lock key holes blocks flat or incorrect keys from turning inside it, making it necessary for a key to be made that exactly matched the projections inside the lock.
These keys are also referred to as skeleton keys; these masters fit inside multiple locks within one facility, for example in hotels or schools. While many individual keys are fashioned to only open one door, the master key is able to open any door, including ones that some of the single-door keys can also open. Pin and tumbler style locks can be opened by multiple keys – the single key designated to that door, as well as a master key. This is made possible by situating a 3rd pin near the first two – that can be raised according to the dimensions of the key that would be used.
Both these keys work according to mechanics – no electricity, codes, or programming is needed. The locksmith accomplishes the simple task of making a key that matches the mechanical aspects of the lock, whether the internal mechanisms are a series of tumbler, pins, or channels, or a old fashioned warded lock.
Posted on April 17th, 2016 0 Comments
Locks are a matter of ancient history – they have existed for thousands of years, since the beginning of society. As history has progressed, the structure and construction of locks have changed. The invention of the padlock was one of the most influential changes in the evolution of locks. The important idea at the center of padlocks is the invention of a lock that can be added and removed from a separate device. Padlocks are simply detachable locks that can be secured with a shackle – which is put on a hinge or springed slide. In this brief blog post I’ll underline some of the important history and etymology of padlocks.
The Etymology of the word ‘Padlock’
Some theories imply that the prefix ‘pad’ means gate, with the implication that padlocks were originally made for locking gates. The prefix ‘pad’ could also imply foot traffic, or walking, implying that these locks were originally crafted to guard gates that led to paths. In the United Kingdom the term ‘Pad’ is also associated with ‘panniers’, baskets used with animals. This implies that perhaps the term padlock originated to describe the locks that merchants would place on bags of their wares that they would attach to animals to carry. The last theory asserts that the term came from Vikings in an English settlement who would use these locks to keep their livestock secure inside containers known as paddocks.
The most ancient padlocks currently on record date to 500 BCE, in the Roman empire. This artifact has around body made of iron, with a bolt that can be moved with a key. Many other Roman padlocks are made of two parts with a rectangle body, with a separate shackle and V shaped spring – the two far corners of the ‘V’ are pinched in order to allow the shackle to move. This construction is rudimentary but effective.
Evolution along the Silk Road
As trade routes between Europe and Asia were established, the use of locks became much more widespread as they were enlisted by merchants. By the year 25, the Chinese Empire had implemented massive use of padlocks – these often made of bronze. A few hundred years later in the English province of York, Viking settlements used padlocks to protect their livestock. Leading archeologists argue that these locks were made between the years 850 and 1000 – and as I mentioned before, were used on animal paddocks. The viking padlocks are structurally similar to the Roman padlocks however the Viking ones used flat keys, rather than the “L” bent Roman ones.
The most drastic changes to the structure of the padlock happened as they became more widely used in England. This evolution was spearheaded, funnily enough, by the use of smokehouses to preserve food. Before refrigerators, citizens needed methods of preserving food for long harsh winters. Smoking meat and fish became a method of rendering food much more impervious to the elements – and as food was in high demand, smokehouses would have to be locked to prevent the food from being stolen. These padlocks were made of wrought iron, and had custom keyways – warded with notches that matched keys. These padlocks however widely disseminated, had structural issues – they could be forced into, and it would be incredibly difficult to figure out if the lock had been picked.
In Eastern Europe – in Slavic areas like Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc..) the advent of the screw key padlock provided an alternative to the smokehouse padlock. This cylindrical key has to be twisted into the lock, and if it aligned properly it could be taken out without having to turn it the opposite way, at the same time stretching an internal spring which would retract the bolt. By around 1910 both screw key locks and smokehouse locks stopped being as popular.
Invented by the Swedish inventor Christopher Polhem, the Scandinavian lock consisted of a series of rotating disks with side grooves that would match with a certain key – additionally grooves on the outside of the disks had to align in order to release the shackle. Created in the 1870s, these locks continued to be manufactured until around the 1950s.
Also invented in Scandinavia, Cast Heart padlocks, made of brass or bronze, were made with a keyway drop, to protect it from being impacted with particulate matter, and could be easily carried. They were widely manufactured due to their usefulness in incredibly cold or icy climates.
Industrial Revolution and Advent of Electricity
During the 1870s, the Cast Heart lock became widely replicated with cheap materials. Many businesses began using the cheaper locks, even if they were less effective. During this time period, Yale was creating the first padlock that was made of modular components that could be replaced – allowing for rekeying. As electricity came to use, manufacturing of solid metal locks became cheaper and easier – and modular locks became a trend on an industrial level. Shrouds that cover the shackles also came to use.
In the 1920s the Master Lock company released their tumbler and pin based padlock -and manufactured them in droves. The simplification of cast dieing processes made it a possibility for companies to manufacture locks with ornate molds and designs – however due to this embellishment causing functional issues, this trend has mostly disappeared. However, padlocks have become ubiquitous – to the point of becoming a universal symbol of security. Even if new designs of more useful or efficient locks are made in the future, the impact of the padlock will live on in semiotics.