Ever since man started to place a value on material possessions, there has been a growing need to keep these possessions secure.
Before locksmiths there were blacksmiths who crafted steel and metal objects like armour and swords. Before long an arm of the blacksmith trade grew out into a locksmith profession which grew in popularity with a human need for more security. The locksmith focused their skills on making locks and locking systems to provide for home and commercial security. As with improvements in the configuration of locks there was an improvement in the art of picking locks from criminals. This further fuelled the need for locksmiths who developed more technical locks throughout the 1900s.
Locks and keys were known long before the birth of Christ. They are mentioned frequently in the Old Testament and in mythology. In the Book of Nehemiah, chapter 3, it is stated that when repairing the old gates of the City of Jerusalem – probably in 445 B.C. – they “set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.” They were large and crude in design; yet their principle of operation was the forerunner of the modern pin-tumbler locks of today. At this time, locks were made of wood.
The oldest example of a mechanically lock was found among the ruins of the palace of Khorasabad in Niveveh. This lock has come to be known as an Egyptian door lock, because of it’s widespread use in Egypt. It utilized a crossbar set into two surface mounts that was completely enclosed save for a small opening for the key. Moveable pins were dropped by gravity into cavities on the crossbar and locked the door. As the key was inserted into the lock it would move hidden pins out of the way and allow the crossbar to be removed. This is considered to be the forerunner of the modern pin tumbler style of lock that we use today.
The Greeks used a lock that worked by fastening the wooden bolt and staple to the inside of the door. The key a sickle-shaped wooden or iron key manipulated and lift the bolt. This lock, compare to the latter one provided little security.
The Romans fabricated the first metal lock based on Egyptian principles. They designed pins of various shapes with keys and keyholes. Many of the keys were elaborate designs, such as birds and flowers. They were also invented the ward locks, which with modifications are still very much in use. Wards are projections around the keyhole, which prevented the lock from being turn without the proper key. The roman also fashion miniature keys that could be worn as rings. But ward lock were relatively easy to pick.
Millions of locks were needed to keep this vast and growing mountain of property secure and intact. The locksmith sets about designing locks whose cost and strength linked to the value of what they were protecting. They were kept on their toes by thieves and burglars.
In the 14th century, the locksmith’s guilds became prominent. In order to be accepted as master locksmith, one had to create and submit a working lock and key to the guild. As the guild gained control over locksmiths, including regulating techniques and prices, corruption increased. The result was locks were made to be displayed in the guild hall and not for installation purposes. Consequently, some beautiful locks and keys came into existence with no technological or security advances.
During the 1940s, with the onset of the Second World War, many locksmith specialists became a priceless commodity. The locksmiths who were in business during this era did not have time to process the invention in their field but focus primarily on the war. Many locksmiths were drafted into service while others continued to work as locksmiths during this era.
Today Locksmiths sell, install, maintain and repair locks and other security devices. They also make copies of keys, replace lost keys and open locks when needed. They have to apply skills in metalwork, woodwork, mechanics and electronics.
Nowadays, locksmith services and the locksmith tools have all undergone tremendous technological advances and sometimes it may seem a bit odd referring to an electronics security specialist as a provider of locksmith services but there is no other technical term. Our modern locksmiths perform electronic lock servicing that ranges from the locks on vehicles with transponders to personal assets of all types including homes, safes, and so on.