Lock | Types, Mechanisms & Benefits Early history

15 September 2023by easefix@gmail.com

The first known specimen of the lock was discovered among the ruins of the palace of Khorsabad near Nineveh, where the lock originated in the Near East. It is a pin tumbler lock, sometimes known as an Egyptian lock because of its widespread use in Egypt, and is possibly 4,000 years old. It comprises a big wooden bolt that closes the door and has multiple holes drilled into it through which to pass. Several wooden pins are in an assembly fastened to the door and positioned to fall into these holes and catch the bolt. 

A broad wooden bar resembling a toothbrush in design, the key includes vertical pegs that go into the holes and pins instead of bristles. When the vast keyhole is inserted below the vertical pins, it is easily lifted, allowing the bolt to be moved back with the key within. In addition to Japan, Norway, the Faeroe Islands, Egypt, India, and Zanzibar, these locks are still used. A verse from Isaiah in the Old Testament describes how the keys were carried: “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David.” The falling-pin principle, a crucial element of many locks, was developed entirely in the modern Yale lock.

Greeks had a far simpler mechanism in which a sickle-shaped iron key, frequently with an intricately carved wooden grip, was used to turn the bolt. The sickle-shaped point of the key engaged the bolt and pulled it back after being inserted through the door’s hole. Such a tool could offer just minimal security. Romans invented locks using metal, typically iron for the lock and frequently bronze for the key. As a result, keys are now more common than locks. 

The Romans created wards, which are projections inside the lock that surround the keyhole and impede rotation of the key unless the flat face of the key (it’s bit) has slots cut into it that allow the projections to pass through. For centuries, the security of locks relied on the employment of wards, and great ingenuity was used to build them and cut the keys so that the lock would be secure against any key other than the proper one. Such warded locks have historically been quite simple to open due to the availability of tools that can quickly clear even the most intricate projections. The Romans created the first tiny lock keys; some were so tiny that they could be worn as finger rings. They also created the padlock, presumably separately created by the Chinese and is now widely used throughout the Near and Far East.

Metal locks were made in the Middle Ages with great expertise and craftsmanship, especially by the German metalworkers of Nürnberg. The exteriors of the locks were richly ornamented, and the moving parts were precisely finished and fitted. Frequently, even the keys themselves were works of art. However, the extensive warding was the only source of protection; the lock’s mechanism saw very little development. Hidden shutters might hide the keyhole, and blind keyholes could be provided to make the lock picker work harder and spend more time. The French were masters in creating complicated and exquisite locks in the 18th century.

Development of modern types

When Robert Barron developed a double-acting tumbler lock in England, it was the first significant attempt to increase its security. A tumbler is a lever or pawl that fits into a slot in a bolt and keeps it from moving until the key raises it to the exact height necessary to lift it out of the slot, at which point the bolt can be moved.

Even the Barron lock, however, provided little resistance to the diligent lock picker. In 1818, Jeremiah Chubb of Portsmouth, England, improved the tumbler lock by adding a detector—a retaining spring that grabbed and kept any tumbler that had been lifted too high during picking. This alone made it impossible to remove the bolt and revealed that the lock had been tampered with.


Between Barron’s lock and Chubb’s modifications on it, in 1784, Joseph Bramah patented a magnificent lock in England. It utilised a tiny, light key while operating on an altogether separate concept to provide unprecedented security. Bramah and his teenage assistant Henry Maudslay, who would later become a well-known engineer, built several machines to generate the parts mechanically to manufacture the locks because they are exceedingly intricate and, hence, expensive to make. These were some of the first manufacturing machines created. The end of the Bramah key is carved with a series of little longitudinal grooves. Several slides are depressed to the depths specified by the slots when the key is inserted into the lock. The key cannot be turned, and the bolt cannot be launched until all the slides have been pushed to precisely the appropriate depth. Bramah was so sure of the lock’s security that he displayed one in his London store and offered a £200 reward to the first person to unlock it. It remained unpickable for over 50 years until 1851, when a proficient American locksmith, A.C. Hobbs, succeeded and earned the bounty.

Present status of locks and safes

Locks have evolved to include a variety of specialised features. Some are made to withstand being blown open, while others are made to shoot, stab, or seize the hands of intruders. Some locks can be opened or closed with various keys but can only be unlocked with the key that closes them. The purpose of so-called unpickable locks is often to prevent thieves from investigating the locations of the lock’s components from the keyhole or detecting minute variations in resistance caused by applying pressure to the bolt with their picking tool. 

The core types, however, continue to be the Yale, Bramah, lever, and combination locks, even if countless varieties occasionally combine traits from each. The Swiss Kaba lock, for instance, uses the Yale concept, but its key has flat sides marked with deep depressions into which four complete sets of pin tumblers are forced rather than having a serrated edge. The Finnish Abloy lock is a small combination lock; instead of the rings being turned individually by hand, they are all turned at once by a tiny key.

Yale-style locks that utilise magnetic forces can be used. The essential features are many tiny magnets inside of it rather than serrations. When the key is placed into the lock, these magnets reject magnetised spring-loaded pins, lifting them like the serrations on a Yale-type key raise them mechanically. The lock’s cylinder can freely rotate in the barrel when these pins are raised to the proper height.

After World War II, when the use and knowledge of explosives were widely shared, locks became less significant as a deterrent against professional thieves. Criminals resorted to disregarding locks and using explosives to blow them off since most safe and strong-room locks became almost impossible to pick. The introduction of a second series of bolts, unconnected to the lock mechanism but automatically inserted by springs when an explosion occurs, can thwart attempts to blow up a lock mechanism by detonating an explosive in the keyhole; the safe can then only be opened by cutting through the armour.


What is the history of locking mechanisms?

Ancient Egypt is where mechanical locks began, more than 6,000 years ago, when a locksmith invented the first simple yet efficient pin tumbler lock made entirely of wood. It comprised a horizontal bolt that slid into the post and a wooden post fastened to the door.

What are the different lock mechanisms?

Different Types of Door Locking Mechanisms: Door Lock Mechanisms. Knob locks, lever-handle locks, deadbolt door locks, and other types of door-locking mechanisms are among the available options. One of the most widely utilised door lock kinds among homeowners today is this one.

What are the different types of old locks?

These five lock types—the pin tumbler lock, sliding bolt lock, warded lock, safety lock, and combination lock—have all seen significant advancements.

What were the locks initially used for?

Unsurprisingly, the initial locking system needed to be more fundamental. Items were fastened with a series of knots on ropes. It was clear that there had been an attempt to take the jewels if the knots had been tampered with. Actual locks were created out of wood as civilisation advanced.



Contact us now to get quote

Contact us now to get quote

Contact Us

United Kingdom

Emergency Service

020 8145 8426