There’s an almost ridiculous amount of different kinds of lock available for use in your home and for installation by your local locksmith – so many that it can all start to seem a little confusing after a while! Here, we’ve put together a guide to as many of them as possible – making this a one stop shop for everything you’ll ever need to know about the varieties of lock open to you.
Of course, even a comprehensive article like this can’t cover everything – so if you do have more questions about the kinds of locks you should be using in your home or other premises, be sure to address these with a local locksmith. They are professionals and experts, after all, and will be able to answer all of your queries.
One of the oldest kinds of locks, these warded locks consist of a set of ‘wards’ that the slotted key slides through to release the mechanism. They were developed primarily in monasteries, and many of them can be extremely complex and ornate – with their main drawback being that they are relatively easy to bypass with the use of a well-made skeleton key.
Some external and internal domestic doors still use them, though, and they’re commonly found as the locks in cheaper padlocks, locking cabinets and desk drawers. The keys for warded locks are pretty easy to identify if you’re wondering whether or not this is the type of lock used in your home – they have a ‘hollow’ main body, designed to fit over a central cylindrical post that holds the key in place to allow it to bypass the obstructions and wards.
There are a few kinds of wards used – you can buy warded locks containing levers, latches and sliding bolts, some of which may be spring-loaded to create a double-acting lever lock. They aren’t generally recommended for use in this day and age, however, as they’re much too easy to pick or exploit – if your home security is relying on locks like these, it’s a very good idea to talk to a locksmith about replacing or adding to them.
Pin Tumbler Locks
These are far and away the most common locks to find in exterior doors in the UK – they’re sometimes called ‘Yale locks’, after the manufactures who make the most popular models of them. The theory is actually quite simple: the lock contains a cylinder and a number of pins that ‘lock’ the cylinder in place and prevent it from rotating. These pins are split in half, so that the top halves are attached to springs that rest on the bottom halves and hold them in place.
When the correct key is inserted, the pins are raised so that the gap between the two halves of pins lines up with the cylinder. The key can then be used to turn around the cylinder, which releases the catch and therefore the door or padlock itself. If the wrong key is inserted, however, the pins don’t line up properly and the lock will not open.
These locks seem to have been invented in Iraq in the distant past, and the ancient Egyptians were known to have used something very like them as many as six thousand years ago. They didn’t become popular in domestic use until 1805, however, when they were first developed in England – and toward the end of the nineteenth century the designs were refined by the Yale family into the kinds of locks we almost all have on our front doors to this day.
It is possible to create a master key that opens several of these locks, but generally speaking that can only be done intentionally by the Birmingham Locksmith who built and installed the lock in the first place – meaning that landlords can have a master key that opens the doors to multiple properties they own without worrying that other people can exploit any kind of security vulnerability.
Wafer Tumbler Locks
Smaller keys that look like they might belong to a smaller version of a pin tumbler lock are in fact more likely to belong to wafer tumbler locks. These locks follow a similar principle, but are rather more straightforward: rather than two sets of pins that must align perfectly with a cylinder, these locks have just one set that are inside the cylinder itself and attached to springs that push them down so that the cylinder cannot rotate. The key lifts them, allowing the barrel to turn smoothly.
These locks are generally used for things that need to be locked securely but on which the lock has to be small – like money tins, filing cabinets, office desks and padlocks. The keys can be either single-sided, as found in almost all pin tumbler lock keys, or double-sided – which is a way to add extra security to one of these locks without making the lock any larger or bulkier.
They were developed in America, in the years following Yale’s development of the pin tumbler lock. They’re not brilliant for use in front or external doors, but for windows and back doors they do a very good job indeed – and they are also of course invaluable for things such as lockboxes, which needs must be too small to comfortably take the blocky, bulky mechanisms necessary for the installation of a Yale-style lock.
Disc Tumbler Locks
Disc tumbler locks are widely understood to be the single most secure kind of lock in the world today. They are described as being “almost impossible to pick”, and have been in use since their invention in Finland in 1907 – though they have never really caught on for domestic purposes outside of Finland (where almost every house has one), instead being used mostly for industrial premises and other commercial purposes worldwide. Lock manufacturer ABUS also sells them as padlocks and cycle locks in their premium, deluxe Plus line.
The mechanism employed by these locks is, unsurprisingly, very complicated indeed. They are made up of a series of slotted discs that rotate along with the key in much the same way as do the tumblers of a safe, and unlike many locks they don’t contain springs – making them ideal for use in harsh conditions, which is one reason London Locksmith that they have become so popular in Finland’s often icy climate. Their major downfall when used as a front door lock is that they must be locked again manually in order to return them to their ‘scrambled’ and unopenable position.
They are generally sold as extremely high-security locks – but it’s worth bearing in mind that the picking of a lock is actually one of the least likely ways that someone will use to gain entry to your property without your permission, as it is far more common for someone to break a window, destroy the door itself, or simply obtain a copy of your own key in some way.
Lever Tumbler Locks
Alongside the ‘Yale’ style flat-bladed key that almost certainly unlocks your home, there is a very good chance that you have another kind of key – perhaps as a secondary front door lock, or as the lock to your back or garden external door. This key will have a rectangular head rather than a blade, and is known as a ‘bitted’ key – and it almost certainly belongs to a lever tumbler lock.
These locks are deceptively simple. They consist of nothing more than a series of levers that must be lifted to the correct height by the ‘bits’ cut into the key; raise them either too far or not far enough, and the lock will jam causing the door to remain unopenable. They are relatively secure, although they do work best as secondary locks – if this is the only kind of lock that secures your home, it’s well worth talking to a locksmith to discuss your options for adding some extra security.
Common Lock Security Breaches
Now that you know a little more about the kinds of locks most often used by A Local Locksmith in the UK, it’s only natural that you’ll be wanting to learn a little more about the ways that they are removed or otherwise rendered useless.
- Lock bumping is the use of a specially-designed bladed key that can ‘bump’ a lock’s pins out of the way without needing to correspond exactly to the design of the lock. Many locks are vulnerable to this, though precautions can be taken.
- Lock snapping can only be done with poorly-installed double-sided locks, and involves simply snapping the chamber in half from the outside so that the lock’s body can be entirely removed. This can be avoided simply by ensuring that the chamber body does not extend past its ‘home’ and is flush with the surface of the door.
- Lock drilling is exactly what it sounds like – using a drill to destroy the pins inside a cylinder and thereby render a lock useless. Drilling plates can be installed to make this harder to achieve, and it is both loud and destructive – making it a non-subtle way of gaining entry.
- Lockpicking is the practice of using a set of picks to gently release each pin in turn, so that a cylinder can be rotated without access to its actual key. Many countries regulate the possession of these tools.