Keys and Locks
Keys have been used for thousands of years. Ever since there was a need to lock our possessions and homes, some type of key has been used to unlock the door or lock. Early keys were very simple. They were more of a deterrent then a high security device we have today.
Before the 19th century Most locks were warded locks. The warding in the locks was simply a barrier that only the correctly cut key could bypass and withdraw the bolt. Warded locks and keys were hand made and took many days or even months to make. It was making these locks that the locksmith got his name. The locksmith even had to beat the metal to shape it, similar to a blacksmith. It was only the rich who could afford a lock like this on their door. Many examples of warded locks still exist in Brisbane and you can find them on old churches and very few old houses.
After the 19th century, manufacturing became a very different game. It became possible to make the small metal parts quickly with the help of machines. Early in the 19th century the most common lock in doors was a lever mortice lock or a rim lock. Rim locks still used warding for security but they could be mass produced and became available to the average house owner.
Lever mortice locks were a higher security option then warded locks. Lever mortice locks are still used in houses, bank vaults and many other situations today where a high security lock is required. Warded mortice locks and rim locks are still manufactured as well. Lever lock keys are easily identifiable. They are old fashioned looking keys and have the steps in the top of the flag. The steps are cut precisely to match the levers in the lock.
Today one of the most dominant key types is the “Yale” key. In Australia we might refer to them as a Lockwood key. They are the keys that work in most standard door locks in Brisbane. They are for pin tumbler locks. The Pin Tumbler lock became the most convenient lock for a couple of reasons. The big reason being because they are cheap to manufacture. Other reasons are that they have been relatively secure since their conception, although they can be opened by a skilled locksmith. Other reasons for the popularity of the Pin tumbler key is that it is relatively smooth, small and light. Older rim and mortice keys, are heavy, and they tend to get caught on pockets quite a bit.
As far as convenience goes the Pin tumbler lock and key made it possible to have many locks on the one key. Just by resetting the pins inside the lock it could also be master keyed so that we could control who had access to which locks, simply by cutting the keys to the correct bitting.
High Security Keys
New designs in keys have revolutioned the security industry over the years. Abloy locks in Sweden were designed with rotating discs. The original Abloy lock is still one of the highest security locks ever mass produced. The abloy key is very original as it is cut on angles up to 90 degrees. A special key cutting machine is needed to cut Abloy keys that can rotate the key then make the cut. Usually Abloy keys are cut to code, rather then duplicated from a copy.
Other high security keys that have been very popular are Kaba, Mul-t-lock and Medeco.
Kaba Expert locks have 22 pins inside the lock. They are arranged in 4 rows. The keys for Kaba locks are cut on a code machine which drills holes into the key at precisely the right depth and at the correct angle. The kaba keys have holes on the side of the key as well as the edge of the key. The keys are also double sided so the key can be inserted either way. To do this the kaba key has to have the holes cut the same on both sides of the key. Kaba locks and keys are great for large master key systems as they can stay secure and hard to lock pick even with a large number of individual and master key combinations.
Mul-t-lock keys look a little similar to Kaba keys. In fact they have holes drilled in to the key similar to the Kaba key. But a closer look at the Multilock key and there are actually 2 holes for each pin. The Mul-t-lock has a “pin within a pin” design. So the key has holes within holes machined into the key.
Medeco Keys at first glance look very much like a regular Yale or Lockwood key. They insert into the lock the same way and have lock pins similar to an ordinary pin tumbler lock.
Except the key cuts on a Medeco key are cut on angles. There are 3 angles on a Medeco key. Right, Centre and Left. This means the pins inside the lock not only have to be at the correct height, they also have to be rotated to the correct position for the lock to open.
Lockwood V7 Key
Another interesting lock used in Australia was the Lockwood V7. The lockwood V7 is a pin tumbler lock. The difference with the V7 is that the pins are slightly off centre. They are made so the pins in the lock are left and right of the centre of the lock. The key looking from the tip has a distinctive V shape to it. The V7 Keys have to be cut on a special code key machine that angles each cut to either left or right.
MT5 Lockwood Key
One of the latest types of high security keys from Lockwood is the MT5 Key system. The MT5 uses 3 different types of locking systems in the one key.
It uses a Telescopic Pin with the hole machined within a hole.
Lockwood’s Alpha Spring, which is activated by the tip of the key making a second shear line within the lock.
Locking bar, which is activated by the milled section along the key blade.
Many apartments and commercial buildings in Brisbane use Restricted keys or Registered keys. These are basically just a normal pin tumbler key with a unique warding in the key. They also have a unique head design and are usually made from a hard brass such as Nickel Silver.
These registered keys are usually a registered design. The design can not be copied and sold for legal reasons so the keys can not be legally duplicated. The registered design does not last forever, so updating these keys and locks in very important.
Usually the registered keys can only be cut by the locksmith who installed them. They are usually cut on a special code machine that makes each key very accurate.
Registered keys help stop unauthorised people from making copies of your keys. So if you give someone a key to use, when they hand it back they should not be able to keep a copy for themselves.