The vast majority of people only think of a locksmith when they’re locked out of their car, home or office, but few people think about the rich history that’s behind the smiling serviceman. There are plenty of interesting and rather enlightening facts about the profession as well as the people behind it.
So kick back and think about these 5 enlightening facts about locksmithing as you wait on one to get you out of a tight situation:
Locksmithing Branched Out from Blacksmithing
The first mechanical locks, first used nearly 4,000 years ago by a number of different cultures, were made out of wood. However, it wouldn’t take long for brass and iron locks to take their place. To make such locks, one needed a forge and anvil – two things that a blacksmith worth his iron would have as a given.
It was no wonder that the first locksmiths were also blacksmiths. These highly skilled workers not only knew how to shape and mold metal into the shapes necessary for locks and other mechanical devices, but also how to handle a wide assortment of other skill sets, including spring tempering, screw making and lathe turning.
Modernized methods of production throughout the 19th and 20th centuries made it less important for a lock to come straight from the hands of a hard-working blacksmith. In fact, most locksmiths eventually settled into key cutting and the installation of mass-produced locks by the early 1900s.
Locksmiths Did More Than Just Fix Locks
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, locksmiths also had more than one job title to their name. In addition to making keys and picking locks, most locksmiths also sharpened cutting tools, repaired bicycles and even repaired firearms. These tasks often required much of the same precision and skill demanded of locksmithing, often resulting in high-quality works that also proved relatively durable.
King Louis XVI was an Avid Locksmith
King Louis XVI of France had plenty of interests, but none were as intense as his love of locksmithing. To keep his mind off the arduous task of his royal duties, he indulged in his life-long hobby, spending hours on end at the forge to create various unique lock designs. Louis XVI’s methodical and patient nature meshed perfectly with the intense focus and patience needed for creating the contemporary locks of the day.
The last Bourbon king’s locksmithing skills came courtesy of life-long friend and live-in locksmith Francois Gamain. Louis XVI trusted Gamain so much that he employed the craftsman to make a secret cupboard with an iron door and a special lock in which to store a series of secret documents that would later prove his undoing later on.
While the lock itself proved sturdy, the same couldn’t be said for Gamain’s own constitution. Shortly after falling ill following quick meal, Gamain thought he had been poisoned by the king. As a result, he betrayed his closest friend and confidant by divulging the existence and location of these secret papers, revealed that the king had called on the support of foreign invaders for his own gain. Thus the stage was set for the trial of Louis XVI and his subsequent execution in the midst of the French Revolution.
Some Locks Weren’t Meant to Be Locked
Since lock designs were nowhere near standardized during the 14th and 15th centuries, locksmiths often came up with their own unique designs. This often gave locksmiths the ability to add their own trademark touches to their lock designs, whether they were aesthetic (for added flair) or functional (to make the lock tougher to crack).
Of course, this also gave locksmiths plenty of opportunities to create exquisite works of art through completely ornamental lock designs. These locks were never meant to keep a door or a chest secure – instead, these locks were designed purely as works of art, showing off the ingenuity and ingeniousness of the locksmith along with the impressive lock itself.
Locksmithing Was (and Still Is) a Time-Honored Craft
In the old days, to be a locksmith meant being a craftsman. Most locksmiths learned their trade through apprenticeships – a practice that’s still followed in many areas to this day. These craftsmen created their own tools for the trade and often perfected their own methods for dealing with locks and key-making. These methods were usually kept a close-guarded secret from competitors and passed down among families.
While the advent of modern locks and modern tools have changed how locksmiths, like those at Affordable Locksmith Services, do their job, locksmiths still strive for a high level of craftsmanship and professional service.