Wooden locks have been of great importance historically. From the start, all locks were completely or partially made of hard wood materials, and these locks were used for a long time over large parts of the world.
The Egyptian wooden locks had pin tumblers. The keys were anchor shaped and were inserted through a hole in the door to lift the tumbler pins. The wooden bolt was then pulled to the open position with a strap.
As early as the Viking Era, a simple wooden door lock came into use in many parts of Northern Europe. These locks were based on Roman and Celtic locks. The tumblers fell from their own weight and held the bolt in place. The wooden key lifted the tumblers out of the notches in the bolt so that it could be drawn. Wooden locks were used in large parts of Europe all the way into the 20th century.
Many smiths in the western part of the Swedish province of Dalarna manufactured an old-fashioned type of latch-key lock, made of steel, in the 17th and 18th centuries. The first time I encountered one of these locks, I thought it was very old, maybe 16th century. But it turned out to be nearly 200 years newer.
Locks on traditional Swedish rustic furniture were very discreet; they did not have the same prominent role as door locks, chest locks, padlocks and so on. Usually they were hidden on the inside of a box or cupboard door.
Cylinder night-latch locks were first manufactured in the United States and later in Europe in several different versions. This new idea of a combined lock, with a separate box for the bolt combined with an independent lock cylinder from Yale & Towne in the United States, was a more manageable design than previous lock types. The simple keys were conveniently small and thin.
From the turn of the 20th century, there was an impressively large number of widely varying bicycle locks, most of them made in Germany and the United States. Some of those lock types are still used today, in 2011.
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Published 17 May 2011
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