The History of Locksmithing: From Ancient Egypt to Modern Times

The word 'locksmith' comes from the combination of 'lock' and 'blacksmith', which is derived from Old English 'smið', meaning someone who works with metal. The term was first used in the 1540s to refer to a union, and later to describe a struggle in wrestling (c. 1540). In firearms, the part of the mechanism that causes the load to explode was also referred to as a 'lock', likely due to its resemblance to a device for closing a door.

This gave rise to the phrase 'lock, stock and barrel', which refers to the entire firearm. The phrase 'under lock and key' was first seen in the early 14th century. Locksmithing is one of the oldest professions, believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt and Babylon around 4000 years ago. It has evolved over time, with cheap industrial locks ending the lucrative locksmith market and forcing them to specialize in two fields: working as industrial lock repairers (tuning damaged gears or replacing broken parts with parts created in factories), or replicating keys for people who wanted more of them for personal use. Alternatively, they could work for large security companies that design and build safes for banks and governments.

Some locksmiths may also specialize as forensic locksmiths or specialize in a particular area of locksmithing, such as automatic locks. For a long time, locksmiths were highly skilled metal workers who had the knowledge of shaping metal into dozens of individual pieces of locks by hand, forging keys, and doing much of the archiving work. Nowadays, locksmiths work from their workshops (they often work with all the hardware related to doors, such as door closers, frame repairs, hinges, electric locks, etc.), security institutions (they design and create multiple layers of locks that protect against theft or intrusion), research institutions (forensic locksmiths), security consultants, or focus on one aspect of a skill (the locksmith works in a car company and only designs locks for cars). During this period, many famous locksmiths managed to improve designs that have remained virtually unchanged since the fall of the Roman Empire. With the arrival of increasingly successful designs and mass industrial production, locksmithing underwent a drastic change. Many locksmiths worked as industrial lock repairers and replicated keys for people who wanted more keys available to others.

Other locksmiths worked for security companies to design and build custom safes for banks and government organizations. Locksmithing is both an art and a profession that involves designing and producing locks and other protective mechanisms that secure buildings, objects, storage facilities, closets, rooms and other places. In its early days, the locksmith created wooden devices that used the tin cup principle to prevent the door bar from moving freely. After the adoption of advanced metallurgy in 18th century Europe, locksmiths were finally able to create much more durable locks and keys.