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Four Types of Locks

There are many different types of lock and each is suited to different purposes doors and customers.

Understanding a little about each and how they differ can help you to choose the right one for the job and to speak to your locksmith about the pros and cons of each. These four types of locks are the major locks that you’re most likely to be dealing with and should cover you for most scenarios:

Church lock: The term ‘church lock’ is used to refer to a large range of basic locking mechanisms that were often used for church doors and large gates.

These locks utilised the large church keys that we now associate with medieval periods (the large keys with a long neck and blade coming out 90 degrees near the end) and provided only an arbitrary level of security as there are only several available variations on the lock, making them better for serving instead as merely a deterrent to prevent people from trying to get in and cause them to move on to hopefully easier prey.

As such the lock is not really appropriate for any external points around the home that require high security. Instead they are much better suited to things that do not require such a high level of security for example cupboards, draws and cabinets that are inside the home.

Church Lock (Cont.): Generally these locks are only really designed to keep out other residents of the house as actual thieves won’t be likely to be in the home in order to break in (and in most cases the draws could easily be broken anyway). As such, should you wish to add a lock to a draw for example, a gate key would be the simplest and easiest option.

Lever lock: The lever lock is another lock that works best for internal locks but is used more commonly on doors

around the house for example doors to the bathroom or bedrooms. The key again looks a lot like the gate key, except the blade is at the very end of the neck. This kind of lock however provides a lot more security utilising pins in conjunction with a lever mechanism to make it difficult to pick. These keys are cheaper and easier to install and more simple to operate, however at the same time they are difficult to change requiring the whole lock and handle to be replaced making them less suited to external locks.

Cylinder lock: A cylinder lock is even more secure than the lever lock and has the most possible permeations making it very hard to pick. At the same time the cylinder part that allows the lock to work is easy to remove making it a very simple task to replace the locks should security be compromised by a lost key etc as you need only change the cylinder.

Essentially the cylinder lock works by rotating the internal chamber, which can only happen when all the pins have been pushed up and out of the way by the pattern on the blade of the key. This all means that the cylinder lock is most commonly found on external doors to houses and flats. Cylinder lock keys are easy to identify as they have a round area to hold with the blade coming out directly from the centre.

Digital lock: Finally digital locks utilise either a powered or magnetic locking system to allow the door to be

operated by a signal or code. This makes the lock impossible to ‘pick’ in a conventional way and so provides an even higher level of security. At the same time digital locks do away with the need for keys, instead using either swipe cards or pin codes to give access.

Digtal lock (cont.): This then means that there is nothing that can be ‘lost’ as such, meaning that the lock should never need to be changed. Even where the lock uses a swipe card, if this is lost it can simply be removed from the system so that it can no longer be used.

The PIN code can simply be changed. This makes it great for blocks of flats or office blocks where lots of people will be coming and going at any time and so the likelihood of losing the keys is increased.

Some locks are even more advanced and make use of ‘biometric data’ from finger prints or retinal scans to allow access, meaning that the person themselves are the key so that they can never forget to bring it and be shut out. Finally a digital lock allows the resident to remotely operate the lock so that they can ‘buzz’ people in through an intercom and not have to go to the door themselves. Of course the downside is that maintenance and installation will cost more and that they are prone to error.

In other words then, gate keys are best for small cupboards and draws, lever keys are better for internal doors, cylinder keys are good for front and back external doors and digital locks are better for office blocks and blocks of flats. While newer locks offer more security, the older designs still have their uses thanks to their simplicity and low cost.

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