How Does a Lock Work?


How Does a Key Lock Work?

  • A typical lock is contained within a circular metal cylinder. The key parts of it are between five and eight pins called tumblers, which are kept in a straight row and vertically aligned. The holes in which these pins sit are half outside and half inside the cylinder. The holes above the cylinder contain springs and two sets of pins, one atop the other. In order for the cylinder to be turned, which would retract the deadbolt, locking the door shut, a key must be used. This key has a series of raised teeth, each one corresponding to a tumbler. When the key is inserted into the face of the lock, the raised teeth push the pins a certain distance upward. Remember that there are two pins one atop the other, making up the tumbler. The top pin must be raised clear above the cylinder, while the bottom pin must be raised just short of leaving the cylinder. Without the pins obstructing the cylinder because they have been properly aligned, turning the key will turn the cylinder and open the lock. If the lock were open, inserting the key and turning it the other direction would lock it.

How Does a Single-Dial Combination Lock Work?

  • A single dial lock will have a round dial on the lock's face. Underneath this lock are a series of three cams, metal discs turning on a central axle. Each cam has a raised notch pointing out to the side and a pin sized hole. Pointing down toward the cams from the dial is a spring loaded pin. By spinning the dial in one direction, one allows the pin to enter through the first cam's hole. By spinning the dial in the reverse direction to a specific number on the dial's face, the next pin passes through the next cam, and so on until the pin has passed through and aligned all the cams. Because the pinholes have been aligned, so have the notches. The rod held in place at the side of the lock is capable of easing past these notches, freeing itself and opening the lock.

How Does a Multi-Dial Combination Lock Work?

  • A multi-dial lock is primarily a cylinder or hollow containing a series of ring-like dials down its length. A simple metal rod is carved with a series of flanges corresponding to the dials. The metal rod enters the hollow when the lock is closed. To be locked, the dials are turned so that the numbers on the exterior are of an incorrect combination. This causes the insides of the dials to no longer correspond to the flanges of the rod, preventing the rod from being pulled back out. To unlock, the dials are set to the right number, aligning the notches on the inside of each dial to correspond to the flanges, allowing the rod to be pulled out without resistance.

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