A warded lock is a design that works on the principle of obstructions (known as wards) on or within the keyway to stop the wrong key from entering and rotating the locks. Warded locks don’t have any other active components besides a spring or lever, which activate the locking bolt when the right key is used.
Warded locks are among the earliest types, and in spite of their resistance to impressioning and manipulation, they are deemed low-security by modern standards.
Warded is also a term used to describe the warding striations on a key or the keyway of any lock design.
History of warded lock
Warded locks are one of the first designs ever made. They date as far back to the ancient Chinese and Roman cultures. In the Middle Ages, they were used in monasteries where their relatively high cost was not a primary concern. In the 1700 and 1800s, they became more widely used until the more secure levers replaced them.
Today, they are still used in the UK and Ireland for low-security applications such as padlocks, and on heritage sites like old monuments and church buildings. Even some buildings in Worthing use warded locks. They are sometimes used as a lock alongside a lever lock contraption for added security.
Design of the warded lock
In a standard warded lock, a series of obstructions, often comprising externally protruding concentric plates prevent rotation when the wrong key is inserted. Warded lock may contain a single simple ward or multiple complex wards with bends and striations. However, they both operate on the same principle.
How does a warded lock work?
If the slots or notches in the key don’t match with the wards in the lock, the key will meet an obstruction and won’t be able to rotate.
Similarly, a set of grooves on both sides of the key’s blade reduce the type of lock they can penetrate. As the key enters the lock via the keyway, the wards line up with the grooves in the key outline to allow (or obstruct) entry into the cylinder of the lock. Although, this is not so common in warded locks, it more pertinent to modern locksmithing mechanisms such as wafer tumbler or pin tumbler locks.
In double-sided locks, the middle of the key shaft is hard and projects past the bit end, which enters into a hole on the other side of the lock. Wards with two sides almost always have bits that are accurately symmetrical. For one-sided locks, a cylindrical post is situated at the centre of the lock. Its function is to present a leverage point for turning the key, and also prefectly align the key with the wards. For this feature, the key has a matching hole, which fits with the post.
When the right key is inserted, the wards are allowed to rotate over the centre post. The key may hit a lever and actuate a sliding bolt or latch, or may even be pushed against the bolt or latch. In a double function lever lock, the key might also thrust against the spring-based lever, which keeps the sliding bolt in position.
Warded locks are widely used in outdoor and extreme climates because the stationary parts make them more durable and resistant to changes in the weather. In Worthing, you can often see them in old gates.
How secure are warded locks?
Because of the introduction of more secure lock systems, warded locks are now considered old fashioned and low-security. They are vulnerable to lock picking and impressioning. Today, modern variations of warded locks such as in padlocks are regarded as low-security.
This does not render warded locks useless. They can be used in places where non-valuable belongings are kept or back gates to old buildings and similar.
How much does a warded lock cost?
Due to their simplicity and low-security rating, warded locks are relatively cheap. You can buy a small one for under £10 in Worthing. However, the price tends to increase with the make and model.
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