The next time you lock yourself out of your home (and you will), take heart from the fact that a similar fate has befallen those who lived millennia before you.
As you seethe and curse your own foolishness, consider for a moment that even those doyens of engineering, the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, held among the ranks the world’s first locksmiths. Pharaohs and their merry band may have ruled with an iron fist, but even they were not immune to falling victim to the odd bout of carelessness.
According to historyofkeys.com, the history of locksmithing can be traced back to these regions some 4 000 years ago.
“[The locksmith] created wooden devices that used tin tumbler principle to prevent free movement of the door bar. The pins could be moved only with the use of large and cumbersome wooden key (created in the shape of modern toothbrush) that was inserted into lock and pushed upwards, which moved internal pins and unlocked doors.”
However it was only with the advancement of metallurgy in 18th Century Europe that professional locksmiths were able to create the lock and key we are familiar with today.
It is no exaggeration to say that locksmiths have become part of our everyday lives, particularly in a crime-ridden country like South Africa which is so dependent on private security measures.
From locksmiths in the south of Johannesburg to those in the northernmost parts of Cape Town, these artisans are among the most in-demand services providers in the country.
It is not simply a matter of cutting keys or jimmying locks either. As crime has escalated and become more sophisticated, so locksmiths have had to adapt and produce devices that are far more resistant to the wiles of burglars. Their expertise is also frequently called on to assist police in their crime scene investigation.
The result has been that a host of specialised accreditation courses and locksmith training schools have emerged around the country, such as the Locksmith Association of South Africa and the School of Advanced Locksmithing.
These schools usually require a Grade 10 qualification and a background in metal work and technical drawing, but the key criteria are whether a candidate has a natural inclination for discretion and confidentiality and is willing to be on call around the clock.
Like farmers or doctors, locksmithing is a profession that has been around since time immemorial, so pursuing it as a career is definitely worth your while as a means to sustain your liveliohood.