A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding the Parts of a Lock

Mark Burns  —  December 14, 2019 — Leave a comment

We use locks in a variety of places and in many different ways. Knowing which lock to choose or understanding just what a type of lock was created to do will determine its placement and use. We use locks to protect and safeguard items that are special to us such as possessions and property.

Most locks are fundamental and operate based on some very old principles of locksmiths and mechanical engagement. Knowing which is which will save you a great deal of time and confusion when deciding where to put a lock either in your home or your business.

You may also save some money when you head out to that big box store or are shopping your way around Amazon for just the right lock. Understanding how locks work is a simple process, but there will be some basic knowledge you will need.

A Regular Lock in Your Door

For the purposes of this beginning look at locks, a “regular” lock is one you will often find in your front door. These are locks that always require a key. The mechanism called into play include a bolt that moves inside a door into the frame of the door. These are called spring dead bolts.

The Main Body or Cylinder

The place where you insert the key is known as the cylinder. It is a small vertical opening in the front of the lock and usually has some irregular edges. The shape of the key matches the shape of this opening allowing only just the right key to be inserted into it. This shaping of the key is a built in security measure that confirms it is only your key and will not function in any other lock.

The Pin Tumbler

The pin tumbler is used inside cylinder locks and involves the engaging and disengaging of a set of pins. These pins are spring loaded and keep the cylinder from moving. When the key is inserted into the cylinder, the specific shape pushes the pins up toward a set of grooves. When the pins are placed into the correct groove, then the cylinder will turn, usually clockwise. When the cylinder turns, the door will open.

There is a section of the cylinder that meets with something called the “plug.” If an unusual or incorrect key is inserted into the front of the cylinder, then the pins do not match. This mismatch causes the cylinder to stay where it is and no rotation occurs. When the correct key is used, the “plug” will freely move and the door will open.

It is handy to only have a cylinder in use inside the dead bolt. If a key is lost or damaged and a lock needs to be re keyed, it can be done by simply changing the cylinder and not the whole locking mechanism. If you are a “do-it-yourself” type then this design is great for you. All you have to do is replace the cylinder!!

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The Bolt and Latch

There is a piece of metal that extends from the door into the frame. This metal is what locks the door and keeps it secured. For our purposes, when a spring bolt is in use a spring clip is employed to propel the bolt into the door frame. When the bolt lock is unlocked the spring it compressed and therefore full of energy that can be released. When released, the energy propels the bolt forward and into a locked position.

Of course, you may also just use a complete deadbolt that can be secured by turning the key or operating a knob on one side of the door.

Tubular Pin Tumbler Locks

This type of lock is also known as the radial or circle pin tumbler lock. They work basically like the spring loaded pins, but have a circular pattern to the pins instead of pins aligned linearly. In this type of lock, the pins are pushed toward the front of the lock and this action prevents the plug from rotating. There are indentations on the key that are pushed against the pins which releases the cylinder.

The Strike Plate

In this lock, the bolt extends from within the door into the frame or wall. The bolt is extended into something called the box. The box is designed and placed in such a way as to hold the bolt, thus rendering the door immovable.

The strike plate is attached to the wall or door frame and functions as a guide for the bolt. The strike plate must be placed over the bolt hole in such a way that allows the bolt to find the hole every time. The strike plate also adds an extra dimension of stability to the entire locking mechanism and its location in the door and door frame.

The sophisticated designed locks we know about today had their start centuries ago in Egypt. Around 1848, the pin tumbler lock was created and the design has held true since then. Today, we have timed locks, electronic locks, locks operated by apps, and locks that involve the use of highly complicated software algorithms. You can feel confident when placing a spring lock or dead bolt in your home or business. They have proven their worth for years.


However, if you have many locks to replace or you simply don’t want to do it yourself, feel free to contact me here at https://24houremergencylocksmithsbelfast.com/. Whether you need a recommendation regarding what kind of lock to use, replacement of one or more locks or just need to ask some questions, I am here to help.

My name is Mark and you may email me by using Mark@24houremergencylocksmithsbelfast.com

Alternatively, you may call me at 078 665 22422



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Mark Burns


Locksmith Situated in Belfast Northern Ireland over 20 years experience fast efficient and affordable

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