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Through The Key Hole
Castle Howard
By Guest Blogger  //  Mon 4th April 2016
By Richard Taylor, Locksmith
Working with old locks is somewhat of a passion of mine. The fact that you are holding a little piece of history in your hand, is a bit of a buzz!
Castle Howard invited me to hand craft a new set of keys for them and to say that the the locks at Castle Howard were handmade a great many years ago, the craftsmanship is amazing.

The rim lock outer casings themselves are solid brass and their polished exterior lend an air of opulence and importance to the room. The original craftsman knew exactly how to blend industrial materials, to create intricate working mechanisms that are a joy to look at. It's a real honour to be given the opportunity to lovingly restore them, using the traditional methods favoured when they were first fabricated.

The parts within the locks were crafted with exquisite attention to detail; there are fancy little flourishes, that actually, only the craftsman would really ever see! It's also fascinating to observe the basic mechanisms, from which the more modern day locking devices were derived.

Due to keys getting worn and broken over the years, there are no keys to copy, therefore the lock itself is used as a template to create the warding of the new key. This is a very time consuming and painstaking process, but it means that the key created will be an exact replica of the original.

The key blanks used are made of forged steel. This ensures that the new key will be strong and durable, as opposed to the old style sand-cast blanks, which can be full of air bubbles and imperfections.

The intricate shapes of the warding are then made using a key saw and a collar is then cut from steel and braised into place. This is a vital step, as the collar is the mechanism that determines the keys depth in the lock and ultimately whether the lock operates correctly.

The overall finish of the key is very important, so that the aesthetic of the lock is retained. This is achieved by polishing the metal and then 'blueing' the steel, to help temper the metal and deliberately tarnish it, to create discolouration and therefore an older looking finish.

The old keys Key blank Working on the new keys The new keys