Wooden locks have been of great importance historically. From the start, all locks were completely or partially made of hard wood materials, and these locks were used for a long time over large parts of the world.
The Egyptian wooden locks had pin tumblers. The keys were anchor shaped and were inserted through a hole in the door to lift the tumbler pins. The wooden bolt was then pulled to the open position with a strap.
As early as the Viking Era, a simple wooden door lock came into use in many parts of Northern Europe. These locks were based on Roman and Celtic locks. The tumblers fell from their own weight and held the bolt in place. The wooden key lifted the tumblers out of the notches in the bolt so that it could be drawn. Wooden locks were used in large parts of Europe all the way into the 20th century.
Many smiths in the western part of the Swedish province of Dalarna manufactured an old-fashioned type of latch-key lock, made of steel, in the 17th and 18th centuries. The first time I encountered one of these locks, I thought it was very old, maybe 16th century. But it turned out to be nearly 200 years newer.
Locks on traditional Swedish rustic furniture were very discreet; they did not have the same prominent role as door locks, chest locks, padlocks and so on. Usually they were hidden on the inside of a box or cupboard door.
Cylinder night-latch locks were first manufactured in the United States and later in Europe in several different versions. This new idea of a combined lock, with a separate box for the bolt combined with an independent lock cylinder from Yale & Towne in the United States, was a more manageable design than previous lock types. The simple keys were conveniently small and thin.
From the turn of the 20th century, there was an impressively large number of widely varying bicycle locks, most of them made in Germany and the United States. Some of those lock types are still used today, in 2011.
Way back in the 3rd century AD, the innovative Romans began producing door locks made entirely of metal. Before that, all locks were completely or partially made of hard wood materials, although the keys could be made of bronze or iron. Wooden locks were used in large parts of Europe all the way into the 2oth century.
There are three main types of wooden locks:
Pin tumbler locks, including peg tumbler locks, Egyptian, Spartan and Celtic locks.
Sliding bolt locks.
Wooden block locks (with turning key).
Wooden block locks
Wooden block locks – with wooden housings and an iron key that turned in an iron mechanism – have been common over much of Europe since the Celtic era. They were found Germany, Austria, France, the UK, and the Netherlands.
Wooden block locks were placed on the inside of the door. They consisted of an iron bolt built into a hollow in a wooden stock (giving it its name), or a sturdy piece of hardwood. The enclosure was often covered with a thin piece of iron. The first locks were mounted vertically on doors or gateways and had no springs. Horizontally mounted wooden block locks came into use in the late 15th century, when their shape was also modified.
A heavy iron key moved the bolt with the help of two projections on the bolt. In the 14th century, the bolt was held in place with a simple spring plate. In the following century, a tumbler bolt was added for extra security. Many of the larger wooden block locks that are still in use have been reinforced with lengthwise and crosswise iron strips.
Wooden block locks were common all over Sweden, even in the Middle Ages. They were used on the doors of early churches, and also on important secular buildings.