THE MAGAZINE

High-Security Mechanical Locks: An Encyclopedic Reference

By Graham W. Pulford; Reviewed by Derek Knights, CPP

***** High-Security Mechanical Locks: An Encyclopedic Reference. By Graham W. Pulford; published by Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann; available from ASIS, item #1803, 703/519-6200 (phone), www.asisonline.org (Web); 608 pages; $85.00 (ASIS members), $93 (nonmembers).

In this fascinating book, Graham W. Pulford slips the reader through the keyhole and into the intricate and ingenious inner workings of security’s most basic tool. The journey is enlightening and gives the reader a sense of awe for the locksmith, an important artisan who rarely gets the respect the position deserves.

The book, as its title states, is an encyclopedic reference. Its eight chapters each focus on a different lock type. Through the 600 pages of the book, the reader learns about pins, tumblers, wafers, levers, magnets, and other components found inside the keyhole.

The section on lock picking is uncharacteristically short compared to others (perhaps understandably). It describes in words and pictures how various lock picks work. From there, in similar form, Pulford describes the workings of mechanical locks. He breaks down various bitting codes and explains how relatively limited the number of keys for a particular lock can be, especially if mastering schemes are necessary (something that also makes picking easier).

Electronic locks are not discussed in this book—understandable, as the title excludes them—but car locks and ignitions are addressed, with the briefest nod toward the ever-increasing use of RFID transponders in ignitions. Combination locks are mentioned in passing. In effect, if it doesn’t use a metal key, it’s not in this book.

But locks with keys are historically the most common, and it’s that history that sets this book apart; think of it less as a book and more as a museum that can be stored on a shelf. It is truly like spending a few hours at a museum dedicated to the industrial revolution of locks and keys.

This time spent is not wasted. Seeing the pioneers of locksmithing as industrialists and artists who create devices so robustly delicate and reading about the development of today’s modern locking devices rounds out the security professional’s knowledge base.


Reviewer: Derek Knights, CPP, is a senior IT security governance specialist with Sun Life Financial Inc. in Toronto. He is a member of ASIS International.

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