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I Forge Iron

A 16th Century Ball Padlock


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After seeing the work of a modern locksmith, K. Moreau, I decided to try making a 16th century ball padlock.  It is mainly based on some original examples, and I took some photos along the way. 


The starting center band and bolt chamber.  The little gap on the inside of the lug on the band is where the spring sits.  The two lugs are filed and the chamber is fitted.  The band is 1/8" thick and the outside diameter is 2".  The chamber is 14 ga., but in the future I'll make it from 12 at least.



The center sections are brazed together.  Also here are the two domes that finish the lock case, one with the key post riveted and brazed, and the other with the keyhole.  The key's bit and stem are made from a single piece of 16 ga. sheet with a brazed seam, the collar is 14 ga.  Also the bolt, shackle, and spring made from an old hacksaw blade. 



The case wired together.  There are three tabs on the inside which keep it from shifting side-to-side, the rivets will be filed flush later.



I shape the fire into a bowl and put a plate over top to make an oven, giving space for the ball and allowing me to move it.  Another plate is put over the opening to retain the heat while bringing it up to temperature.



Right out of the fire.  Definitely the most complicated forge braze I've done.



Cleanup started, the key post trimmed, and the shackle drilled.



A piece of 1/8" fills the top opening.  Its edges are beveled and the top edge of the chamber are peened over to hold it in place.



The finished lock.  This is the first lock I've made with a completely enclosed mechanism, all the other locks I've made are earlier types where the bolt or shackle are separate components which are removed to unlock.





I'm pleased with this as a first try, and I've thought of a couple things to make the next one better, and I'll make sure to fit the chamber and band closer.  Also, I will make a swage for the domes, I raised and planished these.

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I love it Nick! Please consider me as a charter member of your fan club. doggonitall I'm going to have to do some reading about locks to make intelligent comments let alone know what's going on. I get the idea of how this one works and after the combination lock I'm about at my end of locksmitherly knowledge.


Thank you for sharing this, gets my juices flowing you betcha.


Frosty The Lucky.

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Fantastic work Nick! I love seeing these locks and the detailed process pics are greatly appreciated :) it's fascinating to see intricate mechanics like locks being remade with the old techniques, I really appreciate the craftsmanship :)

Thank you for sharing these with us!

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Thanks, gents :)  This was a very fun project, and one I've had planned for a while.  My next lock will be a triangular one from the same period, which uses the same mechanism but the case construction is completely different.  After that, I'll start working on wards and more complex locking mechanisms, though all from around the Renaissance or earlier.  Pre-modern technology is a particular interest of mine, and it's very satisfying to recreate something like this.

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If you were to make  a dozen of these locks, how much time woud it take you to make the 12th. In other words, how much time is involved in making one of these once we know how.


And by the way, I admire what you have done. This object is particularly elegant. Congratulations.

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Vaughn, the variety in old handmade locks is stunning, and the inventiveness of the old masters.  There's one in the V&A that has hands holding the key, and the hands have to be opened to get it, and then there are tricks to unlock it!


I didn't time myself (I never do though I should), but I have several days in this, maybe 24 hours or so total since I can only spend a few hours in the forge at a time right now.  Given practice and a couple swages and jigs to make shaping faster and more consistent, I could probably do one in a couple days, though that's just an estimate for myself.

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