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In the new age of locksmithing, the artisan touch is not lost

16 Jan 2018


A world-wide sought after locksmith, Aaron Smith leads a  double life as the lead teacher for our Locksmithing courses, and also as The Keyhole Surgeon.

Aaron says “It’s always changing, it’s constantly adapting. Yes, we still teach stuff that has been practiced since the 1850’s, like right now, I’m actually picking a lock on a chiffonier and I’m doing the exact same things that would have been done in the 1850s by a locksmith. But, then we are also teaching cameras, security systems, alarms, a really wide variety of skills and knowledge sets. Ten years ago, we weren’t even thinking this was going to be a part of what we do.” “One of my specialty areas is restoring old locks, I’ve done some interesting stuff, like locks out of Pentridge, old padlocks and bits and pieces for wineries or collectors. I’ve even done some stuff from the 1600’s.” It isn’t out of the ordinary for a customer to call Aaron with an unusual request. Recently, an author in his 70s came to Aaron with an old combination lock his father was given before he went to fight in WWI. The Harv combination lock had been through the wars, literally, says Aaron: “It had been through the trenches on the Western Front and it had made its way back to Australia, which is amazing.” “He was using it to secure his own kit bag, apparently.” “It was one of the few things the author had of his fathers’, so I wanted to make sure I could get it working. I was just playing with it and gave it a really good clean and it popped open. ” “He had tears in his eyes when I told him he could come and get it. It was a really lovely experience.” “I was amazed, it was something that could be in the National War Museum, but it's just in a family’s collection, just there, one of those pieces that continue [a legacy]. That’s the connection I really like.” Aaron says the locksmithing trade is problem-solving on the fly: “I'm more of a puzzle person, locksmithing is solving a puzzle in three dimensions, it’s fantastic. It’s like trying to play pick up sticks with your fingers 6 inches from your body… You can’t cheat locks, they are just doing their job and they can be hard sometimes.” “I like that it’s a constant challenge, you don’t ever get to rest on your laurels… With locksmithing you are always learning something new, a new lock comes out to market or a new technique, and before you know it, you’ve invested a fair whack of time and effort into learning something new, which is great!” “It's probably a bit more of a thinking-persons trade, it's not super heavy lifting or that kind of stuff, but being able to mentally think about what’s going on inside a lock while you are working on it, that’s a really valuable skill and asset to have.” Locksmithing is a trade moving with the times and as technology becomes more sophisticated, customers are less interested in securing their property with keys. “There’s a really big focus on electronic security, so more cameras, alarms, and digital locking solutions,” says Aaron. “Customers don’t just want locks now, they want a mobile phone app, they want their locks connected to the internet, and they want to be able to have 24-hour access.” He says, the courses he teaches at Melbourne Polytechnic are reflecting these changes in the industry, but are careful not to lose the still relevant art of the trade. “Our students are still taught how to hand cut keys and manipulate open safes but, we’ve just had things like 3D printing come out. We recognise a lot of the students we are getting out of high-school, that’s what they have been exposed to, that’s what they know.” He says those learning the trade in Australia are lucky and can take their qualification just about anywhere in the world: “Australia has one of the best, or even the best training systems for locksmithing.” Part of the reason for this is the passion a lot of locksmiths bring to the trade and the passing on of knowledge. “We all build up a good rapport amongst ourselves. You get a good feeling about the people in the trade, and you can rely on them. If you get stuck, you can actually ask people for help and they’ll generally come and give you a hand.” “I couldn’t see myself doing any other type of job, yes I’m a teacher, but I still consider myself to be a locksmith, I’m still passionate about what I do.” “My teachers were passionate and I’d like to keep that going.” If you are interested in unlocking the secrets of a specialist trade that is more relevant than ever, check out our course information here.