The Locks to a Lock Picker's Heart

FOR THE GREAT MAJORITY OF US, a lock is nothing more than a lock. Combination lock, door lock, padlock — same old, same old. But to Schuyler Towne, the subject of July’s The Joy Lock Club, these mechanical security devices mean so much more. So we asked him for his favorite locks — and why.

And here, in no particular order, are his answers: the locks a lock picker loves.

Photography by Amy Lucas

Yale & Towne Warded Padlock (U.S.)

Look very closely at the fine print on these padlocks and you’ll read the following “YALE & TOWNE MFC.CO.” That’s Towne as in Henry Robinson Towne — as in Schuyler Towne’s own ancestor. Back in the 1860’s, H. R. Towne went into the lockmaking business with Yale Jr. about three months prior to Yale’s death. These padlocks are not the most famous of their products, the pin tumbler re-imagined by the Yales and made popular by Towne, but they do bear the name of the partnership.  “My whole love for these locks is the familial connection — it’s what got me started learning the history of lock engineering,” Towne says, “But, they are beautiful. Yale and Towne made gorgeous locks.”


EVVA 3KS Sidebar Lock (Austria)

Made by an Austrian company, this EVVA 3KS specimen is particularly stunning, and not just  because of how it functions. “It’s a beautiful and complex lock, and the mechanism inside is lovely, but the cutaway is phenomenal. It’s gorgeous,” Towne says. “There’s this entire community of people who just cut away material on locks so you can see how they operate — just out of a love for the lock. This one specifically was made by a guy who goes by SnowyBoy in the UK. I met him on the internet lock picking forums. He does incredible work — I mean, this is more materially removed than the factory could do when they’re showcasing the lock.”


Fichet 450 Lever Tumbler (France)

“In an age where I can show up anywhere and hear someone go, ‘Hey, guess we’re not going to have mechanical locks for long, huh?’ — Fichet is a vanguard for continuing to make gorgeous, purely mechanical locks that are just mindbending,” Towne says. The sample pictured one of their less elaborate versions (“I’ve unfortunately gifted away most of my Fichet collection,” Towne says), yet even still, it’s incredibly complex. Like the EVVA, this is a sidebar-based lock, now with a set of pivoting tumblers. Each side of the key is unique, such that within the lock are four different racks of levers, each manipulated by a different part of the key — making it quadruply difficult to pick. “Although unfortunately, it has a really simple bypass: they made their sidebars out of such terrible metal that you can really just shear them off.”