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Bowley Lock promises high security at a low price

Bowley Lock promises high secu...
The Bowley Lock reportedly keeps objects other than its own key from engaging the pins
The Bowley Lock reportedly keeps objects other than its own key from engaging the pins
View 3 Images
A collection of Bowley Lock prototypes
A collection of Bowley Lock prototypes
The Bowley Lock reportedly keeps objects other than its own key from engaging the pins
The Bowley Lock reportedly keeps objects other than its own key from engaging the pins
The unique Bowley Lock key
The unique Bowley Lock key
View gallery - 3 images

If the movies and TV are to be believed, picking a conventional lock is as easy as sticking a tool into a keyhole, thoughtfully moving it around for a few seconds, then pulling the door open with a crafty smile. While there are special high-security locks that are much harder to pick, they also tend to be quite expensive. That's why Canadian inventor Ryan Bowley created the Bowley Lock – it's claimed to be virtually pick-proof, yet affordable to the average home-owner.

In a conventional system, the key enters a pin tumbler as it's inserted into the lock. As it does so, its cuts (the uneven bits along the side) push up on the pins. Once it's fully inserted, all the pins have been pushed up to sit evenly in a line, allowing the lock cylinder to be turned.

The problem with such systems is that a lock pick tool can also easily be inserted, then used to push up the pins. In the Bowley Lock, however, the key doesn't engage the pins upon first entering the keyhole.

The unique Bowley Lock key
The unique Bowley Lock key

"The key must be first inserted and then rotated 180 degrees to the top where the pins live," Bowley explained to us. "At the same time the slot cut in the key allows the key to travel around an internal shield within the lock. Once the key is rotated to the top of the lock it is pushed in a little bit farther. This action is then similar to a normal lock in which the pins now fall into their correct position in the key bitting, and the pins are at the shear line and the cylinder can be rotated."

He also told us that it is highly resistant to "bumping," partly because pre-tension can't be applied by the same tool that's doing the bumping, and partly because the pins in the lock must fall down as opposed to being pushed up.

If you're interested, Ryan is currently seeking production funds for his lock, on Kickstarter. A pledge of CAD$139 (about US$104) will get you a package consisting of one deadbolt assembly and four keys, assuming all goes according to plan.

There's a more detailed explanation of how the system works, in the following video.

Sources: Bowley Lock, Kickstarter

Bowley Lock Animation

View gallery - 3 images
Joel Detrow
It's a clever design, but that key looks extremely flimsy. What if it breaks off in the lock?
I'm all for better locks, but are homes still broken into by picking the lock? Most of what I hear are home invasions, broken windows, or crashed doors.
John Banister
I can buy an Abloy Protec large format cylinder for about US$90 and make a Schlage or Yale interchangeable cylinder key-in-knob or deadbolt virtually pickproof also. The easy way through my door (or the wall beside it) is with a chainsaw.
I talked to someone who spoke with a thief in prison, and the thief said that the best practical preventative is multi-point locks because most attacks bypass the lock by flexing the door frame. I always thought that Tectus hinges that can allow the door to be flush with the frame on the outside would be nice for door security also.
Udhaya Kumar
Is there a lock that could change lever that could be set from a smart phone?
I would rather spend just a few more bucks and buy a Bilock or a current-generation Medeco deadbolt. They don't cost that much more if you shop around. The latter has a proven history over the last few decades and authorized locksmiths can make duplicate keys for you, unlike the Bowley, where only the manufacturer can cut new keys. Since Bowley is new, there's no guarantee they won't go out of business next year and leave you high and dry. The Bowley Kickstarter page makes it sound like buying from an established company is bad, but there are advantages from a hard-earned reputation and substantial corporate assets behind a product.
Unless you plan to make the door frame out of steel plate, I don't see the purpose of a pick proof lock.
A little corrosion in the lock would likely increase the effort to turn the key and allow it to be twisted or break off. While cheap conventional locks are fairly easy to pick, the more expensive ones are quite a challenge. The key in this video also looks like something that would snag threads or other objects in my pocket. I do like the idea of inserting the key and rotating it 180 degrees before inserting it further to engage the pins but I don't like the shape of the key.
That key is actually ULTRA strong!

"Lockman28" Has video review on YouTube showing that it is much stronger than any other key on the market. This is because it's made from very high grade steel.
This is very similar to an earlier and I would suggest a better more robust product idea, which I think was also posted on this site. That being a lock where you are required to put the whole key inside the lock and close a sealed port before you can rotate the mechanism with a handle on the outside i.e. You cannot pick what you cannot get at.
That said this design is still vulnerable to an endoscopic-pick, should one be constructed, for which I claim naming rights.
After watching the demo video it does not change my earlier statement except to say that very rarely indeed to criminals pick locks, preferring quicker and easier targets, windows etc.
But if they are forced to gain entry by getting through this lock then it is not difficult to imagine that a deadbolt sitting proud of the doors surface is vulnerable to being hit from the side (concussive picking) to remove the whole lock so that the drive pin can be turned manually. Oh, and even if you sink this fluch into a door, it better be strong enough to resist being jackhammered through the door.
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