The Secret Lock Pendant

Did you ever have one of those projects that seems to haunt you for years? My Dad had the “Roll Top Desk”. He bought the plans, the wood, started it, stalled, decided he needed to get a router and 30 years later, my family still jokes about it. The wood got used for other things, I don’t where the plans are.

I’ve felt that way about this project and I feel incredible that I can say I’ve finally kicked butt and got it done.

I was contacted by a potential customer in early 2004 to find out if I could make a locking pendant. He wanted to have a pendant that had a key, but didn’t want it to look like a lock, it was to look like a pendant. No one but he and she would know that it was locked on.

I loved the idea,. Yes I’ve seen locks as jewelry, but frankly they look like locks. And if you want it to be a secret that you are in alternative relationship where dominance/submission is part of your relationship, you either wear regular jewelry and pretend it’s locked…or you wear a lock.

I started the design process. I needed to learn how locks were made. I found a book about simple ancient Iranian lock designs. I spent months corresponding with the customer keeping him posted on progress. He was patient. We never met, but emailed and occasionally chatted online about the project.

Then I uprooted my life and moved to PA. The customer and his girlfriend broke up so there was no longer even the potential sale anymore, but I still liked the idea. And I felt that there were others who would be interested in it.

My small beginning prototype sat in a tiny plastic box and occasionally I would pull it out and spend a little time trying to figure out what to do about a spring. My gut told me I needed to learn more about non ferrous metals.

Last year I took a Blacksmithing course and at that point realized I was making things more complicated than they needed to be. I took some private lessons with a local blacksmith here in Philadelphia and my project with her was a lock. I acquired another book on locks, this time written for blacksmiths.

Riding the wave of productivity, I washed against the tiny plastic box again the other day like waves hitting the rocks. Damn it, this project has been floating around for 5 years, time to put it to bed. The springs were my hold up, but this time I decided to check Ganoksin about how to make small springs. I found out that music wire (piano wire or guitar wire) can be used to make springs. No worries about hardening/tempering.

And hey, I have a 12 string guitar laying around here I haven’t played in years. It has LOTS of strings. I leave out my Epiphone so it’s handy to play, but the 12 string is a pain, never in tune, etc. I started scavenging strings and as I was taking off the strings realized there was a set of new strings inside. So I took off all the strings I could use, took a few pictures and put it on Craigslist. I sold it for a few bucks and gave the money to the kid. (She’s saving for a new computer.)

The I sat down with my old drawings and worked out a new design with Illustrator. I looked through my stones, decided on a malachite and started over again.

The foremost problem is if the spring inside is heated up, as it would if I soldered the pendant, it loses it’s spring. My solution for that was to set a stone on the front of the lock. Get the whole thing soldered together, set the spring and then set the stone last.

I made the bezel and seat for the malachite, then a box the same shape as the malachite to house the lock under the stone. Then the connectors on either side. I choose a triquerta as the design element. A nice green stone like Malachite always looks good to me in a celtic design.


Then I cut out the mechanisms, the locking arm, the hook on the connector on the other side. Soldered one side connector in place.

As I began playing with springs I started to realize that using a silver shaft as the key wasn’t a good idea. It needed to be steel to be strong enough to push against the steel spring and not bend.
The springs and strength of the working components were the biggest issues I was working on over these years.
I used a nail and did some mini blacksmithing on my baby anvils to make the key. I also researched brazing (soldering) silver to the steel and found that was much easier than I anticipated. (I’m already dreaming of potential pieces using this idea.) Another Triquerta cut from sheet and voila! A Key. The key is very simple, just a straight piece of metal to put the locking lever back against the spring to release the connector. I’ll probably add a bail so it can be worn by who ever is holding the key.

Meanwhile, it took hours to determine the correct shape and size for the spring. The spring was the most challenging part of this project. Several times over the last few days I just stopped and walked away. Installing the spring, taking out the ones that didn’t work. I was at it for hours, it was an exercise in patience. I made at least a dozen different springs from the guitar wire.
In the end a coiled V spring (like the bottom of a safety pin) is what worked, but the coil had to be very tiny to fit in the area.
When the mechanism worked predictably, I soldered the completed bezel setting on top of the lock housing. Once it was in place there was a few more hours of playing with springs.
It finally all came together- and stayed that way.
And came apart when it was supposed to…

Then I only had to set the stone and it’s done. I’m VERY happy to have finally solved this issue.

Now the fun part of figuring what kind of chain/choker to put on. The original customer wanted a handmade chain. (Cha-ching!) but I think this would look nice with a flat omega style smooth chain because it will be against the skin, or some kind of fabric or cord. In any case, until it finds it’s home it won’t be finished because I believe it should be fitted.

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