In short, a locksmith is a person that makes or breaks locks. However, this definition does little justice to this profession as it is much too short and does not cover even half of what the locksmiths do. It may have been true in the 19th century or before, but today locksmithing is much more than simply making locks, picking them and fixing them.
A good locksmith must combine the expertise of several different trades. He has to be a good carpenter, he needs to know a lot about mechanics, he must be a machinist, but above all, today, he needs to be a security expert. One would think that some of these have nothing in common, but the locksmith combines them all into a new profession that utilizes all of them at once.
The locksmith’s primary concern is the installation, repairing and maintaining of locks and other hardware which prevents access. Of course, this hardware could be mechanical (car locks, deadbolts or key master systems), but in the last twenty or so years it can be electronic as well (electronic locks, CCTV systems, biometric systems, etc).
Since their profession is so specialized, you will rarely see a locksmith as part of some staff. Instead, they work independently and are hired on a need-to basis. This also means that they a lot of them don’t work at regular work hours and could be employed in the middle of the night in case someone can’t get into his house.
To be a locksmith requires not just to have good tools but also to know how to use them properly. Locks are often very complicated mechanisms with many small parts in them and any mistake could be hazardous to the lock. This is why the locksmith must be able to use his tools in the most stressful conditions, as they often don’t have to deal just with the lock but with the nervous owner. Whether conditions can also greatly affect his work as it could be pouring outside when they are trying to pick somebody’s lock (have you ever tried doing anything in rain?)
His hands are his most important tools and he will have to have extremely nimble fingers in order to operate some of his tools. Often, a locksmith will have to hold two different types of tools at the same time, while trying to manipulate some lever or other part inside the lock in a very tight space. Apart from his hands, he will need his his eyes, sense of touch and hearing to do his work. Some locksmiths will go as far to say that they need to have a certain “six sense” in order to complete the task that is put before them.
If the locksmith wants to be really good in his job, the locksmith will have to practice his skills and there is no better way to do this but through the experience that a regular working environment offers them.