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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Russian makes 'world's smallest locks'
At work on a miniature lock
The smallest locks are almost invisible to the naked eye
A master locksmith has made a lock so small that it can fasten around the eye of a needle, according to Russian television reports, which say his work should be in the Guiness book of records.

Pavel Kulikov, lives and works in the town of Pavlovo, near Nizhni Novgorod in central Russia, a town famous for its locksmiths.

Those who know him often liken the locksmith to the craftsman in the story - well-known to Russians - by writer Nikolay Leskov called the Left-Handed Master.

In the story, a group of visiting Englishmen present the Tsar with a tiny mechanical flea.

Wanting to better the English achievement, the Tsar asks the Left-Handed Master to create something even more ingenious. The Master rose to the challenge by creating tiny horseshoes on the feet of the mechanical flea.

Eye of a needle

The local people have nicknamed Mr Kulikov the Left-Handed Master of Pavlovo.

The lock goes through the eye of a needle
The tiny padlock can go through the eye of a needle
Russian Public Television showed some examples of Mr Kulikov's miniature locks magnified many times over.

One lock is so small it is virtually invisible to the naked eye. It was shown on display locked around the eye of a needle.

The tiny lock weighs a hundredth of a gram and its diameter is a fraction of a milimetre and yet it functions as a normal lock.

It takes two turns of the key to open it. The lock bears the craftsman's own trademark, which can only be seen with the help of a powerful magnifying device.

Mr Kulikov makes his own tools, including clamps, pincers and special nail files. Sometimes these can only be used once.

At work using a microscope
Mr Kulikov uses a powerful microscope to work on his miniature locks
Mr Kulikov goes through a special routine in preparing to work on a lock because it takes about an hour for his eyes to get used to the small scale of the work.

The television said that these amazing locks are created on a desk in the corner of a small room in Mr Kulikov's home.

No wages

But since losing his job with a small gifts manufacturer which had to close down, he has had to work in a local factory producing spade handles and has had little time to make his locks.

Mr Kulikov told the TV's correspondent that the time was not right in Russia for creativity and art.

He often compares himself to the hero of Leskov's story who ended up jobless and penniless.

"What did he end up with. He reached the very top and it turned out that no-one needed him," Mr Kulikov told the television.

He said he had received no wages for the past four months.

But Mr Kulikov says - like Leskov's Left-Handed Master - he would not go abroad to work.

He would just like to spend more time making his miniature locks and teaching his skills to his sons. His tools will be their inheritance.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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