Schlage Satin Nickel Turns Yellow

Schlage satin nickel finish will turn yellow in the elements. Here is a double cylinder deadbolt. Note that the inside half is still satin nickel but the outside half has turned into a definite yellow shade.

I don’t know why satin nickel finish takes on a yellow hue in sunshine but after a few years it turns yellow. Schlage warrantees against this just so you know. This also happens to Kwikset locks. I am not aware of this happening to other finishes.

How to convert a Baldwin mortise lock to passage or dormitory from entry function

Why would you do this? Probably because you hate getting locked out. If you need a key or code to lock your door from the outside of it, you are far less likely to get locked out. I get a lot of requests from people wanting to install an electronic deadbolt on their front door, but there is already an antique mortise lock installed. There are a few issues to consider for this scenario.

I can easily install an electronic deadbolt above an old mortise lock but eventually somebody will lock the mortise lock and everybody relying on using a code to unlock the deadbolt will be left high and dry. There are a few solutions to this problem but each has drawbacks. You can replace the mortise lock but the replacement options will either be expensive or ugly or both. You can modify the mortise lock to not lock at all, but that is somewhat expensive.

Replacing the mortise lock is probably the most professional approach. The manufacturer of your mortise lock probably makes one with the same hole pattern in a passage function. This is a drop-in replacement that will ensure you don’t get locked out. Mortise lock cassettes usually cost at least $100-200. Expect to pay another $100 for me to come out and install it. The nice thing about this approach is that you can use the same trim, meaning that the lock will look exactly the same on all sides of the door but you can’t get locked out (easily, nothing is impossible).

Replacing the lock with a tubular or cylindrical lock requires modification of the door, either with remodeler plates or a wraparound plate or with extensive carpentry to plug the numerous holes left by a conventional mortise lock with custom cut pieces of wood. The remodeler plates often come only in garish colors like brass and steel.

The slumlord solution which is effective is to superglue the buttons on the side of the lock and cut the spindle for the deadbolt’s thumbturn on the inside of the door. Then break a key off in the cylinder. This is nearly free and will prevent the mortise lock from locking by all but the most determined person. The mortise lock is deactivated, and the electronic deadbolt above it is the only functioning lock. Not very elegant, but saves some money and the antique lock still looks nice.

My favorite solution which is for most locks reversible is to take the mortise lock apart and remove the buttons on the side of the lock. Nobody can casually lock the door and walk out, unless they lock the mortise lock from the inside and exit via a different door. The deadbolt can be blocked from use by inserting a screw into the strike for the deadbolt.

The lock looks mostly the same and can’t be locked, making the electronic deadbolt the only means of entry on the door. Your antique lock can be returned to full functionality by removing the woodscrew in the strike hole and putting the removed parts back if desired.

Following is a description for how to modify a typical Baldwin mortise lock for passage function. This is not hard to do for somebody who is mechanically inclined. If you screw up it will be hard to put the parts back the way they were. It will void any warranty the lock has. This is a great play to make if your mortise lock is malfunctioning and you don’t want to buy a new cassette too (last ditch hail mary kind of thing).

I am not responsible for what you do with this information, and know that this will void Baldwin’s warranty for their mortise lock, though that warranty I believe is only valid if you are the original purchaser of the lock. The directions aren’t going to explain how to take the lock out of the door, if you can’t figure that part out you probably don’t have any business performing this procedure. I will say that you must loosen the set screw for the mortise cylinder, not remove it. Don’t use a wrench to remove the mortise cylinder either. Ok here goes:

This is the mortise lock cassette removed from the door. There are springs under pressure that will fly out if you do this wrong. Put a screwdriver through the hole for the thumbturn spindle. This will keep the spring from flying off.

Take the mortise cassette screws out and lift the top off the cassette body. Next is time to remove the buttons on the side of the lock, along with the spring and ball bearing that go with the buttons. Following are before and after pictures of the parts inside the mortise cassette. If you want the deadbolt to still work, your cassette should look like the second one with the buttons removed. The coordinator can remain, without the buttons it won’t do anything.

This is the before picture. Everything is mostly in place except the ball bearing for the buttons. It is really hard to put back in place.
This is the after picture. Note that the buttons are missing in the lower left. Everything else is in its correct position. The deadbolt will still function in this lock by key outside or by thumbturn from the inside.
This is the same picture from before and the same trick is used for reassembly: You have to carefully put that spring for the deadbolt in place and hold the deadbolt actuator in place through the cassette’s top plate while lowering the top plate or the spring will fly out of place and knock other components out of the way and the plate won’t sit flush. Even if you do it right you will probably still have to coax some components a little bit with a thin wire or similar to get them to go through their respective holes in the top plate before it will click into place and you can screw it down.
This is what the lock looks like after my modification. The only difference in outward appearance is that there are now holes on the side of the lock where the buttons were.

Ok if you made it this far you either have a working lock or you screwed up somewhere or there is a broken part in your lock that needs replacement. If the former, congratulations. I would charge around $150 to come out and do this kind of job so you saved yourself a lot of money! If you are in the latter camp, you have what I call a shoebox job. Bring the shoebox full of parts in to a walk-in locksmith shop and if they are competent they can reassemble the lock as long as you brought all of the pieces, and maybe even if you did not if they have spare parts.

I’m putting this information here because the economy is crashing and people are hurting financially and need security but don’t necessarily have the money to pay somebody to do this. Let me know if you found this information helpful, I’m going to make a youtube video about this subject in the near future.

When installing hardware make sure you can’t unscrew it from the door from outside

Usually you want to secure your belongings from the outside world. Someday we may share all of our belongings equally but until then, make sure that locks can’t be unscrewed off the door!

Recently I saw two examples of doors that could be opened by removing one or two screws. The first one was pretty silly, a Securitron switch for a maglock was only secured by two flathead screws. One need only unscrew the two screws, pull the cover back and do something I won’t say here but the whole thing would only take 60 seconds.

Securitron switch can be removed from the wall with a flathead screwdriver and then bypassed. No key necessary.
Securitron switch can be removed from the wall with a flathead screwdriver and then bypassed. No key necessary.

Ideally this device would only be removed with a key, or perhaps the fasteners would be screwed in from the other side of the door. At the very least, a security screw could be used though those aren’t very secure either with a set of security bits going on amazon for under $10. Regardless of the fastener used the plastic housing could easily be bypassed by prying it off with any object such as a flathead screwdriver.

Worst of all, I found this switch in a very sketchy part of Seattle with lots of drug activity. I am amazed a meth head hasn’t unscrewed this switch off the wall since they remove everything else not bolted down.

Hole covers should be installed with the screw head on the secure side of the door, so passersby can’t unscrew it and reach through and unlock the door.

Here is another oops moment I encountered while vacationing on the Olympic Peninsula. My hotel was pleasant in most respects but some knucklehead installed this hole cover backwards. There is some pretty serious retrofitting going on here but I can’t imagine the local master locksmith would’ve done this.

The Problems that Lurk Beneath the Surface

Today I was rekeying a house. I pulled the lock cylinders apart in order to replace the brass pins, a process that guarantees the old key will no longer work but a new key will. I was surprised to find that all of the lock cylinders had either two or three pins inside. These lock cylinders should have had five pins per cylinder, the bare minimum level of security for a residential exterior door. This is negligent and in my opinion should be illegal. I’ve seen this many times in Seattle, too.

A lock cylinder missing pins and springs. The plug has been filed down.
This is a lock cylinder for a Schlage F series knob. They aren’t made with the tightest tolerances, any locksmith should be able to rekey one with five pins. The yellow circle shows the top pins. There are only two out of five present. The red circle shows the flat shiny part of the plug where somebody filed it down. Even this easy to rekey cylinder wasn’t sloppy enough for this clown, they had to file it down.

Leaving this house’s locks with two out of five pins makes it much easier to pick the locks but it also means that many other keys would work. A back of hand calculation is that around 1/80 keys would open these locks. That is the reason I think this should be illegal, it is leaving people wide open to possible theft or assault from the very person that was supposed to prevent that from happening in the first place!

This is akin to a mechanic deciding they don’t want to deal with resurfacing all four of your vehicle’s brake rotors but instead throwing two of them in the trash. Then the mechanic charges you for resurfacing all four of your rotors. Your vehicle is left in an unsafe state, you got overcharged, and you don’t even know it!

If you are reading this you probably weren’t going to get scammed by a half rate locksmith, but you may be curious if your friends or relatives were scammed and their houses left in this state. The way to determine how many pins are in your lock is to take a thin piece of flat steel, push it all the way into the lock, push it up to the top of the lock, and slowly pull it out. If you are doing this right, you should hear individual clicks. Those are the springs pushing the pins down really fast as your implement is pulled out of the way. If you heard five or six clicks, then great. Your lock is secure. If you didn’t, your lock may be missing parts. It could also be that your lock is full of graphite and other gunk and needs to be cleaned out with tri-flow or contact cleaner.

Or you can call me.

Is your basement door safe?

When considering the security of a building I think it is important to consider what entrances a criminal would attempt to use first. The criminal wants low visibility and the path of least resistance.

This usually means the front door will be left alone because it is usually visible from other peoples’ houses and the street. A far more attractive entrance is to the side or rear of the building. Why is this?

The petty criminal wants to avoid any interaction with the occupants of the building. They would like to enter without alerting anybody inside or outside. The basement is the ideal entry point for most criminals because people are usually in the upper floors of a building. In a house, the basement is usually stocked with goodies that can be pawned for quick drug money. Power tools, sports equipment, audio and visual equipment are all typical in people’s basements.

Despite being the most likely entry point for criminals, basement doors are frequently the least secure. Let’s consider why:

  • /The basement door is less visible and used less often so people are less concerned with replacing it
  • Since many haven’t been replaced for decades they are frequently an older style of door featuring thin panels in the middle
  • If they have glass it is often single pane glass, Modern doors generally have double pane glass. It is harder to break through and also insulates the building better. Thieves would rather break single pane glass because it takes only one hit so it is quieter.
  • Old doors are often thin 2 and 3/8″ doors. It is harder to kick down modern exterior doors that are solid wood or hollow steel and 2 and 3/4″ thick. Not all doors are created equally, many 2,3/4″ doors are plywood.
  • Basement doors are often framed into the foundation and door installers are typically too lazy to install the strike plates into the concrete behind the door frame. It is a lot of work to drill through concrete even with a hammer drill and a concrete bit, especially if there is a big rock where you are attempting to drill a hole!

You may be wondering, “Maple Leaf Locksmith, what can I do to make my cheap old basement door more secure?”

Glad you asked! The rich man’s solution is to call somebody who installs doors and ask for a solid wood exterior door, a hollow metal door, or a fiberglass door and fiberglass frame. Ask that the frame be attached to the concrete in multiple places with concrete fasteners or glue.

At the time of this writing (2020 Coronavirus outbreak) many people find themselves without cash lying around. This is all the more reason to secure your basement door: desperation is going up as the economy goes down. What are the inexpensive but effective ways to secure such a door?

The number one thing to do is to attach a piece of 3/4″ plywood to the door. You would attach the plywood to the inside if the door swings in or the outside if it swings out. You would want CDX and you would want to seal it with paint.

To attach the plywood to the door you would get screws that are slightly shorter than the thickness of the plywood and the door combined. The typical situation would be a 2,3/8″ door and 3/4″ plywood bringing us to 3 and 1/8″. 3″ long screws would not poke through if they aren’t countersunk but just screwed flush. You would drill pilot holes and screw the wood in from the inside of the door so somebody can’t simply unscrew the plywood. To ensure you don’t drill the pilot hole all the way through, wrap a piece of tape around the drill bit at 2 and 7/8″ and don’t drill past the tape.

For an even more secure solution but not as attractive, you can through bolt the plywood using carriage bolts and nuts. The head of the carriage bolt would be on the outside of the door. I’d do one every ten inches all the way around the door.

Either solution would probably cost you $75 in parts including plywood and fasteners.

Another solution if you just want to rectify the single pane glass would be attaching a piece of polycarbonate over the glass. I’d use carriage bolts for this. You have to get a piece of polycarbonate that is larger than the glass because when you drill through the door you don’t want to hit the glass. Bank on at least an inch away from the glass on all sides, or 2″ wider and 2″ taller than the glass itself.

Once the door is worthwhile it is time to address the strike plate. To determine if your strike needs attention, unscrew the strike plate from the door frame. The strike plate is the metal object that the deadbolt’s bolt goes into when the door is closed and the bolt is locked into place. If you don’t have one you’re a sitting duck!

If the screws are half an inch long the strike is mostly decorative. The screws should be two or three inches. They should go into the stud behind the doorframe or if there is concrete they should go into that.

To screw into concrete you need special screws and you need a hole longer than the screw and a very specific diameter. The head of the screw must be the same size as the screws that came with your strike.

How do you know if your doors are secure?

I offer people the option of taking the locks off their doors to bring to me so they can save money on rekeying them but then they miss out on potential problems I would notice and bring to their attention.

This made me think it would be helpful for people to know what to look for when addressing how safe their house or condo is.

  • Do the locks actually lock
  • If the locks lock, do they lock correctly
  • If the locks work correctly is the strike securely installed
  • Is the door and frame high enough quality to withstand kicking

The first thing to address is whether your locks actually lock or not. With the door open try locking and unlocking the door. Note how far you can turn your key or thumbturn. Now try it with the door shut. Does your key or thumbturn move the same distance and with the same amount of ease?

A large percentage of houses I go to don’t have the locks installed correctly and to lock the door one has to push or pull on the door and even if you position the door just right the deadbolt still won’t work smoothly. It might not extend all the way. If it doesn’t extend all the way the strike might not be in the correct spot or the strike may not have been drilled deep enough.

a deadbolt strike with a nail blocking it
This strike might work better if there wasn’t a nail going through the middle of it! The bolt has never extended all the way into this doorframe and since the door opens out someone could unlock the door with a butterknife or screwdriver since the bolt can be physically manipulated directly from the outside.

It is somewhat obvious if the strike has a nail or something in it keeping you from extending the bolt all the way. A more insidious problem is when the strike box isn’t installed before the strike plate. That makes it more likely that the door will be easily kicked in.

How to secure a lift-up door?

Sometimes lift up doors need to be secured but there is no place to attach a lock. I get requests from time to time to install locks on lift up garage doors and if there is not a place to attach a padlock on the inside of the door or there is no secondary entrance one must get creative.

The first thing to consider is if there is already a key override built in to the garage door. This can be determined by simply looking at the outside of the garage door for a keyhole, usually at about the six foot level. If you see one, check if it is attached on the inside by a steel cable to the garage door opener. If it is, I can come out and make a key for it and you can unplug your garage door opener until you can replace it or secure it in some other fashion.

Second option is to install a padlock on the inside of the lift up door if the door is accessible from the inside when locked. There are sometimes slots in garage door tracks for this. If not a hole can be made in the track to prevent the garage door from being lifted.

Some commercial garage doors can actually be lifted up even after they are closed and supposedly secure. Such was the case in the following picture. The best solution I could come up with was to put a bicycle lock through the lift up door and the frame on the side. This prevents the door from being lifted up more than about five inches.

The nice thing about this solution is modifications to the door are minimal, I only had to drill one 1/2″ hole through the hard steel.

A lift up garage door secured with a bicycle lock. Not ideal but a workable solution if the opener is broken or the garage door doesn’t need to be used for awhile.

The next type of solution is a hasp and padlock. I’ve installed these on garage doors that people didn’t want to fix or didn’t want to replace the electric garage door motor because of great expense. Garage doors are often thin and even hollow core so when you install a hasp on these doors you must take care to through bolt the hasp, meaning you must use some kind of fastener that goes through the door. This is already kind of a hack so perhaps one could be forgiven for screwing into a 2×4 chunk on the other side of the door, but a more elegant solution is to use machine screws and tee nuts. Everything will be flush, secure and looking more proper than a random 2×4 screwed ino your garage door. Abus and American Lock have nice hasps that cover the screws when locked.

Sometimes lift up doors are constructed of very thin metal, like this car wash I was called out to secure last night. This is an interesting problem because a hasp wouldn’t do, it could be torn out of the door. No sensible place for a padlock on the inside of the door either because the space isn’t accessible from the inside by a separate entrance, the doors have to be locked and unlocked from the outside.

The only solution I could come up with to secure these doors was to put concrete anchors in the concrete and put a padlock through the eyehook on the garage door and through one installed into the concrete. There may have been another solution but this was what my Friday night brain seized upon through the mists of fatigue and beer.

First you have to put some kind of concrete anchor in the concrete. Put it in front of the eye hook you will be attaching a padlock to. This requires a special drill with a hammer setting.
Stuff needed to anchor a garage door in concrete, including from left to right a tool for setting the threaded concrete anchor, a concrete hammer drill bit, a threaded eye hook compatible with the anchor, and finally the concrete anchor. I used 3/4″ drill bit and 3/4″ anchor which is compatible with 1/2″ threaded eye hook. Then I put weatherproof masterlocks through both eyehooks.
Here is a padlock anchored in concrete!

In the pictures above you can see some items necessary for this project. First thing needed (not pictured) is a hammer drill. My DeWalt drill/driver has a hammer drill setting which comes in really handy for drilling through concrete and masonry, and not much else. This feature adds $50 onto a drill.

Next you need a concrete bit. I got a long one which was overkill because most concrete is not poured very deeply, so a bit longer than 6″ isn’t necessary. The concrete anchor we will install is only a few inches long, I tried to anchor them as deeply as possible but discovered that the concrete was only four inches thick.

Once you drill the hole in the appropriate spot so that the eye hook you are installing lines up with the eye hook already present on the garage door, you take a special tool for these concrete anchors which is really just a punch but with a shoulder on it and hammer it into the anchor. This expands the bottom of the anchor against the concrete around it.

Now you can screw the eye hook in. If it doesn’t go down far enough, you can cut off some of the threaded part of the eye hook to make it shorter. When a padlock is installed in the eye hook one couldn’t unscrew it, only when you take the padlock out could you remove the eyehook. This is nice because the owner can take the eyehook out when repairs are completed on the garage door, it is not permanent. If we wanted permanence we could dispense with the concrete anchors and dump epoxy resin in the hole and shove the eye hooks into it.

If you did everything correctly, the garage door can’t easily be lifted up. I tried lifting the door I installed two of these eyehooks on and was unable to lift it, but the willpower of a meth addict or a lift up door enthusiast enjoying a Friday night dose of angel dust may be more effective than my efforts. I don’t know the rating of these concrete anchors but I believe they will deter the vagrants who were breaking in to this space.

Manipulating Safes

I’m learning how to manipulate safes. It’s maddening work, it depends on methodical work with little room for mistakes over the course of an hour or more. It is a real thrill when you hear the click that signifies you dialed the safe open though!

Paint is the enemy of locks

Painters are constantly ruining locks. They do this by

  • Ruining the lock when trying to remove it from the door without knowing how
  • Not reinstalling the lock correctly
  • Painting the lock and getting paint inside the lock
  • Shutting the door when the paint is still wet, thus effectively gluing the door shut
  • Putting thick layers of paint on a door and doorframe making door no longer open and shut easily.
  • Not removing locks to paint door so when the lock is replaced or taken off to rekey, the latex paint is ripped from the door or there are areas of the door exposed without paint when the lock is replaced.
  • Reinstalling locks in wet paint leaving unsightly marks visible when locks get replaced.

If you are going to paint your door take the locks off first and wait for the paint to dry before reinstalling. You’ll probably be happy you did later on.

Today a customer paid me to come out and fix a lock that would not open from the inside or out. It turned out that the door was sealed shut when the door was closed with wet paint.