Great Discussion on DIY security

I have always wondered about the feasibility of setting up my own security system using off the shelf parts.  Wireless security cameras are everywhere and they are cheap!  I have plenty of experience setting up hardware and software systems.  There are drawbacks to doing this, though.  Apparently insurance companies essentially enforce ADP’s market dominance by requiring a third party company to do your security system.  Some slashdot users have found ways to circumvent this requirement, however, and in the comments are the thoughts of many brilliant nerds on DIY security systems.  My favorite so far were

1. Blue Iris Security Software

2. A big caveat to using cheap cameras on your network

3. Slick Willy points out that you can get a better system than ADP will give you with their “free” system and it will be cheaper after a few years of not paying $50 a month.

4. Also the Elk M1 appears to be highly thought of amongst people who have taken the plunge and rolled their own security system.  They will supply you with all of the training manuals and stuff necessary to install.

In Washington State you have to be a licensed electrician to run electrical cables, so beware!

Cut Your Own Keys For Cheap!

Right now there is a big DIY crowd harnessing the latest in technology and coupling it with the opensource movement, meaning people are sharing their discoveries for free.  Frequently they use tools which you can build yourself and are documented well by the same people.  Hackaday.com  is always interesting but today one project caught my eye: How to cut your own keys using a CNC mill.  It will be interesting to see how this project progresses, because there are a lot of people out there who have locks for which blanks are simply not made anymore and if the lock is in good condition it is a shame to throw it away simply because of a lack of key blanks.

3d printers are also making inroads in additive material key creation.  If the materials they use get harder and more durable, it could be a replacement for traditional key cutting.  So if you have a RepRap printer or a CNC mill, the work is already being done for you.  Start cutting your own keys!  (Just call me when you get locked out or need rekeying)

Happy New Year From Maple Leaf Locksmith

What will 2014 bring?  For me, it will be lots of locks, keys and lube to make them work with each other.  Along with these hopefully will be many laughs.  What is in your year’s future?  I hope that everybody has a good year in 2014.  Also, let nobody have to carry more than one house key on their key ring!  Call me to consolidate keys and make your life simpler.

Copy your keys before they break!

It costs a bit of money to get a broken key out of a lock.  If you don’t know how to take your lock apart or don’t fancy the idea of procuring an old hacksaw blade and sticking it in your keyway to get junk out of there, consider inspecting your keys for hairline fractures and replacing the ones that look like they might break soon.  You are also well advised to not use keys to pull doors open.  They are only for unlocking doors, not pulling them open.  If you abuse your keys, you may be looking at a $65 charge sooner rather than later!

I can copy keys for you, but you can copy your keys inexpensively at many places including your local hardware store or even Fred Meyer’s, where it is about $2/key.  Be advised, they don’t always work very well.  Test them to be sure when you get home.  Better yet, keep an original code cut key in your desk and always make copies of that key.

DIY Security is Daunting!

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Uncle Joe can fix a lot of problems with his duct tape, but the right tools for the job are often more than just duct tape and miscellaneous tools.  Sometimes it is better to just call a pro.  Like Maple Leaf Locksmith!  I don’t even have duct tape, all my repairs are done the right way.  Or at least all my repairs to customer’s property.  I use duct tape all the time around my own place!

Lost all of your keys for your house? No problem!

Sometimes people call me up and ask, “Is it possible to make a key from one of my locks?  I have none of my keys anymore!  I lost them in the lake/in San Diego/on the farm!”

It is absolutely possible.  All that need be done to reconstruct your key is to take apart the lock by first picking it and then disassembling it carefully, and then examining each pin in each pin chamber.  The size of these pins determines the cuts on your key and differentiates your lock from other locks.

When one has accurately measured these pins, all that needs to be done is compare these lengths to standard cut depths for the lock manufacturer’s locks.  You can either cut the key to factory spec’d codes, or cut the key to the actual length of the pins in your lock.  I generally cut to factory specs to avoid the issue of different pin lengths in different locks because of different wear patterns.  A lock that sees more use will show more wear and the pins may be 5/1000’s of an inch smaller just because of key abrasion, especially if there are strong springs to counteract the possibility of bumpkeying or lockpicking.

The charges associated with reconstructing a key for a lock are as follows:

  • Service call – 65-85 depending on location
  • Pick lock – 3-45 depending on lock’s complexity
  • Reconstruct pin lengths – 12
  • Code cut key – 20

That is all it takes.  It is far less expensive to reconstruct your key from a lock than it is to go the conventional route taken by all too many unfamiliar with the abilities of a well-trained locksmith, which is to go to a big box store and buy new locks.  It is also far less expensive than rekeying all of your locks, though this is a good thing to do every five years or so and especially good to do if the keys you lost were attached to some sort of identification that could show where your house is, or you lost them near your house.

It takes me about 30 minutes to perform this procedure.  Give me a call if you lose all of your keys!  I can also reconstruct many car keys, though not all of them.  File cabinets and the like are very easy for me.

Google keeps failing my business

For the third time in six months, Google has decided to suspend my listing on “Google Places for Business”.  My business is still showing up on Google search results, but it is having disastrous results for my search engine optimization which is a death knell for a business in this day and age.

The last time this happened, I was forced to make a new email address and new listing.  This required abandoning all of my wonderful 5star reviews left by my appreciative customers.  I refuse to make another gmail address and listing.  I am trying to fix this with Google, even though the last time this happened I spent countless frustrating hours on the phone with Google who kept telling me there was nothing more they can do.  Apparently they are slaves to their own algorithms now.

This time around, I tried verifying my business by phone.  This failed.  Google instructed me to “Listen for your PIN and enter it below:” and after I clicked the call button, it said, “Call failed”.  Google, did you forget to pay your phone bill?  What’s going on?

As an experiment, I tried adding a Google Voice number to my spare cellphone.  A chirpy robotic female’s voice called me up promptly and had me enter a two digit confirmation code.  Unfortunately, Google Voice then failed to find a phone number for the Seattle area.  Once I chose a texas number, I tried calling my phone with it and it, too, failed.  I can call my phone with my spare cellphone every time, so what’s wrong Google?

While trying to post about my problems on Google’s Business Help forum, the forum kept timing out.  I have a solid connection to the internet, I am not timing out to any other server.  What’s the problem, Google?  Why is your server spitting out error codes at me?  Why does it say “Loading…..” for minutes at a time?

Chinks are beginning to show in the search giant.  I wonder if Google has spread themselves too thinly and that giant Chinese search engine, Baidu, will take over the internet?

Add a Cylinder Guard: Best $10 You Can Spend

Did you know that criminals might be able to twist the lock right off your door in near silence, and then open your door with a screwdriver?  The way to guard against this is to use a cylinder lock guard.  This makes it hard for the criminal to get a grip on your lock cylinder because it spins around freely.

A few years ago, this problem came up on Capitol Hill.  A group of thieves were going around twisting the locks off of business’s doors with a very large wrench.  At the time, people became very concerned about the problem and cylinder guards were very popular to install, but now when I go to a lot of businesses I see that their lock cylinders are not protected at all.

When you consider how much is at stake (a store’s entire inventory, a family’s belongings of great sentimental and market value) and identify that the lock is the single point of failure that makes it possible to lose these things, you realise how inexpensive it actually is to pay for the installation of a cylinder guard.  If you have the time, you can even do this yourself.

First, you have to buy a cylinder guard.  Second, you have to loosen (but not remove) the set screw for your lock cylinder.  Third, you must unscrew your lock cylinder so that it comes out of the mortise cassette, put the cylinder guard on it so that the lock cylinder  is recessed, and screw it back in carefully so that the threads line up correctly.  If you do it correctly and screw it in far enough, you can tighten the set screw and try out your mortise cylinder to see if it still works correctly.

The cylinder guard may be thick enough that it causes your lock cylinder’s cam to not contact the mortise cassette correctly, and this means you need a slightly longer lock cylinder or you need to screw your lock cylinder in farther.

If this sounds difficult, I charge $65 for a service call and about $10 for a cylinder guard, depending on finish.  If you have any locks to rekey, $10 more is a very small price to pay for peace of mind.  Bearing these things in mind, give me a call and make your house or business a harder target!

The Most Common Problems Encountered With Consumer Locks

The last week I have been called out to numerous people’s houses to fix a problem caused by a contractor who most likely was in a big rush and didn’t finish the job. The primary problem is that they didn’t tighten screws enough. One family recently hired a contractor to install some Baldwin locks on their front door, and they couldn’t get the key out of the front door. This turned out to be because the contractor didn’t screw the mortise cylinder’s retainer screw in all the way, and also didn’t tighten some other screws.
Before you call a locksmith out, check to see if any screws are not finger tight. If they are loose to the finger, try orienting the lock correctly, straight up and down. Then try tightening the screws that are visible. It might save you $65.

No key, no problem

Today this lady was asking me about her file cabinet, and how to make it lock. She had no key. I said, “No problem!” It was actually my first time impressioning a key in the field, and my only blank was nickel, but it still didn’t take too long. Just ten minutes of filing. It actually took longer to fix the file cabinet’s stupid locking mechanism that attaches to the cam of the cabinet lock.
Anyway the point is, for a small fee you can get your file cabinet working. Of course, you could also go to Goodwill and buy a file cabinet that probably has keys for $5. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle though, give me a call and I will make your file cabinet locking. (Not that the security on file cabinets is terribly good)