Recently we had a very interesting project that took some creative solutions. We do a lot of work with vintage hardware and antique mortise locks. We got a call from a new customer in Shaker Heights who was looking for some help. It was a beautiful classic Shaker Heights house built during the great depression. The interior knob would occasionally slip off. This is a common occurrence with these types of locks. Typically, the set screw holding the knob on backs out over time causing the knob to gradually loosen over time until one day it slips off. The set screw was not in the best condition. However, we do stock a lot of set screws and other replacement parts for these types of locks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a set screw to match this particular knob.

The plot thickened when I examined the threading inside the knob. It was worn out which caused the knob the slip. It wasn’t just the set-screw, the knob itself needed replaced. The mortise lock used a split spindle that was a little bit larger than the split spindle on a typical lock. We spent a lot of time looking to match the current spindle with a new knob. We eventually found one that matched the split spindle threading and looked almost identical.

During this process we also removed the cover from the lock and cleaned the internal parts with a lubricant. It probably has not been serviced since it was installed in the 30’s. The locking mechanism handles and outside thumb depress worked significantly better after being properly cleaned.

The mortise lock installed in the lock was an older style Yale lock. It was a Y2 key blank to be specific. This lock also required some lubrication and now works well.

One thing that we commonly find in this locks is that someone applied graphite as a lock lubricant. Graphite powder was commonly used to lubricate locks. A very small application of graphite can be beneficial. However, we typically see locks that are absolutely loaded with graphite. The problem with graphite is that it can gum up. When the lock gets moisture in in the graphite tends to lump together. Combined with years of dust, pollen, spider webs, car exhaust and other debris in the air it forms a sticky mess that really impacts the way a lock functions. What we typically do is completely flush out the lock with an appropriate lubricant. This washes away the graphite and other materials that have collected inside the lock.

People often as what lubricant we recommend. Not WD-40! Wd-40 is a water dispersant, it is not a lubricant. Something like PB blaster is actually a lubricant. Home Depot actually sells a small bottle of lock lubricant. We typically use a special lock lubricant called Houdini.

One interesting thing about these graphite clumps is where they form and how they impact the lock. Gravity pulls everything down. This is also true with graphite clumps. Additionally, without removing the lock from the door and opening it up., there are only so many places for the graphite powder to enter the lock. We typically see a lot of graphite sticking to the bottom of the lock where the toggle buttons are. These buttons change the lock from always locking when the door is closed (storeroom function) to not locking (passage function). Some customers completely ignore these buttons but some customers do like to use them. They’ll typically find that these buttons are very difficult to press and switch back and forth. Flushing the lock with lubricant and using a rag typically solves this issue completely.

At the end of the day the project was a success and the customer was very happy with the results. We truly enjoy servicing this vintage locks. It’s a fun challenge and people appreciate someone restoring a part of the home’s original aesthetic and charm. We look foreword to every call we get about vintage locks in Shaker Heights. If you have a mortise lock in the surrounding area feel free to reach out to use about how we can repair, restore, or even replace a lock if necessary.

2021 has had it’s challenges but it’s also provided some incredible opportunities. This year we’ve seen an explosion in our commercial locksmithing division.

Changing Hands

A lot of real estate has changed hands and/or a new management company has been brought on. We’ve been brought on to assist with lock and technology transfers between outgoing companies. Technology like security camera systems and access control systems were often neglected or issues were overlooked. Then when a new company comes in they become aware of these issues and reach out to us to address them.

Contracts

We are securing a number of quality contracts with businesses and other service providers. Focusing on building a quality relationship has been instrumental in closing contracts. We are highly interested in building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. One contract of note, was for providing on-going lock and door security to 5 local hotels. We aren’t the fastest company but we showed up when we said we would, completed the work above and beyond what was expected, kept the pricing reasonable, and maybe above all we communicated. Emails, texts, calls, WhatsApp – you name it we’ve been in communication with stakeholders.

Services

We have been providing integrated security solutions for several years now. Recently, we have begun to discuss more of offerings and abilities with clients and they’re interested. We have been brought on to fix or upgrade a lot of older access control systems and telephone tenant entry systems. Many businesses also like having all of their lock and security needs under one company. This limits the finger pointing and delays in communication that often happen when you have several companies working together on overlapping projects.

Multi-Family

Multi Family housing has shown very strong growth for us. There are many older apartment buildings and complexes that have older locks and older security systems. They need a company that’s interested and able to take on the challenges that these buildings provide.

Can you pick every lock?

Every lock probably can be picked by someone.

Can’t you just slip a credit card between the latch to open the door?

Slipping a latch to open the door isn’t as easy as it sounds. There has to be enough of a gap between the door and frame to get a piece of shim stock between the latch. Additionally, if the lock and door frame are positioned correctly, the deadlock plunger will be depressed and the latch is much more difficult to bypass. It might technically be the easiest way to get into a door but in practice it’s not. We typically use several other methods of entry before trying to slip the latch.

Can I buy lock picks?

Simple answer is yes. Some states have rules about lock picks and locksmithing products.

How do you know it’s the person’s house?

We check ID. It wouldn’t be smart for a robber to create a paper trail of phone records, payment, and invite a witness to the scene of their crime.

Can you copy any key?

We can copy any key we have a key blank for. Key blanks are uncut metal in the shape of the key. Unique keyways or restricted keys have very different profiles from one another. Some blanks are very difficult to find while others are restricted on purpose to prevent unauthorized duplication.

 

 

We are now offering residential and commercial locksmithing services along with our other security services in Lorain County! We have a locksmith that lives in Elyria and services those areas directly, as well as coming out to Cleveland. Elyria is centrally located in Lorain County which helps reduce our arrival times.

Providing locksmith services in Lorain County is very special to me. I was born and raised in Amherst Ohio. It means a lot being able to provide quality services to my home county. In the past, I have personally taken service calls to Amherst because it’s a nostalgic trip for me.

There is no difference in how you book a service call. The main number is still 216-505-1389. Calls regarding locations on the West Side and Lorain County will get routed directly to our West Side locksmith. If he’s not available we may be able to send someone else. If you’d like to book a job with the West Side branch directly, the number is (440) 529-2799. The email is still info@lockalchemy.com Everything comes through our main office and gets documented and filtered to the right people.

Expanding services to Elyria was not easy. We had to find a good technician and provide them the appropriate training so they can perform work at the same level as the main branch. The distance between Elyria and South Euclid is about 45 miles and takes about 50 minutes. The distance between the far West side and far East Side of our service area is about 60 miles.

Expanding our service area was a great choice for several reasons. One, we have been growing and need additional help in Cleveland proper. Two, many small businesses may have offices or stores throughout North East Ohio. Now, a company can use a single provider for both locations. Three, many of the real estate and property management companies we work with service the greater NEO region. We can now provide services to the same areas they cover.

This is our first major expansion of service area coverage but it won’t be our last. We plan on moving into Summit and more of Geauga County. The hardest part is going to be keeping track of all of those different taxes!

You can view our service area on the map at the footer of each page. It’s currently broken down into three sections. Central, West, and Commercial. We currently only provide commercial locksmithing and security services to businesses in Geauga county.

The West Side location will carry all of the standard stock of residential and commercial lock and door hardware. Granted, there won’t be the same volume as the main location and certain products will still only be stored in our main location. However most specialty items can be ordered and delivered with in two days.

A LOT has been happening at Lock Alchemy, located in South Euclid. I plan on writing several blog posts detailing what’s been going. We have maintained a steady growth in the residential market from 2020. There are several factors driving the increased demand of residential locksmithing services.

The real estate market has been very hot over the past few months. Home inspections are being delayed and or skipped all together with the home owner assuming the violations. I believe there are many new home owners that are finding issues with their homes that the sellers otherwise would have attempted to fix. The new home owner enters a situation where they have a lot of repairs they need to do all at once. Once other trades are giving estimates and being scheduled they’re more likely to invite a locksmith to join and rekey they home and/or fix other door issues. This might also turn some new home owners away from getting their new home rekeyed. With the expenses piling on they may decide to forgo the security of having the locks changed.

Reports are showing that the housing market is cooling down. However, there seems to be a consistent number of individuals that are interested in rekeying their home or having lock/door work done. I think the shift towards multi-family housing will be the biggest factor in the future of residential.

Homes in the area are getting older. The housing stock in University Heights, Shaker Heights, Beachwood, and Cleveland Heights are getting older and newer homes are not being built. Older homes often have more issues than newer homes. The locks on some of these homes, especially in Shaker with particularly older homes, can be 80, 90 even over 100 years old. The oldest lock that I have personally worked on was about 119 years old. Some of these locks are just coming to a time period where they need to be serviced. Instead of replacing these vintage and antique locks, we can often perform a basic cleaning service and a few other small items to get them working again.

Smart locks are also driving a lot of demand for residential locksmiths. There are incredible number of brands offering smart locks. Our recommendation for standard smart home locks continue to be Schlage or Kwikset. They are typically priced well, are well made, and support is available in case there is an issue. Many home owners try to save money by purchasing less expansive import smart locks that have issues. All electronic devices have a failure rate. That rate is significantly higher with cheap electronics. Getting locked out of your house because a smart lock failed is a high stakes gamble to bet on cheap electronics.

The price of residential locks has not been significantly effected by the issues with supply chain and available stock. However, the availability of certain items certainly has been effected. We have waited weeks for several common locks to arrive at our distributors. There really hasn’t been a lot of communication regarding the actual ETA of particular items. My distributors tell me that there are issues with shipping and shipments keep getting delayed. I’m checking in with some suppliers twice a week to get an idea of when certain products will be available.

Towards the end of the summer season we also replace a lot of screen door closers and patio locks. They tend to get used more in the months with milder / hot weather.

Emtek is a high end brand of custom door hardware. They make custom deadbolts, knobs, and handle sets. By custom, I mean virtually custom. There are 20+ different finishes to choose from and you can mix and match back plates, knob styles, lever styles, and trim plates. Everything is assembled individually with an order. The products truly look amazing and high quality. However, there can be some issues.

I was recently discussing Emtek quality issues with another locksmith online. There seems to be some quality control issues. He showed me the back of a lock cylinder that was ground flat instead of being raised. Puzzling for a brand that strives to be a higher quality in a sea of poorly made products. This issue seems to be a one off machining issue, something I can understand but it is still troubling.

I recently had a lock challenge in Beachwood. Beachwood has a lot of Emtek hardware because it is a higher income area. The hardware does look beautiful on these homes and adds a lot to the entrance. The deadbolt suddenly stopped functioning. The bolt would only through half way with the inside thumb turn. Using a key to lock the outside was next to impossible. I disassembled the lock and everything looked fine. No visible issues. I re-installed the lock and adjusted it’s positioning and it worked fine. The hole for the deadbolt wasn’t additional, it was a factory prep by the door. It is possible that the factory prep of the deadbolt bore was off, but by eye it looked fine, and even if it was slightly off, that shouldn’t matter that much. All I could imagine is that the screws were not completely tightened and the deadbolt dropped to the bottom of the bore. The screws did seem tight enough though. The deadbolt now works and I hope it stays that way.

Emtek is in a unique position. It’s quality hardware at a premium price. Customers that buy it obviously are okay with paying a little extra to get the look and function they want. I think it would behoove Emtek to cater to that demographic and make sure their product is outstanding, every time. This issue I had in Beachwood doesn’t seem to be an outlier. I’ve had similar and other issues with Emtek door hardware. I find this odd because I almost find as many malfunctions with Emtek as I do with off the shelf brands. This could be for several reasons. 1) When cheaper hardware like Kwikset has an issue they just throw it out and replace it 2) Someone who is willing to call a professional locksmith is more likely to own Emtek. So the exact frequency of issues is hard to determine. I will say that I go to a number of homes for commercial property managers and see a lot of Kwikset and similar import locks that see to not have these issues.

I have not found these types of issues with commercial grade lever handle locks and deadbolts. It’s interesting that it is hard to get high quality products even when you are willing to pay a premium price. If you have any issues with Emtek locks please email me and let me know. I’m curious what issues others have encountered and how you got it fixed.

 

 

The actual installation of a standard door sensor for a modern alarm system is not that difficult. Essentially, there is a strip of double sided tape placed on the back of the sensor then it’s stuck to the door. Same process with the magnet. There are however, a number of considerations that make it more complicated. One, the gap between the sensor and magnet need to be close. Many people make this mistake and have to unstick and re-stick the sensor. This causes the adhesive bond to weaken. This may result in the sensor falling off. If the sensor falls off the door or window is not appropriately monitored or it may trigger a false alarm. Two, the design of the system. Does every window in the house need a sensor? Most DIY alarm users just kind of make and educated guess about this. That’s not the approach we take to securing your home or business. A professional alarm company is going to analyze exactly what you need, make recommendations, and consider your desired price point. Two, many doors and door trim configurations make it simply impossible to use standard door alarm contacts. There’s no easy way to get the sensor and magnet on the same plane with minimal gap. One solutions is to cut the door frame in order to place the magnet. You can do this and it works but there’s a product specifically designed for this type of situation. The recessed door contact.

Recessed door alarm contacts can be wireless or wired. The most common application nowadays is wireless. They function and communicate the same way standard door and window contacts work. The only difference is that during installation a small hole is drilled into the door and the door jamb in order for the sensor and magnet to be placed inside.

There are a number of considerations you need to make before you drill a door for a recessed contact. What type of material is the door made out of? Is the door metal?  Is it hollow. What is the condition of the door jamb? Are the sensors going to line up appropriately. When you drill for a sensor in the door then the jamb and realize they are out of alignment – you can’t just move one up or down. You need to fill both holes and start again. Luckily, we know a thing or two about doors ;)

The cities of Beachwood, University Heights, South Euclid, Cleveland Heights, and others have a lot of older doors. These doors often times have trim that makes mounting a typical sensor difficult, if not impossible. The only viable way to install a sensor on some of these doors is to use a recessed sensor.

Another benefit of recessed door contacts is that there is significantly less visible equipment. Door contacts have gotten smaller of the years but they are still noticeable on doors. They typically come in white or brown sometimes black. These colors don’t match every door color. Qolsys recessed door contacts come in white and brown. You can easily paint the caps on the sensors to match the exact color of your door. While the out of the box colors may be limited, it’s surprising how well white or black blend in with the door, especially because they are installed in such an inconspicuous place.

Well there you have it. A short explanation of the benefits of recessed door contacts. Another significant benefit of having a professional alarm company install for you!

We are a Nest partner. That includes video doorbells, security cameras, and alarm systems. Even though we are partners with NEST security we are system agnostic. Meaning we will help guide you to make the purchase that makes the most sense for your budget and needs. Some people like the brand recognition that Nest provides and choose them for their alarm system, and that’s okay.

We do however, provide a a variety of systems from different manufactures that can meet your requirements and budget. Our top tier alarm product is the Qolsys IQ2+ panel that’s compatible with PowerG alarm sensors. This panel was built from the ground up to work with alarm.com It’s the best option if you want a rich user experience and plan on incorporating other smart devices into your home security set-up.

Our more budget solution is iSecure from NAPCO. This product is truly amazing for the price and completely reviles Nest and Ring on price. Their support staff is also amazing. This system has a mobile app and text messaging. The screen is not as beautiful as the Qolsys panel and it is somewhat limited on smart home integrations. However, it’s a full professional security system worthy of being installed in a home or business.

If you’re considering a NEST or Ring alarm system and have questions please feel free to contact us. We can provide you with information and resources to make an informed decision that works for you.

July was an unprecedented month. No one really knows what’s happening with covid-19 and what the future will bring. For Lock Alchemy Locksmiths it was a huge month. We had significantly more calls and service trips this July than last July.

The residential market is booming. Homes in cities like South Euclid, Beachwood, University Heights, Cleveland Heights, Solon, Orange, and Pepper Pike are going fast. Many of the buyers I spoke with said they put in an offer on the same day the house was listed, often times without seeing it.

New home owners frequently want to change the locks on their home. They also want things like smart locks, doors fixed, an alarm system, or security cameras. This is especially true when people are moving from an apartment to a home for the first time.

Many people who haven’t moved are working from home or between positions. This has allowed them to coordinate with service providers during the day when they’re previous schedule wouldn’t have allowed for it. Many people I know in the trades are completely booked.

We’re out in the field, taking precautions, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Aside from our daily operations, we have several major projects and new developments in the works. I’m truly excited to see everything get released soon. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe!

Restricted key systems prevent unauthorized persons from making key copies. But what system should you choose? There’s Medeco, ASSA, Mul-T-Lock, GMS, and a several others. We’ve recently added ASSA Maximum + to our lineup of restricted key systems. ASSA Maximum + is patented until 2030. This provides an extra layer of security preventing unauthorized individuals or even other locksmiths from making copies.

ASSA keys don’t just have key cuts. They also have a sidebar. The sidebar is nearly impossible to replicate without specialized milling equipment. We can provide ASSA systems with different sidebars to ensure that other people can’t duplicate your keys.

ASSA cylinders are extremely high quality and the keys simply don’t break. Other restricted key systems can have issues with keys breaking. ASSA keys are thick and withstand the toughest users.

If you’re interested in a high security, UL listed, and/or master key system contact us about our ASSA options.