SFIC cores are a type of interchangeable lock. An operating key opens the door and a special key called a control key removes the lock core from the the lock itself – without needing to disassemble the lock.

The ability to remove the new old lock and put a new one in has several advantages. 1) a property owner can rekey their on locks instantly. 2) the locks are high quality and very hard to pick 3) the keys are not easily to duplicate. 4) it takes a lot less time to switch over a large facility, say, 30 plus doors.

Some people find it hard to understand how SFIC locks work. That makes sense until you demonstrate it. It almost looks like magic.

While thinking about SFIC systems I realized something interesting. Traditional keys offer savings but you need a locksmith to change them. Electronic Access control is more expensive but users can add and eliminate users quickly. SFIC systems are really the middle ground between these two systems.

“Please submit a proposal”

“Could you provide an estimate?”

“How much will it be?”

We’re asked all the time by our Cleveland neighbors to provide pricing information for locksmithing, access control, and security cameras. There are a few reasons why it’s often times complicated to provide an exact price. We’re not trying to be obtuse and hide pricing – it’s just more complicated than most would imagine and there are several reasons why.

Pricing Approach – materials versus labor: Some people will charge $100 for a part and $100 for labor. Some will charge $200 for the part installed. The result is the same price. There is some psychology involved. Some people don’t mind paying for materials with a manufacturer warranty and installer gaurentee but don’t like paying for labor. Some people don’t want to pay more for a part than they can get it online for and don’t mind paying for labor. It’s tricky to make everyone happy. But we strive to provide competitive pricing that’s fair and transparent.

It costs $100 on Amazon: Yes it does. However, ordering the product, doing the invoicin, accounting, opening up the package, disposing of the packaging materials and preparing to install it can easily take half an hour. That’s not including actually installing it, testing it, and putting our name on it with a warranty.

Apples to Oranges: The other company was $200 cheaper. Maybe. Are all the products exactly the same? Do they have the specialized tools and training to install it correctly? What kind of warranty are they providing? If they find something needs a 5 minute fix or adjustment will that do it and bill extra for it? Are all of the consumable products (wire, connectors, cat5 cables etc) quality UL rated products?

Just Come and Look at It: At Lock Alchemy Locksmiths & Security we love doing site visits. It’s great to come out and meet people in person. Get an in-person view of what we are qouting out. Unfortunately, some people have ruined it for everyone. Some people like having service workers come out to give specific product information and try and buy them and install them on their own. Part of our service is designing a system. We won’t come out and qoute smaller jobs. It’s just not time or cost effective. We will provide over the phone/email/text qoutes though. We qoute it and we stick to it. This often time doesn’t work in our favor and we do an extra hour of labor. We’re okay with this because it’s the best way to fairly and efficiently take care of customers. Of course we do site visits for larger projects at no cost. We’ve found that this balance works for us and our customers.

Hourly versus per Job: At Lock Alchemy we are a results based company. Opening a door may take 5 minutes and installing a difficult cameras may take 5 hours. Either way we price things out by the job / result. This transparency allows us to know what we’re getting into and for the customer to know. No surprises!

Tiers: Option A, B, & C. We try to provide various options and price points for our clients and educate them about the differences between different options.

How to Evaluate Qoutes: The other company was cheaper so we’re going with that. Look at the cost, the quality of products, the level of professionalism, and the total cost of ownership. A difference of $200 in a qoute can easily be eclipsed by additional work costs, frustration of call backs, and total cost of ownership (contact fees, licensing fees, replacement parts etc.)

Harder than we thought? We agree. Pricing out work is a necessary part of our company and we strive to make it as painless, transparent, and fair as possible. Reach out to us for any proposals or bids you’d like for your next locksmith, door, security camera, or electronic access control project!

The proliferation of smart locks, DIY, alarms, Wi-Fi Cameras, and DIY home automation kits have had a huge impact on the industry. Many people think that The DIY market is cripplingly traditional manufacturers and installation companies. It has impacted some but it’s actually been a help for most. Many customers see items like smartlocks or cameras and want them. They might do a little research and find out it’s harder to install than they thought or the products don’t have the features they want it need.

Product selection fatigue is real. There are more products every day that have different models, price points, features, and limitations. Researching the perfect product can be extremely time consuming. Online retail reviews can be fake, positive because they meet their needs, negative because they didn’t meet their needs, or negative because the person installed the product incorrectly. Online reviews are helpful but real world experience with the same product in different applications is something you aren’t likely to find online.

Manufacturers are smart and have huge advertising budgets. Professional video editing and sped up installation can set consumer expectations high. Anyone who’s watched online tutorial videos knows installing things is never a easy as it seems. “Simple” repairs can become frustrating and time consuming if one it two things are different.

If a consumer product is $100 and a commercial product is $500, do you really think they are the same in durability, function, and reliability? Are companies really just that dumb? Nope. Not everyone needs commercial grade equipment but believing they are comparable isn’t wise.

Here’s some example. A consumer grade smart lock is $50-200. The door must be prepped appropriately for the lock to work. Most of the times, especially in newer homes, there aren’t major issues. A standalone trilogy alarm lock unit retails for about $300-400 and requires fairly extensive installation which includes drilling additional holes in the door. Holding a consumer smartlock and a trilogy lock you’ll notice a huge difference. First off, the trilogy weights a lot more, everything is metal, and the quality and finish are noticable even to a novice.

Another example would be a ring doorbell versus a skybell or even a Hikvision smart doorbell. There’s only a $50 price difference or so but they’re do much better. Why aren’t the skybell and other professional doorbells more popular then? A lot of that is marketing. Nest and Ring have huge advertising budgets. Many people still call us to n install them. Especially if they have an usual door set up. Knowing exactly how and where to set up a doorbell is also something that comes with practice.

Here’s yet another example. Arlo security cameras. Battery powered sand WiFi. Sounds great until you realize you need to go in a ladder 3 times a year to grab the battery to charge it for 6 hours. Also, many home networks aren’t set up to provide a good WiFi signal to the exterior of the home. NEST cameras have the same WiFi issues. However, they do have AC power adapters. Getting an AC power adapter in an attic and our of the house to a security camera while maintaining water proofing is not something most home owners are interested in. Upgradable, rugged, quality, reliable, and brand agnostic IP cameras seem more appealing even considering the higher initial cost.

We here at Lock Alchemy always believe in people’s ability to complete work. We’re not saying it’s impossible for the average home by owner to make a passable installation and save money. We are saying we know what to purchase, where to get it, how to install it, maintain it, and service it – correctly.

DIY systems have done a lot of advertising for us. They’ve also done a lot of consumer mis-education. Many people think that they can buy off the shelf camera systems and everything is going to work out with an easy installation – so why would I pay that much money for someone else to do it. Call, email, or text us and we’d be more than happy to give you a run down if options for smart locks, electronic access control, security cameras, and home security systems.

The 2019 holiday season is full of discounts on DIY home camera systems. We recommend that everyone strongly consider using IP cameras with PoE (power over Ethernet). However, budget considerations and the inability to return a kit may result in a home owner sticking with a coax Security camera system.

Here at Lock Alchemy Locksmiths & Security Integrators we do install and service coax cameras with BNC connectors.

We can install your complete system from mounting the cameras, running wire, terminating connections, setting up WiFi, changing settings and configuring remote access.

Many of these kits come with long coax wires pre terminated for an easy install. However, a cable might be considerably too long or too short for your application. You may have one or two cameras that are especially difficult to mount.

Coax cable is not the easiest cable to work with. It’s think, there are two keys that need stripped, the jacket leaves sharp burs behind, and getting the correct length if cut is not easy. Not professional tools are available online but the cost trying to terminate the cable yourself might increase after you use several connectors trying to get an accurate crimp.

There is a proliferation of new DIY alarm and security systems. Tech companies are hungry to offer yet another device and subscription service. Privacy concerns aside, there are some issues with DIY security and alarm systems.

Before delving into potential issues, I’d like to state that DIY is okay. There’s nothing wrong with someone taking charge of their own security or doing a gone project. In fact, I like the idea of democratizing security. I don’t think security should be something only the rich have access to.

DIY alarm systems typically use all one brand. There’s not a lot of cross product compatibility like there is in professional systems. This limits a customer’s options and may force them into choosing less than ideal products.

There is a balance between complexity and funny function, between security and ease of use. If these systems are so easy where do they fall on the security spectrum? If these products are do great at they being used to safeguard their corporate headquarters? The CEO’s home? I doubt it.

The biggest issue with any DIY project is you don’t know what you don’t know. A person may think they have everything installed properly and everything works. There’s nothing else to do. However, they don’t have the knowledge of a professional helping them assess the system.

One major issue DIY alarm devices face is support. There is no team of techs they can send out. Only online or over the phone tech support and product replacement. No real alarm installer would be interested in servicing a DIY install.

These issues aside, I think the alarm industry will come to an impasse with the proliferation of these DIY systems. There have been ongoing issues with how municipalities deal with alarms. Not every police department dispatches immediately to a residential alarm. Professional installers set up systems and train customers to avoid false alarms but they still happen.

As the number of systems increases the number of false alarms will also increase. Poor WiFi, cell service, app issues, phone issues, and just plain but having your phone on you can result in a false alarm but being cancelled. It’s my contention that the number of false alarms will skyrocket. Emergency response, 911 dispatch and police, will be inundated with calls. It’s not fair that the financial and time burden will be placed on these critical services.

I believe the end result will be that police will take any residential alarm a lot less seriously or even adopt policies to not respond to them. Google search for “police response time to alarm” and you’ll find a lot of information about police departments that have adopted a no response policy.

What’s the solution? No one gets an alarm? Only the wealthy sound have alarm systems to keep the numbers down? Open the floodgates and see show things shake out?

I don’t know what the solution is. But I think companies that manufacture and support DIY alarm systems need to be involved in reducing false alarms and in part be held responsible for them. It’s not right to shift the burden to a public service and keep your profits. I think municipalities should focus on charging door false alarms instead of not responding to them.

This needs to happen quickly, like yesterday. If not the 2019 Black Friday and holiday DIY alarm systems soon to be installed will be just the start to a sharp increase in the number of DIY systems which will inevetibly lead to more false alarms.

Professional titles help people understand very quickly what someone does. Doctor, lawyer, teacher. We know what they do. However, the term “locksmith” is quite ambiguous.

The term “Locksmith” is related to blacksmith because locks and keys were forged. Creating locks and keys required the ability to heat, shape, and manipulate metals. Today, keys are cut using various methods but the name remains.

Today, the term locksmith is simply bad branding. Locksmithing includes a myriad of different sub specialties: automotive, safes, door installation and repair, electronic access control etc. The term likely locksmith is a decent catch all but doesn’t articulate what most locksmiths actually do.

The term “locksmith” has created customer confusion. Many people are surprised that I frequently install / repair door closers, hinges, and strikes. I’ve even had customers that were surprised that I drill bores for new locks – thinking that this was in the realm if a carpenter. While many carpenters certainly can drill lock bores, locksmiths do this with much greater frequency.

The term doorsmith would be misleading. Many locksmiths don’t install doors but rather just fix issues with doors once they arise.

The term Security Specialist or Technician is a reasonable contender. However, it implies they cover all aspects of security: electronic access control, alarms, cameras – and most locksmiths don’t cover all of those areas.

Security Integrator is a commonly used specialised term. It conveys selecting, installing, servicing, and of course, integrsting those various components. However, most Security Integrators don’t touch keyed locks. Most don’t have key a machines or pin kit. They are very far from being “locksmiths.”

There may be no superior term that the generic “locksmith.” But it certainly is a generic term that doesn’t articulate everything they do. For LinkedIn and marketing purposes I’ve decided to call myself a “Locksmith & Security Integrator.”

If I could choose a title that would easily convey what I do – I would choose “Tech Smith.” Bringing technology into the physical world and bringing the physical world to technology. The term smith implies an understanding of physical infrastructure that impacts how technology works. An access control system won’t work if the door doesn’t work.

Running cable, mounting TVs, installing server racks are very physical. I sympathize with my fellow low voltage technicians that get lumped in with IT. There is a big difference between being at a computer desk doing system adminstration and being out in the mud doing a point to point internet connection. I’m not lumped into general IT because my primary profession is being a locksmith… or Security Integrator… or whatever I call myself now.

The term “Tech Smith” is probably just another confusing title that will puzzle the populous but I like it.

Whatever you call yourself or do – remember you are unique human being that is more than just a title and the work you do. But whatever you do – strive to be the best whatchamacallit you can.

A ferrule is a metal tube crimped over stranded wire to secure the strands within a screw terminal. Electric wire ferrules are also called  electric end terminals, or bootlace connectors/ ferrules.

Why am I such a fan?

  • They’re useful
  • They’re inexpensive
  • They are very cool

It’s very European. Call me old fashion but I think European stuff is neat. I think people would be well served by looking into how people do things in other countries and consider adopting them. Take the best of both worlds. Take the metric system for example, we should adopt it immediately. (Opinions expressed in this article are my own and are reflective of Lock Alchemy’s opinions). It’s my new personal mission to get people to use these. #ferrulegang will be showing up on Instagram very soon.

It’s a fairly straightforward solution to be pretty obvious problem. Copper cable strands get mashed under terminals, get cut and sometimes a loose strand can cause a fault. Connect, disconnect, reconnect – you have a mess on your hands. Ferrules allow you to remove the wire from the terminal block and easily move to another location on your board or in your control box without have to deal with flattened or damaged wire.

These are very common in automotive wiring and wiring PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller). In automotive their used to create a more secure connection that’s resistant to vibrations. In PLCs, they’re used for all the above reasons and for the ability to easily change wiring. Often times their required by PLC manufactures.

Weidmuller has a lot of technical data available available about the benefits of ferrules for creating good electrical connections. I’m not posting any links because they might change where they store this information.

Downside

I don’t see a huge downside to using ferrule connectors. They’re is the cost of the crimping tool(s) and the ferrules themselves. Past that it’s time.

Learning Curve

Actually crimping them is very easy. Learning how to buy ferrules is more difficult. Firstly, they’re in Metric, like everything else should be. (Getting that I like the metric system yet?) There is a color coding system for the gauge of wire used in a ferrule. Sounds really smart and easy right? Sort of. There’s a German system and a French system. I’m really not sure what’s used where and what’s preferred in different European countries. I’d love to hear feedback on this.

Great – German system and a French system. The colors are based on metric wire sizes. So your AWG (American Wire Gauge) cables aren’t going to fit into that system without doing some math. Sure you can order European ferrules online. After shipping they get kind of expensive. Enter Ferrules Direct. They have tons of, you guessed it, ferrules. They sell ferrules in standard packs of 500 and mini packs of 100.

The French color for the equivalent of 22 AWG is Pink in the French system and Turquoise in the German convention. I don’t know about you but I’d prefer not to use those colors. Ferrules Direct has a W, D, and T series that only vary in colors. So you can get 22 AWG ferrules in white, orange, pink, turquoise, or yellow. So you can select a color based on personal preference or brand colors. I chose white and some orange ones because it’s like of Lock Alchemy’s color. Along with width for wire size another specification for ordering ferrules is barrel length.

 

UL & Legal Stuff

I’m not a lawyer, I’m not giving you advice, I’m not responsible for anything you do. Use UL rated connectors. They’re some discussion about matching a brand of crimper with brand of ferrule. Do your own research. It’s your customer, your company, and your name on your work – be proud of it.

Crimper Selection

I like using good tools that work well and will hold up. It’s not easy looking for crimpers for a few reasons: they’re expensive, they’re hard to find, the technical information is a little confusing. I did a bit of research about crimpers before I made my selection. Some people on Facebook groups swear by cheap crimpers available on Amazon. Knipex, Weidmuller, and Mullex all make premium crimpers ($200+). I’m sure there are other brands available. If I’m missing something send me an email.

Hexagonal or Sqaure

In general, square crimps for square blocks and hexagonal for round blocks. I’ve actually used the opposite crimp on some terminal blocks because they were very tight and the other crimp style fit in better. I’d recommend cutting off the old ferrule, re-stripping the wire, and crimping on a new ferrule as opposed to just recrimping the same ferrule.

 

 

Square crimp for square blocks

 

 

 

Hexagonal for round blocks

 

Crimper Review

I got a cheap set of ferrule crimpers to justify myself why I bought premium ones. They came with some  presumably non UL listed ferrules. They actually are pretty decent. Of course I wouldn’t use these in the field but they’re good for testing and playing around with different sizes. That way you don’t have buy 100 packs of “real” ferrules of various sizes for your tests.

The crimpers work pretty well. The ratcheting function is not as smooth as premium crimpers. The odd thing about these is that they put a strange strain on your hand. The end of the crimp is a little difficult. For 10 or so crimps it would be fine. If you have 100 to do, I’d consider getting a real crimper.

 

 

 

 

These are the crimpers I went with. The Weidmuller PZ SQR and PZ HEX. I got a screaming deal on them. A lot of people on Facebook forums like the Knipex one. I’m assuming they went with them because they’re already familiar with the Knipex brand and quality. I saw a few people mention that they like the Weidmuller better than the Knipex ones.

These are amazing. They feel great in the hand. Ratchet very easily and put very little strain on the hand. The end of the crimp is butter smooth. 10/10.

 

Here are two 18 AWG wires with single wire ferrules I crimped on. Less than 1 cent for both and 10 seconds of time – a lifetime of connection :)

I plan on updating this article with pictures from panels and boards.

 

Join #FerruleGang on Instagram

 

ZKTeco offers a number of quality products in different sectors. They have everything from access control, visitor management systems, metal detectors, point of sale systems, camera integration and more. ZkTeco may be an excellent choice for your access control project – especially if you are considering integrating many other options and features into your system and would like to remain budget friendly.

ZKTeco does have some lower budget access control systems but don’t think that they only offer bare bones systems. The new Atlas Series for Electronic Access control offers a lot of options for basic installations. They offer one, two, and four door kits. Of course, the panels are expandable to add extra doors.

ATLAS SERIES

One of the biggest features of the new Atlas series is their built in web application. A mini-web server is built into the panel allowing users to manage the software from anywhere. It’s not cloud based and there is no need for a monthly subscription. This web application is feature rich and includes things like: User Enrollment & Management, Door Control & Monitoring, Lockdown, Reporting, Maps, Anti-Passback, First-Card Opening, Multi-Card Opening, Card Design and Duress PINs.

If you’ll allow us to get technical for a little bit: ZKTeco is actually ahead of the game with their door readers. Typical access control systems use something called “Wiegand” which while secure, does have some flaws. Their new Atlas series allows you to use traditional Wiegand readers and newer more secure OSDP readers. Which is perfect for a retro install to keep your old Wiegand readers, a new install using less expensive Wiegand readers, and for newer more high security installations that require OSDP readers.  ZKTeco supports a lot of different bio-metric options as well.

FEATURES & INTEGRATION

ZKTeco can also integrate with other smart features like controlling lights, alarms, annunciators, intrusion detection panels, additional locking devices, or any other external electrical device that can be controlled by a switch. They offer and Android app to easily access their software but the controller is accessible on Iphone via a web browser.

VISITOR MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS

ZKTeco also has many other solutions that can integrate with other access an security needs. They have visitor managment systems that are designed to work with schools, hospitals, non-profits, and businesses. Some of features include: Web-Based Administration and Monitoring Software; Simple Structure and Smooth Workflow; Multiple Language Options; Fast and Consistent Communication; Customizable Visitor Entry Forms; Facial Recognition Technology; Real-Time Analytics Dashboard; Sync with Access Control Systems; Alarms and Events Email Notifications; System Log Monitoring System; and, Standard, Advanced, and High Secure Options.

Whenever we get calls to Cleveland Heights we never know exactly what type of lock and door situation we’ll find. The lock is “old.” That could be a lot of different things. In this article we’ll talk about some of the common things we see in homes in Cleveland Heights, OH.

Push Knobs – We see a lot of old Wiser brand door knobs. Instead of having a push button or a twist knob they often lock by pushing the door knob itself in. When demonstrating this for the first time many home owners are taken aback by the realization that there knobs in their house actually do work. Many customers simply do not like this older style door knob.

Brass – Styles change all the time and I’m sure we’re going to see brass in the future again. Many people want every knob switched over to silver nickel, oiled rubber bronze, or at least antique brass. This is one reason we stock so much brass hardware. We want to be done to replace one or two knobs/deadbolts and not have mismatched finishes.

“The One Key” – The amount of people that never lock their doors is amazing. What’s more amazing to us that they often only have 1-2 keys that barely work and often don’t go to every lock. Nothing is better than seeing the look on a customer’s face after a re-key when we give them 10 freshly cut keys

“The Timeline” – Previous owners slowly updated different locks over decades. Old vintage Sargent on one door, Weiser on another, Lori deadbolt, Kwikset Titan, then Schlage. Nothing matches the same style, finish, or key.

Sagging Doors – Older homes shift and settle. Hinges get warped after years of holding a door up. Combined with the extreme hot/ cold of Ohio, these doors can get in pretty rough shape. There are many different ways to address these issues. Replace the hinges, shim the hinges, adjust the hinges, plane the door, sometimes even jamb modifications.

Mortise Locks – Lastly, mortise locks. We’ve seen everything from 120 year old to 50 year old mortise locks in Cleveland Heights. Most of them are just fine, need a little cleaning, and a new cylinder then they’re fine. Replacing them is very time consuming and costly.

Businesses are increasingly in need of better physical and computer security. Companies face threats both internally and externally. A comprehensive security approach can help prevent or stop an attack or aid in the recovery of assets. Perhaps no other business has higher physical security needs that marijuana dispensaries.

Dispensaries are especially prone to theft for several reasons. Federal law and banking regulations make it very difficult for these businesses to deposit cash. This results in large amounts of physical cash bring stored on premisis. Additionally, the physical product that carry is lightweight, very valuable, and near impossible to trace. A pound of medical grade marijuana retails for around $6,500 in Ohio.

Unlike other industries, dispensaries are often but able to use insurance coverage for damages. Insurance companies are not going to be keen on replacing 5 lbs of medical grade marijuana. (~$32,500) or tens of thousands of dollars in cash from the sale of a product that is doll federally illegal.

So how sound marijuana dispensaries protect themselves? Develop relationships with individuals and companies you trust to be long-tet partners.

Plan, implement, revise. A comprehensive security plan will require extensive planning and take time to implement. Budget both dollars and time accordingly. Once a plan is implemented schedule routine maitenance to make sure things are still operating well, staff is trained, and systems are updated.