Running Out Of Skill

Once again, I confront the limitations on my ability to perform handy tasks around the home. Today’s edition is: re-keying locks.

See, Mrs. Likko wanted new hardware for our doors. The knobs were the same drab round thin brass things that come builder standard and she wanted a handle instead of a knob and so we got new knobs. And matching deadbolts. And we (I) didn’t know that the smart way to do this is to buy them all at once at Lowe’s and have Lowe’s re-key them all for you. The remaining misadventure is the price paid for this ignorance.

So instead, I installed the new hardware and we wound up with very attractive new locks and door handles and the back door, which always stuck just a little bit especially when it’s cold outside, works much better now. And where before we had one key for the whole house, now we had five keys.

This is inconvenient, especially when the Sharpies I used to mark the keys wore off and I had to fumble through all five of them like an elementary school janitor to get into my own house. So we resolved to re-key the locks so we could go back to having a single key. That meant a trip back to Lowe’s to find the right re-key kit and since the store we went to first was out of stock, a trip to a neighboring city’s Lowe’s to get the kits.

With five deadbolts and four latches to re-key, we needed two kits since each kit only has six sets of tumbler pins. And we figured out that the kits were themselves keyed differently from one another, and searched hard to find two kits that were keyed the same, and congratulated ourselves on being so clever. Then it’s back home to take the locks apart and re-set the tumblers.

Only this turns out to be an immensely delicate operation, one well frustrated by the fact that the instructions on the re-key set, and even on the demonstrative video, did not look like the actual locks we had found. Very similar, and the tools almost worked but didn’t, quite. There’s this little U-shaped bracket that fits on the inside of the key cylinder that’s suppose to slide off but it didn’t. So that took a whole lot of effort to get it off and when it did, boom, all the tumbler pins and springs in both the key cylinder and the lock mounting itself flew everywhere. These little guys are tiny. And my garage is not a model of cleanliness. After we found all of them I found myself with the lock upside down, held to my kitchen table with a C-clamp, with me using tweezers to try and guide five tiny springs into five tiny holes and then to rest five tiny cylindrical pins on top them and then to put a plastic slide in to hold them back in place and swearing profusely. I had by then been on the project for four hours with the only thing accomplished being having rendered one deadbolt completely useless.

I’d still be playing Operation!* with the tumblers if I hadn’t learned that it costs five dollars a lock to re-key at Lowe’s, and Mrs. Likko finally broke down and gave me permission/instructions to take the things back to Lowe’s and get them re-keyed. She stayed home for the three hours it took Lowe’s to get this done because four out of our five doors were without functioning locks or even entries.

Eight hours later, and a scare when one of the newly-keyed deadbolts didn’t seem to work until we greased it up with some WD-40 and several swings back and forth, we now have a once-again secured house. And nearly my entire Sunday got shot with a frustrating project that we initially budgeted about an hour to do.

Such is home ownership. I ought not to complain.

* How can it possibly not be the case that students in medical school gather at someone’s home in the evening hours and play Operation! as a drinking game?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.