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Engineer's Fix

On Thursday afternoon there was apocalyptic rain. The sky turned black and it rained harder than the most powerful shower I've ever been in.

Thankfully it only lasted a few minutes. I don't have any photos as I was in the barn and the phone was on charge, and I didn't fancy getting drenched going to get the phone.

What I noticed a few hours later was a bit of plastic drain pipe sticking out of the (west) end of the house. On investigating, it turns out that the final downspout narrows where it bends to the ground, and that part got clogged with detritus. I'm guessing the entire pipe filled up and, well, pretty much collapsed under the weight.

So at about nine o'clock in the evening I began the job of hacking my way through blackthorn in order to remount the pipe. That was the lengthy part. I split the pipe into two (there was a convenient joint in the middle) so I could mount the upper part first. Several of the plastic mountings had broken, so I used a mixture of twisted power cable (for the wall mounts) and tied plastic twine (to hold the pipe up to the gutter). The top half mounted, it came time to mount the bottom half. This was easier as the two mountings were still intact (but looked fragile). So I reinforced the upper one with twisted metal wire. The lower one was near to the downspout, so I didn't imagine that would be too hard.
I did have to pull the downspout off the wall to unclog it. I've pushed it back into place, but it really needs to be recemented.

Fixed guttering

I'm not sure what I planned to do on a rainy Thursday evening, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't that! Oh well, mom has wanted that bit to be tidied up (and the blackthorns removed) for a while. I guess I've made a start, right? ☺


Rain droplets

Whilst it is annoying to watch the rain fall, and the grass grow (c'mon! I've only just mown it!), one thing I can say is that it does lend itself to some rather pretty photos...

Droplets on a pansy

Droplets on the leaves of a wild rose

Droplets on a wild rose



On Amazon (eBay, etc), it is possible to buy a kit of picks and a special transparent padlock to learn to pick. These kits are pretty cheap, so I got one last year to play with while on holiday.

Transparent padlock and picks

The typical kit comes with a large array of picks. No idea what most of them are for. I've identified potentially useful ones in the above photo. On the left is a tension rod. This is inserted into the lock barrel to turn it just a little bit. I'll explain why in a moment.
Next is the probe pick (I'm making these names up, professionals probably have better names). This can be put into the lock to feel out how many cylinders are present and need to be dealt with.
The next two are a large rake and a small rake. Sometimes it is possible to pop a lock by applying some tension, and then just raking one of these picks back and forth in the hope of jostling the cylinders into the right places.
The final is the precision pick, for pressing upon each cylinder one by one.

To explain the basic premise, take a careful look at this photo. This is what the cylinders look like when they are all pressed all the way down.

Lock cylinders, all pressed

In order to unlock, each cylinder must be pressed so that the break between the upper and lower part of the cylinder aligns with the barrel of the lock. When this happens, the barrel can be freely turned.

To try this out, the tension rod should be inserted. What this does is 'hold' the cylinders in the place where you have set them. This needs to be held tight enough that aligned cylinders won't simply spring back to their locked positions, but not so tight that it holds onto the upper half of the cylinder. If you push too far, the lock won't turn as it will still be blocked, only by the other half of the cylinder. It's a delicate balance.

Setting up to pick

You can then choose a pick. I decided upon the precision pick. With the ability to actually see what was happening, it was a fairly simple matter to line everything up and then...

Successful picking

Apply some more pressure to the tension rod to rotate the barrel all the way and the lock pops open.


If you look at all of the photos of the demonstration lock, you will see that the cylinders have chamfered ends. I suspect that this makes it a lot simpler to unlock. Indeed, even I am able to open it in about ten seconds by simply raking it.

Reality, unfortunately, is an entirely different proposition. I spent a while picking the demo padlock with my eyes closed to get a feel for it (as real locks aren't transparent for obvious reasons). However when presented with two padlocks that I picked up for a euro in a boot sale last year...

Two old padlocks

The larger lock makes some subtle clicking noises when I release tension, so it's possible that I managed to get a couple of cylinders lined up. The smaller lock just laughs at me.
So far, I've not opened either. Maybe one day when I'm bored and it is sunny, I will sit outside and take some more time so see if I can feel out the lock. I probably ought to spray some degripper into them as well, since both locks are quite old.

Amusingly, none of the picks will be useful to gain access to the house. I don't know what lock this key is for (it's not the bedrooms nor the front/back doors), but it is representative of the sorts of keys in use around here. I can imagine a set of suitable picks would be a screwdriver and a coat hanger!

Big ass key
Picking the lock, or simply kicking in the front door, is pretty easy. Next, you have to get past the ninja cat armed with throwing stars and a freaking Hua Qing Minigun. Good luck.



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David Pilling, 3rd May 2020, 01:55
No thorn as cruel as the blackthorn. That lock looks like fun - there are lock channels on YouTube - explain techniques.
Jeff Doggett, 3rd May 2020, 14:23
As David says, there are many lock picking channels on Youtube. One of the most entertaining ones is the Lock Picking Lawer. eatured 
Jeff Doggett, 3rd May 2020, 14:24
The url above has been mangled slightly, but I'm sure that you'll cope.
VinceH, 3rd May 2020, 14:37
"Lock Picking Lawyer" sounds like some kind of weird superhero on bizarro world. 
"Oh no, I can't get into my house! Only one man can help me..." (dum-dum-duuuum) "Lock Picking Lawyer!" 
I'll go and sit in the corner now. 
Rick, 3rd May 2020, 17:03
It's okay Vince, my first thought was: 
Whoa, now *that* has got to be a conflict of interest. 
I mean, the words "lawyer" and "lockpicking" just don't go together, do they?

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