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Cabin Doors
Door Latches

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Cabin Doors and Door Latches
from the book Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties

Thumb Latches, Foot Latches, and
How to Make Them

PERHAPS my reader has noticed that, although many of the descriptions of how to build the shacks, shanties, shelters, camps, sheds, tilts, and so forth are given with somewhat minute details, little or nothing has been said regarding the doors and door-latches. Of course we have no doors on the open Adirondack camp, but we have passed the open camps now and are well into cabin work, and all cabins have some sort of a door. All doors have, or should have, some sort of a door-latch, so the doors and door-latches have been saved for this place in the book, where they are sandwiched between the log cabin and the log houses proper, which is probably the best place for them.

The "gummers" who collect spruce gum in the north woods and the trappers and all of the hermit class of woodsmen frequently come home to their little shack with their hands full of traps or with game on their shoulders, and consequently they want to have a door which may be opened without the necessity of dropping their load, and so they use a foot latch.

Foot Latch

One of the simplest of the foot latches consists of a piece of wood cut out by the aid of axe and hunting-knife to the form shown by Fig. 199; a hole in the door cut for that purpose admits the flattened and notched end and upon the inside it fits the round log sill. The owner of the shack, when reaching home, steps upon the foot latch (Fig. 199), which lifts up the catch (on the inside) and allows the door to swing open.

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Trigger Latch

Fig. 200 shows a more complicated form of latch with a trigger protruding from the lower part of the door, which is hinged to a wooden shaft, and the shaft in turn is connected with the latch. The fastenings of the trigger to the shaft and the shaft to the latch are made with hardwood pegs or wire nails which move freely in their sockets. The latch is the simplest form of a wooden bar fastened at one end with a screw or nail on which it can move up and down freely; the other end is allowed to drop into the catch. The latch itself is similar to the one shown in Figs. 193 and 194.

The trigger is also fastened to a block on the outside of the door by a nail or peg upon which it moves freely, so that when the weight of the foot is placed upon the trigger outside the door that end is forced down which pushed the end attached to the shaft up; this pushes the shaft up and the shaft pushes the latch up; thus the door is unfastened. The diagram to the left in Fig. 200 shows the edge of the door with the trigger on the outside, the shaft upon the inside. The diagram to the right in Fig. 200 shows the inside of the door, the end of the trigger, the shaft, the latch, and the catch.

The Latch-String

In the preceding locks and fastenings, no matter how generous and hospitable the owner may be, his latch-string never "hangs on the outside," but in this one the latchstring literally hangs outside and any one may enter by pulling it (Figs. 193 and 194). But when the owner is in and does not want to be interrupted he pulls the string in, which tells the outsider that he must knock before he can be admitted. This simplest form of latch has been here put upon the simplest form of a door, a door with a wooden hinge made by nailing a round rod to the edge of the door and allowing the ends of the rod to project above and below the door. In the sill log below the door a hole about two inches deep is bored to receive the short end of the hinge rod; above a deeper hole is bored to receive the long end of the hinge rod. To hang the door run the long end up in the top hole far enough to lift the door sufficiently to be able to drop the lower end of the hinge rod in the lower hole. Your door is then hung and may swing back and forth at your pleasure. Notwithstanding the fact that such a door admits plenty of cold air, it is a very popular door for camps and is even used for log houses.

Simple Spring-Latch

 A simple form of spring-latch is shown by Fig. 196. As you may see, A is a peg driven into the door-jamb. It has a notch in its outer end so that B, a piece of hickory, may be sprung into the notch; B is fastened to the door by a couple of screws. By pushing the door the latch will slide out of the rounded notch and the door opens. When you pull the door to close it the end of the spring strikes the rounded end of the A peg and, sliding over it, drops naturally into the slot and holds the door closed. This form of latch is also a good one for gates.

Better Spring-Latch

Figs. 197 and 198 show more complicated spring-latches but this latch is not so difficult to make as it may appear in the diagram. A and D (icy') show, respectively, the wooden catch and the guard confining the latch. C is another guard made, as you may observe, from a twig with a branch upon it; the twig is split in half and fastened at the base with two screws, and at the upper end, where the branch is bent down, is fastened with one screw. A guard like the one shown by D (Fig. 197) would answer the purpose, but I am taking the latch as it was made. The lower diagram (Fig. 198) shows a side view of the edge of the door with two cotton spools fastened at each end of the stick which runs through a slot in the door. E is the cotton spool on the outside of the door and F the cotton spool on the inside of the door. The upper lefthand diagram (Fig. 198) shows the slot in the door and the spool as it appears from the outside. B (Fig. 197) is the spring-latch which is held in place by the spool F. The stick or peg which runs through the spools and the slot also runs through a hole made for that purpose in the spring-latch, as shown at F (Fig. 197). After the stick with the E spool on it has been run through the slot from the outside of the door, thence through the spring-latch B and into the spool F, it is fastened there by driving around its end some thin wedges of wood or by allowing it to protrude and running a small peg through the protruding end, as shown by F, G (Fig. 197, lower diagram). The thin, springy end of your latch is now forced down by a peg or nail in the door at H (Fig. 197) and the tail end of it forced up by a peg or nail at K. When this is done properly it will give considerable spring to the latch and impart a decided tendency to force the latch into the wooden catch, a tendency which can only be overcome by lifting the spool up in the slot and thus lifting the latch and allowing the door to open. Fig. 197 shows the inside of the door with the spring-latch, catches and all complete; it also gives details of the wooden catch A with guards D and C and the fastening of the stick in the spool by a peg driven through the end of the stick at F, G. This last one is a good jack-knife latch to make for your camp or cabin.

Secret Locks

Secret locks are more useful than strong ones for a country house which is left alone during the winter months, for it is not so much cupidity which causes such houses to be broken into as it is the curiosity of the local boys. But while these lads often do not hesitate to force or pick a lock they will seldom go as far as to smash a door to effect an entrance; hence, if your lock is concealed your house is safe from all but professional thieves, and such gentry seldom waste their time to break open a shack which contains nothing of value to them. The latches shown by Figs. 193, 200, and 201 may be made very heavy and strong, and if the trigger in Fig. 200, the latch-string hole in Fig. 193, and the peg hole in Fig. 201 are adroitly concealed they make the safest and most secure locks for summer camps, shacks, and houses.

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If a large bar (Fig. 2oI3 B) be made of one-by-four-inch plank, bolted in the middle of the plank with an iron bolt through the centre of the door and fastened on the inside by a nut screwed on to the bolt it will allow the bar to revolve freely on the inside of the door and bar the door when resting in the A and C catches. But if a string is attached to one end it may be unfastened by pulling the string up through the gimlet hole in the door.

To conceal this lock, draw the string through the gimlet hole and fasten a nail on the string. When it is undrawn the door bar is horizontal and the door consequently barred. Then push the nail in the gimlet hole so that only the head appears on the outside and no one not in the secret will ever suppose that the innocent appearing nail is the key to unfasten the door. When you wish to open the door from the outside, pluck out the nail, pull the string, and walk in.

There are a thousand other simple contrivances which will suggest themselves to the camper, and he can find entertainment for rainy days in planning and enlarging on the ideas here given. In the real wilderness, however, every camp is open to all corners-that is, the latch-string hangs outside the door, but the real woodsmen respect the hospitality of the absent owner and replace whatever food they may use with fresh material from their own packs, wash all dishes they may use, and sweep up and leave the shack in "apple-pie" order after their uninvited visit, for this is the law of the wilderness which even horse thieves and bandits respect.

The Tippecanoe

The Tippecanoe latch is worked with a wooden spring and when properly made, of well-seasoned wood, will probably outlast a metal one, for wood will not rust and cannot rot unless subjected to moisture.

The position of the spring in Fig. 201 shows the latch with the bolt sprung back. The fact that the bolt-hole in the catch is empty also tells the same story. The drawing of the outside of the door (Fig. 203) shows by the position of the peg that the door is fastened. To open the door, push back the bolt by sliding the peg to the opposite end of the slot. From a view of the edge of the door (Fig. 202) one may see how the peg protrudes on the outside of the door.

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Although the Tippecanoe latch is made of quite a number of parts, it is really a very simple device, but in order to display the simplicity of its construction to the ambitious jack-knife latch maker I have drawn all the parts but the spring stick natural size (Figs. 204 to 207), but since the original diagram is drawn too large for this page and was reduced by the engraver there is a scale of inches at the bottom to give the reader the proportions.

There are no fixed dimensions for this or any other lock, latch, or catch, but the proportions here given are probably the ones that will fit your door. The foundation block is shown by Fig. 204. Upon this the latch rests and is securely nailed or screwed to the door. Figs. 205 and 206 are two wooden clamps which are fastened to the door and also to the foundation block (Fig. 204). These clamps must be notched as in the diagrams to allow for the movement of the bolt, but since the bolt (Fig. 207) is larger and thicker at the butt the notch in Fig. 205 is made just a trifle larger than the butt end of the bolt and in Fig. 206 the notch is made a trifle smaller than the opposite end of the bolt. The object of the offset on the bolt (Fig. 207) forward of the peg is to make a shoulder to stop it from shooting too far when the spring is loosened.

The Catch

Figs. 201 and 2o4lA show the catch which is to be securely fastened to the door-jamb. The spring, of course, must be made of well-seasoned, elastic wood. Hickory is the best. This stick may be quite long, say half again as long in proportion as the one shown in Fig. 201. It must be flattened at the upper end and secured by two nails and it must be flattened at right angles to the upper part and somewhat pointed at the lower end so as to fit in a notch in the bolt (Fig. 201). A well-made lock of this sort is a source of constant joy and pride to the maker and he will never tire of springing it back and forth and extolling its virtues to his guests.

How to Make the Bow-Arrow Cabin Door and Latch and the Deming Twin Bolts, Hall and Billy

FIG. 209 shows the inside of the door with the wooden latch in place. You may use planks from the sawmill for the door in place of splitting them from spruce logs, as the ones here are supposed to be.

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The battens (A, B, C) are made of birch, but you may use any material at hand for them. The hinges (Figs. B, 211 D, 210) are made of birch sticks whittled off at the top so as to leave a peg (Fig. B, 211) to work in a hole in the flattened end of the horizontal battens (A and C, Fig. 209).

The batten B is in two pieces. The top piece serves as a brace for the spring (Fig. G, 209) and the bottom piece as a support for the bolt (Fig. H, 209 and 212). The battens may be made of a piece of board. The bolt (Fig. H, 212) works free upon a nail in the left-hand end and rests in the catch (Fig. K, 215) on the door-jamb.

The guard (Fig. J, 216) fits over the bolt and keeps it in place. The notch in the guard must be long enough to give the bolt free play up and down.

The spring (Fig. G, 209) is fastened with a nail to the door in such a manner that its thin end rests upon the top of the bolt with sufficient force to bend the spring and hold the bolt down in the catch (Fig. K, 2 15).

The thumb-latch (Fig. L, 213) 5 whittled out in the form shown, and fastened in a slot cut in the door by a nail driven through the edge of the door (Fig. M, 213) and through a hole in the thumb-latch (Fig. L, 213). On this nail the latch works up and down.

Fig. 217 shows the outside of the door and you can see that by pressing down the thumb-latch on the outside it will lift it up on the inside, and with it the bolt lifts up the free end of the latch and thus unfastens the door.

The handle (Figs. 217 and 214 N) is used in place of a door-knob. It is made of yellow birch bent in hot water.

The Deming Twin Lock

E. W. Deming, the painter of Indian pictures, the mighty hunter, and fellow member of the Camp-Fire Club of America, is a great woodsman. Not only is he a great woodsman but he is the father of twins, and so we have thought that he possesses all the characteristics necessary to entitle him to a place in this book, and after him and his twins we have named the twin bolts shown by Fig. 208. 

The lower or Hall bolt is shot into a hole in the door-sill, and the upper or Billy bolt is shot into a hole in the doorjamb above the door. The holes should be protected upon the surface of the wood by pieces of tin or sheet iron with holes cut in them to admit the bolt. The tins may be tacked over the bolt-hole in the sill for the Hall bolt and on the bolt-hole overhead for the Billy bolt, and it will prevent the splitting away of the wood around the holes.


Two guards, A and B (Fig. 208), made as in Fig. 216,    protect the bolts and act as guides to keep them from swinging out of position; two springs C and D (Fig. 208), made of well-seasoned hickory and attached to the battens on the door by nails or screws, force the bolts down and up into the bolt-holes (Fig. 208). To release the bolts, the spring must be drawn back as shown by the dotted lines in Fig. 208. This may be done by means of a string or picture wire, which is fastened in the ends of the bolts and runs through a hole in the ends of the spring and is attached to the lever E (Fig. 208). When the end of this lever is pushed down into the position shown by the dotted line and arrow-point, it lifts up the Hall bolt at the bottom of the door and pulls down the Billy bolt overhead, thus unfastening the door.

But, of course, if one is outside the door one cannot reach the lever E; so, to overcome this difficulty, a hole is bored through the central batten of the door and the latch-string is tied to the top end of the lever and the other end is run through the hole bored in the door (Fig. 208).

The end outside of the door is then tied to a nail; by pulling the nail you pull down the lever E, which undoes the bolts and opens the door.

When it is desired to leave the door locked, after it is closed, push the nail into the latch-string hole so that only the head will be visible from the outside. When the nail and string are arranged in this manner, a stranger will see no means of opening the door, and, as there are many nail-heads in all rough doors, the one to which the latch-string is attached will not attract the attention of any one who is unacquainted with the Deming twin bolt.

The Aures Lock Latch

THE Aures lock differs from the preceding ones in the use of metal springs, but wooden ones may be substituted; for instance, a wooden spring like the one in Fig. 209 may be put under the bolt or latch shown in Fig. 219, which is practically the same latch; that is, if you turn the latch in Fig. 209 upside down it will make the latch shown in Fig. 219; also, if you take the bolt or lock B in Fig. 219 and make it of one piece of wood with a spring to it, like the one shown in Fig. 208 or Fig. 209, or make it exactly like the one shown in Fig. 201, the Aures lock can be made altogether of wood. But with this lock, as described below, metal springs were used (Figs. 219, 220, and 221).

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The Door

The door shows the two strings H and K coming through gimlet holes near the top. Fig. 218 represents the outside of the door. The strings may be concealed by covering their ends with a board as shown in this diagram, but even if they are not concealed, one unacquainted with the lock will not know how to work them in order to open the door.

A in Figs. 219, 220, and 221 is the latch which is made of a piece of wood about eight or nine inches long by about one and one half inches wide by an inch or three quarters of an inch thick. A hole is drilled near the centre of the latch and a screw placed through which is screwed into the door so that the latch will extend about two or three inches beyond the end of the door.

D (Figs. 219, 220, and 221) is a catch or stop which is fastened to the door-jamb and keeps the end of the latch from flying too far up to lock the door.

B (Fig. 219) is the key which is made of the same sort of wood as the latch; a hole is drilled in this also but it is here placed about one inch from the top. A screw is run through this, as in the hole in the latch, and screwed into the door (Fig. 219).

Fig. C, 219 is a small block of wood on which a steelband spring has been screwed to keep the key in its proper place. The block is screwed to the door a short distance above the top of the key.

Fig. J, 219 is a nail or peg placed in the door close beside the key when the key is vertical; this is intended to prevent the key from being shoved over too far by the force of the band spring F.

Fig. 219 L is a steel wire spring (a window-shade spring will answer the purpose), fastened to the door at one end and to the latch at the other end, and serves to keep the latch down and in place when locked.

Fig. 219 K is the latch-string, one end of which is fastened to one end of the latch and the other end run through a hole near the top of the door and extending outside the same as the latch-string (Fig. 218).

Fig. 219 shows the positions of the latch and key when the latch is locked; to open the lock from the outside it is necessary to pull the key string first (H, Fig. 220), which releases the key; then pull the latch-string, thus lifting the latch while still holding the key string. The key string is now let go; the spring forcing the key into the position shown in Fig. 221 will keep the door unlocked.

When leaving the room, all that is necessary is to pull the key string which lifts the key, then let go the latchstring, and the latch will spring back to its locked position and the key will also fly back into its position as in Fig. 219. Any one not knowing the combination will be unable to open the door.

The Compass Lock

This lock is made on the same principle as the combination safe lock, but it is a lock any bright boy can make for himself. In the first place, instead of numbers, use compass divisions; that is, use a disk with the points of the compass scratched on it and an ordinary door-knob with an index mark filed on its base, as shown by Fig. 224 where the finger is pointing.

Hunt up three old door-knobs like those shown in Figs. 222, 224, and 225. When you take one of the doorknobs off one end of the shaft you will find several small screw holes in the steel shaft (Fig. 222). Over this end you set a block of hardwood which you fashion out of a square block (Fig. 223) by first cutting off the corners as shown by the dotted lines, then whittling the angles off until it becomes rounded like a compass face; after which saw off an arc, that is, part of a circle, as shown in Figs. 224, 226, and 227. Next make a square hole through the centre of the circle to fit the square end of the steel shaft of the door-knob. The square hole is not the centre of the block as it is now cut, but it is the centre of the block as it was when it was round; that is, the centre of the circle. Insert the square end of the steel shaft into the square hole in the block, and, through a hole carefully drilled for the purpose, put a screw down through the hole in the end of the steel shaft (Fig. 224); this will firmly fix the block on the end of the knob. Of course, the knob must be inserted through the door before the block is permanently fastened upon the end of the shaft. Fig. 225 shows the edge of the door with the three knobs in place. If these knobs are so turned (Fig. 226) that their flat edges are parallel with the crack of the door, there is nothing to prevent you from opening the door; but if the knobs are so turned (Fig. 227) that the blocks overlap the crack of the door, the door cannot be opened without breaking the lock.

It is evident that we must have some sort of a mark to tell us how to make the proper combination so that the door may be opened. To do this, take the metal washer of the door-knob (the upper figure in Fig. 228) or a circular piece or disk of tin and divide it up like a compass (Fig. 228). Fasten these disks securely on to the door with nails or screws; place all of the disks with the north point pointing to the top of the door and in line with each other. File in the circular base of each door-knob (Fig. 224) a little notch at the black mark where the finger is pointing, then put the door-knobs in place and fasten them there (Fig. 225) by screwing the block on their ends (Fig. 224) and securing the screws in the blocks by running them through the shaft. Carefully turn the knobs so that the block on the inside fits like those shown in Fig. 226. Jot down in your notebook the position of the index on each knob (finger point, 224); one may read northeast, another may read southwest, and another may read south. When one wants to open the door one must turn the knobs so that they will read according to the notes and the door may be opened; but unless the indexes read as noted some of them will be turned as in Fig. 227, locking the door, and it may not be opened.

When the door is closed, twist the knobs around and it will lock them so that no one else can open the door unless they know the combination. The fact that there is a combination will not be suggested to a stranger by the compasses, although it might be suggested if there were figures in place of compass points. But even supposing they did suspect a combination it would take a long time for them to work it out, and no one would do it but a thief. A burglar, however, would not take the time; he would pry open the door with his "jimmy" and, as I have said before, these locks are for the purpose of keeping out tramps, vagrants, and inquisitive boys.

We have no locks yet invented which will keep out a real, professional burglar if he has reason to suppose there are valuables inside.

The safety of your log cabin depends principally upon the fact that valuables are not kept in such shacks, and real burglars know it.
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