How to Install a Smart Lock

A Schlage Encode satin style smartlock installed on a green door.
Josh Hendrickson

When you’re setting up a new smarthome, one of the easiest gadgets you can add to your arsenal is a smart lock. It’s not much harder than changing a standard lock on your home. Here’s what to do.

The Basics

For this guide, we’re installing a Schlage Encode smart lock. Even if you have a different smart lock from another brand, most (if not all) the steps will be the same. You’ll generally find three main components in a smart lock: an exterior piece that may have a keypad, lock for a key, or both, an interior piece that holds the batteries and circuitry, and the bolt that secures your door. The tricky part is connecting them all.

As a quick tip: You may have seen advice to test your smart lock before installing it by inserting the batteries to turn it on. Then you can be sure the lock powers up before it’s in the door.

That seems like sound advice, but the first time a smart lock turns on, it tests if the door is left facing or right facing and adjusts the bolt mechanism to match. Without an actual door to test against, it may guess wrong, and your install will fail to work correctly. If you want to perform this test, you should check the instructions for a factory reset process. After running the test, factory-reset the lock.

Removing the Old Lock

Before you can install your new smart lock, you need to take the old one out. Standard locks are easy to remove, so long as you have access to the interior of your home anyway. Start with finding the two screws on the interior thumb turn piece. Then unscrew them.

A standard thumbturn on a lock,with two red arrows pointing to two screws.
Josh Hendrickson

Open the door (if you haven’t already) and go to the front side of the lock (where you insert your key). The key assembly should be loose, pull that off.

The key assembly of a lock, slightly tilted out of the door.
Josh Hendrickson

Now on the side of your door, look for the bolt that slides out when you lock it. Unscrew the two screws and pull the bolt assembly out.

Installing Your Smart Lock

Now find the bolt for your new lock, and look for the top mark:

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Here’s Why You Should Buy a Push Block for Your Table Saw

A Microjig Grr-ripper, and orange push block on a table saw.
Josh Hendrickson

Nearly every table saw comes with a single push stick. But that’s not enough. You need at least a push stick and push block to provide proper pressure contacts. Otherwise, your cuts won’t be straight, and you’re risking a severe injury.

Using a table saw always involves some amount of risk. You are moving the material towards and through a sharp spinning blade. Depending on how powerful your table saw is, the blade spins between 30,000 and 50,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). That so fast your eyes can’t keep up.
When it comes down to it, anything capable of cutting through wood can cut through your soft fleshy body. Even without considering the risk of injury, you run the risk of experiencing kickback, and your cut won’t be straight, leaving you with disappointing results.

Kickback is Incredibly Dangerous

Warning: The following section discusses the dangers of table saws and may make some readers squeamish or uneasy; we recommend skipping to the next section if that describes you.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of kickback in woodworking, count yourself lucky. Kickback occurs when the spinning blade of your table saw grabs a piece of the material you are cutting, lifts, and throws it at high speeds. Because the blade spins towards you, the wood, in turn, is thrown in your direction and may hit you hard enough to injure or even kill you.

That isn’t the only danger from kickback. Because the blade is pulling the wood onto it, the process draws your hands towards the blade as well. If you’re lucky, you have minor cuts. But it’s also possible you could lose fingers to the spinning blade.

One form of kickback occurs during a rip cut as some of the wood begins to pass the backside of the blade. If the material drifts away from the rip fence, a corner of the wood can catch the rising teeth of the blade, which pulls the wood onto the blade, leading to a thrown wood piece.

The following is a video demonstrating this type of kickback. Fair warning, the person in the video comes out uninjured (just barely), but it’s still scary to see how close they come to serious injury.

As the video shows, this kickback occurs as your wood piece drifts away from the rip fence and into the blade path. You can prevent this and other forms of kickback by using proper safety equipment and technique. The first piece of equipment is a riving knife.

A tablesaw blade, slightly raised, with a riving knife behind it. A yellow safety switch lays to the side.
The slender piece of metal behind the blade is a riving knife and is crucial for safety. Josh Hendrickson

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Lockly Secure Pro Brings a Fingerprint Reader to Your Smart Lock

A Lockly Secure Pro with keypad activated.
Josh Hendrickson

Between PIN, fingerprint reader, voice commands, an app, and a physical key, the Lockly Secure Pro smart lock has no shortage of ways to unlock your door. And while more options usually mean more convenience, it also means more complications.

Lockly’s Secure Pro is unlike other smart locks I’ve tried. It doesn’t have a standard keypad. Instead, it features a touch screen that randomly generates numbered circles for you to push.

It also features a fingerprint reader on the side so you can skip the PIN entirely, which is a faster way to unlock your door. For added convenience, the touchscreen serves as a lock button, just touch it anywhere and the door locks. With so many features, this should be one of the most convenient smart locks on the market. But it’s not quite there.

Installing is Fairly Easy for a Smart Lock

When I opened the Lockly box, I felt a little intimidated despite having installed many locks and multiple smart locks. The box includes a giant instruction booklet, complete with guides for measuring your door’s holes and cavities. The good news is, the book is a little bit overkill, I was able to install the lock without much trouble.

Typically the most challenging part of installing a smart lock is balancing the keypad and battery pack on either side of the door before you get them fully secured. The sheer weight of the two pieces will fight you and want to fall out of the door, leaving you trying to clamp them while driving screws awkwardly.

Lockly addressed that issue with two options. They added extra screw holes to the top of the two components so you can secure them directly to the door, which should add stability. I didn’t like that idea, so I went with option two: 3M sticky tape, which worked surprisingly well. Thanks to the tape, I installed the lock in 15 minutes, and without any feelings of frustration.

A Simplisafe, Wyze, and Lockly contact sensors lined up vertically on a door.
In order from top to bottom are Simplisafe, Wyze, and Lockly contact sensors. Lockly’s sensor is huge. Josh Hendrickson

After installing the lock, you plug in the included Wi-Fi hub and connect the largest contact sensor I’ve ever seen to your door. The sensor helps the lock track your door’s open and close state for automated locking.

The battery compartment hardware isn’t very inspiring. It’s plastic, which gives the lock a less premium feel. And the thumb turn is incredibly small, which is only emphasized by the giant plastic box it’s attached to. Every time I turn it to lock or unlock the door, I feel like I’m going to snap it off. To be clear, I highly doubt I could snap it off, but it feels like I could.

The outside hardware, on the other hand, screams smart gadget and feels a little more premium with its large black touchscreen that displays the keypad.

The Keypad is Unique and Mildly Frustrating

A closeup of the Lockly Secure Pro lock, showing four circles full of numbers.
You touch the circle that contains the next number of your PIN, not a number itself. Josh Hendrickson

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The 5 Best Router Tabletops for Woodworking

A Bosch Router table and router mounted on a wooden base.
Josh Hendrickson

If you already own a woodworking router, you probably want to make the most of it. While you can use the tool freehand, for greater precision, you should consider a router table. You’ll have an easier time with intricate cuts.

What to Look for in a Router Table

Before you purchase a router table, you want to check some of its key components. The shape, size, materials, fence, and accessories vary from table to table, and those things make the difference between a poor option and an inexpensive but good choice.

  • Flat, Rigid Top: The top of your router table should be very flat and rigid. You don’t want a table that bends as you push material across it—that could ruin the cut. Most routers use either melamine (or MDF), cast aluminum, or in some rare cases, cast iron. All three are good options, though the latter two are more durable.
  • Flat, Metal Base Plate: Nearly every router table includes a base plate for attaching your router. The plate should be flat, very rigid, and made of metal. The table should also include a way to level the plate to the rest of the top.
  • An Easy to Adjust Fence: For many of your router cuts, you’ll want a fence to guide the material along the router bit. The fence should be easy to adjust and tighten down with two to four large knobbed screws. Nicer tables will include a two-piece split fence that lets you adjust the hole in the middle. You can also set split fences to join wood.
  • Dust Ports: Routing wood creates a ton of sawdust, and if you don’t do something about it, you’ll quickly have trouble sliding your material along the tabletop. Dust ports let you connect a shop vac or other vacuum solution to suck the sawdust out. Look for one at the fence and maybe a second beneath the table by the router.
  • Sturdy base: The last thing you want is your table to shift while you’re pushing the wood through the router bit. Shifting will cause your cut to drift and potentially ruin your piece. A sturdy base should prevent shifting.
  • Miter slot: Similar to a table saw’s miter slots, the router tabletop should have at least one slot cut into it, running parallel with the router and fence. You can attach feather boards and miter gauges as needed for a safe cut. Some routers may have additional slots for additional accessories.

Best Overall: Bosch Benchtop Router Table RA1181

A blue Bosch router table with aluminum top.
Bosch

If you picked the best overall router we recommend, then the Bosch RA1181 Table is a no-brainer. It has a cast aluminum tabletop with a miter slot. The included base plate has pre-drilled holes for many standard routers, and you can drill more if necessary. It also comes with a split fence and quite a few accessories, including multiple feather boards, three mounting plate rings, and shims for jointing wood. This table is benchtop sized, so you’ll need to place it on another surface to get it to a comfortable height. As a bonus, this unit includes two plug spots, one for the router and one for a vacuum. Flipping the main switch engages both.

If you do have the Bosch 1617EVS router, you may want to consider picking up the optional under table base. The router will slip in and out of this base without having to unscrew it every time.

Best Overall

Bosch Benchtop Router Table RA1181

A good solid router table, this unit’s table is made of cast aluminum and includes a miter slot, several accessories, and supports mounting to a table permanently.

Best Budget: SKIL RAS800

A SKIL RAS800 red router table with storage pouch.
SKIL

The Skil router table goes for minimalism while still offering plenty of features. It comes pre-assembled (which is a rarity) and includes a handy attached storage pouch for all its accessories. You do give up something for the low cost, though: MDF is the material of choice here. And it doesn’t have a dedicated table plate, relying instead on clamps to hold your router in place. So doublecheck that your router fits first before buying. When you’re not using it, it folds up to a somewhat compact size. As a benchtop router, you’ll need to place it on another surface to use it.

Best Budget

SKIL RAS800 SKIL Router Table

This is the little router table that could. It uses an MDF tabletop with no separate plate. Helpfully it comes pre-assembled and folds down to a smaller size when you’re done.

Premium Pick: KREG Precision Router Table System

A Kreg Router table, showing blue full sized legs and upgraded fence.
Kreg

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The GeoZilla GPS Tracker Will Find Your Stuff Nearly Anywhere

A GeoZilla GPS tracker hanging from a backpack.
Josh Hendrickson

Most trackers like Tile or Chipolo communicate through Bluetooth. That’s great for battery life and size but terrible for finding your lost thing more than a room or two away. GeoZilla’s GPS tracker uses 3G service to contact you anywhere—well, almost anywhere.

If you’re prone to losing your keys or your dog is an escape artist, tracking devices sound nice. Most of them have a laughably short range, though, usually no more than a room or two. And though they boast crowdsourcing to expand that range, the truth is there aren’t enough trackers out there for the guaranteed coverage everywhere you go. Whether or not it will help is a game of luck right now. You might have lost your tracker near other people with compatible trackers, but it seems just as likely that it will be somewhere alone unable to communicate.

GeoZilla is trying to solve that with a sensible approach: a combination of GPS and 3G service. You buy the $50 hardware and subscribe to a data plan to activate the 3G service. You can choose $5 a month, $50 a year, or $99 for three years. Given that spread, three years makes the most sense. Once you have a plan, the tracker pings at set intervals so you can find your lost widget anywhere. Mostly it works well—when the app doesn’t let the hardware down at least.

Simple Effective Hardware

A dog hopping a fence while wearing a GPS tracker.
GeoZilla

Generally, trackers should be small, unobtrusive, and lightweight. This GPS tracker is larger than Bluetooth trackers like Tile or Chipolo, but that’s understandable given the extra radios it contains. It’s about the size of a keyfob, though, so it will still fit in your pockets or most other places you’d want to stow it away.

The face has three buttons—one for SOS and two that don’t do anything currently. I’m not sure what they’re for, as none of the instructions or the app mentions them. Pressing the SOS button for four seconds sends a text message to chosen contacts with a google map location link, while anybody with the app installed and linked will also receive a similar notification.

The GeoZilla tracker, hard case, soft case, and lanyard.It’s simple hardware, but that’s all it needs to be. Josh Hendrickson

The tracker itself has small holes for the included lanyard but won’t fit a standard keychain setup. It comes with two cases that will take care of that. The first is a hardshell case that adds to the overall bulkiness of the product. It is satisfyingly solid, though, and seems like it’ll protect the tracker form any hard drops. The other is a soft case with a belt loop, perfect for attaching to a dog collar, purse, or even a kid’s belt. The soft case also adds a loop you could connect to the included lanyard.

All in all, it’s fine hardware; the tracker is everything it’s needs to be and not an inch more. And I prefer that to something over-engineered and complicated—like the tracker’s app.

A Dual-Use App With Unnecessary Subscriptions

The Premium messages, showing 7 day trials, for GeoZilla services.
Really not a fan of these (unnecessary!) premium messages you can’t avoid.

Unfortunately for the GPS tracker, GeoZilla’s app (available for Android and iOS) needs work. Instead of creating an entirely new app for the GPS tracker, GeoZilla folded it into the company’s existing app. Think of GeoZilla’s app as a cross-platform Find My Friends on steroids. Unfortunately, the very first thing the app greets you with on the first launch is a premium subscription offer and trial.

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