Securing the Valles Caldera National Preserve

March 1, 2021
Two security technicians tackle a custom job in the Jemez Mountains.

Nestled in the heart of the Jemez Mountains 75 miles north of Los Alamos, New Mexico, sits the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Our team was hired to perform a custom installation on six doors at the preserve’s administration building, 20 miles north of the preserve’s main gate. Technician John McHale and I would install dormakaba Simplex 5000 Series mechanical push-button locks. Here’s our report.

Reminder: When traveling nearly 100 miles one way for a custom install, a work vehicle becomes a necessary mini workshop on wheels, because forgetting even one item can delay the whole project significantly.

The Job

Upon arrival, we found a mortise cylinder that has a handleset below on the exterior of an outside door (Image 1) and an older Von Duprin 88 panic bar on the interior (Image 2).

The interior of the door had two signs for employees, one of which addressed a nonlatching issue, and the other referenced the disabling of the current lock. The preserve’s administration building is a converted church building from the 1960s, and even though a fair amount of remodeling has been completed, older doors, such as the one pictured, remain.

We removed the trim from the door to get an idea as to the bones the door had left. We do this on every custom install, even with the same equipment, because the end results can be just a bit different. (Images 3 & 4)

The door was found to be in surprisingly good shape, with a few issues that had to be addressed for the new install to be a success. After the door was measured, we cut the steel alloy plates we had made to fit our requirements for the project. The first of two interior plates were installed after drilling the necessary mounting holes and sanding the edges to remove any burrs.

The first of the interior plates measured 10 inches high by 4 inches wide, while the other measured 7-1/2 by 4 inches. The 10-inch plate was installed on the interior side, matching the 5000 Series Simplex lock to be installed. (Image 5) The 7-1/2-inch plate was installed on the opposite end of the door. The purpose of the steel plates is three-fold. First, the plates cover the existing footprint of the old hardware. Second, the plates provide a solid area for the hardware to mount. Third, the customer will be impressed with the clean, finished aesthetics of the job.

After the interior mounting plates were secured to the door by using the #10 x 1-inch self-drilling screws, we moved on to making a custom steel plate for the door exterior. The exterior plate measured 20-1/2 by 4 inches. The exterior plate was drilled, sanded and installed, so we now were ready to mount the new panic hardware. After the panic hardware was cut to length by using our portable grinder, we completed the first step on the new installation.

Before installing the 5000 Series Simplex lock, we had to bore the mounting hole for the new lock. It’s important to install the steel alloy plate prior to drilling the door to ensure the hole is in the correct location. (Image 6) The plate also provides extra stability for the carbide hole saw.

After the hole was drilled, we had to make a couple of adjustments to ensure a proper fit. The first adjustment was to the Simplex lock handle. The handle design brushed up against the glass panel, so we cut the handle one-half inch to allow for proper spacing without binding.

The next adjustment was to the metal trim surrounding the glass panel. There was a small gap between the edge of the mounting plate and the trim, so we rounded over the metal trim by using a one-quarter-inch steel punch. Rounding over the trim provided a weather-tight seal around the new lock and a finished look. (Images 7 & 8)

The final steps of the installation were to mount the Don-Jo BS-161 strike blank, the EF-86 mortise filler plate and the new roller strike provided with the new panic hardware. After these steps were complete, we installed the customer’s small-format interchangeable-core cylinder into the Simplex lock, and we had another successful custom installation after completing the last of the six doors for the customer. (Images 9 & 10)

Herman Manzanares III, RL, is co-owner of Los Alamos Lock & Key in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He has 25 years of locksmith experience. He can be reached via the web at

About the Author

Herman Manzanares III, RL

Herman Manzanares III, RL, is co-owner of Los Alamos Lock & Key in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He has more than 25 years of locksmith experience. He can be reached via the web at