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Babyproofing 101

Much too late we have decided to become serious about babyproofing. Kind of serious. It's harder than it looks.

Our attention was drawn to the cabinets in the kitchen. Specifically, Hayden enjoys standing at any open drawer playing "who gets to my fingers first." Will he smash the drawer closed on his own fingers or will I catch him on time? These drawers are FUN to pull out, push in, pull out, push in. Almost as fun as the knives in the bottom of the open dishwasher. But, that is another story.

I hate those drawer-proofing devices where you have to open the drawer an inch, push your finger in there, release a catch, and open it the rest of the way. It's annoying. I found instead magnetic cabinet closing devices. The idea is, a latch on the inside keeps the cabinet locked until you apply a magnet (provided) to the outside of the cabinet, which releases it. I think they're cool.

Unfortunately, these devices are made for cabinets with doors, not for drawers. I decide I can retrofit it. I can be stubborn sometimes.

I begin by studying the device. It is complicated. After an hour or so I think I understand how it's supposed to work in a cabinet. Now for the retrofit. Another half hour-- ah, I see how it could work.

The idea is that the device has a plug that goes partially through the cabinet door. Note: it is not supposed to go THROUGH the cabinet door. But, I foreshadow. It requires drilling. You are supposed to drill a hole almost, but not quite through, the door. The little metal plug on the device goes into the hole, and the magnet touches on the other side. OK.

They tell you what size drill bit to use. I pull out both sets of our drill bits. We do not have the size in question. No problem. I can guesstimate. They have a special sleeve that supposed to go over the bit to help you know when to stop drilling. It does not fit very well. No problem, I can use duct tape to mark the spot on the drill bit.

But I am putting this in a drawer, not a cabinet door. Hmm. Drawer fronts are a LOT thicker than cabinet doors. Even if the hole is deep enough, the little metal plug on the device doesn't go very far in. The magnet on the other side would not be close enough to trigger the latch.

Back to the directions. Ah! The brilliant designers of this device have foreseen this issue. There is both an extension plug and an extension piston. What does this mean? Read the directions again. Oh yes, indeed. Now we get it. Together they can make it long enough.

But, where would the striking plate go? You know, the other half-- the lip that catches the latch and holds the drawer closed. Another problem. It could go deep underneath the drawer frame. That should work. Oops. The drawer frame isn't deep enough.

No problem. I have a table saw. I'll simply cut some scraps and attach them to the back of the drawer frames, then I'll have a spot for the striking plate. This is getting kind of involved. But I am determined. I run and cut some scrap. I take some screws I have lying around and drill the scrap to the inside of the door frame. I am very proud of my resourcefulness. I am very proud for using screws I had lying around the house.

Back to drilling the hole for the latch device. Right above the drawer pull, on the inside, should be a good spot. I carefully measure. I mark the drill bit so I don't go to far. I take a deep breath. I drill.

No problem. I have made a nice deep hole. I test the device. Oops- don't forget the extension plug & extension piston. I put them in there. I apply the magnet to the outside of the drawer, looking for the latch to flip open. Nothing happens.

Hmm. I remove the device and test the magnet directly applied to it through the extension plug & piston. Works like a charm. Try them again in the hole in the drawer. Nope. I thought I left the 1/8" clearance they instructed, but perhaps I didn't drill quite far enough.

I drill a bit deeper. Not through yet, that's good! It must have been too shallow. Nope. Still doesn't work in the drawer. Hmm. I test it again outside the drawer. Works there. I must not have drilled far enough. I drill a bit more.

Oh dear. That's the end of the drill bit coming through the drawer. Oh dear.

Well, the drawer is not at eye level. And these cabinets are older than the hills. I stand a few feet away. Can't even see it! Maybe I don't even have to tell Mark.

I guess I should mention it it to Mark. Later.

But, back to the task at hand. Undaunted, I re-examine the problem. OH! I see the problem. The wooden drawer handle is blocking the magnet from lining up with the device inside. Oops. It wasn't the depth of the hole at all. I would have to move the device to the side. Another hole-- what a pain! Well, that's OK since the original hole is unusable in its current state. I could explain why, but I'd never bore you with details.

Oh crud. The scrap wood I attached to the inside of the door frame lines up with the center. Am I really going to have to remove it and re-attach it further to the right? Yup. What a pain. I am determined. Just do it. OK, all done. I am proud of myself for my fortitude.

I take a break until the next day.

OK, Day 2. Let's re-drill that hole. CAREFUL this time. Not too deep. Good. Insert device. Plenty of room for the magnet to line up properly. Apply magnet.

Nothing happens.

Am I really going to try drilling this hole deeper? OK, maybe just a little bit. CAREFUL. That's it. I refuse to drill it any further. It's definitely within their parameters. I hold the device in the hole and apply the magnet. Nothing.

Hmmm. Maybe the piston part of the extension is not extended. How can I fix that? I empty the drawer. I remove the drawer. I shake the drawer sideways to let the piston fall into place. I try again. Crap.

Wait a minute! The device is not seated perfectly. I jam it in there. It works! Not 100%, but sometimes it flips open properly. I decide to screw it in.

I screw it in. It should be pretty tight in there now, pretty good. I test it.

It doesn't work again.

I try moving the magnet around. Nope. I try slamming the drawer with the magnet. Do magnets even work that way? Apparently not.

I'll need a day or so to think on this.

Day 3. I really should give up. These things are not designed for drawers. I should use the little annoying latches instead. But I hate those. And this SHOULD WORK.

Maybe it's the magnet. Of course! Their wimpy little magnet can't handle a thick drawer, extensions or not. I'll get a stronger magnet.

Off to Home Depot. They have some magnets, little powerful discs. Who knows if they're stronger than what I have. I will try them.

Home again home again. I stack the magnetic discs together & try them. Nothing. Hmmm. Light bulb turns on. I attach the stack of discs to the magnet that came with the device. I try it.


I try again. It still works. It works every time. It doesn't sort of work. It totally works.

You'd think this would mean I was done.

Let us not forget that a device that locks & releases properly is useless without the striking plate against which it holds.

No problem. This should be easy.* So what if their directions are useless for a drawer? I will figure it out. How hard could this part be?

I remove the drawer above the drawer in question. I close the drawer with the latch. I reach around and place the striking plate in the proper location. Now what? I can't mark it with a pencil, I can't even see under there. I take a screw & wheedle it through a hole in the striking plate to try to mark the wood where it should be screwed in. Good.

I open the drawer again. Oo- there is no way the drill can fit with the drawer there. I remove the drawer. I can just fit the drill in the right spot now. I try reaching in with the striking plate and the screw to feel where I marked the hole. Am I insane? Not a chance I could tell where I marked it by feeling around. Crap. Do I actually need a MIRROR now? Will this never end?

I take another break.

Later that day, I return. I find a small mirror. I reach in and locate where the striking plate should go. It is difficult. I keep dropping the tiny screw as I try to hold it and the striking plate in one hand while holding the mirror with the other. I finally hold it properly. I manage to pick up the drill and screw it in. Hallelujah! Time to replace the drawer and see if it lines up.

Replace the drawer you say? Wait a minute-- what's the problem? Why can't I get the drawer in? It's like it's being blocked by something.

Oh. It's being blocked by the piece I just screwed in. You've got to be kidding. Perhaps I can tilt the drawer and slide it in. Nothin' doin'. Can't get it on the tracks that way. The piece I just installed has a little wiggle room. I push it back a few millimeters. It doesn't help.

Wow. I am really going to have to remove the striking plate and install it again. This is a large bummer. So close. I must persevere. I remove the plate. I put the drawer back. Now, how am I going to screw this thing in this tight space? I'm going to have to do it by hand.

Where is that super-short screwdriver? You know, the stubby one you only find when you're looking for the longer ones. Back out to the garage. I can't find it. Kitchen drawers. Nope. Darn. Back out to the garage. I find the stubby flathead. Won't work, need the Philips.

What's this? It's the drill attachment that I bought for Mark on a whim, a bendable drive that supposed to let you snake in and drill anywhere. As I recall we never used it because it requires special bits. Hmmm. Let's try our standard bits. Kind of shallow, but they fit. Will they stay put while drilling? I will find out.

I squeeze the drill into the partially open drawer. I really should have emptied the drawer first. Nah, I can work around these spice jars.

At this point Hayden decides that he would love to help. He squeezes in between my two extended arms, between me and the drawer. He smiles at me. He is obviously helping. This cute thing babies have going on is obviously part of the survival of the species. He is really damn cute.

I put Hayden into one of his baby sanctuaries. This is what Mark calls the gates enclosures where Hayden can't get out. I go back to the task at hand.

I feel like my body is contorting as much as the drive attachment. The bit falls out a number of times. Finally, I get the 2 screws screwed in. Amen. I close the drawer to test the alignment.

A total miss. Was I on drugs when I measured this? What was I thinking?

I measure again, using a better method. It involves using a tape measure and the mirror. Unbelievably, it's much more accurate. I get the drill ready again. Oh, screw it, I'm going to empty the dang drawer. At long last I manage to screw the plate in again. I test it.


No really, it is perfect. The drawer closes. It stays closed. I apply the magnet. It opens. I do it again. I can't believe it. It works exactly as advertised. I dance a little jig. I reload the drawer. I open and close it a number of times. I dance a little jig again. It totally, totally works.

I only have, oh, 7 or 8 more drawers to do. No sweat.

Note: I find out later that a magnetically locked cabinet is not a good place to keep the potholders when you need to grab one in a hurry.

*Try not to laugh.