(note: if you just want the materials and steps without the story, skip to the Materials and Steps sections with large headings below)
So it seems we have a bit of a Houdini in Nero. We had a wire crate and he was pulling at the wires and bending them quite a bit, so we switched out for a Giant Size Vari Kennel. This type has a "Vault" style door. I made a really bad picture of it attached. The basic premise is that is has 4 rods that stick through holes to lock on the Top, Bottom, Left, and Right sides. You rotate the knob and it retracts the rods unlocking the crate. On the side by the Knob there is a little latch that is supposed to hold the rod down and prevent the knob from rotating until you press the spring loaded lever to allow the rod to rotate upwards to unlock.
Well long story short, we had the crate for 6 days and we came home to Nero running around the room twice in that time period. The first time I thought I forgot to lock it, the second I knew it was him.
How he escaped: Nero would rake his paws, 1 foot at a time in a stead motion over and over. When he would do this it would pull down on the rod that was sticking out the left side of the crate to lock it. This would try to turn the knob in the direction to unlock the crate. This is where the lever comes in. As long as the lever was holding the other side, the knob couldnt turn and he was still in the crate. But because the lever is angled to allow you to more easily latch it, the constant raking of his paws would giggle the lever. If he kept at it, just like lock picking with tension on that lever and giggling it enough, the rod lever would open enough to let the rod out...now it only takes a few more rakes and the door pops open. No damage, nothing. This is quite the ordeal. A door that looks secure he can just pop open 2 out of 6 days.
We were thinking of ways to keep him in. Cutting holes in the top and bottom of the plastic by the door and dropping in a rod so the door cant open; but we were afraid to ruin the integrity of the shell, which is the most expensive component of the crate. We could use ratcheting straps to keep the door shut, but that is a hassle. So here is what we did:
Looking at the door, we figured if you couldn't get one of the rods out, you couldn't get any of the rods out and the door would never unlock. We were thinking of drilling a tiny hole in the top rod and putting in a cotter pin, but the rod was too thin for us to try that. what we went with was to pick up and tap and die set and threaded the top rod at the tip that sticks out of the plastic. By putting on a wing nut, you could no longer turn the knob unless you first took off the wing nut...I will give the step by step so you can do this for a few bucks and 30 minutes of labor.
I picked up a tap (for the female end, not needed for this project) and die (for making the male, threaded, end) set with a few different sizes since I didn't know what size I needed. You will need a #8-32 Die and Die Handle, this will likely cost around $10 to $15. The really nice thing about this size is that it is pretty common, and is the size for drawer pulls and knobs...this means at the end of the project you can get a heavy and easy to handle knob instead of a wing but for a few bucks (which is what we did)
#8-32 die ~$2:
Die Handle ~$8:
Wing Nut ~$1.20 for a pack of 4:
Fender Washer (18 cents):
Optional - Drawer Knob (instead of washer/wing nut) $4
Put the Die in the Die Handle and tighten it so it doesn't fall out. There are 2 sides to the Die. One has a larger opening and one has a smaller opening making the shape like a funnel. You want to place the Wide side out (or facing up), since this is the side you start with when using a Die.
Take the door off the crate and put it in the locked position. (you may want to remove just the rod you will be threading (the rod that goes through the top of the crate) by unscrewing the backing of the knob area. I did not do this and the back plate got bent a little as I was threading the rod. It didn't do any damage, but could be prevented by taking the rod out or clamping it down so the torque when using the die doesn't press against the metal plate)
Head outside or to a work area, you may want to put something down to catch the metal flakes that will come out as you thread. Hold the door (or rod if you took it out) firmly or with a clamp.
Using the wide part of the die place it on top of the rod where you want the threading. Getting the threading started can be a bit tough, but keep at it and you will be fine. I find it easiest to place the die in the palm of my hand with one handle sticking out by my thumb and the other by my pinkie when starting. Press down firmly and start to turn it in a clockwise manner.
Each 1/4 to 1/2 turn leave the die on the rod let go and re-position your hand for another 1/4 to 1/2 turn. You don't want to keep lifting up the die and putting it back this will make it harder, so leave the die where it is and just reposition your hand, not the die. It will feel like you aren't getting anywhere for a few turns. Once the die has bitten in you can use 2 hands one on each handle of the die handle to get it moving faster.
Keep turning the die until it has threaded the amount that you require. I went down to just about the door when in the locked position. You may want to turn counter-clockwise occasionally to break some of the metal shavings off and then continue going clockwise.
Once you have enough threaded, turn the die counter-clockwise to unscrew it. You may want to spin it down and up a few times to make sure it is smooth and there are no burrs or metal flecks in the way.
Wipe off the door to get rid of any flakes that are on it, clean up and put the door back on the crate.
Now when the door is locked out the top you have your threads. If you have the washer and wing nut, toss on the washer and tighten the wing nut. You will not be able to open the door unless first unscrewing the wing nut. If you have the Drawer Pull, screw that on.
This has worked so far, it has been the escape proof dog crate!