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Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World

Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World

A book was written by a national treasure Dave McOmie, quite possibly the best safe and vault technicians in not only the united states but the world. Always enthusiastic about his career and humble as well one of my favorite quotes I can remember from a class of Daves I took in Texas “There isn’t a safe or vault on this planet I can’t open, however, one of my greatest fears is locking the keys in my car because I wouldn’t have the first clue as to how to get them out”.

Dave truly pioneered the industry with multiple books, classes, penetration parties, and the forum-based website NSO ( National Safecrackers Organization) Daves’s contributions to the industry will be put in the history books for decades to come.This is a fantastic read for both the industry professional and the interested hobbyist who finds safe and vaults interesting, you won’t be disappointed in this purchase,  simply click the link below to place your order today!

Excerpt from Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World —Chapter 2: Your Host:

“As a kid, I was enamored with Alexander Mundy, the debonair safecracker from the 1960s television series, It Takes a Thief. So enamored, in fact, that I enrolled in a locksmithing home-study course and later landed an apprenticeship at a local shop. I found my passion, then my job. It turned into a career.

“My interest in the key-cutting side of the business faded as I became familiar with safes and vaults. The supreme challenge was opening them, and this was reflected in the value difference: we charged five bucks to rekey a door lock, and five hundred to drill a tough safe. It was like learning the coolest magic tricks ever, and getting paid for it.”

Description

Product Description

 

Like a character in a Hitchcock movie, Dave McOmie travels the country breaking into bank vaults, cracking jewelry store safes, and decoding unbreakable codes secured deep in government facilities.

 

Safecracker reveals a shadowy world where tumblers are twirled, skeletons are exposed, and longstanding mysteries are solved. You’ll ride shotgun with Dave for one crazy week, beginning with an impenetrable vault in Vegas with a midnight deadline, and ending with Prince’s ultra-secure music vault in the basement of Paisley Park. In between are factual stories that read like fiction: drilling the same model ATM from the notorious episode of Breaking Bad; meeting a mystery man from the Department of Defense at a remote location to crack two high security safes; chronicling the corruption and ineptitude that dogged efforts to develop the first electronic safe lock to guard our national secrets; tackling a hundred-year-old antique bank vault in downtown Salt Lake City, and more….

 

What’s in all these safes and vaults? Gold and silver, drugs and cash, guns and ammo, family heirlooms and X-rated paraphernalia. And a few secrets that should have remained secret.

 

Shhhhh!

Review

 

When we needed to consult a safecracker for one of our movies, Dave McOmie was the obvious choice. His expertise and wit were matched only by his fantastic stories: drilling the Vegas vault (like Ocean’s Eleven but real!), cracking special safes for the government, opening the late Prince’s bank vault at Paisley Park, and more. These adventures form the core of Safecracker, a fun and fascinating memoir that breaks new ground in the genre — there isn’t anything remotely like it.

 

— Adam Yorke, Head of Development, Wildling Pictures

 

If Jobs and Wozniak had combined their DNA into one person with a passion for safes rather than computers, the result would have been (something very much like) Dave McOmie. Dave is as comfortable with abstract concepts as he is with concrete details, and his innovative safecracking classes have long been the industry gold standard. He is a living legend, and Safecracker is hands-down his best book.

 

— Rick Rolland, Chief Executive Officer, Rolland Safe Co., Inc.

 

 

Ask professional safecrackers who they want in their corner on a tough safe or vault, and they’ll answer in unison: “Dave McOmie.” Dave’s knowledge of his arcane craft is unrivaled, and Safecracker is your backstage pass into the shrouded, whispery world he inhabits.

 

— Martin Holloway, covert entry specialist and President, Hollotec

 

 

The weight of all the drill bits Dave McOmie has used in his long and storied career would sink the Titanic. He’s a monster. He’s also the most prolific author in the field. But in Safecracker, Dave has outdone himself. You’ll root for him when the pressure is on, cheer at each victory, and cross your fingers for a sequel!

 

— Jeff Volosing, President, StrongArm Inc.

 

 

Dave McOmie’s books and articles line the shelves of almost every lock and safe shop in the country. Whether he’s drilling a bank vault, opening a secret safe on a covert op, or teaching Burt Reynolds how to crack safes for a movie, Dave’s adventures have informed and entertained working professionals for decades. Talented wordsmiths are rare, master safecrackers even rarer. Dave is both.

 

— Lance Mayhew, Ada County Lock and Safe, Idaho

 

 

There are givers and takers in this world. Dave McOmie is a giver. He has trained several generations of field technicians, and quite literally wrote the books that the rest of us rely on every day. The truth is, most of us wouldn’t be where we are without him.

 

— C.D. Lipscomb, Navco Safe & Lock, Texas

 

 

Dave’s books and articles jump-started my interest in safes and vaults. Attending one of his famed Penetration Parties was like playing in a football game with Vince Lombardi coaching. Unforgettable.

 

— Michael Jennings, Solid Lock and Safe, Louisiana

 

 

Other than my father, Dave McOmie was the single greatest influence on my career as a safe and vault technician. His willingness to share information and his ability to teach are unparalleled.

 

— Michael McElheney, McElheney Locksmiths, Ohio

 

 

When your vault is locked, don’t go off half-cocked: Call Dave!

 

— Rusty Bramblett, Bramblett Locksmith, Florida

 

Generous with his knowledge and intensely loyal to his industry colleagues, Dave McOmie is the go-to guy when a tough safe or vault is reluctant to reveal its secrets.

 

— T. A. Martin, Antique Safes, Wisconsin

 

Dave McOmie’s dedication to his craft and his fellow safecrackers is matchless. There isn’t anyone quite like the master.

 

— Scott Clark, S.G. Clark Safe Services, New York

 

Every industry has its hero and mentor. In the safe and vault world, we have Dave McOmie.

 

— W. Scott Maness, Blair and Sons Locksmith, Alabama

 

Dave has been the single biggest influence on my career as a professional safe technician. He’s always willing to help, and I‘m eternally grateful for it.

 

— Walt Peterson, Floyd Security, Minnesota

 

If you are in the business of opening safes and vault, Dave is the guy you want to know.

 

— Ernie Lay, BranchServ, North Carolina

 

If it weren’t for Dave, I wouldn’t be the safecracker I am today. Virtually everyone in the trade today can say the same thing.

 

— James Green, Peifer Lock, Tennessee

 

 

Dave’s depth of knowledge on safes and vaults is peerless. He’s truly one of a kind.

 

— J. Drew Van Deventer, Alpine Safe and Lock, Florida

 

 

 

Many years ago, I met Dave McOmie at a convention, but he was so low key I didn’t know who he was. I told him safecracking was pretty simple now that some guy is writing technical books on the subject. My father later pointed out that the guy I was talking to was the author of those very books.

 

— Jacob Feinberg, Carl’s Locksmith Service, Massachusetts

 

 

 

When you need a hand, Dave’s the man!

 

— Jerry Kruss, Certified Lock & Safe, California

 

 

 

Dave McOmie is the authority on safes and vaults. Period. He’s also a great guy, and I’m proud to call him a friend.”

 

— Jim Wiedman, President, Associated Locksmiths of America

 

 

 

Dave McOmie’s books and classes have advanced the skills of thousands of safe and vault technicians around the globe. No other person has had a greater impact on the industry.

 

— Mike Potter, President, Safe and Vault Technicians Association

 

Links provided on this page for the book are affiliate links.
>

 

About the Author

 

Dave McOmie is editor-at-large at The International Safecracker and a member of the Safe & Vault Technicians Hall of Fame. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Washington and resides in the Evergreen State with his wife and children

By |2021-08-09T01:12:03+00:00August 5th, 2021|Book Review, Safe and Vault, Safes, Uncategorized|0 Comments

HES Smart Pac III


Here we have a HES 1006 CS in 12-hour continuous passage with more cycles. The strike was getting hot while receiving continuous power reaching temperatures in excess of 121 degrees Fahrenheit (see figure 1).
  

After purchasing and installing the HES smart pac (See figure 2) the temperature was reduced to a more reasonable temperature and has maintained function well. We recommend installing a smart pac with all heavily used access control systems, especially ones that are receiving continuous power for extended periods of time like this one being put in passage mode for hours on end. (See figure 3)

The author of this post may benefit from a commission from the use of this link.
See the link below to purchase here:

Specs from the manufacturer:

For dependable installations, add the SMART Pac III

The 2005M3 SMART Pac III is an in-line power controller that is able to receive input voltages from 12 to 32V AC or DC. It has a built-in bridge rectifier. The continuous duty timer reduces the initial voltage by 25% to extend the life of the electric strike. Includes built-in resettable fuse, MOV, voltage regulation, and input status LED.

Standard Features

  • Accepts a wide range of input voltage: 12-32 Volts AC* or DC
  • Output 12VDC or 24VDC, depending on input voltage
  • Smart LED Input Status Indicator
  • Built-in bridge rectifier
  • Built-in surge protection / voltage regulation
  • Supports fail-secure or fail-safe configured electric strikes
  • Continuous duty: reduces initial voltage by 25% after a fixed period of time, to provide cooler more efficient operation of the strike
  • Self-resetting overcurrent protection
  • Configures strike eliminating the need for voltage specific pigtails
  • Extends the warranty of HES electric strikes

Installing a SMART Pac III power controller with any new products extends the 1-year warranty on electrical components, including the SMART Pac III, to the full 3-5 warranty term applicable to each Series mechanical component as outlined in standard terms and conditions.

*Note:  For use with a 1006 electric strike, the input voltage must be a filtered DC with a ripple of less than 1 volt RMS.
**Note: The SMART Pac III can not provide an output voltage greater than the input voltage.

Here we have a He’s 1006 CS in 12 hour continuous passage more cycles. The strike was getting hot while receiving continuous power reaching temperatures in excess of 121 degrees Fahrenheit (see figure 1).

After purchasing and installing the HES smart pac (see photo 2) the temperature was reduced to a more reasonable temperature and has maintained function well.We recommend installing a smart pac with all heavily used access control systems, especially ones that are receiving continuous power for extended periods of time like this one being put in passage mode for hours on end. (See figure 3)

See link below to purchase here:
(affiliate link here)
Specs from manufacturer:

For dependable installations, add the SMART Pac III

The 2005M3 SMART Pac III is an in-line power controller that is able to receive input voltages from 12 to 32V AC or DC. It has a built-in bridge rectifier. The continuous duty timer reduces initial voltage by 25% to extend the life of the electric strike. Includes built-in resettable fuse, MOV, voltage regulation and input status LED.

Standard Features

  • Accepts wide range of input voltage: 12-32 Volts AC* or DC
  • Output 12VDC or 24VDC, depending on input voltage
  • Smart LED Input Status Indicator
  • Built-in bridge rectifier
  • Built-in surge protection / voltage regulation
  • Supports fail secure or fail safe configured electric strikes
  • Continuous duty: reduces initial voltage by 25% after a fixed period of time, to provide cooler more efficient operation of the strike
  • Self-resetting over-current protection
  • Configures strike eliminating need for voltage specific pigtails
  • Extends the warranty of HES electric strikes

Installing a SMART Pac III power controller with any new products extends the 1 year warranty on electrical components, including the SMART Pac III, to the full 3-5 warranty term applicable to each Series mechanical component as outlined in standard terms and conditions.

*Note:  For use with a 1006 electric strike, the input voltage must be a filtered DC with a ripple of less than 1 volt RMS.
**Note: The SMART Pac III can not provide an output voltage greater than the input voltage.

Removing Tarnish from Old Keys

Introduction

So maybe you bought out the old shop across town or found a lot of new-old-stock on eBay that was too good to pass up. In that lot there are some good keys but they are tarnished and ugly and customers will not like them that way.   
There is a fair amount of locksmith lore out there on how to clean the tarnish off.  Those methods were tried along with some new methods to finally find two foolproof ways to get the tarnish off without spending a lot of time at it.  The methods fell under three main categories:

  • chemical cleaning
  • mechanical cleaning
  • mechanical and chemical cleaning combined 



Chemical Cleaning

The first methods tried were chemical cleaning.  The chemicals were as follows:

  • Household Ammonia
  • Vinegar (Acetic Acid)
  • Ketchup (Acetic Acid and Tomato Paste)
  • Birchwood Casey Brass Cartridge Case Cleaner (Phosphoric Acid)
  • Lemishine (Citric Acid; found in the dish washer aisle in areas with hard water) 

Birchwood Casey Case Cleaner

Birchwood Casey Case Cleaner


Some of these ranged from free (ketchup packets from the drive through) to $8 for 16oz of concentrated solution in the case of the Case Cleaner.  Tarnished keys were submerged in each liquid overnight.  The bottom line was that all of them removed some tarnish, but none of them really made brass keys look like new.  At best they left a pink tint where the tarnish used to be.  If you only have light tarnish, Ketchup  or vinegar worked as well as anything.  The Case Cleaner was a disappointment, as it seems like it should have worked better than it did. 
After photos of various chemical cleaners - still not that great. Ketchup and Vinegar worked as well as anything.

After photos of various chemical cleaners – still not that great. Ketchup and Vinegar worked as well as anything.

Mechanical Cleaning

After the disappointing results from the chemical cleaning, the next round of testing used manual means to finish up the tarnish left by the chemical methods.  Two brass cleaners were used with a cotton towel to scrub off the tarnish: 

  • Brasso (~$7 per bottle)
  • Simichrome (~$10 per tube)

Brasso

Brasso


Simichrome Polish

Simichrome Polish


They both worked, but it was work.  Had to apply some polish to a rag and rub each key vigorously, then wipe the polish off completely.  The Brasso had a strong ammonia odor.  The Simichrome put on an incredible shine—the keys had a mirror finish afterwards, but again, a lot of work if you have a lot of keys.
The next two methods required specialized equipment:

  • Historic Timekeeper’s cleaner in a heated ultrasonic cleaner (~ $10 for the cleaner from a clock repair supply company, and ~ $100 for an entry level ultrasonic cleaner) 
  • Crushed walnut shells in a vibratory cleaner (A few dollars for crushed walnut shells from a pet store and ~ $85 for a Lyman Twin Tumbler) 

Lyman Twin Tumbler vibratory cleaner; bowl to right is for use with liquids.

Lyman Twin Tumbler vibratory cleaner; bowl to right is for use with liquids.


Fortunately, these tools were already owned for other purposes.  The word fortunate is used because neither really worked!  The ultrasonic cleaner was ran through two of the longest cycles it had, at full heat.  The cleaner was meant to clean antique clock parts, but just did not do much for the keys in question.  The vibratory cleaner shined them up a bit after a few hours, but it still left the worst tarnish behind.

Mechanical and Chemical Cleaning Combined 

Things were looking kind of helpless at this point but then I remembered that coin collectors sometimes use a vibratory cleaner with aquarium gravel and water to remove stubborn corrosion.  So that was tried next.  It was better, but not quite perfect.  It needed a little something extra.  On a hunch, added a tablespoon or so of Bon Ami (a powdered limestone cleaner used for stubborn stains on pots and pans). 

Bon Ami

Bon Ami


The keys came out spotless for once.  It just needed that barely abrasive quality from the Bon Ami.  There was one snag: some small bits of gravel would sometimes lodge in the millings of keys and would have to picked out with a pin.   Also, I discovered that the minute I turned off the vibratory cleaner, the keys needed to come out and be rinsed under fresh water then patted dry, or they would tarnish up worse than ever.  The vibratory cleaner was not that loud and could be left running behind a counter without bothering anyone.
Finally a slight success, but was there another method that would not require bits of gravel to be picked out of groves on keys?  Turned out there were two.  The first method used a rotary tumbler with a few pounds of short stainless-steel pins and water.  People who reload cartridges swear by them these days.  Well, it worked, but mainly I swore at it.  It was hard to keep the lid on tight enough—too lose and water spilled out.  Too tight and the plastic was liable to break.  It was really loud.  Hear it across the street kind of loud.  The keys did come out perfectly tarnish free, but the whole thing was messy, as you had to use screens to separate the keys from the pins from a soup of murky water.  If one does not mind the mess, they have some place where they can run the thing where noise is not a problem, and they have a spare $160 lying around, it is a workable method.  You can run a hundred keys or more at once through it.  But, do not try it with them bunched together on metal shower curtain rings—they need to go in separated.  The unit is equipped with a built-in timer. 
The two methods that worked so far cost a good bit of money and were kind of messy.  Could there be some simple way of doing this?  One could use steel wool and do it by hand, but that is a lot of work and it is hard not to leave scratches.  A wire wheel brush would work great, but they would leave really bad scratches.  But what about a really soft wire wheel brush?  It turns out that Grobet (the guys who make pippen files just right for impressioning) also make rotary wire wheel brushes that are extremely soft.  Last experiment was to get a Grobet wire wheel that use 3 thousandths of an inch thick wires.  The Grobet part number is 16.458.  Midway USA and Brownells, both gunsmith supply houses, carry them.  It does not come with a spindle, so a long bolt and a nut were used to make one.  It was chucked up in a small drill press and turned on at a medium speed.  With spinning wire like this, safety glasses are a good idea.  Now this method does require one key at a time to be held against it and cleaned, but it really works.  Less than a minute to clean up a badly tarnished key, and it seems to magically remove the tarnish without leaving a single scratch on the key.  It has turned out to be a sort of wonder tool in the shop—it can clean rust off of chrome plated items without scratching the chrome.  It took a badly rusted pocketknife that someone was about to throw away, and made it almost look like new.  I accidently touched the spinning wheel once or twice with by bare hand, and it did no damage at all (do not try this).  It seems to remove corrosion and tarnish and leave everything else alone.    

Conclusion

So, the final word in cleaning tarnished keys is to get a soft Grobet wire brush and chuck it up in a drill.  One of the cheapest solutions was the quickest, and it might be useful for other things as well. What about you? What have you removed tarnish with? What do you suggest?

By |2019-10-14T09:00:02+00:00October 14th, 2019|All, Keys|0 Comments

Tubular Locks Added to Key Bitting Specifications

We have launched the tubular lock section of the Key Bitting Specifications page with the following key bitting specifications:

  • American Lock (Tubular)
  • Chicago ACE/ACE II

In the coming weeks and months, we will add more tubular key bitting specifications. These additions will include:

  • Fort (Tubular)
  • Junkunc Brothers (Old American) (Tubular)
  • Van Lock 7

 

By |2019-05-29T09:00:47+00:00May 29th, 2019|All, Key Bitting Specifications, Tools Update|0 Comments

WLS: Storefront Door Exit Indicator Installation Methods

This article is courtesy of Wayne Winton of WaynesLockShop.com. For more “How-To” pictures and videos, including the largest collection of online locksmith training videos, please visit WaynesLockShop.com.

Introduction

Today we are installing a storefront door exit indicator. Exit indicators allow building occupants an unmistakable notification of the lock’s status: either locked or open/unlocked. When an exit indicator is used in conjunction with appropriate signage, such as a sticker that reads “THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED DURING BUSINESS HOURS”, building/life safety codes can allow deadlocks/bolts to be used in lieu of exit devices. This ability is especially important to storefront businesses who desire the extra security that a deadlock/bolt offers. In some cases, the AHJ may also allow cylinders on both sides of the door to be utilized as long as an exit indicator is in use.
Multiple manufacturers offer exit indicators that work in conjunction with storefront door mortise locks. Perhaps the most popular exit indicator is Adams Rite’s 4089. The 4089 exit indicator is compatible with Adams Rite’s MS1837, MS1850S, MS1850S-050, SCH1850S, MS1850SN, MS1850SN-050, SCH1850SN, MS+1890, MS1950, MS1950-050 series deadlocks as well as their 1870, 1870HM, 1877 series cylinder-operated flushbolts.

Installation

Like most jobs, there is more than one way to do something and installing a new exit indicator is no different.
The first way is with a jig and router. In the video below, I am using the HIT-45AR2 template with the HIT-45 modular clamp. It allows for a quick, professional, factory-like installation in the field. Also in the video is a second way: “freehanding” with a step-bit and a drill. Take a moment to check out both methods in action as well as a few additional tips.

Photos

For a closer look, here are some job site photos from other installations:












By |2019-03-07T09:00:56+00:00March 7th, 2019|All, Mortise, Wayne's Lock Shop|1 Comment

SFIC Pinning Calculator Tool Launched

Introduction

We have launched the Pinning Calculators page in the Tools Section with our first downloadable pinning calculator. This pinning calculator covers all three pinning systems used in standard Small Format Interchangeable Core products from almost every manufacturer. This tool will allow locksmiths to quickly and easily calculate the pin combinations needed for 2-Level master keyed and non-mastered SFIC systems.

Navigation

This tool is optimized for desktop use and requires Microsoft Excel, LibreOffice Calc, or any similar program capable of working with .xlsx files. Simply download the file and open it in your spreadsheet application of choice. Instructions are included on each page and the pinning array will automatically adjust as you enter your key bittings, including shading pins to alert you to invalid pin combinations.

Future Updates

In the near future we plan to introduce additional calculators supporting more brands and pinning systems as well as calculators capable of dealing with more complex master keyed systems.

By |2019-02-28T09:00:49+00:00February 28th, 2019|All, Tools Update|0 Comments

WLS: Installing a Falcon SC81 Door Closer

This article is courtesy of Wayne Winton of WaynesLockShop.com. For more “How-To” pictures and videos, including the largest collection of online locksmith training videos, please visit WaynesLockShop.com.
Today we are installing a Falcon SC81 door closer. The SC81 is a medium-duty closer suited for light- to medium-duty, interior or exterior applications. It is is non-handed and fits the very popular 12″ x 3/4″ footprint, the same as Norton’s 8000 and LCN’s 1450 series closers. The SC81 has been tested to meet ANSI/BHMA A156.A Grade 1 standards and comes with a 10 year warranty. For more information, see pages 8-11 in Falcon’s Closers Catalog.

The SC81 packaging and label.


As with all door hardware installations, proper layout and preparation is important to ensure a quality, long-lasting installation. Start by taking a moment to tape your installation instructions to a wall next to the door. This allows you to easily reference them throughout the installation.

Falcon SC81 installation instructions.


The Falcon SC81 can be mounted in different configurations, such as regular arm or parallel. Since this installation will be a regular arm mount, we need to identify the appropriate instructions for it.

Door and frame preparation instructions for a Falcon SC81, regular arm installation.


Now that we know our measurements, let’s start making for them. An automatic center punch makes this part of the installation fast.

Measuring for a Falcon SC81 door closer installation.


Measuring for a Falcon SC81 door closer installation.


With one hole marked, we can use the closer body to mark the remaining 3 holes.

Marking for the 3 remaining holes.


All 4 holes marked.


This installation, like all commercial applications, should be through-bolted. We start by drilling a pilot hole through all 4 mounting holes.

Drilling the pilot holes.


In addition to the closer’s body, we also need to mark for the closer arm’s shoe.

Marking for a Falcon SC81 door closer’s shoe.


Like the door closer body, we can use the closer arm’s shoe to mark the remaining hole.

Marking for the door closer arm’s shoe.


With all holes marked, we can now install the closer. We start by enlarging the holes for the closer’s body and attaching the through-bolts.

Through-bolts started.


With the through-bolt’s tightened, we can then mount the shoe to the frame.

Once you finish mounting the closer and arm/shoe, we can adjust the latch and sweep valves to put the final touches on the installation.

Once we are satisfied with the closing speed(s), all that’s left is to apply the closer’s cover and pack up!

Finished installation.

By |2019-02-18T09:00:24+00:00February 18th, 2019|All, Door Closers, Wayne's Lock Shop|0 Comments

Installing a RFID/EAS system

This week we’re featuring a guest column by Wayne Winton of WaynesLockShop.com. If you would like to submit a guest column, contact us.

Introduction

What the heck are RFID or EAS systems? The details are readily available via Wikipedia or other sources, but in a nutshell, they’re the things that beep if you exit a store and the tag hasn’t been deactivated during checkout. We’ve all heard them before, but not many of us know how they work or how to install them, even though they’re a huge part of the security industry. Stores are literally spending billions on theft prevention, and they’re not spending the bulk of that money on locks; it’s on these systems to catch criminals in the act. We all know that investing in layers of security is important, and this is one of those layers.
I received a call to see if I would be willing to bid on installing one of these systems in a very high-end clothing store. I was in the middle of replying “no,” but I caught myself mid sentence. I had a flash thought and quick conversation with myself. “Hmm… maybe this could be a new source of income and a new skill for me to learn. How hard could it be?”
So I started asking questions about what was involved and the total process. Turns out, it didn’t sound that bad, with the exception of making a slot 56″ x 9″ x 56″ x 9″ rectangle in solid concrete 1″ wide x 1½” deep. Oh yes, and don’t make any dust whatsoever!
So, my brain computes the numbers and the solution, and I responded to the caller. “OK, I’ll do it. Here’s my price.” I bid high enough that I wanted to scare them away, but to my surprise, they gladly agreed. It started to sink in that I was now committed to doing this!
I did the proper research on cutting concrete and how to keep dust down and added a bit of my own thoughts into the mix and came up with a plan. I always look at every job that seems difficult and tell myself, “There is some man or woman doing the same thing somewhere right now, so it can be done. I just need to learn how.” The following description and photos will explain exactly how I did just that.

The Job Begins

Upon arriving to the job site, I surveyed the area and double and triple-check my installation measurements. Then, only when I was 100% positive of the location, I began measuring my cut out (see Figures 1-3). I used a large 4′ x 2′ square to make sure everything was centered and a perfect square. I crosshatched out the area to be cut to avoid confusion from all the lines laid out. Having a good plan and staying committed to it is the key to a good job. I had never cut concrete in my life, so it was important to stay on track and organized.

Figure 1.


Figure 2


Figure 3


I decided to use a cordless 18V Milwaukee 7½” saw equipped with a diamond blade to make my cuts. I’m highly invested in the system, and I had plenty of batteries to keep it turning. I did bring a corded unit just in case, along with a backup blade. So, rigged up and ready to go, I set the cut depth to 1½” (Figure 4) — and I had a secret weapon.

Figure 4

The Secret Weapon

This is the part where I added my own thoughts into the equation. I sealed a shop vac attachment to the largest part of the saw and sealed the rest of the openings up with Gorilla tape to make a tight suction (Figures 5-9).

Figure 5


Figure 6


Figure 7


Figure 8


Figure 9


This ensured every bit of dust got sucked into the shop vac and didn’t land in the store or on the high-end clothes. This was the one bit of information I couldn’t find online: how to keep the dust contained without using water. Water wasn’t an option in this location at all, so this was my solution to the problem. You never know if a new untested idea will work until you hit the power button and see your plan in action. It worked flawlessly! Truly not one speck of dust could escape. It’s one of the ideas that came together in the field perfectly (that doesn’t happen that often). I could hear the shop vac struggling about halfway through, so we took a break, emptied it out and cleaned the filter outside. We examined how the cutting was going (Figures 10-11).

Figure 10


Figure 11

The Work Continues

After adjusting to cut the lines out as measured and being sure I cut well past the corners to ensure proper depth, it was time to bring out the air compressor. Again, we were faced with the dreaded dust issue.
Using an air chisel (Figure 12) with the shop vac hovering over every move, it was time to clean the slot out.

Figure 12


This was to ensure it was the proper depth to fit the wire and plastic conduit while having room to seal it back up in concrete (Figure 13-14). After the slot was cleaned out and dust-free, it was time to see if the loop fit. The system is basically a dual copper wire in plastic conduit in a premeasured circle or rectangle, leaving enough wire to run to a computer system that reads the signal when the tag comes within a certain radius.

Figure 13


Figure 14


I crossed my fingers and really hoped my planning paid off. Success! It fit like a glove, and no further modification was needed (Figure 15).

Figure 15


The wires run over to the wall, where white conduit covers it along the baseboard to the receiver (disguised in a heater vent) and then back out to a power source converting the system to low-voltage 12V power. This allowed me to be able to work on it in the first place (Figure 16).

Figure 16


I then needed to cut a hole in the wall to hide the receiver and place the heater vent over it to hide it. A spot was measured out and cut (Figure 17), but a false wall was discovered; mounting had to be reevaluated.

Figure 17


We cut a larger hole, and the system was mounted vertically. (Figure 18).

Figure 18


Then, the heater vent was placed to see if it would conceal the unit (Figure 19).

Figure 19


Then came the really scary part: checking to see if the system worked and setting the sensitivity. For this, the receiver housing must be opened and the wires attached (Figure 20).

Figure 20


The knob in the unit adjusts the sensitivity and how far the tag needs to be from the wires in the ground to set off the alarm (Figure 21). Now I’m no tech guru, so tech support for the unit was able to walk me through the process. It was pretty simple, really.

Figure 21


The deactivating pad was installed under the desk (Figure 22), along with the alarm pad (Figure 23). Again, wires were run and disguised under a power strip threshold to provide power to these units — also quite simple. The system was tested repeatedly and screwed down into place.

Figure 22


Figure 23

Wrapping Up

After noting the entire system was working properly, it was time to seal it all up and make my mess look pretty. I mixed up some Portland cement (no rocks) to fill in the groove (Figure 24) and then troweled the mixture to a smooth finish (Figure 25).

Figure 24


Figure 25


This made it look as if we were never there once the carpet was placed over it. Then, we caulked in all the conduit and made it seamless from the floor to the power source; we made it very professional looking (Figure 26-27).

Figure 26


Figure 27


Finally, we replaced the carpet and threshold to make it look like we were never even there (Figure 28).

Figure 28


We received approval from the manager of the store and the company who hired me to do the job, and there was nothing more to do but clean up and pack up tools. This job sounds ultra-complicated, but when broken down into individual tasks, it suddenly becomes much more manageable and simple. Really, the most difficult part of the job was keeping it clean. No one part was actually that difficult or intense.
So, the next time you get a call to try something outside your comfort zone, break it down into pieces and individual tasks, and give it a go. You might be surprised at what you can do — and the price you can charge — when you think outside the box.

By |2018-11-01T09:00:31+00:00November 1st, 2018|Access Control, All|1 Comment

Ratings for Safes

Banner courtesy of Wayne Winton with WaynesLockShop.com.

Types of Safes

Safes come in a variety of shapes and sizes for different applications. Understanding the differences and the applications of each type is key to helping your customers meet their security and compliance needs. Some insurance policies (particularly in Europe) will set requirements for safes based on the value of the safe’s contents while government agencies and contractors handling sensitive documents and materials will often be required to use containers and locks that meet specifications issued by the government (in the U.S., Federal Specification FF-L-2740B is the most commonly encountered). When recommending a product to a customer it is important to get these details at the outset as they will narrow the options significantly.
Probably the cheapest and most common types of safe encountered in the United States are “Fire Safes”. These containers may look like their sturdier cousins but they offer very limited protection against burglars and are only intended to protect valuables from damage in a fire. They are often equipped with low quality wafer locks or proprietary, built-in combination locks that offer limited customization. A customer who needs a way to protect their important personal documents from damage in a house fire would be well served with a fire safe. While many fire safes may be labeled as “Theft Resistant” or even gain the RSC (Residential Security Container) certification, these ratings merely certify that the container has a lock on it and can withstand a few minutes of attack from a screwdriver and/or small hammer. Fire resistance ratings are usually defined under UL 72.
Burglar safes tend to be much more expensive than their fire resistant relatives and come in a huge variety of styles and rating schemes. The oldest safe rating scheme still in use uses the labels B Rate, B/C Rate, and C Rate. These standards have their origin in the 19th century and generally are only concerned with the thickness of the steel used to construct the sides and door(s) of a safe. Newer standards, such as UL 687 and UL 1037, require each container to be tested by experts to determine its resistance to both environmental hazards and skilled attackers and apply various ratings based on the results; these graduated ratings allow a customer to select a safe that meets their needs without forcing them to purchase a significantly more expensive model. Additional features important to consider are added anti-tamper features, such as relockers (which carry a UL 140 rating).

Fire Resistance Ratings

In the United States the most commonly used rating system for fire resistant containers is Underwriters Laboratories’ UL 72 standard. UL 72 lays out three possible classes for fire resistance based on their ability to maintain an internal temperature for a certain amount of time. The classes are Class 350, Class 150, and Class 125. Each class has an additional rating for the number of hours of heating the safe can withstand, usually ranging from 1/2 an hour to 4 hours. For example, a Class 350 fire safe rated for up to half an hour of exposure would be listed as “Class 350-½” while the same class of container rated for 3 hours protection would be “Class 350-3”. Class 350 containers may be referred to as ‘document safes’ while Class 150 and Class 125 containers may be referred to as ‘media safes’ or ‘data safes’.

Class 350

The minimum possible rating. These fire safes can maintain an internal temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit for the rated amount of time which makes them suitable for protecting paper (paper combusts at approximately 450°F). Class 350 fire safes can be rated for as little as 30 minutes or as high as 4 hours. Some manufacturers offer inserts which can reach better temperature ratings when placed inside a Class 350 rated container.

Class 150

These fire safes can maintain an internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the rated amount of time which makes them suitable for protecting many types of magnetic tape, photographic film, and optical computer disks (CDs, DVDs, etc). Class 150 fire safes can be rated for as little as 30 minutes or as high as 4 hours. Some manufacturers offer inserts which can reach better temperature ratings when placed inside a Class 150 rated container.

Class 125

These fire safes can maintain an internal temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit for the rated amount of time. Class 125 containers were originally introduced to protect floppy disks, however it still provides the best protection against fire damage available. Class 125 fire safes can be rated for as little as 30 minutes or as high as 4 hours.

Burglary Resistance Ratings

In the United States UL 1037 and UL 687 are the primary standards for rating a container against burglary but some general industry standards are still used. UL 1037 defines the RSC (Residential Security Container) classifications while UL 687 certifies a variety of burglary resistance ratings. Burglary safes should be considered on a number of criteria in addition to attack resistance rating including weight (heavier is usually better), capacity, size, and boltwork; anti-drill hardplate, relockers, and alarms are popular options.

Residential Security Containers (RSC)

The original standard for RSC rating only offered a single level of rating (essentially a pass/fail) certifying the container could withstand a five minute attack using common hand tools (a screwdriver and a small hammer). In 2016 the standard was updated to provide additional nuance in the form of “levels”. RSC is the most common rating for gun safes sold in the United States, state and local laws concerning the storage of firearms will often specify minimum ratings for use in firearm storage. RSC rated containers typically weigh less than 750 pounds.

RSC Level 1

The minimum rating to achieve certification. This certifies that the container can withstand five minutes of a single person attempting to force the container open using common hand tools such as screwdrivers, small hammers, and drills.

RSC Level 2

This certifies that the container can withstand a 10 minute attack by two people attempting to make a six square inch opening in the door/front of the container using more advanced tools including high speed drills with carbide bits and pry bars.

RSC Level 3

This certifies that the container can withstand a 10 minute attack by two people attempting to make a two square inch opening in the door/front of the container using more advanced and aggressive tools.

Safe Industry and Insurance Ratings

These classifications have their roots in the 19th century when payrolls moved across the country by trains as bundles of cash or precious metals. These ratings specify the thickness of steel used in the containers construction but do not provide certification of their performance against skilled attack. Because of the nature of the rating prices for these containers will fluctuate based on the price of steel. While many safes and containers are still sold using these ratings they are of limited use in evaluating modern safes as UL  687 ratings provide a much better idea of a container’s performance under real world conditions.

Class B / B Rate

B Rate safes have a half inch (0.5″) thick solid steel door and quarter inch (0.25″) thick solid steel walls. B Rate safes are sufficient to withstand a significant amount of brute force attempts to open them.

Class C / C Rate

C Rate safes have a one inch (1.0″) thick solid steel door and half inch (0.5″) thick solid steel walls. C Rate safes are sufficient to withstand a significant amount of brute force attempts to open them but usually only have the same anti-tamper countermeasures as B Rate safes.

UL 687 Burglary Resistance Ratings

UL 687 provides certification of a safe’s performance under a variety of skilled and semi-skilled attacks. UL 687 ratings can seem complex but are quite simple once broken down. A UL 687 rating consists of one or more two letter codes indicating the type of attack(s) tested (TL, TR, and TX), two numbers indicating the number of minutes it is certified to withstand such attacks (15, 30, 60), and optionally an additional letter and number (usually “x6”) indicating the number of sides that were tested. A safe must weight at least 750 pounds and have a body constructed of metal equivalent to one inch thick steel in order to be considered for classification under UL 687.

TL

TL indicates the safe has been tested to withstand skilled attacks using common hand tools and power tools. These tools include chisels, screwdrivers, hammers, sledge hammers (up to 8 pounds), carbide drills, and pry bars (under five feet long).

TR

TR indicates the safe has been tested to resist cutting torches and oxyacetylene welding equipment.

TX

TX indicates that the safe has been tested to withstand attacks using cutting torches and high explosives such as nitroglycerin.

Examples of Common UL 687 Ratings

TL-15 certifies that the door/front face of the safe can withstand 15 minutes of skilled attack with hand tools and power tools when fitted with a UL listed lock. TL-15×6 certifies that all six sides of a safe can withstand the same type and duration of attack. TL-30 certifies that the front/door of the safe can withstand such attacks for 30 minutes.
TRTL-15×6 certifies that all sides of the safe can withstand 15 minutes of skilled attack by hand tools, power tools, and cutting torches when fitted with a UL Listed Group 1, Group 1R, or Type 1 safe lock. TRTL-30 certifies that the front/door of the safe can withstand the same types of attack for 30 minutes.
TXTL-60 and TXTL-60×6 certify that the safe can withstand a full hour of attack with hand tools, power tools, cutting torches, and high explosives. As of 2011 UL was phasing out support for the TXTL classification but safes carrying that certification are still on the market.

Important Considerations

Many of your customers will likely only need a small fire resistant safe to protect important documents and the like in case of a house fire. Higher end fire resistant safes can even offer some theft protection when fitted with a Group 2 combination lock and placed somewhere out of the way but they should not be relied upon for preventing burglary or theft of high value items. In case a customer requires both high levels of fire resistance and burglary resistance there are combination fire and burglary safes on the market but at a significant cost.
Safes of all ratings come in various form factors. The most common are wall safes designed to be installed in a concrete or cinder-block wall, floor safes designed to sit on the floor (some smaller fire rated safes may be able to fit on a shelf or table), and in-floor safes (designed to be set into a concrete floor). There are also special purpose safes such as deposit safes which have a slot or chute in the top to allow people to drop envelopes or forms into a secure container.
When dealing with burglary rated safes the primary factor driving the requirements is likely to be cost and insurance or regulatory compliance. In the United States the GSA (General Services Administration) certifies safes and secure containers for different uses by government agencies. Many government contractors have to comply with the same regulations when handling sensitive or classified materials. Banks often need deposit safes for tellers and to accept out of hours deposits as well as safes for their ATMs. Private residences looking to have burglary safes installed must often meet certain requirements set by their insurance policies. If you wish to begin selling and servicing safes, it is wise to familiarize yourself with your potential customer base and any regulations or requirements they may be subject to.

By |2018-10-25T09:00:46+00:00October 25th, 2018|All, Safe and Vault, Safes|0 Comments

Ratings for Safe Locks

Types of Safe Locks

The most common types of safe locks on the market are mechanical combination locks, these are mostly based on design principles refined over centuries. More recently electronic and electro-mechanical combination locks have become available and offer a variety of advanced features. Today almost all types of safe lock use a standard form factor and mounting so that any modern safe can be easily fitted with the lock of your choice regardless of the manufacturer or technology of the lock.
Given the array of options it is necessary to determine your customer’s needs when deciding on the type of lock you want before considering specific models or security ratings. Mechanical combination locks can be slow to dial and require a degree of precision, electronic locks typically use keypads with push buttons which can allow rapid and accurate entering of combinations even for a person with limited dexterity.



Mechanical combination locks are very reliable requiring only occasional lubrication for decades of use, electronic locks on the other hand will require replacement batteries (at least once per year on average) in addition to mechanical maintenance. Mechanical safe locks typically can only be set to accept a single combination which must be shared with anyone else requiring access to the safe. Modern electronic safe locks can often be set to accept multiple unique access codes so that each user of the safe can have their own unique code as well as offering options such as anti-tamper alarms and ‘duress codes’ that can alert an alarm monitoring center. Consider these factors when deciding on what type of lock to use or recommend.
Some insurance policies (particularly in Europe) will set requirements for safe locks based on the value of the safe’s contents while government agencies and contractors handling sensitive documents and materials will often be required to use containers and locks that meet specifications issued by the government (in the US Federal Specification FF-L-2740B is the most commonly encountered). When recommending a product to a customer it is important to get these details at the outset as they will narrow the options significantly.

Mechanical Safe Lock Ratings

In the United States the most commonly used rating system for mechanical combination locks used on safes is Underwriters Laboratories’ UL 768 standard. UL 768 lays out four possible ratings for combination locks, known as Groups. In order from lowest to highest the ratings are: Group 2, Group 2M, Group 1, and Group 1R. In order to attain any rating under UL 768 a combination lock must meet certain minimum criteria regarding the design of the mechanism and provide at least 1,000,000 (one million) unique combinations.  In Europe the most common standards are EN1300 and VdS certification, while these standards are not directly interchangeable, VdS Class 2 or EN 1300 Class B locks are essentially equivalent to UL 768 Group 2 or 2M locks. For potential buyers in Europe it is highly recommended to consult with your insurance provider on their requirements for both secure container and lock ratings.

Group 2

The minimum possible rating. These locks meet the basic requirements for build tolerances, durability, and accuracy. The combination wheel must be accurate to one and a half of a digit or less when the combination is entered. Group 2 combination locks are considered to have “a moderate degree of resistance” to opening by unauthorized people. These locks are usually sufficient to prevent accidental opening of a safe or opening by a person with little to no knowledge of safe manipulation techniques. These locks are common for B and C rated safes but should not be used on higher rated containers.

Group 2M

Group 2M is a relatively recent addition to the UL 768 standard and indicates a slightly higher level of security against manipulation than the basic Group 2 designs. Group 2M locks are supposed to provide up to two hours of resistance to expert attempts at manipulation. These are the most commonly used locks for higher rated safes and containers such as TL-15 and TL-30 rated safes.

Group 1

Group 1 locks offer the highest level of manipulation resistance available to most civilian buyers and are often required for sensitive government applications. These locks offer up to 20 hours of resistance to manipulation by a single expert. The dial must be mechanically accurate to within 1.25 digits of the correct number on a three digit lock or 1.5 digits on a four digit lock. Group 1 locks must also have features to immobilize the bolt if the lock case is compromised or the spindle is punched out. Group 1 locks are suggested for TL-30×6 or TRTL-30 rated safes and up.

Group 1R

The rarest of the UL 768 ratings, Group 1R locks must meet all the requirements of Group 1 ratings but also resist up to 20 hours of manipulation or decoding using X-ray or similar radiological imaging techniques. These locks may use shielding (such as lead) to prevent x-ray penetration or they may employ x-ray transparent materials such as certain types of plastic to prevent x-ray imaging.
Surprisingly, in most cases there is not a significant price difference between the classes of mechanical safe locks. With this in mind the primary considerations affecting the selection of lock for a safe will be the rating of the container and requirements set by insurance policies or government regulations. Group 2 locks are adequate for most fire safes and Residential Security Containers to maintain their ratings, while Group 2M is the minimum required for low end burglary-resistant safes (TL-15 and TL-30) or ATM safes to maintain their ratings. High security safes must use Group 1 or 1R locks to retain their attack resistance ratings. Additionally most governments will require containers used to store sensitive materials or firearms to be secured with a lock meeting a certain minimum rating.

UL 768 and GSA Approved Containers

US Government agencies and contractors storing classified materials or weapons and ammunition are required to use GSA Approved containers (safes and cabinets) fitted with locks which exceed even the highest grade of UL 768 certification. These locks must meet the requirements of Federal Specification FF-L-2740B (locks for protection of classified materials), FF-L-2937 (mechanical combination locks for protection of weapons and ammunition), or FF-L-2890B (pedestrian door locks for secure rooms and SCIFs). Certification of locks under those standards is administered by the General Services Administration (GSA) in cooperation with the Department of Defense Lock Program. Purchase of locks certified under FF-L-2740B and FF-L-2890B is restricted to the Federal Government, US Government contractors, and organizations or people specifically authorized by the US Government.

Electronic Safe Lock Ratings

In the United States UL 2058 is the primary standard for electronic safe locks. Locks which are certified to meet the criteria of UL 2058 are often listed as “UL Type 1“. Like mechanical locks, electronic locks are required to offer a minimum of 1,000,000 (one million) possible combinations however there are several unique requirements for electronic locks. To aid reliability and prevent accidental lock outs batteries must be stored in the keypad on the outside of the door so that they can be replaced even when the container is locked and combinations must be stored in non-volatile memory so that codes will not be lost when the lock loses power. To prevent decoding or manipulation of the lock all storage, and processing of combinations must occur in electronics located on the secure side of the door (ie inside the container).
UL 2058 also lays out a variety of durability requirements intended to ensure the lock will continue to function even with a certain amount of rough handling or in less than ideal environments. Unlike UL 768’s multiple grades, UL 2058 currently only offers the one grade which makes it essentially a pass/fail system. Using an electronic lock that is not rated as UL Type 1 is not recommended on any burglary rated safe.

By |2018-10-18T09:00:17+00:00October 18th, 2018|All, Combination Safe Locks, Safe and Vault|2 Comments
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