Opportunities in Safe Deposit Boxes

Professional locksmiths call on a variety of special job skills to generate profits. Things like basic key duplication, rekeying and lock installation are a given. Even selling safes is a common occurrence in lock shops. In addition, there are...

You will also find a mix of left-handed and right-handed locks within a nest. Handing is determined by the position of the hinge. If the hinge is on the right side of the door, it is a right-handed lock. This is why a right-handed lock has the bolt projecting on the left side of the lock. The common design positions the noses of the lock toward the bottom half of the lock body to allow for travel of the levers.

Some brands offer a lock with noses along the center line, allowing them to be used in either the left or right position. Yet another style uses a lock where the bolt is double-ended. Instead of disappearing into the body when unlocked, the bolt simply projects out the other side, also allowing use in either left or right applications.

The common safe deposit lock uses two keys – the renter’s key and the guard key. Neither key can open the box by itself. As the name implies, the renter’s key is held by the person paying a monthly or annual fee to the institution to have access to the vault and individual box. The bank does not keep copies of this key when the box is rented. The guard key is maintained by the bank. Renter keys are all different in a nest of locks and the guard key is identical for all locks in the group.

Both keys must be used at the same time. The guard key is inserted first and turned (lining up the levers) to its stop. Then the renter key is inserted and turned. Two things occur at this point; the renter levers line up and the bolt is withdrawn by the foot on the renter post. The guard key has no foot and cannot withdraw the bolt by itself. In some locks the renter key cannot be fully inserted until the guard key is in the unlocked position.

Some boxes have only one nose. The guard key is inserted first and turned to its stop. This moves and stages the guard block lever. When the guard key is turned back and removed, the renter key is inserted and turned to open the lock.

For the purposes of this article we will look at a common method of attack when the renter keys have been lost. Pulling the nose on the renter side will gain access to the levers and bolt mechanisms. Since the bank has a working guard key, only the renter’s side will have to be attacked.

We’ll look at two methods of pulling the renter nose - using a specially-designed tool and a dent-puller. When the nose is pulled on some safe deposit locks, the horn can be reattached and a new nose and post inserted. Then the lock is rekeyed with new levers or a key is fit using existing levers.

Other than pulling the nose, other methods are available for gaining entry. When a door is pulled or forced instead of manipulating the bolt, the lock will be damaged beyond repair because the bolt will shear and break or tear away the back of the lock housing. These locks will need to be replaced with new or rebuilt locks.

In the case of older nests, you may be dealing with old or obsolete locks and replacement locks may not be easily obtained. These doors can usually be opened by drilling the hinge screws instead of damaging the lock. This calls for repairs to the door itself.



For the first lock we used a Neutralization Kit from Lockmasters, Inc. The Nose and Door Puller Kit is simple and effective. (Photo 2)

The use of a specialty tool is a professional method of attack that will gain access to the box in a matter of minutes. Using this tool, the lock is damaged or destroyed while the door and hinge are not affected. Repair or replacement of the lock is required and the new lock must be set or matched to the guard key the bank is using in that nest.

Other common tools required will be a drill motor, small drill bit, basic screwdrivers and a few probe tools. (Photo 3)

Our first victim is door number 205. (Photo 4)

A small hole is drilled in the center of the renter keyway. A sheet metal screw is tightened into the nose. The tool shaft is positioned and attached to the screw head. On some boxes, the hole is drilled and tapped using a machine screw instead of a sheet metal screw. (Photo 5)

The nylon puller cup is slipped into place over the shaft and the nut and washer is tightened by hand. (Photo 6)

The ratchet wrench is put into place and secures the nut. (Photo 7)

The flat T-handle wrench keeps the threaded shaft stationery while the ratchet wrench turns the nut and begins to pull the nose. (Photo 8)

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