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...

Note: While most safe deposit doors are solid metal, this one was constructed of a hollow channel material. As pressure was being applied the door began to depress very slightly inward. We stopped and removed the nut, puller cup and shaft and the door returned to its original shape.

Using the included rectangular nylon spacing block as a bridge, we began again. The block puts the stress on the outer edges of the nest framework, bridging over the hollow door and spreads contact pressure on the door to prevent door from denting or collapse. (Photo 9)

Remounting and reattaching the cup, shaft and nut assembly got us back in action. (Photo 10)

Slowly tightening the nut pulled the nose away from and out of the lock plate. (Photo 11)

With the post and attached foot removed, inspection of the lock with a screwdriver or probe allows removal of any shavings or small parts loosened during the pulling process. (Photo 12)

With the guard key inserted and turned, use a probe tool to reach under and behind the renter lever stack to ascertain that they have dropped away from the fence. Use the probe to gain access to the bolt mechanism and retract the bolt. (Photo 13)

The door is open! (Photo 14)



A common dent puller is also effective but doesn’t present the same degree of professionalism as using the specialty tool. As stated above, using either tool normally damages or destroys the lock without compromising the door and hinge.

At the next bank, our victim is door number 1838. After verifying it is the correct door with the bank official, a small hole is drilled into the renter post. Using a small screwdriver traps the keyway to prevent any spinning during drilling. (Photo 15)

The hole is drilled and ready. (Photo 16)

The Dent-Puller/Slam-Hammer is ready for action, along with various probe tools. (Photo 17)

Inserted and screwed into place, a quick slam of the weight along the shaft removes the nose and post from the renter side. The foot may come out at the same time or may remain inside the lock body. (Photo 18)

Using a modified safe deposit key blank as a probe, the position and resistance on the bolt is felt. (Photo 19)

With the guard key in position and turned, a probe tool is used to locate and withdraw the bolt mechanism, unlocking the door. (Photo 20)

With the door open, the lock is removed to be rebuilt, repaired or replaced. If the bank doesn’t have another lock on hand, the screws are reinserted into the door so they can be used again when the lock is replaced. (Photo 20)



The methods shown in this article show two different methods of pulling the nose on safe deposit locks. There are other methods of entry to a safe deposit box including picking and manipulation of the levers, impressioning or cutting a key by code information or accessing records of the cuts.

It should be noted that drilling for the bolt fence, bolt mechanism and drilling out the hinge screws are possible methods of compromising the box. While repair to the door is required, some of these methods will not damage the lock – an important consideration when you have no replacement lock available.

When you get to the job, how do you know whether to pull the nose, drill for the hinge screws, or what course of action to use? The best method of entry is determined by considering the following factors:


  • The Lock – Identify the lock in use. If it is a newer lock, damaging the lock is usually no problem since it can be easily replaced. The bank may or may not have a stock of replacement locks on hand. If it is an older, obsolete lock, a replacement may be hard to find if it is available at all. The costs, availability and replacement labor will necessitate a return call and additional labor time. In most cases, don’t destroy it if you can’t replace it!
  • Time – Does the bank need to re-rent this box immediately or do they have other empty boxes available?
  • The Renter – When a key is lost, the renter usually bears the cost. In this case you must set a firm appointment to meet with the bank official and the renter so they can be present when the box is opened.
  • The Non-Pay – If the agreed rent amount is defaulted upon, the bank follows a series of rules to contact the renter and resolve the non-payment issue. After a stated period of time – or when a person dies and rent is not received – the bank will take control of the box. In these cases you probably will meet with the bank official only.
  • The Bank – It’s usually up to the bank manager or official to determine how quickly the box needs to be opened and who bears the cost of labor and materials. They may want it immediately and replacement is not an issue. Or, time is not a factor but the lock must be replaced to original specifications.
  • Protocol – Professionalism is a must. Never reach in and pull out or open a safe deposit box by yourself. There is a tremendous liability involved. A bank official and/or the renter must be present when you are doing the work. Once the door is open, allow the bank official or the renter to withdraw the box from the nest and open the lid.

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