Essential Tools For Today’s Locksmith

Steve Young shares his top 10 tools in three categories: automotive, residential/commercial and safe and vault servicing.


Dead-Blow Hammer – Without a doubt this is the one tool that I have used to open more safes than any other. When a mechanical lock hangs up, or a piece of debris is trapped between the bolt and the frame of the safe, there is no better tool to apply the shock you need without damaging the door. Dead-blow hammers use lead or steel shot contained inside the head to apply a shocking blow without the bounce-back that you would get from a traditional hammer. In addition, the outside of the hammer head is usually coated with a rubber or plastic coating so that you minimize damage to the painted surfaces of the safe. You can get a good dead-blow hammer from a variety of sources including Sears, Harbor freight and most locksmith distributors. They also come in a variety of sizes and weights, for different jobs.

The Diebold 175-70 pick from Lock Defeat Technology – This tool was designed by Phil Shearer, and it works so well that some banks won’t let you use it. With this tool you can almost always pick open a Diebold 175-70 lock with no damage at all. Unfortunately, some banks don’t want their customers to know that the lock on their safe deposit locks can be picked at all. So, even though this pick can do the job in seconds without damage, you may still have to pull the door in a lot of cases. But if the bank will let you use the tool, you can be in and out quickly and cleanly. The only caution that I have is that you need to know exactly what you are doing when you attempt to use the tool. Read the instructions carefully and practice on a lock in a vise before you attempt to use the tool in the field. The tool is a rugged, quality built tool, but it is not idiot-proof. About the only way that you can damage the tip of the tool is through carelessness or misuse. If you do manage to damage the tip, expect to pay for your error.

Diebold Change tool – This is a factory tool that is manufactured by Diebold (part number 509) and sold by most safe and vault distributors. The tool includes a clutch so that you will never strip out a change screw. Sure, you can use makeshift tools to do the same job, but why would you want to? This tool works on the Diebold 175-70 locks and the Ilco 5400 series locks and will cost you less than the one lock that you will inevitably mess up by over-tightening the change screw.

Keedex Change Key Set – There is no more aggravating feeling than to spend half an hour find a parking space, then after locating the custodian of the safe, you discover that the change key you need is back in your truck! The Keedex change key sets keep all of the change keys that you’re likely to need in one easy to used tool. It sure beats a bunch of loose change keys in a key blank box!

ITL2000II™ Auto Dialer from Intralock – Think of this tool as a robot technician that never gets tired or bored. You can set this gadget up in a matter of minutes, turn it on and come back the next day and it will have dialed all of the 1 million possible combinations on a traditional three-wheel lock. If you know even one number of the combination you can shorten the time required to find the combination to less than an hour. It even has an adjustable speed setting for dealing with locks that have loose or unlocked wheels. This is like having a hard working helper that will never ask for a raise or even a paycheck! If you are serious about safe work you need one of these, even if it is only to demonstrate to your customers why they need to upgrade to electronic locks.

Roll-A-Lift set – This is the solution for moving almost any safe that you may need to move. I’ve had access to one of these sets for about 20 years, and would never want to try to move a safe without it. They are essentially a set of two heavy-duty hand trucks with hydraulic lifts that you can strap onto the safe. I’ve moved supermarket safes, cannonball safes, and many gun safes by myself with one of these. Once I even moved a wrecked car that only had three wheels with this. After you get it into position and tighten the straps, you just pump up the two hydraulic jacks and you’re ready to go. You can get them with steel wheels or rubber coated steel wheels that won’t mar most flooring. If you need to move safes on a regular basis you need one of these.

A quality drill rig – There are many different makes on the market, and no one rig is ever going to be able to deal with every circumstance. Versatility is the key. After all, a rig that is secured by chains wrapped around the safe will have a hard time on a safe that is mounted in a wall or in the floor. Magnetic drill rigs are hard to use on floor safes, and simply will not hold on some fire safes that have a thin outer skin over the cladding. When you choose a drill rig, choose wisely and shop around. In my opinion, the most important feature on any rig that mounts to the safe, is the ability to either remove the drill, or move it out of the way, and then put it back exactly where it was with a minimum of effort. If you have to re-mount the rig every time you want to take a close look into your hole, you’ll soon be looking for a different rig.

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