Back Page, February 2023

Feb. 2, 2023

10 Years Ago

Jerry Levine shared tips for selling gun safes, which have increased in popularity over the past 10 years. He also wrote a guide to California Department of Justice requirements for gun safes. Our 2013 National Average Price Survey found that the average service call was priced at $68, and the average hourly rate was $45. Tim O’Leary wrote about Vanderbilt Industries’ entry into the access control market with its purchase of the bright blue and Security Management System lines from Schlage. Levine installed the LockeyUSA E910 Series battery-powered, electronic keyless deadbolt lock on a residential door. Lori Greene’s article, “Code-Compliant Doors: What to Look For,” provide tips for making sure fire and egress doors meet NFPA code requirements. Levine addressed meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. A case study covered Kutztown University’s upgrade from mechanical keys to electronic access control. Steve Kaufman interviewed apprentice locksmith Zac Grant as part of our 30 Under 30 series.

20 Years Ago

High-security locks were the focus in our February 2003 issue. Jerry Levine reported on Assa Twin V-10 locks. Gale Johnson introduced Pfaffenhain products, from a popular European lock manufacturer. Jerry Levine also showed how to rekey a Master Lock Python cable lock. Dale Bowman, Medeco, explained how to service its special lock for Otis elevators. Tom Gillespie reported on the Schlage Primus lock system. Tim O'Leary checked out the security of Lori L-10 lock systems. Dick Zunkel suggested automatic door openers as a new profit center for locksmiths. Tom Gillespie offered suggestions on running a locksmith business. Levine installed a 4-foot door and frame in place of an old double-door installation. Gillespie also reported on Powerstar inverters. Tiny serviced the locks on a 1997 Honda Passport.

Safe-Deposit Lock Servicing

The vast majority of safe-deposit lock work is done by dedicated bank-equipment service companies. For that reason, many independent locksmiths believe that they simply can’t get that type of work. 

The problem with bank-equipment service companies is that they try to schedule their work weeks in advance, and a lot of safe-deposit work has to be done on short notice. If a customer comes to the bank to access their safe-deposit box and their key won’t work, they won’t want to wait a week or two for the bank to schedule a box opening.

Failure of a safe-deposit lock is rare, but there are lots of other situations involving safe deposit locks that have to be handled quickly, such as a renter who wants immediate access to their box but has lost the key, the death of a renter or a court-ordered box opening. If you’re willing and able to respond quickly, there are many opportunities for the average locksmith to do safe-deposit work.

Most modern safe-deposit locks are actually two separate locks inside one housing that work together to control a single locking bolt. The whole idea is to have a lock that requires two different keys before it can be unlocked. Traditionally, a single key is used to control one side of all of the safe-deposit locks in a bank. This key is maintained by the “vault custodian” and is called the “guard key.” The guard key always is inserted into the lock plug that’s the closest to the hinge on modern locks.

After the guard key has been turned and left in the turned position, the key that the renter of the box controls is inserted into the other plug and turned to unlock the box. Naturally enough, the key that the renter controls is referred to as the “renter’s key.” Only when both keys are inserted and turned can the box be opened.

Because there are two different locks in one unit, twice as many elements can fail, but because most safe-deposit locks use old-fashioned lever tumblers, these locks rarely fail. 

Most safe-deposit lock servicing boils down to opening and repairing a box when a key isn’t available. Although some picks are available for some locks, many banks won’t permit you to use them. Many banks want their customers to believe that there’s absolutely no way to open their box without destroying the lock.

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