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Safe Opening
The following safe opening articles written by Harold Fink Locksmith are the property of Harold Fink, a safetech in Maryland. Any articles appearing on this site remain the property of and cannot be reprinted without written permission of

Class 6 GSA Red Label Container Safe Opening PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink Locksmith CRL CPS   
Friday, 23 April 2010 14:31

Class 6 GSA Red Label Container Safe Opening

Safe Opening Techniques

Is a Class 6 GSA Red Label Container safe opening difficult? It is not too difficult if you have performed a proper safe identification, use the right safe tools and use the proper safe opening techniques.

You must first determine that you have a Class 6 GSA Red Label Container. Identify the external parts of the GSA container listed. Class 6 container drawer fronts will overlap the edges of the container body. The label on the control drawer will indicate whether we have a red label or black label container. Red label GSA containers will have a silver label with red lettering. Red Label GSA containers were manufactured after October 1990.

Under Federal Specification AA-F-358G, due to increased security of these containers, standard drilling procedures may not be efficient or cost effective. The hard plate which protects the lock in a Class 6 GSA Red Label container is manufactured in such a way that makes penetration by standard safe drilling techniques both time consuming and wasteful of expensive carbide tipped drill bits. Additional consideration must be given to the expensive lock on the control drawer as well. The lock must meet Federal Specification FF-L-2740, and at this time only the Mas Hamilton X-07, X-08, or better meets this specification, any of which are expensive to replace.
For these reasons, our first safe opening method to consider would be to drill the control drawer bolts. The drawer head of the control drawer is removable from the drawer assembly and can be replaced. The control drawer (drawers with a combination lock) are locked into place by two hardened steel bolts that extend from each side of the drawer to engage the body of the container.
This procedure is not intended for use on a Class 5 container. Class 5 GSA Red Label containers offer additional assistance to forced entry. Safe opening procedures for a Class 5 container will be covered in a future safe opening article.

Safe tools needed for drilling the control drawer bolts:

. Heavy duty drill motor with controlled variable speed
. Template for marking drill point
. One 1-1/2" high speed steel hole saw (such as BLU-MOL)
. Two 1-1/2" carbide-tipped hole saws
. One arbor for each hole saw
. One 1/4" pilot bit for each arbor
. Safety googles
. Ear protection

After your safe tools are assembled and the work area is cleared for safety, you are ready to begin this safe opening.

Safe opening by drilling the drawer control bolts

Mark the drill points, one for each drawer control bolt, using a template. After you have measured your drill points and marked them, it is time to prepare the high speed steel hole saw. Put a pilot bit into the arbor and secure it with the set screw. Then attach a 1 1/2" high speed steel hole saw to the arbor and chuck your arbor into the drill motor. If you have a Strong Arm rig you can obtain plates that are made specifically for this procedure. This safe opening procedure can be performed without a rig, if you are careful in the handling of your drill motor.
Begin by drilling through the front of the drawer head with the high speed steel hole saw. Change to the 1-1/2" cardide-tipped hole saw after you penetrate the drawer front, applying light pressure and taking great care to hold your drilling equipment steady. It is imperative that you start slowly and use steady pressure. Hold your drill motor as stable as possible to avoid ruining the carbide tipped hole saw. The plates sold by Strong Arm that are used specifically for this purpose are extremely helpful by allowing you to use your Strong Arm rig instead of drilling without the additional control afforded by the rig. Over pressure applied to the hole saw or instability of your equipment will quickly allow teeth to be broken from the hole saw and ruin its efficiency. Run your drill motor between 500 to 600 rpm to start, allowing heat to be generated at the surface. This heat needs to be created in order for the carbide-tipped hole saw to cut the bolt. When sufficient heat has been generated, you should be able to start applying heavier pressure, running the drill motor at a faster 800 to 900 rpm, until you have drilled compelety through the 1" drawer control bolt.

After you have finished drilling the first bolt, you should be able to start drilling on the second drawer control bolt with the same carbide-tipped hole saw that you used previously. Were you careful? You will most likely have to switch to a new carbide-tipped hole saw to finish drilling through the second bolt. This procedure will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes per bolt. The care with which you handle your drill motor and the manner with which you apply pressure against the surface will determine how much life you get out of the carbide tipped hole saws. Steady even pressure and a firm grip, or use of the Strong Arm rig, will increase the useful life you get out of each carbide tipped hole saw.

Safe Repair Procedure

Safe repair procedure for Class 6 Red Label Container after drilling the drawer control bolts


  1. Remove the damaged control drawer from the container.
  2. Remove the drawer head from the drawer assembly.
  3. Install a new drawer head on the drawer assembly.
  4. Verify proper operation of the lock

For drawer head replacement or warranty provisions, contact Hamilton Products Group, Inc.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 April 2010 15:30
Safe Opening by Side Drilling PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink, Locksmith, CRL CPS   
Friday, 23 April 2010 00:44

Safe Opening

Safe Opening by Side Drilling or Top Drilling

Safe opening by side drilling or top drilling safes can often be the most efficient of safe opening methods. Other than safe lock manipulation, front drilling is often the preffered method of safe opening. When a safe lock failure requires that the safe be drilled, it does not necessarily mean you must approach the safe opening from the front. Safe opening by side drilling or top drilling may be your best safe opening method, depending on the safe lock and the construction of the safe. Advancements in safe technology and safe construction methods, such as glass, difficult hard plate, effective repairs, or additional relocking devices often make front drilling extremely risky and not a recommended course of action in opening certain safes. To not  know what is between you on the outside of the door and the safe lock case is an open invitation to disaster and almost certainly a recipe for a difficult and complicated safe opening, rather than the efficient, professional safe openings we prefer and take pride in.
The recommended safe opening procedure for many high security TL-15, TL-30, TRTL-30, TL-30 x 6 or better safes is often through the side. It is often possible to side drill a safe and penetrate the safe lock case without  touching any glass and setting off any relockers. Safe openings can be performed where relockers are pinned to prevent firing and the glass allowed to break. This is often the best safe opening method if there is no access to the top or side of a larger safe. However, drilling a safe with glass that is broken as part of your safe opening procedure will require that you replace the glass in order to repair the safe back to its original condition, and it may be difficult and or costly to replace the glass plate in many higher quality safes. Additionally, you will save much time in your safe opening procedure by not having to devote time to drilling for the relockers and pinning them to prevent firing. Your efficiency in safe opening allows you to offer more competitive rates for your valued customers and avoids any loss of security of the safe itself when you have completed your repair in a cost effective manner.
In most cases the only damage to a safe in a side drilling safe opening is the hole itself, which can be plugged and repaired in a manner which is more secure than the original construction of the safe. You must have a safe opening procedure which includes the penetration itself and an understanding of what is between the side of the safe and the safe lock case.

Side drill safe opening or top drill safe opening methods

1. Side drill to view the change key hole with your scope.
2. Side drill to penetrate the side of the safe lock case and view the wheel pack.
3. Side drill to punch the lock bolt into the safe lock case.
4. Side or top drill to cut off a lock bolt or compromise the boltwork of the safe.

Unlike front drilling safe openings, where you drill into the safe until you reach the safe lock case, side drill safe openings may require exact measurements. If you are going to drill into the side of the safe to scope the safe lock through the change key hole, you must determine exactly where that change key hole is relative to the side entry hole. For your depth measurement, you can remove the dial and insert a thin stiff wire into the spindle hole, alongside the spindle until it hits on the case of the safe lock. Add about 1" more to accomodate the thickness of the safe lock case, and another 1/2" to allow for clearance between the safe lock and the cavity between the safe lock case and door cover. Add your measurements and measure that same amount from the front face of the door, at its edge, back along the side of the safe. This is good for the depth measurement. For the elevation measurement you must determine the handing of the lock and its position (right hand, vertical up, vertical down, or left hand.) If you don't determine the handing with references or by making an educated guess, using the safe handle orientation and position, you may be drilling more than one hole.


Safe opening measurements for the safe lock change key hole

1. If the safe lock is installed vertical up, the change key hole will be 1/2" down from the dial center and 1/2" to the left.
2. If the safe lock is installed vertical down, the change key hole will be 1/2" up from dial center and 1/2" to the right.
3. If the safe lock is installed right hand, the change key hole will be 1/2" down from dial center and 1/2" to the right.
4. If the safe lock is installed left hand, the change key hole will be 1/2" up from dial center and 1/2" to the left.

Some safes do not provide a change key entry hole in the back plate of the safe lock case. There may not be enough clearance between the safe lock back cover and the door cover material to insert your scope, even if there is a change key hole. In cases like this you can drill into the side of the safe lock case and view the wheel pack of the combination lock. It is also possible to drill the lock bolt away or compromise the boltwork if you can view the boltwork arrangement with your scope and the design of the safe allows this safe opening method.

Side drilling a safe and viewing the change key hole with your scope requires that you make an alignment of the wheels, taking notes of the numbers as you read the dial. Safes with Sargent & Greenleaf safe combination locks have the #3 wheel closest to the drive cam at the rear of the lock. When viewing the wheels through the change key hole you can either scope the change key entry hole in each wheel or scope the gates. The wheel gates are much easier to find. Make a mark on a dial ring 41 numbers clockwise of the opening index. Whenever a gate appears through your scope hole, note that number on the mark on your dial ring. This a working combination number which you can later dial to the opening index. Determining the gates in the number 2 wheel and the number 1 wheel is more time consuming because the number 3 wheel will obstruct your view. You must constantly advance the dial very slightly to move the #2 wheel around, but always return to the #3 wheel to open your window of view through the gate. After you determine your number for wheel 2, you will have to place both wheel 2 and wheel 3 at their respective numbers every time you advance wheel 1 to determine its number. While it is possible for one safe tech to scope the change key hole of a safe lock, it is much easier for two safe techs, or one safe tech and a good camera. If you are good at dialing you can concentrate on which wheels you are moving at all times and can do it alone. Unless you have really long arms this safe opening procedure makes a camera very useful and quite indispensible.  It can be quite difficult to concentrate on how you are dialing the safe lock combination wheels while being distracted by your aching back, stretching to reach the dial while you struggle to maintain your view through the eyepiece of your scope.

You must have good references of how safes are constructed or experience in certain safe designs and construction to succesfully drill from the side. When faced with your next decision about attempting a safe opening by side drilling or top drilling, remember time spent in determining the design and construction of the safe you are opening may save you lost time in additional repairs due to poor decisions. Safe opening by side drilling will become your preffered method of safe opening in many more safe openings and should not be something that intimidates you. Side drilling or top drilling is often the most efficient and preffered method of safe opening.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 April 2010 23:56
Safe Opening - Meilink Safe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink, Locksmith, CRL CPS   
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 01:28

Safe Opening - Meilink Safe

Cam Punching Method

Essential skills that an experienced safe technician should have:

  1. Knowing how to dial open a lock when manipulation is possible and is likely to be the most efficient method of entry.
  2. Knowing how to properly diagnose a malfunctioning lock.
  3. Knowing how to pull dials and when to pull dials on locks that allow pulling of the dial without damage to the lock.
  4. Knowing how to drill for drop in of the fence.
  5. Knowing how to drill the fence off.
  6. Knowing how to transfer wheel gates.
  7. Knowing how to drill carbide-included hard plate or through previously drilled safes with an effective repair in place.
  8. Knowing how to and when to cam punch a Meilink fire safe.

Most safe service technicians can do most of the items listed above. In my own experience, the three skills I am less likely to see in less experienced safe techs are knowing when to manipulate, knowing how to transfer the wheel gates and knowing when to punch the cam.
Although I am referring in this article to Meilink safes, they were actually produced by Center Manufacturing and were sold to Meilink, Sears, and others. Click here for locksmith login, locksmith resources sectionof this site for measurements to punch cam and read the remainder of this article. is free to contributing locksmiths. Login and begin to contribute, or pay $29 per year for unlimited access to valuable locksmith resources, including years of locksmith and safe tech knowledge, including safe opening.

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 January 2010 00:41
Open That Safe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink, Locksmith, CRL CPS   
Friday, 01 January 2010 08:11

TNT, nitroglycerin, safe crackers, MYTHBUSTERS...

Safe work is very challenging for those of us who earn our livelihoods working on safes. For many folks, safes are a mystery and exciting for people to fantasize about what is required to open a safe that is locked. While I prefer not to use the term "crack" when speaking about safes, there will always be someone out there who jokingly refers to a safe technician as a safe cracker, so I hope this article will help you open your safe.

I feel the most valuable skill that any safe tech can possess is the ability to dial properly and diagnose what is happening when the safe is dialed. The most accomplished, most sought after safe techs are at least capable of safe lock manipulation and will always dial it first, so to speak, instead of claiming within seconds of seeing your safe that it must be drilled. Therefore, the best advice I can give you in opening your safe is to dial properly.

When you dial properly you should be able to open a working safe lock when the combination is known. If you know the combination and it just will not open for you, make absolutely sure you are using the correct dialing procedure for your safe. Don't assume anything! I have opened more than one safe for a customer simply by dialing opposite to what they thought was the proper sequence. In many cases, when you know the correct procedure and the known combination is not working, you can carefully dial to the left of, or right of each number in the combination. Write down what you are doing as you do it, to reduce the probability of dialing the same numbers again and again. I have opened many safes for customers in this manner simply because they had gotten used to looking at the dial at an angle, so make sure you are looking directly down on the opening index as you dial and not off to one side or the other.

Make sure you don't have the handle of your safe in other than the completely locked position. You do not want to have any pressure exerted against the bolt of the lock inside the door, and feeling the handle to verify that it is turned away from the opening direction is a good practice. This allows the bolt to withdraw into the safe lock case when the correct combination is dialed, and prevents any pressure that could be exerted against the bolt from keeping the lever in the lock from dropping into the wheel gates. I will try to post more suggestions here, including our new dialing video, in the near future. In the meantime, try to dial it first and be deliberate in your attempts.

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 January 2010 00:40