Putting Safes or Gun Safes in a Garage

Safes and gun safes left in unheated garages or buildings are subject to problems with condensation when weather suddenly warms up.  Pictured is a beautiful, but very massive, antique Diebold Safe.  It demonstrates the problem perfectly.

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We recently suffered through a cold snap during which night time temperatures went below zero every night for about a week.  It took days for this 4000# antique safe to drop completely down to these temps.  Likewise, when temps quickly warmed up to 55 degrees, it took time for it to warm up again.  Our snow all melted in about two days, making the air very humid.  Warm damp air created so much condensation on the cold safe that water was running down the safe’s surface.  That water by itself will slightly damage the beautiful artwork.  But when temps plummeted again the paint was further damaged.  Just like freezing water trapped in tiny crevasses will crack the surfaces of rocks or concrete, it will crack old paint.  This kind of moisture is also bad for safe locks.

Gun vaults left in unheated environments can be damaged the same way.  Some kind of heart source inside the old Diebold would have minimized damage by keeping it from getting so cold.  We recommend using a Dry Rod, Golden Rod or even a light bulb inside gun safes to moderate temperature swings.  If you plan to keep your gun safe, or any kind of safe, in a garage, ask a safe expert for advice.

New Year’s Resolutions: Improve Home Security

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  One reason is that if I had any flaws I would have fixed them already.  The other reason is that most resolutions are never fully met.  If you resolve to lose 20 pounds and keep it off, you never really finish.  If you resolve to “be a better person”, you never get to quit being good, or you blow your resolution commitment.

If, however, you want to do something meaningful and have an end point at which time you can say “I achieved my resolution” — then I have an idea.  Do that home security upgrade that you have been thinking about.  It could be installing security cameras, installing deadbolts on your doors, putting motion activated lights outside your house, locking up papers and jewelry in a fire/burglary safe, securing your guns in a gun safe, properly protecting your coin or stamp collection, etc.

Take some time to study what you need, spend enough money to buy quality products, from a neighborhood business, and then arrange for installation.  By the middle of January you can sit back with a cold beer and feel proud that you accomplished your resolution.  No guilt for the rest of the year!  Besides, if you try to be a better person than you really are, that’s likely to cause more stress, which might make you eat more, resulting in gain weight, then you feel bad so you start to drink more than you should, which causes . . .

Have a great 2018!

Controlling Humidity in Gun Safes

In much of the country humidity can cause rust problems for guns and other items locked inside a safe.  Here in Michigan, for instance, where almost every house has a basement, gun safes frequently end up in basements.  While some basements do not have humidity issues, many are quite damp.  Old “Michigan-style” field stone basements or lake-side houses tend to be especially humid.  There are two good ways to control humidity inside gun safes.

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1)  Heat bars are sold under several names like Dri-Rod and Golden Rod.  These heat bars are put in the bottom of the safe.  An electric cord goes out the back of the safe into a wall outlet. They run all the time, heating to about 120 degrees.  They dry the air out, and the warmed air rises, causing circulation.  I advise against using heat bars in a safe which holds photos, stamps, historic papers, leather items, etc., because I believe the warmer air will artificially age these items.

2)  Desiccant is hygroscopic – it actually absorbs moisture from air inside a safe without changing the temperature.  Desiccant is what they put with electronics, medicines, etc., to keep moisture from affecting products during shipping and storage.  Usually it is in the form of little beads in a paper pouch.  For use in gun safes desiccant comes in one-pound bags, boxes and cans.  Desiccant eventually gets saturated and needs to be dried out to be useful again.  Typically these larger packs have some kind of indicator that tells when the beads are saturated.  Drying them out normally takes many hours in an oven at about 200 degrees – not very convenient.

Eva Dry brand desiccant products are what I personally recommend for humidity control.  Eva Dry comes in two sizes that work great to dry out air inside a traditional safe or gun safe.  They are plastic containers full of beads with a colored indicator that tells you when the unit needs to be dried out.  The good thing is that rather than using your oven, Eva Dry has an electric plug that you just plug into a wall outlet.  In 10 to 12 hours the unit is ready to go to work again.  They usually last three to five months in your safe before needing to be dried out, depending on how often the safe is opened.

If you are concerned about guns rusting in your gun safe, controlling humidity is an inexpensive form of insurance.

Have you ever worked in retail and seen a customer get excited when they find a Christmas gift that they know is going to be appreciated?  We often get that in our store when parents buy a nice fire safe for their children who are recently married or just starting a family.

When it comes to a great, practical, reasonably priced gift for a young couple, a fire safe rates pretty high.  Every family, even those just getting started, has a significant amount of important papers.  Insurance and mortgage documents, legal papers, marriage licenses, car titles, passports, cash and so on all should be protected from fire.  A fire safe also is a good central place just to collect and organize stuff.

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We sell lots of Gardall Safe’s Micro-wave safes in the $300 to $400 range (top left of photo), their larger ES and SS units for under $500 (bottom left).  Gardall’s American-made two hour fire safes (right side of photo) offer more burglary deterrence and come in bigger sizes.  These units are always in stock at our store so you can just stop in and pick them up.

Avoid the low-end safes sold at box stores.  With micro-thin steel (or even plastic) and inferior locks they only offer the illusion of security.

Consider giving a very practical safe this Christmas – a fire safe from Gardall Safe.  

Buying a Gun Safe for a Christmas Gift

Last year in mid-December I sold a nice Fort Knox gun safe to a man who wanted it delivered after the holidays.  He and his family were spending the holidays in Florida.  He called after Christmas to tell me that, unfortunately, his kids had gotten together and bought him a “Brand L” gun safe.

He really appreciated the thought and the expense they had put into his gift, but he was also disappointed because he knew the Fort Knox provided better security and better fire protection.  Understandably, he could not bring himself to return his kids’ Christmas present. Our customer was embarrassed about backing out of the unit he had purchased from us.  He was also uncomfortable about using a safe that did not meet his needs.

Read my post from Nov. 25, 2016, which talks about the down-sides of surprising someone with the gift of a gun safe.  Forget the surprise – talk with the recipient in advance to find out what they really need in a safe.  A good gun safe is a lot more money than most Christmas gifts.  But buying a cheap unit might be a mistake.

Inexpensive Safe Leads to Restaurant Robbery

A nearby small town newspaper recently ran a story about a local restaurant robbery.  The story related how the safe with an electronic lock had been opened, without damage, perhaps by a method shown in an internet video.  The author and the local policeman came to the conclusion that no electronic safe locks can be trusted, so they warned people to only use dial type locks.  They are flat wrong.

The real story is that when it comes to safes and other security devices, you get what you pay for.  The “safe” in question weighs 14 pounds and can be purchased online for $125.  How much security do you think you can get for $125?  It certainly was not appropriate for use as a restaurant safe because the paper-thin steel would never keep out a burglar.  Further, when employees see a piece of light weight junk being used to store cash, they can come up with a plan to empty it.  Certainly this was an inside job, and the restaurant owners are to blame for stupidly tempting an employee into committing a crime.

It is true that many of these cheap electronic locks can be defeated easily.  Internet videos show how to open some of them too.  (Certain low-end gun safes also use similar inadequate locks.)  If this restaurant had invested in a real safe with a high quality electronic lock the safe would not have been opened without damage.  There are many U.L. Certified electronic locks that will not leave you vulnerable to theft.

Don’t be cheap and stupid:  When buying a safe for a business use some common sense about what you need to spend for security.

Transponder Keys for Cars

One part of the locksmith business I hate is when customers buy key blanks over the internet, then bring them in to our shop to be cut and programmed – for almost free, of course.  They try so hard to save money it is kind of insulting.  And fairly often they make their lives more difficult without saving money anyway.

With non-transponder keys for cars, motorcycles, etc., it is common for customers to pay more online just for the key blank than we charge for the key and cutting it, so they gain nothing.

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Transponder keys, the keys with “chips” embedded in the plastic head, are cheaper online, but there are two important reasons.  1)  Internet sellers frequently provide low quality off-brand keys, a high percentage of which cannot be properly programmed.  2)  Online sellers pass all the risk on to the locksmiths who actually cut and program the keys.  Those risks include wasting time on defective keys that will not program, keys that affect the car’s electronics or computer, and those times when the locksmith makes a mistake on cutting the key.  The locksmith’s regular price factors in these risks.

Therefore, when key blanks are purchased elsewhere and brought to us to cut and program, we do not accept the risk – we pass the risk back to the customer.  That means:

  • We will be paid for our service, even if the key does not work.
  • If the key will not program we will spend no more than ten minutes attempting to fix the problem.
  • If the car’s computer or electronics are affected, our involvement ends.
  • We will do our best to cut the key properly, but if the key does not work we will not replace it for free.
  • We will not pay for towing the car or any other related costs.

If these policies are not acceptable the customer is welcome to go somewhere else.  We assume all the risks and stand behind the products we sell, but we will not pay for problems brought on by internet sellers.

Electronic Locks on Safes and Gun Safes

A great recent development in security is the electronic safe lock.  The majority of gun safes, vault doors and commercial safesgun now come with them.  They are easier and faster to use than traditional combination locks.  Another advantage is that owner can easily change the combination himself, whenever he wants, without calling a locksmith or safe expert.

Well, while working on a project last week I discovered something interesting.  One of the safe manufacturers told me they actually – intentionally – make it hard for consumers to find instructions on changing codes for their electronic locks.  They do this because most of their dealers don’t tell the consumer how to change codes and don’t give them operating instructions.  That way the dealer can charge a fee for going to the customer’s home and doing it.

I don’t know whether this is treating the consumer unfairly or not, but it seems greedy.  We always provide personal instruction as well as owner’s manuals for electronic locks.  We do charge when changing combos on mechanical locks because there is potential for the safe owner to make an expensive mistake.

When buying a safe, gun safe or vault door with an electronic lock, make the dealer give you instructions for the lock.

American Made Gun Safes

Does “Made In American” mean anything to you?  Far too many people just do not care anymore.  I believe our federal government is largely to blame for this.  They have done whatever it takes to pass trade deals like NAFTA which immediately lead to American jobs going to other countries.  There are entire industries in which the U.S.A. no longer competes.

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“Made In America” DOES mean something here at Hoogerhyde Safe where we do not sell foreign made gun safes.  And our customers truly appreciate that we take a stand.  Michigan is still a manufacturing center, but we know what it means to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs to other countries — where workers are grossly under-paid and the environment is destroyed with pollution.

We are proud to sell high quality U.S. built gun safes by Fort Knox and Graffunder.  We also sell American Security’s domestic BF and RF series gun safes, but we will not sell their Chinese units.  I have written about many of the specific quality problems and mis-representations concerning foreign made safes.  (Remember in the past, when someone mentioned “Chinese junk”, you knew they were talking about a kind of boat?)

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Take a stand and Buy American when it comes to your gun safe.  The rewards include a feeling of patriotism as well as a feeling of having better security.

Using a Crane to Move a Heavy Gun Safe

In 2012 a man bought a 3025# Graffunder gun safe from us, but the delivery was especially tricky.  The only way to get the vault into the basement was to go over the house, then go in through a lower level door.  Lifting something that heavy, that high, then extending the boom far enough, requires a special crane and a talented crane operator.  Even the condition of the ground where the crane sits has to be right.   Everything went smoothly.

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Well, last month our customer moved to a new home, so we needed to reverse the process.  After making the vault “fly” again and taking it to the new location, it actually needed to go up some stairs too.  We had to build a special structure to accomplish this part of the move.  Obviously, this is not work for amateurs.  It takes special equipment and lots of experience.  It is not inexpensive, either.  But if you really need a high security gun safe, like a Graffunder or a Fort Knox Safe, delivery cost is just part of the investment.  Buy your gun safe from a company that is highly skilled at delivering safes.