Monthly Archives: September 2014

Avoid Injuries When Working With Safes: Part 2

Incorrect placement of your safe, especially a tall unit, can cause a real safety issue.

Many years ago a new employee set up a 700# gun safe in our showroom on pieces of 4” x 4” wood.  The wood was pushed back about 5” from the front edge, making the safe unstable.  That night I was working alone and opened the door of that safe to check it out.  It fell forward as the weight of the overhanging door moved the center of gravity beyond the wood.  It caught me by surprise and I did not react quickly enough.  The outside corner of the door hit the floor hard enough that the door was pushed up and off the hinge pins, so that it fell on me knocking me to the ground.  With a major effort I pushed the door aside and off of me, but then the safe body came down with even more force.  Luckily there were no injuries.  I was able to get out from under it rather than be trapped until the next day, but it could have literally killed me.

A recent customer brought this incident to mind.  He bought a high security plate steel safe which measured 72”h x 40”w and weighted 2700#.  He drove it home himself on a flatbed and was able to lower it into his basement while remodeling his home.  Woodworking is his hobby so he built it into place in a cabinet with a deep toe-kick area.  Guess what happened when he opened the door!! He was extremely fortunate because the door was at exactly 90 degrees when the door hit the floor, and the hinges stayed intact.  Because the center of gravity was very close to the edge of the support he was able to push it back into place.  He could easily have been crushed.

Tall, shallow gun safes may be especially unstable.  Putting them on a thick carpet makes matters worse and they can fall forward when the door is opened.  Without thinking about it, a minor action like resting your hand on the open door can make the difference that causes an accident.  It is best to bolt these safes down to the floor for stability.  Adding lots of weight inside (say, 200# of silver) will help, too.

When placing a safe make sure it is resting on solid support right out to the front edge of the safe, and bolt it down if there is any chance it is not stable.

Avoid Injuries When working With Safes: Part 1

Moving safes can be dangerous.  You should not attempt to move large units, like gun safes, unless you have experience with this kind of task.  It is not uncommon for people to be injured when moving a safe.  We are occasionally called to stand up a safe that has fallen over when it was being handled by inexperienced people.  Usually their new safe is now scratched up and ugly.  Frequently it also then needs to be professionally drilled open and have a new lock installed.  The safe on which they “got a good deal” has now cost them dearly.

Several tips for moving a heavy safe:

1)  Having too many people around can cause distractions, increasing the likelihood of accidents.

2)  Take lots of time to think through all the issues and risks – hurrying can cause accidents.

3)  Rolling a safe across the floor on golf balls sounds like a good idea, but has been the cause of many accidents.  Trying to slide a safe on blocks of ice is really dangerous.  Use pipes instead.

4)  When moving a safe by pallet jack, fork lift, crane, etc., be alert and stand far enough away that the safe cannot possibly reach you if it falls.

CRANE LIFT 051 (427x640)

5)  If the safe wants to fall, especially a tall one, don’t be a hero.  Don’t try to stop it, let it fall.  Paying to have it repaired is cheaper and less painful than broken bones.

6)  We normally advise not taking the door off to lighten the safe.  Dropping the door on your foot could cause a serious injury.  A heavy, tall, awkward safe door can catch you off guard and knock you over.  (You will probably also damage the paint trying to put the door back on it hinges.)

7)  When taking a heavy unit down stairs be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS.  Consider standing at the top of the stairs and slowly lowering it with straps.  Consider reinforcing the staircase from underneath.

8)  Best advice:  Pay to hire professionals.

Too many people are injured, or damage their safe, or damage their home when doing work they should not attempt.  Buy you safe from a dealer that offers delivery service.

Laminated Padlocks

Everyone is familiar with simple laminated padlocks.  Pictured are Master’s models #1 and #3, the most common padlocks in the world.  Master makes them by the million.  They have many variations – larger, smaller, longer or thicker shackles, all brass for use in corrosive environments, plastic covers, etc.  Other manufacturers copy them in large numbers as well.

Blog, Padlocks 001

These locks are a good value and suitable for numerous applications.  It is worth knowing their limitations, however.  For starters, most have case hardened shackles which are fairly easy to cut.  On some Chinese knock-offs the shackles are not hardened at all.  Shackles that are completely hardened offer more security.

Another issue is that probably 95% of these locks use the same type key, the Master M1 key blank (or a copy of it).  Without getting very technical here, there are only four cuts on these keys, and seven different cut depths.  This means that there are only about 2400 possible combinations of cuts – not very many.  For comparison, the standard Schlage house key has five cuts and ten different cut depths, so there are 100,000 different ways to cut their keys.  In addition, because of the way padlocks are sold into some markets certain combinations of cuts are sold in very large numbers.  With only four cuts, locks using the M1 keys are relatively easy to pick open or “bump” open – especially the cheap knock-offs.  And there are additional tricks that can make these locks vulnerable to being opened by the wrong people.

If you need a padlock that offers high security there are better choices, by Master and others.  Invest a little more money to get locks with more cuts on the keys, with shackles that are hardened throughout, with shackles that are protected from cutting tools or even with lock bodies made from different materials.  Go to a good lock shop to learn more and see a wide variety of products.

Note:  the names Master and Schlage are registered trademarks.