Safe Engineering

We service and repair safes for the Clapham, Battersea, Balham, Stockwell, Wandsworth, East Putney and Streatham Hill areas.

Key change and combination change

Not everyone is comfortable changing a combination. We can help; it doesn’t take long and it’s relatively inexpensive. If you have a key lock where the key has been compromised, then we can rekey the safe lock for you; although inevitably this costs more than changing a combination.

Combination recovery

If you have an open safe (or a safe being closed only on its second lock) and a combination has been forgotten, it is straightforward for us to recover (and perhaps reset) your combination.

This is particularly important with fire and document safes operated on a day lock system. The normal idea is that the combination is dialled open in the morning, the key is used during the day, and then the safe is secured on the both key and the combination at the end of the day. A great many of the fire and document safes, however, have been “inherited” with the combination unknown. It is common, however, to continue to operate the safe on they key lock, “which is fine because we never move the combination dial”. I’m afraid someone will give the dial a spin one day. It is much better to pay a minimum visit charge to have the combination quickly recovered with the safe in the open state than to pay two or three times as much to get the safe open again if someone has spun the dial with the door shut.

Safe servicing

For a variety of reasons, safe parts can start both to loosen and to seize over the years. The telltale signs are that the handle gets stiffer or wobblier, the key or the dial get stiffer, the dial feels wobblier, it starts to regularly take more than one go to dial in the correct combination, the key starts to need “a little jiggle”, new noises are heard, the door swings less easily, etc. All these are mildly irritating, but the important thing is that they are telling you that you might suffer a lockout one day.

It really is worth getting a safe serviced occasionally, for a few tens of pounds; rather than waiting to be locked out one day and suffering a bill for hundreds of pounds.

Keys can be dropped onto hard floors and teeth bent or broken. If the door is open, then fine we can make you a new key. If the door is shut and that was the only key, do not throw the broken key away, keep the broken key, scour the floor for any of the bits that have fallen off, and give us a call.

Safe opening

Perhaps you have lost the only key. Or perhaps the only person who knew the combination has left abruptly. Once we know the make and model of the safe, we can give you a quote for getting a working safe open non-destructively.

Perhaps you have keys and combinations but they have suddenly stopped working. Then it’s fifty-fifty as to whether we can get the safe open non-destructively or whether we have to make a hole or two. Once we’ve seen the safe, and any no-longer-working key, we can give you estimates for opening and re-commissioning the safe.

Safe repair

Given the hassle and expense of removing a safe and installing a new one, repairing a safe that is no longer operating correctly can be the appropriate course of action.

Buying a safe

You need to consider the following:

  • Am I primarily looking for security against theft or against fire?
  • What capacity will I require?
  • What’s the maximum amount of cash? Or jewellery?
  • Do I have a staff turnover that necessitates frequent combination or key changes?
  • Where will it be sited?
  • Is the floor strong enough for the weight?
  • If it’s less than chest-height, can the floor (or sometimes the wall) accept fixings?

Safes have cash ratings, such as £3000, £10000, etc. Generally their jewellery rating is ten times their cash rating. Safes also have fire ratings. Fire ratings are often different for paper than magnetic or optical media. You will need to get the right balance of all of these. Your insurance policy may need to be consulted.

In the United States, for example, just about all safes have combination locks. This is convenient in that you don’t have to carry a key wearing a hole in your pocket. And it’s easier to change a combination than to change a key. However, if you don’t have staff turnover and don’t expect to need to change a key, then a key lock is more secure.

If you have a combination lock, ensure that the dialling cannot be observed — by people or by cameras. If the dialling process is easily seen, for example from several vantage points, we could always change the dial and ring over to a spy-proof version for you. If you have a key lock, do not leave the key lying around or in the door where anyone can sneak a copy.

Two of my prejudices are:

  • Underfloor safes are trouble
  • Electronic digital locks are trouble

Underfloor safes get serviced about as frequently as wall or floor-standing safes – i.e. probably never. But underfloor safes have continual dirt and rubbish entering the cavity, the lid and the mechanism. They eventually stop opening. If they require drilling open, it will be even more expensive than usual because of the great difficulty of accessing the lid. (We don’t accept jobs drilling underfloor safes. Our medical insurance doesn’t cover us.)

Electronic digital locks fail more often than mechanical locks. At least one-third of owners fail to replace the battery when the lock indicates that they should. If it’s an external battery, then a reputable electronic digital lock should be OK. If it’s an internal battery — yes designers are that crazy — then you’re in trouble. In such cases they just about always require drilling; whereas mechanical locks with problems can often be be opened by a skilled safe engineer without drilling. Of course, there is sometimes a bypass key — a very good idea — but guess what? Yes, at least one quarter of owners leave the bypass in the safe.

One of the most attractive ways for a villain to get into a safe is to take it away and then force their way in at their leisure, making as much noise as they like. Small and medium-sized safes need to be bolted down. Safes are usually bolted to the floor. Many small safes and some medium-sized safes can be bolted to the wall. If your floor is solid or if the safe can be sited above a good strong floor joist, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

A small safe might weigh up to 350 kilogrammes. That’s the same weight as about five people (bearing in mind that this web site is aimed mainly at European audiences). The typical floor will not collapse if five people stand close enough for a group hug. However, getting safes down corridors or up stairs and around stair wells is a different matter. As with a grand piano, think about how a safe is going to reach its destination as well has how well it will fit in its chosen spot and with the decor. Safes do vary though. Medium-size and large safes, especially very high-security safes (torch and drill resistant or “bankers’ quality” for example) may weigh a lot more.