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Antique Safes/Tann Fortress


QUESTION: Mike, I have an opportunity to buy an original Tann Fortress. The external dimensions are approximately 32x24x27inches.
When I say original I mean it was probably manufactured in the early 1970,s. My question is were they using adamantium or tannaloy in a safe of this period, I have not found any references to these materials in their brochures of safes of this period. If these materials were not used do you know the psi strength of the tdr materials that were used during this period of manufacture. Also, it seems that newer safes that have been manufactured in the last few years seem to be a lot lighter in weight than safes from the 1970 and 1980 period. In your opinion do you think that the newer materials used, are indeed better than from that bygone era. Any information you can give me on the Fortress would be really appreciated.
Paul Kusnierz

ANSWER: Hello Paul,

Thank you for an interesting question.  The literature in my archives tends to suggest that the body was probably a laminate of both Adamantium and Tannaloy but I can't substantiate this. Concrete barrier materials are more concerned with resistance to spalling rather than crushing strength so I have no idea what the PSI was.  

Recently years have seen lightweight safes imported from Eastern Europe forcing the few remaining UK manufacturers to follow suit.  However, the introduction of pan European standards made questions regarding the relative strength of barrier materials largely irrelevant - all that was important was that the safe had been tested in accordance with EN1143-1 and given a resistance grade.  As one senior insurer once said to me, "I don't care if the safe is made of bread pudding as long as it has passed EN1143-1".

However, my personal view is that the 70's and 80's saw the pinnacle of British safe making and were regarded as the best safes in the world.  The introduction of European standards brought this to an end and quickly destroyed our industry.  The remaining safes made in Britain and Europe today are just a shadow of former Tann and Chubb safes of that period.

Buy the Fortress, you won't find a modern safe that comes close.

Best regards,

Mike Palmer FSyI
mike Palmer Consultancy

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Mike. The tann I was going to buy was sold. I am now looking at a Chubb Resolute. The spec says the body has Chubb formulation 43. I have never heard of this. Would this safe be as good as the Tann. IiyfpMany thanks.  Paul

Hello Paul,

Chubb loves to invent technical sounding names for its products!  The Resolute is bell cast (4 sides and the back all cast in one piece) from alluminium with oxide nuggets.  The alluminium conducts heat away from the torch and disipates it (known as a heat sink effect) so the temperature necessary to run a cut is not reached. It is also ductile so it is resistant to jack-hammers.  However it is easily drilled, hence the inclusion of the nuggest which are second only to diamond in hardness.  By being cast in one piece, there are no layers or interfaces to attack in an attempt to delaminate.  British insurers give a 35,000 cash rating to a Resolute and 35,000 to a Tann Fortress, so they obviously consider them to be similar in strength and resistance.  The Resolute also has the Chubb Issolator bolt-work mechanism.  When the lock is engaged, the bolt-thrower handle is disconnected from the locking system and just spins freely so no force can be applied.  It is unique to Chubb.  If I was to choose between the two I would pick the Resolute every time.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

Antique Safes

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Mike Palmer


I earn my living identifying safes and suggesting cash limits for risk advisors and insurance surveyors in the UK. I'm am pleased to comment on safes manufactured in the UK or Mainland Europe but I am unable to accept questions regarding safes made in the USA or elsewhere.


I have been in the UK safe industry for 40 years and have one of the largest archive databases of old safe literature and serial numbers in the country. I started with Chubb in 1960 and became Assistant Manager of their Bank Security Division before moving on to become the Insurance Liaison Manager with the John Tann Group. I became Sales & Marketing Director for Guardian Safes Limited before semi-retiring. I am a Fellow of the Security Institute and ex-Chairman of Eurosafe UK, a trade body representing the interests of UK safe makers and distributors. I now work as a part time consultant.

I am an advisor to the Safe Committee of the Association of Insurance Surveyors, a Fellow of the Security Institute and founding Chairman of Eurosafe UK.

I have had literally scores of articles published in various security trade publications. So far this year I have had 24 features published in various journals including Keyways, Professional Security, Pawnbroker and Safe India. I have published one book, Peckham Boy, the life and times of the world's greatest safe cracker.

No relevant educational credentials.

Awards and Honors
In 1997 I was awarded the annual shield by the Association of Insurance Surveyors for "..outstanding services to crime prevention"

Past/Present Clients
I have represented or been an agent for the John Tann Group (Stratford, Ratner, Dreadnought and Tann safes); Churchill Safes, Chubb Safe Co Ltd, SLS Safes, SMP Safes, Dudley Safes and several others

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