Locksmithing/safe manufacture


I'm studying to be a NC locksmith (requires you pass an exam to be licensed in NC). Anyhow, I'm doing this entirely on my own (no apprenticeship) and my current interest is safe manufacture. I'd like to build my own small sample, incorporating as many safety features as I can for learning purposes. I'd like to get hints as to where to buy some parts I cannot fabricate (have full CNC metal shop available). For the moment I'm looking for ball bearing hardplate. Also a good source for refractory cement would be useful.
Any hints? E-bay isn't doing it. :-)


Good luck on finding pre-made "hard plate".  Safe Manufacturers build their own, or have it built for them, and do not make it available for sale, for obvious proprietary, security and legal reasons.  Some designs are patented.   
Years ago LaGard did manufacture a pre-made lock mounting plate, which incorporated ball bearings which was called "LaHard" - this hasn't been available for years though.
If you are interested in safe manufacturing, and have full CNC capabilities, fabricating something wouldn't be that hard.
Some manufacturers use a carbide steel hard plate for drill resistance.  Still others use a ceramic sheet.   Tempered glass plates are used for drill resistance, and to trigger remote relocking devices for burglary resistance.

There are plenty of sources for "refractory cement", however, before you plan on using it in an actual safe, to provide any type of heat resistance, you will need to test how it actually stands up.   UL has standards for fire resistance for safes which you will need to understand so that you have an idea of what you are attempting to do.

My recommendation - before building something, would be to study safes and how they are built.

While I applaude your trying to learn to become a locksmith/safe technician on your own - my first question is WHY are you trying to recreate the wheel?  Locksmiths and safe men have studied, designed and built locks and safes for hundreds of years - learning or apprenticing gives you a leg up on the basics.   If you are not going to apprentice, then I would recommend taking one of the home study courses to get the basics, join local, state or national locksmith organizations to form your social circle of locksmiths to bounce questions off of.  And of course never quit studying.  I've been doing this work for over 40 years and consider myself a professional student.   Generally when I meet someone who calls themself a "Master" locksmith, I meet someone who has quit learning.

A great shop that I would recommend in your area, to become friends with and perhaps learn from would be Talton's Safes.   Ray Talton has been studing locks and safes for around 40 years also, and would be a great place to apprentice.  You can contact him at:

Ray C. Talton,
5924 Fayetteville Road    
Raleigh, NC 27603
Phone: 919-779-3545
Fax: 919-772-8258

Also you can contact the North Carolina Locksmith Assoc. at:

120 Timber Hollow Dr.
Linden, N.C. 28356

Here is the NCLA membership requirements as an apprentice member:
Apprentice Member:  Any person who meets the requirements for regular membership except for the two year minimum experience and / or experience in the industry.  An apprentice member shall attend a minimum of six meetings and attending classes of instruction over a two year period to be eligible for regular membership.
Regular Member:  Any person eighteen years of age or older who is presently actively engaged in installing and servicing locksets and related security hardware, with a minimum of two years experience, and deriving income from this business servicing the public in the locksmith / security field.

As you don't currently work as or derive your income as a locksmith at this time, you would fall under the apprentice membership.   The state organization will supplement your own personal education with classes that they provide, usually taught by locksmiths who are very knowledgeable in their specific areas of expertise.   Generally you can pick the classes that YOU want to attend which will give you a back ground and expertise in the area of locksmithing that you wish to become an expert in.  If you plan on becoming a general purpose locksmith, then obviously you want a little dab of everything.

Hope this points you in the right direction - do it right and you could easily become one of the best in the industry.   Try to do it the wrong way, and you will simply become another hack hobbiest, calling himself a locksmith.  The industry is already proliferated with too many of the latter.

Good luck.


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 - Listed in AllExperts Top 50 Experts. All Expert Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service Area is Northern California (Fresno to Oregon and Western Nevada)

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