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Locksmithing/jj taylor safe roller bolt lock


QUESTION: I have to get into a JJ Taylor model 3. Would rather not drill. Have you had Expierence manipulating a roller bolt lock? The savta bulletins say not recommended. I am extremely versed in group 2 manipulation but can't get good readings on the lock.

ANSWER: Hi Rick,

Manipulation is not dependent upon the type of "bolt" the lock has - with the exception of a straight tail piece type lock, but that is a different manipulation technique - apples and oranges.

The short answer is yes.   If you are "well versed" in manipulation, regardless of the "lock rating", then you understand that identifying the correct lock, and totally understanding its operation is critical to manipulation.   As the old rotary bolt type locks, used a gravity lever, rather than a spring lever, manipulation is basically the same, though you will have a much lighter lever/cam interaction, than with a lever that has a positive engagment due to the spring pressure.

Bottom line, if you can't feel anything, then manipulation is kind of a moot point.  There are no secrets here or special methods.   If you don't have anything to work with, you can't graph anything out.

As far as the "SAVTA Tech Bulletins" go - my recommendation as a professional, is to NEVER rely on anyone but yourself and your expertise.   While this doesn't mean that I don't utilize every ounce of info or equipment at my fingertips, ultimately I have to make the decision, and I can tell you, MUCH of the info that I see available, is not correct.   Take everything with a grain of salt, and then YOU decide how to proceed.

The problem with this industry today, is that there are simply TOO many trained monkeys, that have purchased all of the books and all of the tools to open and/or work on safes - however they have no actual knowledge, training or common sense, which results in a lot of "Swiss Cheese Safes" at customer locations, and at customer's expense.   

Try cleaning up the lock a bit (as much as possible from the outside), making sure you have an excellent audio amplifier, and don't forget to sand your fingers a bit.  

I know several years ago, at one of the SAVTA conventions, they had a manipulation contest to see how "sensitive" some of the contestants actually were.   Phil Shearer could detect the drop in area, when the lever was replaced with a feather - or something very similar.

So I know that this is going to be a test of your skill levels, but I'm sure that you just need to sit down, buckle in and make it happen.

Good luck.

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

QUESTION: Thanks for the fast response. The main problem is that all my contact points seemed to be the same. Since the roller bolt has 4 theoretical I  contact points and I can only feel 3 I assumed that the 2nd and 3rd points I heard were the drop in and the 4th point was smooth with the cam I am going to try with points 1 and 2 that I hear in case its the real 1st contact point that smooth with the cam.


Ok first lets start off with some basic nomenclature - so that we are both talking apples and apples.   Unfortunately the term "Roller Bolt" is not really correct - and I have to admit, that I'm almost as bad as others in misusing the term, however it isn't helping us here, and from the photo that you included, it's obvious that you don't understand what parts you are referring to.

just to be clear, I pulled out a couple four wheel rotary bolt locks before answering this part, and they are sitting in front of me.

Referring to your photo - the three main parts shown are the wheel pack (specifically the 3rd or 4th wheel), the drive wheel or cam, and the lever.   What everyone refers to as the "Roller bolt" is NOT - it is a Rotary bolt, and it would be attached to the lever, to the right of your photo.   The rotary bolt only pivots or rotates slightly when the lock is unlocked, opening a cavity for the bolt work to enter.    Other than this FORGET ABOUT IT, it has NO bearing on your job, and WILL NOT affect your manipulation, unless there is severe bolt end pressure, trying to push the rotary bolt up and the lever back, in this case the lever will bind against the lever stop (also shown in your photo - top).   If the lever is bound up, you may not feel any contact points.

The drive wheel or cam is directly attached to the dial through the spindle, and a spline key which locks it in place.   You can see both the end of the spindle and the spline key in your photo.    What ever you do to the dial, you are also doing to the drive wheel - they work seamlessly together (usually).  
The drive wheel has a round circumference which the nose of the lever rests upon, keeping the fence raised up, out of contact with the wheel pack.   The only time it comes in contact with the wheel pack is when the nose of the lever enters the gate.   You can see the gate clearly between the two lugs on the drive wheel.    THERE ARE ONLY two contact points on this drive wheel or cam.
While the lever is OUTSIDE of the cam gate, it is riding on the circumference of the drive wheel.

It appears that you have mistakenly identified some "lock noise", and are trying to associate it with parts of the lock where it isn't.

The caveat to this would be if the nose of the lever is severely worn, from riding in contact with the drive wheel circumference.   If this is the case, you will possibly have four contact points - two on each side of the lugs on the drive wheel.

If you can't determine WHICH  of the four points are the correct drop in, or gate shoulders, then you aren't going to get much further.   You have to learn WHAT lock noise to listen to, and what lock noise to ignore.    Getting back to my original answer, this comes from being extremely familiar with the lock that you are working on.   Trying to transfer ideas about one type of lock (for instance a standard GR2), and attempting to shoe horn it into another lock is a major waste of your time.    You have to ID every item that you see hear and feel so that you can concentrate on the ones that actually count - everything else is simply a waste of your time.

These locks tend to be noisy locks, with lots of back ground clicks, bumps and grinds.   Unless you have a lock that is loaded in grease, but if the are cleaned and serviced correctly then this isn't going to be the case.

Another problem with a lot of these locks is that the wheels may have square serrations in the sides, which can give you a lot of ghost valleys and peaks, Unless you have a noisy lock, that likes to talk, if you have a dirty, tight lipped four wheel lock you are in for a battle.

My first recommendation would be to ensure that the doors, bolt work and handle are not bound up, and are free to move, then check the lock again for any improvement.   If you have none, and the lock still won't talk - you are in for a battle.

Good luck.  

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

QUESTION: I just use the term roller bolt because it operates differently than the s&g/lagard locks I am used to. Tomorrow (Saturday) morning I am trying the manipulation. After seeing t
Pictures of similar locks I feel pretty confidant if I focus and have complete silence I should be able to get it. I am just used to manipulating s&g/lagard group 2 locks in under 10 minutes.... So when 2 hours rolls around on the JJ Taylor kinda humbles me...

Hi Rick,

good luck with it.

If you are planning on doing this as a hobby or job,  you have to learn all the locks and nomenclature,  not just the few you like.

The more info and knowledge you have the more successful you will be.   Also, knowing the correct terms and being able to competently and comprehensively discuss the locks are keys to having conversations.    Any thing less and you are simply another "wannabe" safecracker,  kinda like "rockstar groupies.

If you want to do this type work - even as a hobby -be professional about it.


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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

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

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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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