Locksmithing/Safe Technician

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Question
Hello Andy, Now that I have your name right I have another question.  About 7 years ago I became interested in working on safes and started looking into getting into this type of work. To make a long story short, last December I finally got a safe that the owner did not have the combination to. I began reading and talking to different people in the business like yourself about how to open this safe and reading books on the subject. Now that I have opened it I have sucessfully opened 4 different types of safe locks including S&G, LaGard, Mosler and Star push down floor safe. I have been sucessfull in opening locks over 50 times now. My average time has come down from 7 hours to 3 hours to 1 hour and now almost every time I can do it in 25 minutes and my record is 18 minutes.Of course I lost count of how many hours I have spent practicing at 200 and that was a couple months ago. I would like start making money in this business I have already applied for a locksmith license. I have been a contractor / handyman for the last 20 years. Do you think I can make money doing this. What should I do next? Thank you for what ever info you can give me. Dave

Answer
Hi Dave,

Great, and welcome to the industry.   It's nice to see newcomers with a passion for this type of work.

Unfortunately this isn't going to be a simple "yes or no" type answer.   First off, I've never met any "rich or well off" safemen.   Most of us are slaves to this passion - which isn't necessarily the best mix for business.

The good news is that for the past 42+ years - regardless of where I've been in life (military or other civilian jobs) this trade as ALWAYS been there to help support my family.

That being said, how you approach the business is more important than how fast you might be able to open a safe.   Many of the best known "safecrackers" in the business, can do their work mainly because most of them have a wife with a really good job who can support them.   If you don't have some sort of support chain, then you have to develop a business that is well rounded with a good foundation.   Which means not only learning to work on safes, but also locksmithing skills.    There will be days (or weeks) where you may not have a paying safe job, which means something else HAS to pay the bills.

If you look around the country there are only about 6-8 (less than a dozen) REAL safe companies around - I'm not talking about manufacturers or individuals working out of their garage.   The reason being is that you have to have a full service company and be willing to cover a very large area.   I'm talking warehousing of safes, custom fabrications, deliveries and installations, safe servicing, opening and repairing, painting, etc. etc. etc.

These generally are not one man operations, these are companies, actually doing real safe work.

Next level down are the smaller brick and mortar shops, covering smaller areas, and with smaller levels of service.    Where the larger companies can move safes up to 10,000 lbs, this smaller level generally doesn't move over, about 3000 lbs.

Next level below this would be the single mobile guys.   While they don't have the overhead and operating costs of the bigger companies, they also don't have the quantity of calls, and/or don't cover the size of the area.   But they are also extremely limited to the services that they offer.   Sales is a big part of the business, and if you don't have a showroom, customers aren't going to buy much product.    Meaning your bread & butter may be limited to the services that you offer - or how well your wife can support your "hobby"!

Just like any business, "YOU" need to have a five year plan - WHERE DO YOU plan on being (with the business) in five years.   Then don't wait for the five years to go by to figure out your next step - EVERY YEAR you need to review your business plan, and massage it for the next five years - EVERY YEAR!

So bottom line, while you currently have a very small amount of success, and a large amount of enthusiasm - What do you envision as YOUR business plan???

Think about it this way - as you have been a contractor for around 20 years.    What advice would you tell someone, who just bought their first hammer, and successfully pounded in their first box of nails, and then posed the same question to you, that you have asked me.   They want to be come a licensed contractor, building beautiful houses, and do you think that they can make money doing it????

Short answer is yes, anyone who puts their mind to it and works hard, has the opportunity to find the rainbow after a hard days work, but the question should really be about long term goals.

Obviously education, training and experience will make a big difference as well, but that wasn't part of your original question.

So YES I think you can make money at this business - though how much or how little is really up to you.

Again, welcome to the trade.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

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.

Experience

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".

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

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
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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