I Did It My Way

Or 8 four wheel Combinations to Manipulate in 4 days, away from home.
What on earth was I thinking !!!
Martin Newton CPS

I am writing this article two days after I finished the job, this has given me time to reflect on what happened. I now realize that this was my best safe opening accomplishment ever. Just trying to come up with a title that accurately describes what happened has taken more thought than it should have. Manipulation Marathon, Seven out of Eight was Great, Manipulation Heaven turns into Manipulation Hell were some that I considered. ( I sorted that for you Ed)







The three images above were the pictures sent to me by a locksmith friend in Jersey, Channel Islands. He told me there were 4 safes in total, 2 x Tann TS4’s and 2 x Tann Interesec TRTL X6’s. All were locked by a total of 8 S&G 6731 four wheel combination locks. In addition 4 of the dial check locks were locked as well. The safes were in a High Street name bank. My initial reaction was, book a week in Jersey and spend that time manipulating them open.

The photo below shows the inside of one of the TS4’s and it is easy to see why manipulation is preferable to drilling.

It is possible to side drill these units but not when they are in a line next to each other and tight against a wall. Top drilling is also possible but the ceiling height of the vault, these were in, was also restricting that option.

After giving it some more thought I was wondering about the possibility of retrieving some numbers of the 4 locks that had the check dials locked via back dialing.

As well as this several weeks earlier I had been in Holland and was involved in testing a new auto manipulation device manufactured in Canada. This kit had performed well and I was impressed with it, I am due to become the UK distributor when it is eventually released. My Dutch contact might agree to come to Jersey for more testing, as it would be an ideal scenario for this purpose.

Finally there was always SEMS ‘Spindle Extraction Manipulation’ depending on the spindle set up this may be useable.

So after contemplating it for about 10 minutes and always keen for a challenge I agreed to go to Jersey for 5 days and attempt the challenge.

My preparation for the job was pretty straightforward, manipulation kit consisting of amps and pointers and dial rings that could be attached to the dials.

SEMS kit, picks for the dial check locks, I did think about Soft Drill but my luggage allowance just wasn’t enough.

I actually arrived on site at about 2pm on Monday and was met by the bank facilities manager. He told me the safes hadn’t been opened for 7 years and when I quizzed him about staff that may have the combination, he just rolled his eyes and said they had all moved on. It is probably worthwhile taking a moment here to stop and think about the situation I was in. My personal belief is that it was easier for him to call in a technician to solve the problem than to actually try and solve the problem himself. All it takes him is one phone call and problem solved, irrespective of costs to the bank and their shareholders. As an ex police detective I probably think given the correct access, I could have tracked down the personnel and possibly the codes or part there of. The truth is that this type of problem solving is just in the ‘too difficult tray’ for bank guys, and it’s not his money so he has no duty of care regarding costs. I am not trying to talk myself out of a job here, it’s just that gross incompetency and inefficiency at any level winds me up.

Eventually I was left alone with the 4 monster safes and 8 locks. Knowing what might lay ahead, for the first time in a safe opening situation I felt slightly intimidated, a little panicked and had a moment of self-doubt. The bottom line for me was, this was either going to be my finest hour or enforced early retirement. The saying goes ‘You are as good as your last job’ and I didn’t want this to be mine.

In all my planning something I never really considered was taking another safe tech who could manipulate with me to site. With hindsight, doing so would have made this a whole lot easier. I guess a narcissistic part of my personality prevented me from doing so, first mistake!

I sat down in front of the right hand lock on one of the X6’s and started to do my thing, no amp no pointers just raw hand eye manipulation. Just over an hour later it was open, great confidence boost, moved on to the left hand lock.

Spent two hours on this lock and was getting nowhere other than confused.

Very erratic readings, so I decided to call it a day and left at 5 pm, still, not bad 7 locks left and 4 full days to go.

I arranged to be back at 8 am and through the night decided to leave the previous days lock alone. First thing I did was pick open all the check dials and back dial them recording any numbers that I felt were picking up. I had two numbers recorded for each lock, at about 10 am I started on a left hand lock on one of the TS4’s. Forty five minutes later the lock was open and one of the back dialed number areas had featured on wheel one.

After a short break I started on the other X6 safe, right hand lock, clear indications coupled with very erratic readings. I attached a balance weight and pointer, same thing, I started to use an audio amp, same thing.

After about 4 hours I then did something pathetically stupid and spent half an hour on each of the remaining locks. Needless to say I was getting nowhere other than totally confused.

I finished that day at about 5pm and had pretty much done 9 hrs of manipulation straight off. I didn’t want to admit it but I was emotionally drained. Something that I knew I could do, and cared passionately about, was getting the better of me.

On the positive side 3 full days left and 6 locks to go.

Everybody needs a ‘phone a friend’ mine was on holiday in Hawaii and not taking calls. Mark Bates at MBA USA Inc has been a friend and mentor for 25years. We have opened safes and taught classes on the subject, together, all over the world.

We have debated the ‘why’s’ and ‘what fors’ of this subject to the death and will probably continue to do so. By now I had his voice in my head say such things as:

“some of them are hard”  “sometimes they take time” “remember failing to be thorough is a recipe for failure”

Wednesday was a new day and a new approach, do what I know how to do – ‘thoroughly’. After another 9 hours at the dial I had two more locks open and some good numbers on another. No safes open at this stage but 2 full days left and 4 locks to go.

That night I didn’t sleep well, I kept thinking about the lock that I thought was nearly open, I was sure I had 2 numbers or did I.

By midday the following morning I had two more locks and two safes open, both of the TS4’s. So now I was feeling good again, a day and half to go and two locks to open.

In light of the previous day I had contacted my man in Holland and he had agreed to fly in during Thursday after noon bringing with him the new auto manipulator Crakker. I had a phone call to say that his flight was delayed so I decided to stick to one lock and really go for it. At this stage I had considered using SEMS but had checked the TS4’s to find that they were fitted with anti punch/pull collets on the spindles. This would prevent the use of SEMS and possibly break the glass if the dials were pulled.

Crakker arrived at 4pm and we worked for 3 hours. The pictures below show the kit attached to the safe and the intuitive to interpret graph. Unfortunately all I was seeing was what I had determined myself. I actually said at this point “it’s as if the nose of the drop arm is fitted with a roller. We left that evening with 6 locks open and I was feeling confident I would get the others.

9am the following day Crakker went to work first on the lock I had worked on and then on the other lock. At 1pm Crakker left the building for the airport, he was totally confused and disillusioned. At this moment in time I was also confused, I was deep in thought as to what to do and started looking at the endplay on the dial. I compared it with the dials on the TS4’s and gauged it to be different, more movement.

I only had 3 hours left and my decision was simple I had time to SEMS both but not manipulate. Carefully I pulled the first dial, it came off remarkably easily, a check down the spindle showed it was clear so ‘game on’.

After a little confusion with my process 1 hour later the lock and safe were open.

Feeling confident I pulled the second dial, inspection down the spindle hole showed there was an additional splined collet that would prevent the use of SEMS.

Now I was really confused and a little frustrated. I removed the back cover of lock I had just used SEMS on and found what I had half suspected but did not want to believe. An eccentric roller on the nose of the drop arm, designed to produce erratic readings. I really should have known better. The offending part is shown in the picture below.

By now it was 3pm, I needed to be at the airport for 4pm. I spoke with the locksmith who had given me the job. I was leaving him with a side shot on the only safe with an open side access and he had an exact identical model to get his measurement from. He was more than happy and so was I.

If had reattached the dial there was a possibility of manipulating the lock, now that I knew what it contained. There is a recognized method of doing this.

Unfortunately there was no time left.

As for Crakker, I am optimistic about it’s future, looking back it did accurately read the lock, had the lock not had the roller it would probably have opened it.

I am due to carry out some more testing, so time will tell. The main benefit is going to be speed of opening.

Pictured above is the glory photograph! The bank had thankfully put tamper proof seals on the doors.

When I arrived at the airport my plane had a 2 &1/2 hour delay, this gave me time to reflect over a beer on what I can only describe as a stressful experience.

A total of 34 hours of manipulation had taken it’s toll.

Being away from home, on a time limit, was a factor in the cause of stress. My own self-confidence, which took a kicking, was another. Ironically I believe I have grown and developed as a technician having had this experience.

Would I do it all again ? Probably.

Would I do it differently ? Definitely.

Final picture is the internals of one of the X6’s, no side glass so an easy drill open.


Martin Newton – 07831769099


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