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PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/26/2013 10:40:15 PM
[Last Edit: 10/3/2013 8:23:15 PM by PONCHO69]

THE IMAGE ABOVE IS A PAID ADVERTISEMENT
I bought a TL-15 safe (and got it pretty cheap)...then I broke into it. Ask me anything.

Disclaimer - I bought this safe, it is my property, I am not a criminal...

FYI - The safe was a Mutual Gemvault 1412. The safe has a UL TL15 rating.

It weighs over 500lbs (online they are advertised at 520lbs) and was a very sturdy unit. I initially thought the bolt work was light duty but it held up just fine. A while back I read some posts on the board by a1a where he commented to some sturdy fanboys that it doesn't take much to keep the door closed and posted some pics of some TL rated boltwork. He was right - it doesn't take much boltwork to keep the door closed - this particular TL rated safes failure had nothing to do with the bolts or by how supported/unsupported they were.

I was originally going to try and drill the safe but after examining it I decided that there wasnt much point as drilling it head on would fire the glass relocker. I then wanted to use a large splitting maul and sledge hammer to wedge the door open but couldn't find a maul at any of my local hardware stores. So I eventually decided on a brute force pry attack. I started with 12 inch Estwing crowbar pictured in one of the photos. I then moved up to an extendable crowbar then a combination of both. The extendable prybar was the tool that did a real number on the safe. It was extendable from 24 to 36 inches. I also had a 51 inch chisel point crowbar but that wasn't very useful as it couldn't get a good bite due to its size and the 'relatively' small door gap.

After prying on the safe for ~5 minutes with the 12inch Estwing I went to work for a few more minutes with the extendable pry bar. The extendable was a great tool because it was thin enough to get a good bite, and long enough to generate a lot of force when prying.

One thing that I noticed was that after prying for a few minutes the handle for opening the bolts (as well as the dial itself) was very hard to turn - they eventually seized up and I noticed the door itself was pulled out a bit from the safe body. I deduced how the safe was failing and decided that the boltwork 'container' was being pried away from the main part of the door but was being held intact by the handle/boltwork combo and lock spindle/dial...so I smashed the handle and dial off with a sledge hammer.The handle took some smashing to actually get it off. I had to smash and use a chisel. When I got the handle off I kept prying and eventually got the safe open...well the door was open but the boltwork container was still sitting in the door...but I popped that out no problem.

Note - the glass relocker didn't fire during any of this - I broke the glass plate for fun after I pried the safe open.

The safe wasn't bolted down but I think in this case it would have made it easier as the biggest trouble was that when I was prying hard the safe would just move. If it was solidly bolted down I think it would have made it easier.

If I had to guess I would say total time expended was approx 20-25 minutes. If I could do it again I could get pretty close to 15 minutes - especially if 15 minutes is just when the tools are touching the safe. The major flaw in this safe was the container that attaches the boltwork to the actual composite door was weakly attached. The little tabs of sheetmetal should have probably been bigger and should have been embedded into the concrete in the door itself. The sheetmetal tabs for the boltwork container were just folded in and interlocked into little slots in the sheetmetal for the main door. When I pried these eventually just separated and the door opened.

This safe was made in Korea but was a bonafide Mutual TL15. I went to a few local safe shops after my little experiment and they stock the exact one that I bought.









heeler1
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Posted: 7/26/2013 10:49:44 PM
And you announced to the world how to get into a Gem Vault.
PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/26/2013 11:05:28 PM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By heeler1:
And you announced to the world how to get into a Gem Vault.



Whats that - use a big prybar and go to town? I think the thieves already new that one...

heeler1
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Posted: 7/26/2013 11:43:07 PM
Does that safe actually have an attached U.L. TL15 metal tag??
Why would you destroy a good safe??
heeler1
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Posted: 7/26/2013 11:46:30 PM
[Last Edit: 7/26/2013 11:47:09 PM by heeler1]
double post
theblaze
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NRAInstructorMilitary
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Posted: 7/27/2013 12:18:52 AM
If the bolts were engaged, how did you get the door out?

I am missing something here.
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence.
- From Atlas Shrugged
PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/27/2013 12:43:26 AM
[Last Edit: 8/4/2013 11:18:32 PM by PONCHO69]
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By heeler1:
Does that safe actually have an attached U.L. TL15 metal tag??
Why would you destroy a good safe??


The lock dial was binding sometimes but I could open it using the combo provided (sometimes it took a few trys though).
The Safe techs I called wanted to much money to get it open. To get them to come and try to diagnose the problem was more than the safe cost me... So I went to town.

I am keeping my eyes open for another TL safe but probably wont go composite. I will only buy a thick steel plate / welded TL15. The way the door separated on the composite safe is kinda scary.

Yes it had a real UL tag. I can take a picture of it.

I was kinda proud I got it open, but a little disappointed in Mutual as I didn't think you should be able to pry open a TL rated safe. I figured a maul/wedge and a big hammer would be required and only reluctantly started my pry attack. However, within a few minutes I knew I was going to be able to get it open.
PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/27/2013 12:50:20 AM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By theblaze:
If the bolts were engaged, how did you get the door out?

I am missing something here.


Once the 'door' (the thick main part of the door filled with concrete) was pried open the door pan / bolt 'container' was still blocking the doorway.

However now the door pan / bolt 'container' wasn't attached to the main door it could be moved side-to-side. When it was moved all the way to one side (i.e. the live bolt side) the deadbolts were barely engaged, and I just pried the door pan/boltwork container right out (it literally popped right out).
theblaze
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NRAInstructorMilitary
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Posted: 7/27/2013 9:42:08 AM
Thanks for posting that.

Very eye opening!

I guess the lesson here is buyer beware.

Because at the end of the day that little .25 oz aluminum TL-15 tag didn't keep anything secure.

The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence.
- From Atlas Shrugged
JofoShootin
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Posted: 7/27/2013 10:25:05 AM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By theblaze:
Thanks for posting that.

Very eye opening!

I guess the lesson here is buyer beware.

Because at the end of the day that little .25 oz aluminum TL-15 tag didn't keep anything secure.


You realize that TL-15 just means that the safe is rated to last 15 minutes against an attack with tools. 15 minutes! That's nothing. That's why in addition to my safe, I have an alarm with cellular monitoring and a bigass dog to chew on their ass for those 15 minutes.
"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."
Col_B
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Posted: 7/27/2013 10:27:01 AM
Seeing the deconstruction of that TL door is really illuminating, and alarming. Consumers rely on UL certifications as assurance that standards have been met, and in the case of safes, the standards define resistance to intrusion.

The mechanical attachment of that boltwork frame to the poured door via those small metal tabs "interlocking" only in the sheet metal skin of the cast door is clearly structurally inadequate, and really begs the question, how did the design engineers conceive such a weak design? Furthermore, since the UL testers have all of the design/construction drawings for the safe, why didn't they exploit that obvious weakness and pop off a door minutes (and fail the safe)?

It is quite apparent that there should have been a substantial method of attaching the boltwork frame to the outer,cast door, and common sense would seem to suggest that it should have involved integral legs from the boltwork frame being deeply embedded in the pour of the cast door, which would prevent deconstruction/separation of those two, brake metal structures.

Hopefully TheSafeGuy will give us a detailed analysis of this.
PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/27/2013 10:54:14 AM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By Col_B:
Seeing the deconstruction of that TL door is really illuminating, and alarming. Consumers rely on UL certifications as assurance that standards have been met, and in the case of safes, the standards define resistance to intrusion.

The mechanical attachment of that boltwork frame to the poured door via those small metal tabs "interlocking" only in the sheet metal skin of the cast door is clearly structurally inadequate, and really begs the question, how did the design engineers conceive such a weak design? Furthermore, since the UL testers have all of the design/construction drawings for the safe, why didn't they exploit that obvious weakness and pop off a door minutes (and fail the safe)?

It is quite apparent that there should have been a substantial method of attaching the boltwork frame to the outer,cast door, and common sense would seem to suggest that it should have involved integral legs from the boltwork frame being deeply embedded in the pour of the cast door, which would prevent deconstruction/separation of those two, brake metal structures.

Hopefully TheSafeGuy will give us a detailed analysis of this.


You are quite right. If I got in in ~20 minutes, and I am definitely sure I could beat that next time, the TL guys should have just shredded this safe.


Pics of TL15 tag...




a1abdj
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Posted: 7/27/2013 11:14:47 AM
I have mentioned it before, but a UL rating is a minimum standard. On the 15 minute test, it doesn't matter if it lasts 15 minutes and 1 second, or 45 minutes. There are also huge differences found in the qualities of the build, and that will reflect in the price. And let's face it, as it's seen on a regular basis right here on the forum: There are two safes of similar size with similar ratings. One costs X, and one costs 3X. Which one are most people buying?

Mutual did not build this safe. This is an Asian safe, and I am not a huge fan of many of the Asian safes with TL ratings. Mutual would have imported this safe and put their name on it. Mutual does build safes, in South Africa, which are of much higher quality.

I have also mentioned that some of these Chinese companies have been known to use counterfeit UL tags, and there have been instances of US companies selling these safes. Perhaps that's the case here?

PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/27/2013 11:29:50 AM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By a1abdj:
I have mentioned it before, but a UL rating is a minimum standard. On the 15 minute test, it doesn't matter if it lasts 15 minutes and 1 second, or 45 minutes. There are also huge differences found in the qualities of the build, and that will reflect in the price. And let's face it, as it's seen on a regular basis right here on the forum: There are two safes of similar size with similar ratings. One costs X, and one costs 3X. Which one are most people buying?

Mutual did not build this safe. This is an Asian safe, and I am not a huge fan of many of the Asian safes with TL ratings. Mutual would have imported this safe and put their name on it. Mutual does build safes, in South Africa, which are of much higher quality.

I have also mentioned that some of these Chinese companies have been known to use counterfeit UL tags, and there have been instances of US companies selling these safes. Perhaps that's the case here?



Almost every safe shop in my city sells this exact model (new) and they look identical. The shop/distributor that sold this safe originally had its sticker on the door (I peeled it off before taking the photos). That shop was one of the ones I went to after I pried it open. I had them pull the door pan off of a new one, and they are exactly the same in every way, even 'under the hood'. I think, as you mentioned, it may just have been a 'TL15 plus one second' safe... either way though, it scares me away from composite construction.

The safe was made in Korea (the sticker was on the back of the safe)
Col_B
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Posted: 7/27/2013 11:51:13 AM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By a1abdj:
I have mentioned it before, but a UL rating is a minimum standard. On the 15 minute test, it doesn't matter if it lasts 15 minutes and 1 second, or 45 minutes. There are also huge differences found in the qualities of the build, and that will reflect in the price. And let's face it, as it's seen on a regular basis right here on the forum: There are two safes of similar size with similar ratings. One costs X, and one costs 3X. Which one are most people buying?

Mutual did not build this safe. This is an Asian safe, and I am not a huge fan of many of the Asian safes with TL ratings. Mutual would have imported this safe and put their name on it. Mutual does build safes, in South Africa, which are of much higher quality.

I have also mentioned that some of these Chinese companies have been known to use counterfeit UL tags, and there have been instances of US companies selling these safes. Perhaps that's the case here?




Agreed, A1, many purchasers (even jewelers) will select the least expensive safe that carries the UL label required by their insurance carrier and the least expensive alarm installation which will meet the requirements.

However, the fundamental problem is that the only objective evaluation / comparison standards which consumers have available to them are the UL tags. Since manufacturers do not disclose how long each tested sample lasted on each test, all we get to see is that UL Tag. TL-30: 30 minutes and it was on the threshold of failure (the 30 minutes + 5 seconds example), or 30 minutes, and no substantial penetration or structural compromise was achieved (and it might have lasted for 90 minutes before being breached). Purchasers do not get to see the design drawings, to compare and evaluate the features and attributes which make all the difference in the potential performance of the safe. If it isn't visible to the naked eye on gross level examination, we don't get to know. The physical construction, the details of the poured fill, the details of any additional metallic or non-metallic reinforcement within the casting, etc. are largely unknowns. Old cut-sheets from manufacturers like Tann used to show photos of interior rebar grids interlaced with ceramic plates, copper plates, etc. There was enough detail to formulate a qualified opinion and judge the safe in addition to the UL tag. Most catalogs and cut-sheets are far more nebulous and often "optimistic", and the buyer is comparing apples, oranges and bricks, and has to rely on the UL tag as the primary assurance. Few purchasers have "trusted, expert friends" in the business who are literally intimately familiar with the construction details of numerous safes, and can provide legitimately valuable recommendations.

So, seeing this UL TL15, it is first, hard to believe that it actually achieved UL rating, and second, a cautionary to purchasers that all TLs are not "the same".
RZR900
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Posted: 7/27/2013 2:12:54 PM
[Last Edit: 7/27/2013 2:13:32 PM by RZR900]
I would bet the rating is not correct. From what I have read a TL-15 safe is constructed with a 1.5" SOLID steel door, and 1" SOLID steel plates for all sides, top and bottom of the body. The door on that safe is not a solid steel 1.5" plate. I sold a TL-15 safe we had at my work...it was about a 30" cube...weighed nearly 2000 lbs! No way a true TL-15 of the size of the one you showed would only come in at 500 lbs.
Col_B
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Posted: 7/27/2013 2:50:06 PM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By RZR900:
I would bet the rating is not correct. From what I have read a TL-15 safe is constructed with a 1.5" SOLID steel door, and 1" SOLID steel plates for all sides, top and bottom of the body. The door on that safe is not a solid steel 1.5" plate. I sold a TL-15 safe we had at my work...it was about a 30" cube...weighed nearly 2000 lbs! No way a true TL-15 of the size of the one you showed would only come in at 500 lbs.


Specifications of 1.5" Steel door and 1" Steel Body corresponds to "E-Rate" Safe Construction Rating.

The UL TL ratings are Performance Ratings which specify the length of time the safe must withstand a tool attack. References to "steel thickness" also include "or equivalent".

All UL TL rated Composite Safes have relatively thin steel skins with high-compression concrete cores, equivalent to the steel plate safes.
RZR900
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Posted: 7/27/2013 2:52:54 PM
Specifications of 1.5" Steel door and 1" Steel Body corresponds to "E-Rate" Safe Construction Rating.

The UL TL ratings are Performance Ratings which specify the length of time the safe must withstand a tool attack. References to "steel thickness" also include "or equivalent".

All UL TL rated Composite Safes have relatively thin steel skins with high-compression concrete cores, equivalent to the steel plate safes.

I stand corrected sir! Thanks for that info.
SWODaddy
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Posted: 7/27/2013 4:32:00 PM
[Last Edit: 7/27/2013 4:32:29 PM by SWODaddy]
This post scared the hell out of me because the construction looked almost identical to my Gardall safe which is also made in Korea.

My door (not even TL-15) has a solid weld at the failure point on your safe. The construction is identical, otherwise.
Col_B
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Posted: 7/27/2013 4:51:05 PM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By SWODaddy:
This post scared the hell out of me because the construction looked almost identical to my Gardall safe which is also made in Korea.

My door (not even TL-15) has a solid weld at the failure point on your safe. The construction is identical, otherwise.



They were probably made in the same factory, but to different OEM specifications. Gardall specified a continuous weld at the seam between the boltwork frame and the cast, outer door, and the other OEM didn't... Probably a BIG difference in performance for very little difference in manufacturing cost.

Still hard to believe that the DOA safe actually passed UL testing when it failed so miserably under assault from a first time "safecracker".
PONCHO69
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Posted: 7/27/2013 5:29:52 PM
[Jump To Reply]Originally Posted By SWODaddy:
This post scared the hell out of me because the construction looked almost identical to my Gardall safe which is also made in Korea.

My door (not even TL-15) has a solid weld at the failure point on your safe. The construction is identical, otherwise.


Are you sure its welded? When I bought mine and looked at it I assumed the boltwork frame was welded to, or was a continuous piece of sheetmetal with the rest of the door. There was no gap or visible seam between the concrete door and he boltwork frame (in retrospect the paint and some filler obviously hid the seam) I didn't realize it used the 'interlocking tabs' and some spotwelds until I had it apart.

On a not so visible part of the door, like beside the deadbolts, scratch at the seam or joint with a screw driver and see if its actually weld metal underneath...

Not trying to scare you, just tryin to help.
Gone-Postal
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Posted: 7/27/2013 5:39:34 PM
[Last Edit: 7/27/2013 5:40:01 PM by Gone-Postal]
Back in the day I witnessed single to double door safes of every brand and type opened via prying and peeling with ease, often with rudimentary toolage, all within an hour.

Safes are meant to delay and often for short periods of time.

Layered security is where it's at friend.

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Posted: 7/27/2013 6:30:36 PM
After buying a big 1000 pounder and subsequently "learning" about most safe shortcomings, I bought insurance.

For what the safe cost, I could have bought insurance for 20 years and put a deadbolt on a closet. .
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Posted: 7/28/2013 12:20:20 PM
Bump, hoping Thesafeguy makes a few comments.
Col_B
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Posted: 7/28/2013 12:39:15 PM
Likewise!

I'd be interested in knowing how companies like AMSEC make that same attachment. I doubt that they rely on interlocking a few folded metal tabs and a few spot welds.

TheSafeGuy
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Posted: 7/28/2013 2:40:59 PM
[Last Edit: 7/28/2013 2:49:48 PM by TheSafeGuy]
Sorry I missed this thread.

Hope i can add some value here. First, I am puzzled by the idea that this safe was a Mutual made in Korea. UL does not show that Mutual has a cross-listing with any Korean companies. Maybe the records are wrong, but it has always been assumed that all of the Mutual production came from their factory in Pretoria, South Africa (near Johannesburg). The label saying it was made in Korea is an interesting twist.

I don't know where to start. This is an embarrassment if UL actually did pass a safe of this caliber. However, this is one of the biggest issues with safes made outside of the USA. UL does not have a robust inspection system worldwide, only in the USA. So, when there is a listed product made offshore, they contract with various types of Quality Assurance firms and use them as an "official" UL inspection service. This is a HUGE source of trouble, always has been. Unlike the UL employees working for Follow-up Services that do this in the states, these contracted companies are not invested in the UL mindset. Employees are frequently less than ethical, and they are known to take bribes for favorable treatment. So, the honest truth, anything with a UL rating made outside of the USA is always questionable. We know of many cases of fraudulent listing activities. Cheating runs rampant when the manufacturers are not kept honest by reputable and regular inspection services.

Example: We dissected a TRTL30X6 made by a well known safe maker from the middle east. The safe was supposed to have a 4" thick aluminum body wall with ceramic nuggets, reinforced with a stainless steel wire mesh in the walls. When we cut the back top corner off the safe, we found the aluminum in that area was less than 1" thick, and it one spot there was none. The casting looked like it had been poured in a ditch in the dirt. The rebar was more like thin steel wire, and it was rusted out. The design uses a back-fill of concrete between the aluminum barrier and the outer skin, so you would never know unless you cut one open. We reported this to UL.... nothing ever happened. There have been numerous incidents like this where reputable safe distributors have revealed major shortcomings (because they were fighting competitive issues). In all these years, I have only heard of one company that voluntarily surrendered their certification, UL did suspend them. If we did this anything like this is the USA, we would pay dearly and get shut down in a second. Buyer beware.... that's all I can say.

Regarding this particular safe.... I'll assume this was a legitimate cross-licensed factory (lots of doubt here). With that assumption, it is also assumed that the tested safe was probably full-welded around that frame where the boltwork pan attached to the door panel. This would be adequate to make the UL testing team ignore that joint as a point of vulnerability. Clearly, the Korean subcontractor factory took short-cuts and only plug-welded that joint in a few points every 6-8 inches. Easily something that an uneducated inspector would miss in Korea. Those guys can't read technical drawings, and don't even know how to interpret welding symbols. This is so typical of offshore blunders. In many cases, these kind of problems are not even intentional fraud. They are actually that stupid. You would be shocked to see how little these Asian manufacturers understand about security. Physical security is not part of their culture. Criminals are shot on sight, so the deterrent to crime is substantial. Hence, there is very little crime, particularly safe burglary, so security technology is in the dark ages. I have seen domestic safes for the markets in Korea, China and other Asian countries. They are archaic at best. We make better tool boxes.

The moral of this story is, don't have high expectations from all offshore manufacturers of UL rated products. The system doesn't work outside our boundaries.This holds true of even the light Gunsafes we discuss in these forums. Some of the US suppliers are blind-resellers. They don't engage in the manufacturing or quality control process. They don't make regular visits to their factory(s). They don't care... they order containers, and ship to their customers without ever looking at the products that pass thru their rented warehouse. They are selling a price-point commodity, and could care less if there are security concerns. I could list a dozen name-brand companies that do business that way. AMSEC would not be one of those. Quality comes at a cost. When we find a problem, we correct it immediately. We have un-boxed and repaired countless hundreds of safes that were found to have some deficiency. Evey one of those we have to fix, the profit is lost. Most of these importers don't even have a means to make such corrections, they are passing thru a warehouse, not a factory. That should give you some solid clues about where you can find quality import products.



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