Hello. I will be answering questions at 5pm Eastern Time about anything and everything Safe & lock picking related (within legal limits).I have been in this industry for many years and am flown all over the world to crack the toughest safes and locks. I have spent a lifetime collecting and studying safe and vault locks while saving enough safes and locks to create my own museum outside of Pittsburgh, PA, USA. I cracked a casino safe that 5 previous safecrackers couldn't complete; I'm still waiting for that to air on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Until then....Ask me Anything!

This is the thread that generated the interest in this AMA

/u/marcsuile will be typing my responses as I'm new to Reddit and the AMA community!

Proof will be provided once we get started!

EDIT 1: Brandon here (/u/marcsuile). Roy just called me and said he is finding parking right now. So we should be getting started shortly! Thanks!

EDIT 2: PROOF. We're ready to go

EDIT 3: Thanks for all the questions everyone! This has been fun. Maybe we'll speak again when I'm in NZ cracking THE safe! Take care Redditors!

Comments: 151 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

ritipo64 karma

Can you open the safe? CAN YOU OPEN THE SAFE???

Also, what do you do that "usual" locksmith don't? I am guessing that your everyday job must be more exciting.

And what is your "routine" to figure out how you can open a safe? Is there any common things you can try?

EDIT: Also, thanks for having kind of an original proof, instead of a boring twitter link!

RoyWattersLocksmith62 karma


  • on "the safe"...for the lock, i would rotate the dial and see if i could do it by touch and take some readings. The other thing is...turn the dial to '0' and see if it pushes in at zero. If that doesn't work, I would then drill it. I would look up the safe in my database to see what the safe looks like on the inside (agreeing with the main thread, its a sgt. greenleaf lock). Then I would look to see what the version of the S&G after I ran diagnostics on it.

  • To answer your second question, I'm a machinist and worked for 3 universities and built prototypes my whole life.

  • To answer your third questions, I always see if the dial turns freely and if i can get a reading off the dial. It's a lot of diagnostics first. I just dont pull out the drill.

duttyman4542 karma

Is there any type of safe that is like the holy grail to try and crack?

RoyWattersLocksmith61 karma

Yes. the ISM diamond vault. Isrealian Safe Manufacturer. I've actually cracked quite a few of them. Safes are like foreign cars. There are a lot of foreign cars in the US as well as foreign safes. For example:

  • Fichet from France
  • John Tann from England
  • SLS from England
  • Original from Yugoslavia
  • Steelage from India

and the list goes on!

heuheuheueylewis39 karma

Going back to "THE safe," what's it going to take to cover your costs to get you out there for a live reddit event? :)

RoyWattersLocksmith48 karma

Haha! Fly me out, pick up the plane ticket and put X amount of dollars in my pocket and we'll talk! I'd like to see it open too!

heuheuheueylewis64 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith53 karma

Pay my way, and I'll fit it in my schedule! Take care and enjoy your evening!

ClassicLaw36 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith54 karma

No comment... :)

OctopusGoesSquish25 karma

Can you also do digital safes? Or is that a different kettle of fish entirely?

RoyWattersLocksmith36 karma

The Electronic locks (or e-locks), I studied those and I can bypass those also. A lot of times, without having to drill through the safe.

vegetableschubby24 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith90 karma

A bank vault or anything over 30 ton with 2 foot thick doors.

duttyman4520 karma

Thank you for the reply!

What was the most memorable hiding place a client had a safe? Have you ever had to help someone unlock themselves from within a safe? Can you watch heist movies without laughing at their technique?

RoyWattersLocksmith54 karma

You're welcome!

  • A lot of the movies today are pretty real. Look at the italian job. All that stuff was rented from LA Safe Co. They're real and use real techniques.

  • I went into a house one time and a guy had a bat cave. He touched a button on a wall, the wall opened up, and we went three stories down into his bat cave.

  • I have never had to unlock someone from a safe, but I know two guys who helped unlock bank vaults that two children were stuck in!

plexxer19 karma

Have you ever been contracted to open a safe under the condition that you cannot reveal the contents, via a non-disclosure agreement or some other legal means?

RoyWattersLocksmith25 karma


DOTAluke35 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith37 karma


plexxer16 karma

Thanks for doing this Roy! A few questions:

How did you get started?

What was the most impressive thing that you uncovered?

What was the most memorable reaction you got from a client?

And, a local question, where is your favorite place to eat in Pittsburgh?

RoyWattersLocksmith36 karma

Hello and youre welcome!

  • I was a machinist first. My father was a machine shop teacher and he used to bring me all kind of locks home that I would take apart and study them as a youngster.

  • I've opened safes that have been wired to bombs. I just opened a safe 2 hours north of Pittsburgh that had two sticks of "giant gelatins" (1920 dynamite).

  • Memorable? I've worked for a lot of good people. People appreciate what I do for them. They also give me a big tip!

  • Too many to list because I also service their safes and they feed me for free (true statement)!

ibsulon14 karma

I've heard there are rooms in certain defense companies that haven't been opened since World War 2 because of the possibility of explosives in there which could go off due to the change in pressure. How worried are you about that kind of thing in an old safe?

RoyWattersLocksmith40 karma

I don't worry about that stuff. I open every old antique safe. But when I do open them, it's very carefully, and most of the time, I do it by touch. With that being said, I have lived life on the edge a few times!

I did a job with a gun safe, and there was a cardboard container full of gun powder inside. A spark could ignite it. When you drill the safe, I burnt a hole through that safe, and generated some sparks. The locksmith that was with me doesn't come on jobs with me anymore, haha!

shanghaid9 karma

Did you/they know beforehand that the safe was rigged? (gelatin/dynamite).

If 'no', how did you find out - assuming - beforehand? Did you X-tray it or use some type of explosive sniffer?

Thanks for doing this.

RoyWattersLocksmith29 karma

No I did not know! I opened it and it was like..."oh dynamite!"

It wasn't rigged, it was on the shelf, inside.

Back in the 20s and early 1900s, if you were a farmer and you were clearing your land, you would go to the hardware store and purchase dynamite. People didn't have the big hydraulic cylinders and tractors back then. They had a horse and a case of dynamite!

  • I've cracked drug bust safes. The big drug guys booby trap their safes to protect it from other drug guys. I would just crack it by touch and do it verrrry carefully!

voodoo_curse14 karma

How many safes would you estimate you've unlocked in your lifetime?

RoyWattersLocksmith24 karma

15,000-20,000 and that's a conservative number. I've opened as many as 8 in a day (in 3 states), and I've been doing this for 36 years.

Fa1l3r14 karma

I have a few questions:

  1. In your personal opinion, what was your greatest accomplishment(s) in your profession?

  2. What books would you recommend to novices like me in cracking a safe or picking a lock? How should I practice lock picking and safe cracking?

  3. Did you know that Richard P. Feynman was also a safe cracker (though not a professional)? If you do know, what do you think about his techniques and perspectives?

  4. What is a good lock pick set for anyone to have, especially for beginners?

edit: format

edit 2: organization

RoyWattersLocksmith25 karma

  • 1. Youtube. It's all over youtube.
  • 2. sit in front of the safe and spend some time and seeing what's given first. Look at it, touch it, turn it, is it too tight? Spray some WD40 on it to loosen it up a little bit. If you want to get started, just go buy a padlock at a hardware store and start messing around with that!
  • 3. He just used a progressive system, he knew nothing about the locks on the side. All he basically used was the tolerances of the lock. He wrote down and cut the number of turns. He knew nothing about what was going on inside of the lock. So we could call that a progressive system (like, 2-4-6-8-10). He would do every 2 numbers until he got it open...that's not true safe cracking.
  • 4. You could make your own lock picks. Large paper clips work wonders. For example, I locked my screen door when I took a ride on my scooter. When I came back, I had no tools to get my screen door unlocked...one of the safes on my front porch had a paperclip in it. I used the paper clip and was in my screen door in less than 30 seconds.

SpackleButt12 karma

How tempting is it to attempt an "Oceans11" type heist? I would imagine you are on some kind of FBI watch list.

RoyWattersLocksmith24 karma

It's too good of an honest living to turn over to the dark side!

icheissesatch9 karma

Few questions, I've been picking locks for awhile and have gotten pretty good but there are two that I can not get and I was wondering what the best approach is (if you can legally answer them) 1) handcuffs are easy, but when the secondary lock is on, it's pretty much impossible for me to pick, any advice there? 2) I've had some difficulties on locks with teeth in both ends of the cylinder, specifically my issue is the placement of the tension wrench.

Also, just for fun, bonus question: On safes that are set to incinerate the contents upon cracking, would there be a way to drill a hole and inject liquid nitrogen or something?

RoyWattersLocksmith13 karma

  • In regards to the handcuffs, if the secondary lock is set, it's deadlocked. No way to undue that!

  • you have to tension it in the middle of the key way and pick each side.

  • To answer your bonus question, there was only one safe made by the government, that had an inkbox the safe....so if you cracked it, the ink would explode, ruining the contents. Think about this...safes that are in a fire, and they build fire safes, is it going to be built to withstand the fire? The secret to that is, oxygen fuels the fire. If oxygen is not present, there is no fire. Something to think about...

icheissesatch5 karma

Ah thank you. Too bad about the handcuffs and I guess tensioning in the middle takes a lot of practice. For the bonus maybe in wasn't clear, I have heard of safes that once it is cracked (and opened) the oxygen gets in and there is a fire inside the safe that burns the contents, the safe itself is fireproof. Though, that inbox idea is pretty cool.

RoyWattersLocksmith7 karma

Tensioning in the middle does take a little bit of practice. There are also many different types of handcuffs as well! Ive come into contact with dye-bomb safes, though. They were made out of Belgium.

MisterFDotCom9 karma

If I can lockpick a lock or crack a safe that isn't mine, and then close it again without disturbing the contents or permanently damaging a lock, have I broken a law?

i.e., Breaking and Entering with neither breaking nor entering.

RoyWattersLocksmith12 karma

I think you violate someone's privacy by doing that. And cameras (i.e., pin holes), they're everywhere. I wouldn't recommend it!

captdimitri8 karma

I've heard that putting water in the hole when attempting to drill through carbonite hardplate works like a charm. What's your experience with this? Why does that work?

RoyWattersLocksmith8 karma

Yes, it cools it and helps to wash the chips away.

knoxpirate8 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith23 karma

You're welcome! Thank you for the barrage of questions!

There is also going to be safe and vaults to protect people's treasures. Just look at all the gun safes that are on the market. There is a factory in the US that is building 550 safes...A DAY.

  • I don't look inside, I normally am putting my stuff away. I did my job so I allow the client to look. I look forward to the safe that I pick up at auction that's rightfully mine and I don't sleep until I have it open--and yes I have gotten some pretty cool stuff!

  • I like the old antique safes from yesteryear. There's alot of secret, hidden locks, switches and our forefathers built some pretty top notch stuff. They were heavy and the doors were very thick with very strong steel.

  • I have a banker's chest that I call 'family'. I trick out safes...I think i'm the only one that does it. I think if i know every known way to get into the safe, i know how to keep safe technicians out. i can put in secret locks and other tricks to foil or confuse the common safe cracker!

  • To those wanting to follow in my footsteps, start reading all you can, and start developing your own little bag of tricks. As time goes on, go out and start doing some jobs. You learn by doing. Trust me, the years go by fast!

  • I think the safe industry is heading in the biometric direction in the next ten years and "The next 10 years" is here now.

Thanks for the questions!

duttyman458 karma

Last question, I promise. In season 2 of Game of Thrones, Khaleesi uses a custom key made from a pendant to unlock a very large ancient looking vault. Are things of this nature real? And have you ever had the pleasure of trying to crack an "ancient" safe?

RoyWattersLocksmith18 karma

Yeah! My database goes back to the 1700s so I can go back 300 years. There's safes called "boxes of wards" that are similar to what you are describing!

Edit: back then they used to make the key, then create the lock to fit the key.

PhillipStein7 karma

How many patterns to kw1s are there?

RoyWattersLocksmith8 karma

That's a quick set lock...quick set locks has 5 spaces and 6 steps. Now you can figure it out!

captdimitri5 karma

Don't forget the MACS of 5.

RoyWattersLocksmith6 karma

Correct! MACS & Jason cuts!

captdimitri4 karma

Kw1s have a 7th depth that's only used for masterkeying as well.

RoyWattersLocksmith9 karma

It could, yes. I did general locksmithing but I'm not current on some stuff.

captdimitri7 karma

Do you know Dave McOmbie?

I've taken a couple of his classes before, I found him to be incredibly knowledgeable.

Who do you think could crack a safe faster? You or Dave?

RoyWattersLocksmith10 karma

I know Dave really well. We all grew up in the business together. We're all old safe guys now!

SpackleButt6 karma

What was the most disappointing find in a safe you opened? What was the most interesting find?

RoyWattersLocksmith18 karma

A lot of people think their safes are treasure troves, but are just filled with old, stale air. The most interesting find was a christmas fruit cake in his safe!

SpackleButt8 karma

Well the only logical question left is...What did the fruit cake taste like?

RoyWattersLocksmith11 karma

I don't know, it wasn't mine! I'm glad I didn't have to taste test! I just wonder how long it was in there!

eggbrain6 karma

There's the old axiom that it takes 10,000 hours to fully "master" an art. How long do you think it took you to become what you would consider a "great" safecracker?

You mentioned that ISM diamond vault is the "holy grail" to crack. Why is that so?

Are there any safes that you would deem "uncrackable"?

RoyWattersLocksmith14 karma

Thanks for asking and this will be the last question for the evening!

  • It depends...my magic was being a machinist first so that helped. The rest just followed. 10,000 hours...I'd say that gave me a good foundation to build on.

  • It's just a well built safe. The engineering and design are really great.

  • No. All safes can be opened. It just takes more time with some! But, if someone gets a hold of the safes I have 'tricked out'...Watch out! haha!

Thanks again for all the questions!

captdimitri6 karma

I've asked a few already, and I keep coming up with more! Sorry for all the posts:

How have the locksmithing laws of different states affected your work? I assume you do work all over the country. Do you bother getting licensed in each state or is there a better way around this?

I ask because I'm also a locksmith / apprentice safe cracker (also going to school for machining right now!) and would like to take on contracts outside my state, which brings me to my next question:

How did you first start finding work outside your local area? Do you have to get safe-cracker famous first or something? Did you advertise your services somewhere? Organizations like the NSO and SAVTA?

RoyWattersLocksmith8 karma

No problem! Great Questions!

  • I sub contract from the local lock and safe companies. I'm just working for them. They already have what licenses are needed

ElSackoVerde6 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith22 karma

A difficult job is when something breaks inside the massive door. For example, on a bank vault, the whole hand wheel disconnected from the back. The whole shaft and wheel disconnected back two feet in the lock. I made some clever tools to open it. I built the tools in the service truck. And i actually had my father with me which made it quite enjoyable as well. We drank lots of beers and had a steak dinner after that job!

Alias286 karma


RoyWattersLocksmith9 karma

I'm really busy in everyday safe cracking but I'd like to see it open as well! I work for great people and it helps me make an honest living.

heuheuheueylewis5 karma

Can you give me a recommendation on a good 100-200 dollar small biometric gunsafe that can't be broken into by your average thief? The one I currently own you can jam your finger into the fingerprint reader and get access to the mechanism that activates the unlock via a paperclip or something.

RoyWattersLocksmith11 karma

Lock at the company Stackon. It's a inexpensive safe that can keep the average guy out.

ManWithYourPlan5 karma

Hello Mr Watters, and thank you for doing this.

What is your ideal Saturday like?

RoyWattersLocksmith8 karma

A lot of times my son and I do safe deliveries on Saturdays. I just don't have enough work to keep my son busy full time so we work on Saturdays together.

ManWithYourPlan4 karma


Well I hope there comes a time where safes are in increasingly high demand!

RoyWattersLocksmith5 karma

Thank you!

Dakota360ci5 karma

I assume you open GSA's? If so, what labels/locks?

RoyWattersLocksmith8 karma

I do. And all of them. Red label, black label, and all the XO locks.