An ice-cold tempered steel ring encased in a brick of equal strength and secured by a tumbler-based locking mechanism; what could be more secure, right?  I’ve long put faith in the security of a good ol’ fashioned padlock, having once witnessed a high school janitor spend 45 minutes trying to cut one off a locker with a very hefty looking pair of bolt cutters, so when the 6 year-old Master branded lock on our cottage shed seized its locking mechanism, I wasn’t looking forward to having to remove it.

*Click on any photo to see it larger in a new window

The finest in security?

The finest in security?

I tried lubricating the locking mechanism and even picking the lock (which I have no idea how to do, and just stuck pointy things inside in the hopes it would pop open), but the key would just go into the keyhole and do nothing.  While I asked around for a pair of strong bolt cutters, I decided to head to the internet to see what my fancy-dancy Dremel could do (a great Christmas gift from my beau-parents.  MERCI!).  It turns out, it could do a lot.

From what I read, and saw in a YouTube video, the claims of what a simple Dremel could do with a cutting wheel and some safety equipment (absolutely necessary, more on this below) seemed too good to be true.  Still, it was worth a try.

The hero of the day

The hero of the day

I loaded up my Dremel XPR 400 with a cutting wheel (one I had used a few times before to cut some nail heads and to buzz through some aluminum framing for a screen) and looked skeptically at the gauge of the lock steel and the seemingly flimsy cutting wheel.

Safety first, kids

Safety first, kids

Everything I’d read online suggested that cutting through steel would produce A LOT of steel sparks that could do some pretty nasty stuff to eyes and other delicate bits, so I opted on the side of caution (especially given my ability to harm myself in even the simplest of activities) and it paid off in spades.  The first aid kit, which was handy, was not needed.

Halfway home

Halfway home

I’d planned to take my time and cut in stages, but once the wheel was spinning, it was like a hot knife through butter.  It took a matter of seconds to get halfway through, where my already weakend cutting wheel (from previous projects.  Tip: if you’re cutting steel, don’t chince out on the $0.20 and use a fresh one) turned to wheel dust, most of which bounced off my facemask.  Safety wins again!

A fresh wheel to finish the job

A fresh wheel to finish the job

I took a few seconds to reload a fresh cutting wheel and was on my way to finishing the job.

Success!

Success!

And boy, did I finish it.  In a matter of seconds and a flurry of sparks, the Dremel cut through the lock like it was twine.

Quick and clean

Quick and clean

In retrospect, it would have been easier to get off the hasp had I cut in a straightaway rather than in the curve, but I thought I would need more room to navigate with the wheel and that it would be easier to manouver in what I expected to a long cutting project.  In reality, from setup to cleanup took less than 10 minutes, including taking photos, getting all my safety gear on and changing cutting wheels.  If I’d used a fresh wheel and not taken pics, it could’ve taken as little as three minutes.

Busted

Busted

This was a great lesson in how absolutely insecure a padlock can be for anyone who really wants to get past it and has ready access to an electrical outlet.  Although I now have a new skill should I ever consider switching to a life of crime, I think I’ll just file this knowledge away in the “What to do when the shed lock seizes again” category and in the “Awesome things to do with my Dremel” category.

If you need a padlock removed (legally), just let me know.  I’m dying to do it again, this time with video!

One Response to “The Day I Lost Faith in Padlocks”
  1. Well. You don’t need an electrical outlet. Don’t know if you can get Dremel like machines battery operated. But you can positively get 12 v devices and you don’t need to be an engineer to hook it up to a small but powerful enough battery.
    Or you can get battery operated angle grinders now – just like the well known accu drill and same size. Yes it makes a bit more noise but it’s faster too. Will take a lock like the one shown in mere seconds – and no refitting of a cutting disc.

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