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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Country: United States

    Default Donmetal vault doors

    From roughly 1921 to 1930 Mosler marketed a vault door construction they called Donsteel (or, sometimes, Donmetal). The door was a sandwich of steel with a copper layer that would draw away the heat of a cutting torch, making it an ineffective tool. This was briefly discussed in another thread ("Old NYC banks get a new life") but I thought I'd start a new thread since Donsteel was just a tangent to the original thread.

    I ran across a 1949 advertisement for Conoco motor oil that references Donsteel, but not by name, as an analogy to the extra protection of their oil. It seems strange since Mosler hadn't been marketing Donsteel for nearly twenty years but somebody in Conoco's advertising department must have been impressed by the idea. Maybe he was an old safecracker.

    Here is the image from eBay of the ad (the eBay item ID is 230750362144 though it is about to expire), plus an example door at the Courtyard/Marriott in San Diego.

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	6439Click image for larger version. 

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    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 1949 Donsteel reference.jpg  

  2. #2
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    Dec 2009
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    Default

    Here's another example, part of the plaque is readable in the full-sized image. Does anybody know where this door is? I've run across suggestions it might be in Japan (http://www.flickr.com/photos/soul72/54067048/). This image also shows up in a lot of places as a "stock" image.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Unknown Donsteel maybe Japan.jpg 
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Seattle WA
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    1,325
    Country: United States

    Default

    Against an Oxy/Acetylene torch it would be a good defense Against a thermal lance not so much. But then there were other defenses against that, AKA time locks and glass plates.

    As with all security it was a layered defense.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Frankfurt Main
    Posts
    705
    Country: Germany

    Default

    Hey Wylk thanks for this great information and for sharing that ad mate!
    Is it in your collection?

    I have information on armor being used by Bode Panzer and several drawings including a brochure but I can however not put it online here. Those doors are still in use in a lot a banks here in Germany and I can not risk putting such information online, sorry :(

  5. #5
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    Default

    Dicey, no, the actual ad is not in my collection. I tend to gather images but not much paper.

    As for keeping designs secret, it depends on the circumstances and attitudes. I'm sure Mosler was proud of their Donmetal doors and widely let people know of the design. This communicates confidence, and lets the bad guys know that if a door says "Mosler" it will be an even more difficult job to break in. On the other hand there are details that should be guarded such as exactly where to drill and what you may encounter in the process. See for example "security by obscurity" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_by_obscurity).

    If Bode Panzer published a brochure it can hardly be considered a secret. Drawings might be different.

  6. #6
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    Frankfurt Main
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    705
    Country: Germany

    Default

    I know the principle and don't have to look it up on wikipedia but thanks anyway.

    Well their brochures were not handed out to anyone. Probably only to banks and some information only if the order was already being placed. But yes the brochure is not the problem but drawings, technical information and cut away views are.

    I am just trying to be careful :)

  7. #7
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    Default

    I first learned about Donmetal from an official Mosler history published around 1999, 70 years after they discontinued it. Does anybody know of period advertisements or other publications? I assume Mosler didn't keep this a big secret but I haven't run across any examples.

  8. #8
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    Default

    I have transcribed the Donsteel section from Mosler's official history published in 1999:

    “Donsteel” frustrated burglars

    “Donsteel” and “Donmetal”, named after the Mosler sales manager of that time, J.G. Donaldson, were special metal alloys that had tremendous resistance to drills and torches. The alloys were used in the construction of vault doors, lock housings, and some money safes. A famous test of Donsteel’s resistance to torches was conducted on October 14, 1924 at the Hamilton plant and witnessed by many

    Click image for larger version. 

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    A typical circular “Donsteel” bank and safe deposit box door.

    prominent citizens, law enforcement officials, bankers and the press. Test technicians used an oxygen lance, five tanks of oxygen and 45 feet of pipe in an attempt to penetrate a two inch thick plate of Donsteel. After the test, witnesses testified that:

    “There was not even a blister on the surface thereof.”

    Mosler organized the Guardian Metal Products Company in 1921 to manufacture Donsteel. A building with a 10,000 lb. traveling crane was built at the south end of Building No. 8 in which high-temperature electric furnaces were installed. However, the sale of Donsteel and Donmetal products did not meet volume expectations and the equipment was sold in 1930. The space was needed to heat-treat small money safes which were then very popular with gasoline stations and chain stores.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Frankfurt Main
    Posts
    705
    Country: Germany

    Default

    Hey wylk thanks for sharing all the information with us mate!
    Motivated by your post I found this here and just had to buy it to have an original picture of a Donmetal door in my collection:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/350699182933...84.m1439.l2649

    I will scan this picture as soon as it is here and put it up here mate :)
    In full quality and more then 300 dpi.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Seattle WA
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    Country: United States

    Default

    Well I guess you learn something everyday. I had not heard of a door standing up to a lance before. I would have loved to be there for that test. To be able to shed 3000 k of heat is impressive.

    While using a lance on a safe is dumb (burn the contents) unless you know what you are doing and for very specific reasons is a very impressive tool.

    As always this site is an education. Thank you.

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