View Full Version : Homemade Gun Safe (In Progress)

March 22, 2013, 07:40 AM
New school project for me.. I am building a gun safe since our current gun safe is overflowing! Im sure some of you have the same problem. Haha. I have no intentions of this being 100% theft/fire proof as im not a gun safe engineer. ;) I love building things and it just so happens that im pretty talented at it. Not trying to brag or anything.

I have plans drawn up already and next step is getting materials and starting it. Ive been fooling around with some scrap metal at school for a security system. Don't ask how im doing it. That's a secret ;)

Ill be posting pictures and updates as I progress on it.

First step.

Build steel frame using 2" x 1/8" angle iron. Ill have metal tomorrow and pictures posted monday or tuesday on whatever I accomplish.
Frame will simply be a box. ( W-H-D : 32 1/2" x 22" x 60" )


Outside Dimensions: ( 32 1/2" x 22" x 60" )
Inside dimensions: 31" x 20 1/2" x 58 1/2"
Compartments: Two 13" sides for guns and a 5" +/- in the center for pull out drawers.
Wall thickness: 3/4" +/- walls. Materials in order: (1/8" flat steel - 1/8" air gap - 1/2" sheet rock + thickness for liner)
Lock: Keypad security with rotating handle to lock and unlock deadbolts.
Capacity: Roughly 20 rifles/shotguns + tons of space for handguns and ammo.
Finish: The steel will be sandblasted and painted either flat or gloss black. Just to prevent rust in long term since sheet rock does hold moisture. I will be putting walnut on the outside of it so I can get a little more detailed in the outside look. I will be using a router and dremel tool to cut out a design of some sort on the door. The wood kind of defeats the purpose of the attempt on fire proofing it but hopefully our house doesn't burn down anytime soon...

Hopefully I can get some pictures posted up once I get it started and then add more as I go.

If you guys have any ideas for me as I go, feel free to chime in.

March 26, 2013, 10:54 PM
Here is what I have done so far.

The frame is basically built like rectangle box. Made sure everything was square and the door fit in perfectly. I left a little room all around it for movement. The side opposite of the hinges I angled in so it would open smoothly.

there is a lip around the door frame that the door actually sits on.

March 26, 2013, 10:55 PM
Then of course the hinges that I ran through the steel lathe.

March 27, 2013, 01:47 PM
Excellent and I'll be looking forward to more of your pictures as you progress.

Be Safe !!!

March 31, 2013, 08:17 PM
That is pretty cool. Working with metal has always been something I've been interested in. As the son of a carpenter, if it can't be made with wood then it shouldnt be made (hah a little exaggeration).

Really looking forward to seeing more progress.

March 31, 2013, 08:24 PM
Don't forget the fire safe options. Most fire safes are made with just an inch of sheet rock. Lining your safe with this will make you feel much more comfortable.

March 31, 2013, 08:39 PM
Cool. Looking forward to following your progress.

April 1, 2013, 08:51 PM

That was my plan, putting the sheet rock on the inside.

Here are some more pictures. I haven't accomplished too much more. Past few days have basically been thinking days.

I have tacked on the hinges just to get an idea. Two of the pictures shows the hinges (door opened and closed) and then the other two pictures show the pins that lock and unlock the safe. The whole locking system is not complete yet... Making minor adjustments as I go.

April 1, 2013, 08:52 PM
The pins.

April 1, 2013, 08:57 PM
Sorry for the continuous posts. I am going to overlap the flat iron on the door over top of the outside edges to seal it up. My dad was telling me the seal on our current gunsafe is a special gosh darnit material that expands when its heated to provide a better seal. Considering this is a gun/firearms forum and the majority of you own gunsafes, would by chance any of you guys know what that material is called or where I can find it.
I imagine a little research online would help me but ill start here with the research.

April 2, 2013, 08:25 AM
Look into intumescent paint. We used it on exposed steel beams that needed to be fireproofed. It expands multiple times its thickness when exposed to heat and can be painted over in whatever color you want. Here's a link to one mfgr but there are others.


Here's another product and I think this is what we used


April 2, 2013, 06:32 PM
Thanks for the recommendation. I dont know how well it would do for sealing the door up when its not heated. Yeah, it would expand and seal it when its heated but what about when its not heated. I would still like to have it sealed up.

April 2, 2013, 08:40 PM
I know that vacuum oven in eat treat plants use a rope like material that's seems to be slightly shiny to deal doors to the ovens.

April 2, 2013, 10:37 PM
Pope, I thought you wanted something to seal up the door in a fire condition. Like Stukaman said, for everyday seal up, just use a weatherstrip material made of a braided fiberglass or asbestos rope-like product.

April 3, 2013, 07:43 AM
I am wanting a seal for a fire condition but also an everyday seal. Like a strip about a 1/16" thick that goes all the way around the door that will expand when heated. Plus provide the a seal when not heated.

You get what im trying to ask for? It would be easier if I just knew the name or something similar to it because I am bad at explaining things ;)

Thanks for the help though.

4V50 Gary
April 4, 2013, 08:33 PM
Pope - I hope you share your plans with member a1abdj. He's a locksmith and works with safes. He can give you some insights into making a good box.

April 5, 2013, 07:43 AM
Okay I will send him a pm and see what he has to say. Thanks!

April 5, 2013, 08:15 AM
This is the material used to seal safe doors in case of a fire. It's just cut in strips and attached around the opening of the safe.


April 6, 2013, 10:02 AM
Thanks fas1,

I sent them an email asking for prices. I am curious if Ill have to order a full sheet of it or just get in strips. Since im just making one gun safe, it wouldn't be worth buying a whole sheet of it.

4V50 Gary
April 6, 2013, 11:18 AM
How about concrete filled? There are fibers you can add that improve the strength; that and tossing in copper, ball bearings and other pieces of metal would make increase its cut resistance (since they'll dull the blade and require change of blades).

April 6, 2013, 07:24 PM
For somebody who has never done this before, I think you're doing a great job. If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to offer my input. Otherwise, the best way to learn is to try it and see how it works.

big al hunter
April 7, 2013, 01:08 AM
Door and hardware specialty companies sell strips of intumescent weather strip with adhesive on 1 side, approximately 3/8 inch wide and 1/16 thick. Should be available locally anywhere. Not sure what the cost is because I haven't worked with it for many years and never had to purchase it, just installed it.

Also on the fire proofing get intumescent fire caulk for the edges of the drywall. It will seal the gaps and increase the fire resistive property of the safe. If you can't find it at home depot look up your local Hilti sales rep. Or check at drywall supply companies for construction.

April 7, 2013, 12:09 PM

That would be a good idea but for me it would be too much of a hassle working with concrete.


I actually would like some input on the door handle. I will post pictures Monday of the handle but I am trying to figure out way to attach the handle to the locking mechanism without having the weld it together. After I get the sheet metal on there, it will be almost impossible to get inside there and weld it. Plus if something had broke in the future I would like to be able to take apart the door.

I was thinking of making a hexagon sleeve or even a square sleeve that the handle would slide into. Im going to play around with a software I have so I can explain that a little better.

April 7, 2013, 12:29 PM
Something like this. The model on the left would be inside the door with the sleeve on it. Then the handle would slide through a whole in the sheet metal and then through the sleeve. Then bolted on in the back. I dont know if that would work or not.

April 7, 2013, 12:45 PM
Quite an interesting project. Hope you keep posting pictures as it progresses. Nice work!

April 7, 2013, 01:22 PM
I think the connection between the handle and locking mechanism should have a shearing connection. This will prevent someone from directly applying enough pressure via the handle to disrupt the lock.

Round sleeve on the handle over a round shaft for the locking mechanism with a small roll pin to hold them together would work. You could knock this apart later for maintenance/repair/improvements should you desire.

April 7, 2013, 02:03 PM
Round stock would work also. I think that would be a little easier to work with too.

I had another plan drawn up on paper of actually using a bearing and then make out a special bolt in the lathe that would slide through the bearing and hold the locking mechanism in place. The only thing I was worried about on that is strength. I think if someone started beating on the handle it would pop something loose.

April 7, 2013, 09:20 PM
I think the connection between the handle and locking mechanism should have a shearing connection.

Indeed it should.

Instead of a roll pin, what about something like this:


April 8, 2013, 05:32 PM
Word of advice. Make sure you can fix your safe threw a normal size door.

April 8, 2013, 08:15 PM
26" deep it'll fit though interior doors. I thought of that earlier.

I changed up the handle a bit.




April 9, 2013, 02:33 AM
Are you stagger welding the frame or going back and laying a full bead. Also you are burying your rod in the puddle at the end of your bead. Ease it out and let the puddle fill as you do. The ends of your beld will be smoother and have better penetration.
Have you calculated the weight. This is 30 lb plate your using.
Awesome project.

April 9, 2013, 06:45 AM
This is a very interesting project that for some reason has caught my interest. Looking like a good start though. There is a guy on rimfirecentral in the 10/22 action section building a receiver out of brass. But this is by far more of my fabrication abilities.

April 9, 2013, 07:42 AM
If your looking at the four welds on the front of the door then I can explain that. To be honest im not exactly sure of the name for it but the tip that is inside of the nozzle has the threads all messed up and the thing doesn't screw in all the way. So when you weld sometimes the wire will sway from the side to side inside your nozzle. Plus they are horizontal welds.

Thanks for the tips though.


It really doesn't take too much abilities to make this. If a guy had the materials, tools, and a little bit of thinking ability then this project isn't too hard. For being my first time ever doing this, it's a lot of trial and error. Especially on this handle. So far ive used welder, press (notcher, whole punch), drill press, plasma cutter (torch could have worked aswell), mill (which I could have done without, just wanted to make it easier), and steel lathe.

April 10, 2013, 07:58 AM
Im thinking about re doing the inside of the door. Keep that inch thick plate but remake the locking pins. I am going to put four pins in that are thicker and have gears in there to turn it. It was an idea I got last night and I think it will actually work.

a1abdj, have you ever worked with gears in a gunsafe door?

April 10, 2013, 09:10 AM
a1abdj, have you ever worked with gears in a gunsafe door?

Everything from very simple, to fairly complex. If going this route you'll want to make sure that everything lines up properly, that the gears are a bit overbuilt, and of very good quality.

Gears can cause all sorts of problems, and the more complex the design, the bigger those problems can become.

April 10, 2013, 02:33 PM
After.looking at prices and figuring up the cost on the gears I put that idea down. I went back to the flat steel.

I decided to add a couple more pins in which made me change my design. Here's what I got.

The wheel on the left will rotate the other two wheels. I still have yet to make the bracing that goes from the wheels to the pins.

I will be adding something in the first wheel to stop it from rotating too far. I just need the pins made so I know where to stop it.

Front view with the handle on.


April 10, 2013, 03:27 PM
We all buy these things in the hope that they will never be necessary. It may very well be that your unique design would give a would be thief absolute fits!! Well done, man!


April 11, 2013, 08:28 AM
Question on the sheet metal.

What would you recommend on the gauge? Should I go with 10 or 11 gauge? or 7 gauge? Im worried about heat along with being theft proof.

April 11, 2013, 05:18 PM
My preference would be 7 gauge (3/16") or even heavier with 1/4", 10 gauge (1/8") would do fine. One of my safes has 1/4" sides and 1" thick door.....but it also weighs in at 1500 lbs.

April 11, 2013, 09:04 PM
I think I'm gonna go with the 3/16".

Here's what I got done today.

Wholes cut for new pins and the bracing for the pins.


April 12, 2013, 07:28 AM
I think 3/16" (7ga) would be a good choice for a residential safe. Please weigh it when you are done.

I would also make sure the bolt work is supported well so the supports on the door won't bend easily if the door is pried.

April 12, 2013, 07:57 AM
I will need a full 5x10 sheet of 3/16 metal which is roughly 375. 7.66lbs per sq ft. I would guess so far my safe right now with the frame is pushing 200. Add in the durock cement boards and give another 50-100 lbs for inside materials (metal, fabric, etc..) To kind of give you an idea.

Hopefully I can get it weighed after im done. It wont be a super heavy safe by any means but it will definetely need more then one person with a dolley to take it.

April 12, 2013, 11:21 AM
Pins only at top and bottom?......nothing on the sides?

April 12, 2013, 12:49 PM
I got two on the top and two on the bottom. I have been debating putting more on the sides.

April 12, 2013, 05:19 PM
Could probably cam something off the existing linkage. Only need to be moveable on one side, hinge side could be solid.




April 18, 2013, 07:50 AM
Sorry its been a few days since I last posted. Made a few modifications to the locking mechanism. I picked up my sheet metal yesterday that wrap around the thing. Just need a couple more pieces for the top and bottom. Hopefully I will have a picture today after school for you guys.

April 18, 2013, 10:37 AM
I believe the material that your looking for to seal your SAFE, could be found at a local Fireplace/ wood burning stove store, it is the fiber rope looking type that you were describing earlier. This comes in different sizes and length and I think this would work great for your application!!!!

April 19, 2013, 08:22 AM
Here is three of the sides covered in 3/16" sheet metal.

The top isn't suppose to be there. It's a sheet of 1/8" that I set up there to get a feeling of what it would be like.



This thing is really starting to get heavy!

Wednesday I picked up the sheet metal and I bought a 5x10 sheet from a guy and I was cutting my last piece and I realized that it was short a foot in a half. You could see where the guy had sheered it off. I called him up and he apologized for it saying he should have measured it and it was stupid of him. We had a couple laughs about it and he told me to bring back my left over piece and trade him for the piece to cover the front.
Its too bad my pick up got 6 mpg pulling that trailer to pick it up!! I wonder if he'll reimburse me with the half tank worth of gas I used up!! Haha.


We have that same rope material in our wood stove at our cabin. We kept that as an option too. I believe it would be the cheaper route. I talked with a lady that works for the company who produces palusol and she basically said I wouldn't be able to get a hold of it. The only way I could is talking with some gun safe companies to see if they would sell me a few strips. She also said that it is sold as a raw material and alot of gun safe companies wont share their "secrets" on how to apply it.

April 19, 2013, 11:05 AM
Hi Pope,

Here are a couple of links where you can get fireseals. The hagar below looks exactly like the stuff I purchased from AMSEC - only cheaper.


Another option is an ES982 (maybe also ES985) from here

I also managed to find a pemco S88D17 smoke seal (to use in addition to the fire seals) on ebay for less than $15 shipped.

April 19, 2013, 01:04 PM
Thanks for the recommendations. I was reading up on the Hagar material. Looks like it reasonably priced. It states that the shelf life is 18 months for the adhesive. I assume when they say shelf life they mean before application. I wouldn't want to replace it every year in a half.

April 22, 2013, 08:02 PM
The door is on.



April 23, 2013, 12:15 PM
Very cool, if I may ask, how much have you invested into this so far? Granted having your own machining tools I'm sure helps a lot, but this is something that I may consider later on, since I'm planning on going to school for machining and welding.

April 23, 2013, 01:08 PM
Well being a school project, all of the school's tools and machines definitely helps!

I am guessing ill have close to $600 into it in all. I have about $330 into the 3/16" sheet metal. The 1" angle iron in all is about $100. The 2" angle iron was all traded for a couple cases of beer from a very close friend so that was definitely a big help! The durock will be a little over $50. Paint and final finishes will take up the rest of the cost.

Yeah it seems like a lot but for the price of some of the larger gun safes it really isn't that much. The only thing with making your own is its not fire proof rated. I am putting the durock to help with fire but who knows it if it'll work. It surely couldn't hurt. Also with making your own you dont have that security of your safe being completely functional at all times and when its not functional, your the only one to blame.

April 28, 2013, 10:02 AM
I joined up just to see your project, looking good. Does the door extend out past the jamb?

April 29, 2013, 07:00 PM
Pope, I'm a machinest, not a safe builder. NICE JOB! You will deter most theives.
If you can keep them out for a couple hours you stand a better chance of keeping your stuff.
When I bought my first gun safe I did a lot of research. I looked at what my local GS used & took it from there.
I like internal hinges, dead bolts all around & handles in the center of the door. I prefer rectangle deadbolts over round ones (more surface contact).
Again, NICE JOB!

April 29, 2013, 07:03 PM
I think my safes have a compound on the doors called Paloseal, which swells up when exposed to heat.

April 29, 2013, 09:56 PM
I have talked with a representative from palusol. She basically said I have a very little chance of getting ahold of the product. Its not something you can buy over the counter. I have found a different material that I will be using instead.

Right off the bat I was thinking of ways to do a internal hinge but I just couldn't figure out a way to do it using the tools I had. Itll take a lot to cut off/beat off three of those barrel hinges. I laid a nice deep stringer and then covered it with a nicer looking weave.


What are you meaning by jamb? The sheet metal of the door does overlap the gunsafe's sheet metal if thats what your trying to ask. That way it hides the pins. there is kind of a down fall to having pins visible and then hiding them. If they are visible well they could be cut. If you have an overlapping door like mine well some guy could probably wedge a crow bar under it and over a couple hours of brutal beating on it, eventually break/bend the pins. But who knows which is better. You dont see too many overlapping doors on gun safes so I imagine someone with a lot more brains than me did a study/test on it to find out, but overlapping is what I decided and what I did. No changing it haha. Plus it hides my minor mistakes on my door frame ;)

After I finish up the drawers on the inside, we will be bringing it home to sandblast and paint. Ill get some more pictures up when I get the drawers finished and then after we blast/paint it.

This safe is going to be a burgundy or dark maroon if you will. With gold/brass colored pin stripping around the door, brass lock, and I am looking into someone who does brass coating so I can coat my handle. If not, we will try and find a brass colored paint or match it.

April 30, 2013, 06:36 AM
Your project looks great. Thanks for posting. I was going to suggest if you had any plate left over, maybe you could weld it on the jambs (2"angle) to flush up the face frame with the door.

May 7, 2013, 09:28 PM
Been doing some detailed work on it. I will be sandblasting it tomorrow after I get out of school.

May 20, 2013, 06:27 PM
Keep getting closer and closer to being done! All of my welding and metal work is done. I primed and painted it. Sanded down the black paint to smooth it up. Tomorrow or Wednesday it will be moved to our neighbors where he's gonna let me paint the maroon with his sprayer. He ordered some of his automotive paint. It is alot smoother and better looking then our industrial paint that we use on things.

Also got first layer of duruock in. Ignore the duct tape on the durock. That was to help hold the pieces together because I dont have the glue or heat caulking yet.




4V50 Gary
May 20, 2013, 07:59 PM
Sweet. Great to see something from start to finish here.

May 23, 2013, 08:07 AM
Final maroon paint with the gold pin stripping. I should have it home today so I can get the lock and handle on and get another picture.


May 23, 2013, 08:17 AM
Great job. Thanks for posting all the pictures as you progressed on it. The finished product looks very, very nice indeed.

May 23, 2013, 10:32 AM
Wow! Looks great!

Final material and labor costs & hours count when finished?

May 23, 2013, 06:34 PM
I think you've done a better job on your first build than some of the safes the bigger names have been spitting out recently.

May 25, 2013, 12:56 AM
Thanks guys. I still gotta finish the inside but for now my main focus was the exterior. I wanted the out side done for my graduation party so I could show it off haha.

Here's a pic with handle and lock.


May 29, 2013, 09:01 PM
Got the durock in today along with the plywood and hard wood.


June 2, 2013, 10:12 PM
Felt, wood, drawers, almost completed.



This 30-30 is a bit short for this side but I couldn't take the thing any lower other wise my bow wouldn't sit in right.


I'll get some better pictures posted when I get it completely done

June 18, 2013, 09:03 PM
I cant see links at work.. Can someone post the pics in the thread

4V50 Gary
June 19, 2013, 07:01 AM
Nice interior. I wish I was talented.

June 19, 2013, 01:24 PM
Great Work!

Question: How did you attach the rock to the sheetmetal. It looks from the pictures as if you used screws of some sort.


June 19, 2013, 01:38 PM
Very ingenious. Not sure if I missed it, but what was the final estimated material cost?
Thanks for the instructional project & photos.

June 19, 2013, 09:43 PM
Would love to know your material costs.

June 21, 2013, 06:27 AM
Congratulations on your project and your graduation.
How many hours do you estimate went into the project?

June 30, 2013, 11:04 AM
I joined recently just to follow this, looks great. I did see some information above about needing a Paulson seal. There was a recent thread on THR were the OP bought a seal direct from AMSEC, I imagine you could do the same and make something work.

Edit: After reading the second page of the thread the AMSEC solution was already discussed.

August 1, 2013, 09:31 PM
My apologies for the very late response. I have been busy this summer with work and haven't had much time to get on the computer.

thump_rrr, I would be scared to even guess the hours that have gone into it. For several reasons; There was soo much time just involved in thinking.. so many hours spent trying to sleep but failing to do so because of my pondering mind. I was always thinking of different ideas. Alot of trial and error, mainly in the locking part. Also this was a school project, so I only had so many hours a day to work on it. Being a senior and filling my schedule with easy classes to finish off the year, I did have approximately 4.5 hours a day in the shop. Alot of which was taken up by doing my required lessons/welding tests/etc..
I can however give you a brief and extremely estimated list of certain things I did.
Frame of safe (measuring, cutting, welding): 4 hours.
Door frame (3-90 degree sides with a custom 45 degree angle): 3 hours.
Interior framing (drawers): 3 hours.
Welding the sheeting to the frame: 6 hours.
Constructing door locking mechanism (This would be an estimate if i actually knew what I was doing.. actual time was probably close to 30 hours in total after all my trial and errors): 8 hours.
constructing door handle: 4 hours.
Grinding/filing/sanding/polishing: FOREVER!!! Probably 35 hours. (alot of which was done at home on my own time. 90% of my grinding could have been avoided with the proper machining)
Sandblasting/Painting: 4 hours of labor. Several more hours of drying time of course.

Again those are all very very extreme estimates. If I made another one alot of that time would be cut down drastically. Of course there was alot of other smaller things that I left out.

Everyone asking about cost,
I should have kept track of my costs but I think I would have been scared to know the exact amount. Some of the materials (2" angle iron/portions of the paint bill/ other small materials items) were all donated from business and family friends (wonderful perks of our family trade) and the school.
Overall I think I had around 1300-1400 into materials. If we had used a cheaper paint like enamel verse a urethane + the automotive paint I probably would of only had 1000-1100 into it.

I've checked out some prices on gun safes and some are higher than what I put into it and some are lower and having made a safe that fits my own personal needs AND having the pleasure of building it myself. It was definitely worth the money and would love to do it again.

The way I did it will work but I wish I would have done it differently. My original plan was to find a glue that could bond between durock and metal but I didn't find exactly what I wanted so to improvise I placed each piece in so they would all hold each other in firmly. I had layered it with two sheets. I wanted 1" total of durock well I could only find half inch so I just doubled it. The second layer I overlapped my previous cracks and then very carefully and patiently screwed the two pieces together. After the durock was carefully put into place I surrounded it with a thin piece of plywood to help with strength and to smash the durock between two solids pieces to help with future problems. I believed over time durock will split apart, or crumble.
There are so many ways I wish would have done it but I couldn't think of it at the time and its a little too late now. Haha.

Something else to add in; For those of you who ever have dreamt about making your own safe or are actually thinking about doing it.. You really don't need much for tooling. A guy can pretty much do everything with just a welder and plasma cutter/OR torch. Yes I had a mill, press, lathe, etc to help me but you can definetely get by without them! I did very little mill work on it. Lathe work was only in the handles which you can always design your own handles without a lathe or even have someone else make those for you. The only thing I used the press/notcher/whole punch for was to make a few jobs easier such as cutting holes, cutting my notches, cutting angle iron. All that can be done with a drill press/drill/or torch.

Ill honestly say I had NO idea what I was doing this whole project. Which just goes to show that anybody can do it if they have some of the necessary tools, patience, and a little will power to try different things.