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Antique Safes/Deibold Cannonball safe


QUESTION: Andy,  I have an old connonball safe set in concrete in my basement.  I have lived in this house for over 10 years and occasionally get the urge to open it.  It was installed in 1949 but I don't know how old the safe was when it was installed.  It has been in the basement all these years so there is some corrosion.  

There was a piece of paper with a combination on the top of the safe.  The only problem is that there is no dial on the front.  I am quite sure there is nothing of value in it, so I don't expect a Giraldo event.  But my friends have been trying to get me to open it for years.

It would seem my first attempt to open it should be to get a dial and attempt to get it lined up correctly.  In a perfect world, I wouldn't mind using it

So my question is, how do I find the right dial?  If that doesn't open it, what is the next step?

ANSWER: Steven,

Generally cannonball type safes were made from the late 1800's through the early 1920's.   As parts have not been available for these containers for well over 90 years, finding the correct dial is going to be one of those "slim to none" things.   This doesn't mean that a dial can't be retrofitted onto the safe, but there-in lies the problem.

Having the correct dial, installed and aligned correctly with the lock, allows you to communicate with it.   When you dial the correct combination the lock will unlock.    Changing dials would be like me dropping you into a foreign country, while you can still speak, you can no longer "communicate" effectively with the people, because you are not using a common language.   Similarly by simply "sticking" a new dial onto the safe, the alignment has been lost, and even if you have the correct combination it won't work.

Trained safe technicans are taught how to install "emergency" dials, how to correctly determine the alignment, and/or or transfer the known numbers on the dial to open the safe.

You mention that "there WAS a piece of paper on the safe", which would imply that it is "gone"???   So the first big question would be, "Do you have the correct combination"???

If you don't have the correct combination for the safe, then it may have to be manipulated and/or drilled.   Next problem would of course be finding a trained safe technician in your area, who is familiar with cannonball safes.

While there are a couple of really good safe techs around Illinois, I would need a better idea of where you are located (zipcode) to find some references for you.

Note:   I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally DO NOT have the training, knowledge and/or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.   In this case, this would also include a lot of safe technicians as cannonball safes are kind of a "specialty" work.

Let me know what your zipcode is, and I'll see who I know in your area that I might recommend.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Zip is 60305 and yes I have the combination,  I sent an email with a picture in case that tis helpful.  

Thanks much


I'll give you several different companies or safe techs, you can discuss this project with them to see whom you feel more comfortable with.   just because one may be closer to you than another, DOESN'T necessarily mean that it would be the better choice.

Professional Safe Lock Service
414 327 5625          Jon Soderland
5123 West Howard Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin  53220

Mobile Vault Service, Inc.
847-923-5555          Mark Gerhardt
366 Beinoris Dr.
Wood Dale, IL 60191

Fink Safe & Lock Company
2311 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL  60647

Skip Eckert
754 Wadsworth
Medina, Ohio  44256

Hopefully one of these companies or safe techs will be able to help you.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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