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Antique Safes/Halls Lock and Safe Co


QUESTION: I have an old Hall's safe, I contacted you 2 years ago and you told me the safe come from the mid 1880's.  My problem now is my safe will not open using the combination.  It is the correct combination I know for a fact.  It worked for me in the past.  My question is can it be opened and saved or will it have to be destroyed.  I contacted a locksmith and she was going to read up on it and get back to me.  So far the getting back part has fell through.  Should I keep trying or just surrender and destroy the safe?
The safe is like this one:


I never recommend using locksmiths as they generally don't have the knowledge, training or tools to work on antique safes, as indicated by her "I'm going to have to read up on it" statement.   Using an untrained locksmith can result in your safe being ruined, which should be unacceptable for an antique.

Sorry, but I never compare one safe to another one.   Unfortunately I've found that in the majority of the cases when someone indicates their safe is just like some other they have found photos of, they aren't!   I would need to see the photos you sent me several years ago, to see what you actually have.

As far as the safe not opening, there are ONLY three reasons a safe lock won't open, in order, they are:

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, Operator errors
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers or out of sequence numbers
3.  Mechanical problems.

I have to assume that you do have the correct numbers, but again I've heard this on many lockouts only to be told after opening the safe and recovering the CORRECT numbers - "oh yeah, those are the numbers"!    Assuming that you have the correct numbers, the next question would be the dialing sequence that you are using.   Unfortunately our minds can play tricks on us.   While you may have opened the safe correctly numerous times, when you make even a slight dialing error, your mind can lock in on this and assure you that it is the correct sequence.   The result is that you continue making this mistake over and over.

1.  Ensure that you have the correct set of numbers - not from memory - do you have them written down somewhere????
2.  Ensure that you are dialing the sequence correctly - again, check your written copy of the combination to ensure you are dialing it right.

Lastly, if it is a mechanical problem, the first question that I have is when was the last time you had the safe serviced???   Safe locks, much like watches, need to be cleaned and lubricated regularly, AND they need to have the combination reset to insure accuracy.   While the lock on this safe does not have the accuracy of newer locks, and can't be reset to maintain the accuracy like newer locks, part of the maintenance would be to ensure that the combination that YOU are using is accurate.
Mechanical problems generally require hands on service, by a trained safe technician familiar with your safe.  

There could be a number of problems with your lock, but as simple as this lock is, I'm still thinking that you are either using the wrong numbers or making a simple dialing error.
Assuming that it is the lock, try adding and subtracting up to 10 numbers on either side of each number of your combination.   Best way would be to set up a spreadsheet (excel or similar) of your trial combinations, then simply test each one.   If it still doesn't work, you will probably need a safe technician's help.

The closest company that I know of, and would recommend would be:

Seller's Lock & Key     about 143 miles from Des Moines.
704 19th St SW
Austin, MN  55912

Sorry, but there aren't a lot of qualified safe techs in Iowa.

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

QUESTION: The picture I sent you is identical to the one I have.  Mine looked rough and as I removed the paint I found the exact picture on the safe as the one in the picture.  Same double door and picture, same painted trim and same adornments on the hinges of the safe.  I do have the number written and it worked for a couple of years.  You gave me a locksmith from  MN.  I am in Western Kentucky.


Without having "zipcode" locations, all I can do is surmise based on the information provided.   As you are in Kentucky, there are several really good safe techs in your area, and Nicholasville is the home of Sargent & Greenleaf, and the best Safe schools.

Generally the lock on these safes, and associated with the 130 number dials, is a straight tail piece lock.   You can affirm this by trying to turn the handle, if it binds up the dial, you have a straight tail piece lock.
These locks generally also have a three wheel lock (driver and 3 wheels), which results in a four number combination.   The lock actually has TWO combinations which will open it, the first dialing LRLR and the second dialing RLRL.   Generally you will only have one.

The dialing sequence will either be:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right stopping on the last number - turn the handle.

Note:  Left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.  DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the INDIVIDUAL number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   Do not whirl or spin the dial, dial smoothly, stopping exactly on each number.

If this sequence doesn't work, substitute the directions or RLRL vs LRLR, and try again.

If it still doesn't work, you may have a number of mechanical problems which will require a safe technician, including loose or broken mounting or drive screws, old grease causing problems between the wheels, etc.

Grott Locksmith Center Inc.
1112 Winchester Road
Lexington, KY 40505

J Cortie Locksmiths
3844 Heimbaugh Lane
Lexington, KY 40514

both of these companies have some well trained safe techs available.   If they can't help you or come out, they may know of someone in your area.   Joe Cortie, is one of the past presidents of the Safe & Vault Technicians Association, one of the largest groups of safe techs in the country, and he was an instructor for LSI Education, one of the largest schools for safe techs, so he should know ALL of the safe techs in Kentucky at a minimum.

Good luck, hope this helps out.  

Antique Safes

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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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