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Antique Safes/opening York safe


I got a York safe I am think it is pre WW1, it is the size of a small bar fridge. I won it at a local auction. They did not have the combination but the safe was open. During the auction someone closed and locked it.  I went to a local safe tec and he said to get it open he would have to drill to get in. Once he gets the door open he could get the combo. After the safe is fixed he would weld the hole closed and would leave a small mark. My question is can a good safe tec open the safe with out drilling into it?  when he gets it open can he set a new combination or just get the original? Last question can you still find the acorns for the hinges, I have one?          Thank you Kevin


The question isn't about a "good" safe tech, the question is about a "trained" one.   Manipulation is a skill that is learned, and like any other skill must be used consistently to become good at it.   While many safe techs may have a basic understanding of manipulation, most of them are not practiced or skilled at it.   Also, manipulation is NOT a guaranteed method of opening a safe.   Much of the skill actually depends upon the lock.   For instance really clean, well made locks can be difficult to open, and similarly locks with old, hardened grease can be difficult to open.   There are numerous other problems that also make manipulation difficult.   For this reason, even if you find a "good", well trained safe technician, you will be paying for the service - NOT the end result.    If the safe lock simply will not talk, then it may not open.

Drilling on the other hand, when done correctly by a trained safe technician will usually on take a single very small hole, usually less than 1/4", which can easily be repaired.    If done correctly, drilling the safe and lock WILL NOT result in any damage to the lock, which means that hard to find locks aren't an issue.   As far as repairing the hole, "again" if done correctly it will not leave any noticeable scaring, and with touch up paint, should be almost invisible.

As for the acorn (finial) question, there are no sources of new, original acorns.   The few that are available, have been salvaged from other safes which wound up at the scrap yard.   Unfortunately, most simply get thrown in a drawer or box, meaning that they haven't been bagged or tagged.    While it is possible to find used original ones, there are also no guarantees.    Your other option to searching, would be to have new ones made.   While I would need an exact drawing, with correct measurements, I generally recommend sending one of the originals to have measured.   The machine shop that I use, utilizes CAD/CAM equipment to ensure that they are made to exact specs, and that each one made is the same.   They can be made from pretty much any material and finish, or we can have them plated.    Final price per acorn WILL depend on what you have, the material and finish requested.    Personally I like the polished stainless the best.

If you want to have them made, I'll need a photo of the acorn, and exact drawing and dimensions to work from.    Note:   They will be made to your specs - so if you get a measurement wrong or they don't fit - there is no warranty or price negotiation.   If you send the one acorn that you have the new ones will match it - which is usually better than a drawing.

If you have any questions, or would like to have them made let me know.

So your question shouldn't be so much concerning the method of opening, but the skill of the individual to conduct the job as professionally as possible, leaving the safe as undamaged as he found it.   "IF" you don't have any safe technicians in your area who are skilled at manipulation, then drilling is the next option.    "IF" the safe is going to be drilled, then you need to ensure that the safe technician is skilled enough to open the safe without any unrepairable damage, and that the repairs meet a certain standard, which you and the safe tech have an understanding about, PRIOR to any work being done.

If the safe is an antique, then the repairs should be concealed so that it does not take away from the value of the safe, if the safe is not an antique, but still a collectible, then while repairs are not nearly as important, you should still expect a good job.

Hope this answers your question about finding a safe tech.    Note:   Many locksmiths advertise "Safe Services", but have little to no training or experience.    Hanging up a sign and having a few tools does not make a locksmith, nor does it make a locksmith a safe technician.  

A question that I would have, would be concerning the auction house.    If you obtained the safe in an opened condition, but before you could take possession of it, some at the auction closed and locked it, I would assume that the auction house would have some responsibility or liability, as IMMEDIATELY, the safe would have a negative value over its auction price, by the amount it will cost to have it opened!  

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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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