You are here:

Antique Safes/turning sequence on old safe


I have an old floor safe it says United States Safe Co. - W.C. Clark Safe Co. Man'F'rs Pittsburgh Pa. I would like to know if their is a turning sequence on the combination. I think I have the right combination but I am not sure. Someone told me you have to turn the dial three or for times to each number.


Generally this company used Yale locks, but they may have used others as well.   This company was in business during the early 1900's up to about the Great Depression (1930ish), in Elizabeth, NJ.

Depending on the number of wheels in the lock, and the different locks which were readily available at this time, there are basically four dialing sequences that you can try, one of which should work.   As you didn't provide the combination that you have, so that I can figure out which would probably be the correct one, I'll give you all of them to try out.

For four wheel locks the dialing sequence will be either LRLRL or RLRLR as follows:

5 times left to the first number,
4 times right to the second number,
3 times left to the third number,
2 times right to the fourth number,
1 time left until the dial stops  (may be around 10).

If this sequence doesn't work, try RLRLR instead of LRLRL.

For three wheel locks the dialing sequence will be either LRLR or RLRL as follows:

4 times Left to the first number,
3 times Right to the second number,
2 times Left to the third number,
1 time Right until the dial stops   (may be around 90)

If this sequence doesn't work, try RLRL instead of LRLR.

NOTE:   Left is counter clockwise and 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.   for instance in the first set of instructions, if your first number is 50, you would turn the dial counter clockwise (left), stopping the FIFTH time the number 50 arrives at the index mark.   If the second number is 25, you would then turn the dial clockwise, stopping the FOURTH time the number 25 arrives at the index mark.   Once you have dialed a number - FORGET IT - it has no affect on the rest of the dialing sequence, and if you are trying to go (for instance), PAST the first number four times to stop on the second number, you will simply screw up the sequence.   DO NOT add any instructions that you have to the ones above, other than using the NUMBERS that you have.

Combinations which may have been past on, are generally written the way the owner understands them and NOT necessarily the way that they actually work.   As long as the owner dials the combination with HIS errors applied correctly the combo may work.

there are ONLY three reasons that a safe lock will not open or unlock correctly - in order they are:

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, (operator errors)
2.  Incorrect combination, (wrong numbers)
3.  Mechanical problems.

While mechanical problems may be the issue, chances are you are simply NOT dialing it correctly, or you don't have the correct numbers.

If you still can't get it open, you will need to have it checked out by a local safe company - NOT a locksmith.   contact them to have their trained safe technician checkout your safe.

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I know in your area.

Hope this helps,

Antique Safes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

©2017 All rights reserved.