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Antique Safes/L. H. Miller Safe

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QUESTION: I need to open my parents old, circa 1900 L.H. Miller safe.  I know they had it for at least 50 years, and believe my father changed the combination when he inherited it.  Unfortunately, my mother died before she could show me how to open it.  I really don't want to harm it, and have some idea as to the numbers of the combination, but don't know how many wheels it has or which way to start turning or whether the numbers are in double or single digits.  I believe someone with knowledge could open this safe, as it was working and continued to be used in the last couple of years, though not often.  It has a knob with a handle and a yale combination lock.  Can you help?

ANSWER: Barbara,

If the safe has a Yale lock on it, I would suspect it of being a Yale 027, 4 wheel lock.   The dialing sequence should be:

5 times right to the first number,
4 times left to the second number,
3 times right to the third number,
2 times left to the fourth number,
1 time right until the dial stops

This lock was also provided in a 3 wheel version as the Yale 026, with a dialing sequence of:

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.

NOTE:  Left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolution of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

If you still can't get it to operate correctly, and/or the combination doesn't work, you will need a safe technician to check it out, and/or open the safe for you.   Cost should be in the $350 to $500 range depending on where you are located.

I service northern California, and I have friends throughout southern California, so if you don't have a local safe technician available (NOT a locksmith), let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see who I know in your area.

good luck.

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

QUESTION: Thank-you so much for your very quick response, I do feel at this point that I need someone to help open it, (safe-technician), sometime in the next 6 months, as that way the estate can pay for it.  I have already tried so many different ways, but have 0 experience with this kind of thing, and no way to know if it might even have something like "you have to jiggle the handle just so, or something?".  The safe is located in the central valley of California, about 12 miles off the I-5 freeway.  Of course, I tried to open it before I wrote you, and researching how is how I found you.  The zip code is 93210, town is Coalinga.  When you pass the Harris Ranch Restaurant, you are going by Coalinga, some 12 miles away to the west.  Nearest city is Fresno, 70 miles Northeast.  Other towns fairly close are Lemoore and Hanford, 30 and 40 miles away.  So, if you know someone, or maybe you might be going that way anyway in the next 6 months?  I don't believe the safe has anything of great value in it, but for sentimental reasons, I would like to maintain it in usable condition.  I will try a few more times to open it, but at this point, I am thinking I am just wearing it out, and it is already most likely over 100 years old.  Thanks, again for your help,  Barbara

ANSWER: Barbara,

Well you are definitly right at the end of my service area, about 3 hours south, and in an area where there are VERY few qualified safe techs.    The next closest company that I would recommend is in Bakersfield, which is going to be around 2 hours away.

Generally the way I work "distance" calls like this is one of two ways:

1.  Plan A - as a dedicated service call, where I come to you, open & repair the safe, and head home.   Cost is $375 to open & repair the safe, and the mobile service would be based on our hourly rate down and back.   6 hours x $125 = $750    For a total of $1125.00

2.  Plan B - especially if you are not in a hurry, would be for me to schedule it with other work in the area.   In this case, the cost to open & repair the container is $375, but the trip charge would be split between the other job or jobs, to keep the cost down for everyone.   The only problem with plan B, is waiting for another job.   It may happen tomorrow, or it may happen 3 months from now!

While the company in Bakersfield is slightly closer, he doesn't normally "bundle" work to share the cost, so you would probably be looking at plan A only from them.

Obviously if your combination actually works, and you are simply making a dialing error, the cost to open the safe would dramatically decrease, as opening & any repairs would be minimized.   However, I would rather give you the worst case scenario so that you have some idea on cost.

You can either give me a call at 800-326-4224 or email me at:  andy@securitysafeusa.com   with all of your contact information.    If something else comes up in your direction I can call you to set up an appointment.

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

QUESTION: Thanks again,for your very quick reply, I have taken down your contact information, but am at work right now, so will answer from here one more time.  I don't exactly have the combination, at least I'm not sure.  My mother said it was based on my grandfather's birthday, then she said "no maybe it was his or my father's social security number.  On a piece of cloth in the China hutch, there was a scrap of cloth with the number 84565, it was written just that way with no dashes or spaces. This is where my mother would go when she was going to go out and open the safe. My grandfather was born in 1884, and 5 is the first number of his ss#, 65 is the last 2 of his ss#.  I believe my father would have tried to make it easy for my grandfather to remember, as he was elderly.  He outlived my father, who died in 1965, and continued to use the safe until his death in 1975.  Then my mother used it, and told me she almost didn't get it open.  Other things written on the scrap of fabric are 2 x 3 and 0 - 10, which is why I believe that it is related to the safe.  So, it is a mystery, hard to separate the numbers when you don't really know how many are in the combination, and which ones might be 2 digits.  Or which way to start turning etc.  I have tried the stethoscope approach, and do believe that 84 is one of the numbers, but beyond that, I just don't know. I have tried that count the clicks to hear the number of wheels, but it doesn't seem to make much noise except for the dial turning.  I just don't have a trained ear to know what to listen for.  I have tried my grandfather's actual birthday, 8-30-1884 as a 4 digit and as a 3 digit just about every way, and it doesn't work, though I may try it again with the info you have given me.  My timeline for opening is in the next 6 months before this estate settles, as I want the estate to pay for it.  So, let me know when it might be convenient for you to do it, or if you don't want to make the drive, let me know the Bakersfield people.  Thank-you again for your help, sincerely, Barbara

Answer
Barbara,

use the dialing sequences that I provided earlier with the numbers that you are "trying".

4 times left to the first number, (84)
3 times right to the second number, (5)
2 times left to the third number, (65)
1 time right until the dial stops.     (if it doesn't stop, then either the numbers were not correct or were out of order).

You can set up a spread sheet with all of the different variables, and then fill in the blanks on the dialing sequence with the numbers, and test them.

ENSURE that you are dialing correctly.
NOTE:  Left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolution of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

It has nothing to do with a "trained ear", it either works or it doesn't - "you have the right combination of numbers or you don't".

As far as coming down, I don't have a problem driving, and I usually drive 200 to 400 miles every day, so it isn't a problem for me.    Get me your contact info, so that I can let you know when I'm coming down, or if you want to select a specific date, I can work that into my schedule as well.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

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.

Experience

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

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

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
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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