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Antique Safes/This old safe



I recently purchased a locked floor safe at a nearby flea market which was percured at an estate sale. I would like to open without drilling if possible.  What is the approximate cost of drilling vs other techniques? I would like to attempt myself with the proper guidance. The safe is outfitted with a Yale combiination lock as imaged in the attached pic.
How old do you estimate it to be? I'm also no sure who the original manufacture was.


Hi Hugh,

The safe is from the Syracuse Safe Company, which was in business from 1885 until about 1929, going out of business at the beginning of the Great Depression.    I would need much better photos of the safe (after it is opened) to come up with a possible date of manufacture or evaluation of value.

The lock installed would be a Yale OB series lock, with either a three (OBB) or four wheel (OB) configuration, though most likely just three wheels (OBB).   The dialing sequence for this lock would 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 slowly until the dial stops - around "0"

Note 1:   If there is any handle or bolt work pressure on the lock, the gravity lever will NOT drop (or rise) into the wheel pack and the dial would not stop.   Ensure there is no handle or bolt work pressure on the lock.

Note 2:   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.   For instance if your first number is 50, you would rotate the dial counter clockwise, stopping the fourth time the number 50 ARRIVES at the index mark.

Note 3:   The three wheel OBB series lock has about 1,000,000 possible combinations while the four wheel OB series lock has 100,000,000 (yes that is one hundred million) possible combinations.    Testing every possible combination (500 each and every day) would take about 5.5 years for the OBB and about 530 years for the OB series - good luck if you try this route - though this would make a great family project!

Recommendation:   Contact a local safe company to have their trained safe technician open the safe for you.

while manipulation is certainly a possibility, manipulation is also NOT a guarantee.   Some locks simply won't talk, and/or you may not have a trained safe tech available in your area.   While there are a couple highly trained safe techs available around New York, it is a very big state, so travel charges may become an issue as well.   If you are able to take the safe to the safe company, it would save you these charges.

With Manipulation you will be paying for the service and NOT necessarily the result.   Costs could easily run in the $350 to $600 range and still not get the safe open.   Generally I won't waste more than about 30 minutes - if I'm not getting something that I'm happy with I will use other methods.
You have to consider that #1 I may have several other customers waiting for service that same day, and I'm not going to waste a considerable amount of time on your safe if I'm not getting satisfactory results, and #2 I don't like charging customers for work that does not yield satisfactory results!
Discuss options and charges with your local safe company and their safe technician.

Drilling on the other hand "IF DONE CORRECTLY" will not cause any damage to the safe or lock and the, usually small hole (1/4" or less) can easily be repaired.    Damage to the safe or lock should NOT be an option as parts are not readily available.    A replacement lock - if you can find one - could easily be in the $350 to $500 range!!!!!
Cost to open AND repair the safe should be in the $300 to $400 range (parts not included), again, discuss opening options and charges with your local safe company.

BEWARE:   Companies that don't know what they are doing won't flat rate pricing, they will charge hourly fees and will often have hidden charges like charging for drill bits used, etc. etc. etc.    On a safe like this I would be able to open it with a single drill bit, which I would probably also use on 10 other safes, so there should be no hidden charges.    Ensure that you understand ALL of the charges in advance.    If you have a question feel free to run it by me first.   While I make no attempts to second guess legitimate fees, there is a big difference between fair pricing and rip-offs!!!

As far as your doing this as a DIY project - sorry but for obvious security and liability reasons we do not give out any guidance or advice other than what we have already provided.

I would recommend your checking in your Yellow pages under "Safes & Vaults" for companies in your area.    If you can't find a company or you need references, let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

hope this helps,

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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. 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

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 - 2013 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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