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Antique Safes/National Safe & Lock Co


Hello Terry,

My hometown has a National Safe & Lock Company safe from Cleveland, OH.  It is approximately 5' high by 3' deep and 4' wide.  It has two doors and two handles.  As you face the safe, the door on the right is a little larger than on the left.  No one knows the combination.  They think it is around a 1900 safe, maybe older.  The town is well over 200 years old.

My father is willing to give it a crack, but he doesn't know whether there are 3 or 4 numbers.  Whether he starts by going right or left.  Also, he doesn't know if he should hold up on the handle with the last number to have it "drop" in the final number or wait until he gets to the last number before lifting the handle.

I do not have any pictures yet of the safe.  I no longer live in my hometown.  I can get pictures, but I would need to know what the pictures need to show to help with the answer.

My father is an elderly man so he rather looks forward to the challenge of finding the combination.  He just needs some guidance to where to start and any other suggestions you think might be of value.

Once the safe is open, the Town may want to dispose of it.  Do you have any suggestions on where to start with that?

Thank you for your time and interest.


The National Safe & Lock Company was in business from 1883 until 1920 when they were acquired by the Steelcraft Corp. of America.    During this time they used a number of different types of locks, with various dialing sequences.    I wish I could simply give you a dialing sequence and say here it is have fun, but the problem with safecracking is first "IDENTIFY" the lock that you are dealing with.

Probably the standard lock that was used on many of the safes was a Yale 4 wheel friction fence, rotary bolt type lock.

The dialing sequence for this lock is:
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 slowly until the dial stops - turn handle to open.

they also used a three wheel gravity lever type lock, similar to the Yale OBS type lock.   It's dialing sequence is:
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 - turn handle to open.

While manipulation is an option with both of these locks, if you don't have the training, you will not be able to open either type.   And without being able to ID the correct type of lock, he could easily be wasting his time by dialing incorrectly.
Even dialing the second lock, trying every one of the 1,000,000 possible combinations, and trying 500 every day, could take almost 5.5 years.
The first lock has 100,000,000 possible combinations, and trying 500 per day would only take 550 years.

While I'm sure that your father is willing to try to open it, I'm also not sure that this is a good waste of his time.    If he is elderly, I would rather see him spending the time with you and any grandkids than hunched over an old metal box for fun.

sorry I can't help you out more, but I simply don't have enough info to ID what lock I might expect to find on this safe.

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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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