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Antique Safes/Safe won't open


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Hello Terry-
I bought single door York Safe with a five number combination. When I picked it up, the door was open and the latch was turned. During the packing and moving, the door was closed and the latch turned to lock it.
Now I can't unlock it using the numbers given to me, 46-57-32-28-0. I'm turning it 5 or six time clockwise to start, then stopping on the first. Then slowly I turn counterclock, passing that number 3 times and then stopping on 57. Then I turn it clockwise, passing the second number 2 times, and then settling on 32. Then I turn counterclockwise, passing the third number once and then settling on 28. Then I turn clockwise to 0 (100 on this dial).
The safe is stored in my loading dock where it is about 50-55 degrees.
The top finial of the top hinge is missing.
There is not total uniformity of the seal around the door, meaning it seems a slight tad more indented in one location than another. We're talking maybe 1/32nd inch.
The door was a snug close, not totally smooth.
When I go to turn the latch to open it, I feel nothing hitting the wheel suggesting it has located any notches in the wheels, and there is no movement in the latch at all.
I can feel the wheels engage when I spin the dial.

Any further suggestions? If the door were jammed in a smidgin too far or too little, would that keep the wheels from lining up or keep something else from engaging that needs to? Could the cold temperature be causing the wheels to turn when they shouldn't because of congealed oil?
Here is the best picture I have of the safe.
Thank you-
Kevin Mullen

Hi Kevin,

There are ONLY three reasons that a safe lock won't open, in order they are:

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

Chances are if you have the correct combination, you are simply making a dialing error.   The most prominent error that I can see in your description of your dialing sequence, is you use the last number dialed as a reference for the next number - DON'T!   Once you have dialed a number FORGET IT!   It no longer matters.  You ONLY need to concentrate on the number you are CURRENTLY dialing.
While your method isn't inherently wrong, because you are concentrating on the WRONG number it is VERY easy for you to make a dialing error.

The standard lock used on most York safes was the S&G 6826, four wheel lock.   The dialing sequence for this lock is:

5 times right to the first number, (46)
4 times left to the second number, (57)
3 times right to the third number, (32)
2 times left to the fourth number, (28)
1 time right until the dial stops - may be around 0 - go until the dial STOPS!

Note:  Left is counter clockwise, and right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, simply count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   For instance for your first number, simply start dialing clockwise (right), stopping the fifth time the number 46 ARRIVES at the 12 o'clock index mark.   When you arrive at it - forget it.   Start dialing counter clockwise, stopping the fourth time the number 57 arrives at the index mark.
Note:   The first time that the number 57 comes up is only 11 numbers from 46 - THIS IS the first time, if you go a complete revolution, you will screw up the first number, and the lock will not open.   The way you count each number, is critical to having the lock aligned correctly.

The handle itself, should have nothing to do with this lock.   The lock has to unlock completely or the handle and bolt work can't operate.   Don't get the two confused as they are different operating systems.   While pressure from an incorrectly closed door can cause pressure on the bolt work, which can cause pressure on the lock bolt, which may keep the lever from dropping correctly, none of this affects the wheel pack or dialing.   If you can "wiggle" the handle back and forth slightly, then there is no pressure on the lock bolt and lever.

Old or cold lubricant would make the dial and/or lock hard to turn.   Old or cold lubricant on the wheel pack, MAY keep one or more of the moveable flies from moving correctly.   This could change the combination on any one (or more) wheels up to 10 numbers (+/- 5).   You can set up a chart of potential combinations on a spread sheet, allowing for an individual number shift, up to and including all four wheels shifting.
Once the safe is opened, the lock and wheel pack would need to be completely cleaned and lubed correctly by a trained safe technician.

If you still can't get it open, and assuming that you are dialing it correctly, then it is probably time to contact a safe technician from a local safe company to have them come check it out.   As it is on your loading dock and it has wheels, if you can load it and take it to them, you can save some money over a service call.

If you don't have a local safe company, then I will need to know where you are located (zipcode) to see who I might know and/or recommend 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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