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Antique Safes/opening a MacNeale & Urban safe


We were given an old safe last week.  We think we have the combination, it has an alphabet dial.  But all info that I can find on your site is not getting it open. The combination says to go; plus 11 past each letter.  Dial seems to tighten up to third letter, then loosens.  Have played with this and tried different turns, or different ways of using same letters, same thing happens.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Donna,

First item - this is NOT my site - I'm simply a volunteer here.   Instructions for any given safe or manufacturer are not posted, and I always recommend contacting us with your question, rather than trying to do your own research, as it is going to be must faster, and possibly more accurate.

There are only three reasons that a safe lock will not open, in order they are:
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors,
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers (or letters in this case), and finally,
3.  Mechanical problems.

In this case, you are either making a dialing error, or the numbers that you think are correct, may not be.    Also, people tend to pass on combinations the way that THEY understand them, and NOT necessarily the way that they work.   I have no idea what the "Plus 11, past each letter" means - unless the previous owner encoded the combination, it doesn't make ANY sense.

In general, MacNeale & Urban used their OWN lock, which means that standard dialing instructions do not work.   the dialing sequence for your lock should be as follows:

4 times right to the first letter,
3 times left to the second letter,
2 times right to the third letter,
1 time left to the fourth letter,  (usually this is "K"),
right until the dial stops  (should be around "H").

Note:   left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise,   Do not count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual letter as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

If you still can't get it to open, then you either don't have the correct combination, or you are making a dialing error.    you probably need to have it checked out by a safe technician from a local safe company.   You need a safe tech who is familiar with these locks and this manufacturer.

Note:   I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes.

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see I might know in your area, that I might recommend.

Hope this helps,  

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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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