You are here:

Antique Safes/Herring Patent Champion follow up



Thanks for the help and support from May this year.. with no antique safe experts in Colorado,  I decided to do a lot of reading and to have a go at recovering the combination myself.  I realize this is strictly against your recommendation however, I know myself to have great hand to eye coordination and a strong sense of when things are more than I can cope with.  Taking care to label and collate items as I removed them from the back of the locks, I was able to recover both the inner door (5 number combination) and outer door (4 number combination) and both appear to work reliably with the doors open.
The inner door can be locked in the open position and then the door closed - which is probably how I'll leave it.  However, the handle on the outer door I now know doesn't in fact have a function, but turning the dial retracts (and activates) the bolts on the door and so it's not possible to shut the outer door with the 'bolts' retracted without risking the dial be nudged enough to lock the safe.
The safe is located in my store and easily accessible to shoppers (including kids).  I'd prefer to have the safe doors fully closed...

So my question is ...  If I've used the combinations several times since re-assembling the lock case, and have locked/unlocked the safe each time successfully, is there any reason I should be concerned (aside from losing the combination somehow) that it would no longer be capable of being unlocked??

thanks much :)

Hi WV,

Fortunately your odds are better than Las Vegas!    "IF" you can operate the door, bolt work AND lock successfully with the door open, then you can test it shut.

As with anything mechanical if you test and retest after EVERY step, if something isn't working, you ONLY have to go back one step to figure out what the problem is.

Test the door to ensure that it opens and closes smoothly and that it does not bind up.   Ensure that there is no external pressure on the bolt work.

Test the lock several times before closing the door, and if it unlocks smoothly and correctly each and every time, then you can test it with the door closed and locked.

The biggest problem with DIY projects like this, is that you may not have the lock operation and combination down correctly.     While it may work as long as it is dialed the way that "YOU" decoded it, this doesn't necessarily mean that you decoded the combination or the dialing sequence correctly.

Where the problem lies, is if anyone BUT you tries to dial it, if they don't apply the combination EXACTLY as YOU decoded it, then it won't work, and if anyone attempts to dial it, using the correct sequence the manufacturer intended, it may also not work.

So, very carefully document the dialing sequence exactly as you decoded it, so that someone following you can use your instructions to open the safe.

Remember while we ALL plan on being here tomorrow, eventually we will all be gone.    Some tomorrow, some years from now.

As long as you are reasonably confident that it will lock and unlock successfully, then go ahead and test it out.    Just remember that with safe locks and doors - there are no do overs.   If you lock it and it doesn't work, there is no going back to square one.

Hopefully this is slightly clearer than mud, so that YOU can make a reasonable decision.   LOL

Good luck with it.

Antique Safes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]