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Antique Safes/opening a safe


I have an old safe. I was my father's safe when working for my grandfather....the office safe. Used to hold office supplies such as tablets and pencils and typewriter ribbons, etc.
We have had it in the family for years. My brother knew the combination and gave it to me, a series of 3 numbers. How do I open the safe..?
go LEFT 4 times then stop a number one, the RIGHT past the second number 3 times and stop at number two....etc.
I know, I think, the combination numbers, just not the 'method'. Can you direct me on the way to do the combination numbers and how to open the safe when I get the numbers in? Do I get to the last number then turn the knob the other way to open it? or turn the knob that opens the mechanism once the last number has been hit.???

Hi Paul,

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

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors,
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers,
3.  Mechanical problems.

As you didn't give me the combination that you are trying to use, I can't decode the problem, but from your "description", I can tell that you ARE making some dialing errors.    For instance where you indicate:   "go LEFT 4 times then stop a number one, the RIGHT past the second number 3 times and stop at number two....etc" - right off the bat you are making a VERY common mistake.

After you have dialed a number - "FORGET IT", it is no longer part of the sequence, and has no affect on the other numbers.   If, as in your statement, you are still using it as a reference to get to your NEXT number, you can EASILY make a dialing mistake, and the lock won't open.

The proper dialing sequence for most locks is going to 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 until the dial stops.

For instance if your combination is 50-25-50, you would dial it as:

4 times left to 50 - or , counter clockwise (left), stopping the FOURTH time that 50 arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   THEN
3 times right to 25 - or, clockwise (right), stopping the THIRD time that 25 arrives at the index mark.

If you go 3 times past your first number and then stop at your second number, you have actually added an additional revolution to the second wheel, AND moved the first wheel off its number.

Continue dialing,
2 times left to 50 - or, counter clockwise, stopping the second time the third number arrives at the index mark, and then,
right until the dial stops.

While there are several other dialing sequences, they all depend on the manufacture of the safe, and more importantly the lock installed.   As I don't have this info yet, I can't offer info based on what I would assume to be the correct lock on your safe.    The info I've provided is based on the info I received from you.

If the combination still won't operate, I will need more info concerning the safe and lock.   Photos are generally better than having you describe the safe, so if you aren't sure, send photos to me at:

Hope this helps,

Antique Safes

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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

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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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