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Antique Safes/Schwab safe


QUESTION: Schwab Safe with yale lock.  No combination.  Lock smiths want to drill but I have heard there are lo k smith's that have a machine that will find the combination when given time. Is this true? What would be a fare price. Will drilling ruin the lock? What is best path?

ANSWER: Louis,

Problem with the internet and "hearing" things, is that they are generally only partially true.   Unfortunately, individuals hear about something and then talk about something that they actually have no knowledge of.

Fact - yes there are "auto-dialers", however while they WILL dial every possible combination for a given lock, it will only work on specific types of locks, and ONLY if the correct parameters for the lock being worked on, have been programmed in.   They can take from 30 to 70 hours to work - "IF" they work on that lock at all.
Generally these are NOT a useful tool in the field, however they can be useful to a safe technician in his shop, under controlled conditions.
For instance, one of the factories in the US, locked up a brand new safe.   They had the auto dialer working on the safe for 5 days with no results.   I happened to stop by for another reason and they asked me to look at the safe.    Using common sense, basic dialing diagnostics and training, I was able to open the safe with the SECOND combination that I tried.
Auto dialers are not readily available, and generally only owned by larger safe companies.

NOTE:   I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally don't have the training or tools to work on safes, and can cause excessive damage or ruin your safe.   What you need is a trained safe technician.     While safe techs are also usually locksmiths, locksmiths are rarely also safe techs.   

Having a safe technician manipulate the lock open is a very viable, non-destructive method of opening the safe.    Again, however, you may not have a trained safe tech, who is skilled at manipulation in your area.    Manipulation is also not a guarantee, some locks simply don't talk.    Generally with manipulation you are paying for the service and not the result.

Drilling when done by a competent, trained safe technician, will not damage the safe or the lock.   The very small hole, usually less than 1/4", can easily be repaired.

Cost to open AND repair the safe, should be around $350 to $500 depending on where you are located, and safe techs available.    If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see who I might know in your area.    Costs for using an untrained locksmith (wannabe safe tech) can be excessive, not to mention the damage caused.

Any one giving you an "open ended" estimate, or wanting to charge by the hour generally doesn't know what they are doing, and plans on making money off of you, while they are "learning".
You wouldn't take your car to a mechanic to have the oil changed if they indicated that they could change the oil, but would ruin the engine in the process, similarly any locksmith or safe technician who can't guarantee how they are going to open your safe, and/or what you should expect from the process, shouldn't be used.

Hope this gives you some insight, and answers your questions.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Area code is 71232.  Northeast Louisiana.  If you could recommend someone in my area, I would appreciate it.  I don't want to ruin the safe.  
Thank you

Hi Louis,

Unfortunately, possibly the closest company that I would recommend would be from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.    There are numerous smaller companies closer to you, however, I don't know of any of them personally, and their skill levels aren't what I would hope for, with the services that they offer.

The nearest would be:

Southern Safe & Vault          about 200 miles
228-206-1393          Ron Jewell
1005 Debra Dr
Gulfport, Ms   39503

Underwood Safe & Vault         about 200 miles
PO Box 218
Broken Bow, OK   74728

The nearest company to you would possibly be:

Mississippi Safe & Lock        about 70 miles
601-924-4184          Bruce Tarbet
210 Maudedith Ln
Clinton, MS   39056

however I can't verify this companies skill level or ability to open your safe correctly.    You would need to discuss methods and costs with them to see what they can offer.

Obviously if you have the capability of taking the safe to them, you will be able to save quite a bit of money in mobile service charges (trip fees).   

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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