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Antique Safes/Cary Safe Locked


QUESTION: Dear Terry,
Our church has a Cary Safe serial # 27552 on the handle.
The safe is locked and we have combination of three numbers.
We tried the combo given to us but to no avail. I'm not sure
we are using correct procedure. Can you point us in the right

ANSWER: Hello Le Roy Lutheran Church

Based on the serial number that you have provided, your safe was made around 1891-93, and the lock that I would expect to find installed would be a Cary, Indirect drive, Straight tail piece, four wheel, series C3 lock.   This safe IS an antique safe and should not be used as a regular or daily use safe.   If you need a safe for your church, I would recommend that you retire this one and get a newer more modern safe.

Based on your comments, you are missing a number.

The lock can be dialed either LRLR or RLRL, though each sequence would have a different combination.

So first try the LRLR as:

4 times Left to the first number,
3 times Right to the second number,
2 times Left to the third number,
1 time Right to the fourth number - stop and turn handle.

If this doesn't work then try changing the directions or RLRL.

Note:   Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.

If it still doesn't open, you may not have the correct numbers.

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.

If you still can't get t open then you may need a safe technician from a local safe company.   Note:    I do not recommend using locksmiths for safe work, especially on antique safes, as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools.    Check your yellow pages under safes & vaults for a local company.   If you can't find one, let me know where you are (zip code) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Thanks Terry. Here are the directions we have...

* Spin left to "X"
* Back over "Y" twice
* Turn left until you hear click
* Turn right to "Y"
* Open

With "y" being the same number. We are confused on the "until you hear click" part. Thinking the "click" may be a missing number?

Thanks again for any additional info...


One of the biggest problems I see with safes, is where a combination has been passed along.   Generally it is written down as the previous user "UNDERSTANDS" the opening sequence and NOT necessarily the way that it actually works

The lock that I described, which should be installed on your safe, has nothing which would make a "click", and the dialing sequence I gave you is correct for the lock.

Of course these instructions assume that you also have a fully functional lock.   As your lock is about 120 years old, a lot could have happened to it in that time period.   If there was ever a problem with the lock and it was worked on by an untrained locksmith, or repairs took part of the lock out, then it may not work correctly, however without having the safe and lock in front of me, where I can actually play with it,  all I can do is give you directions for how it should work correctly.

In this case, you possibly WILL need to have a safe tech who is familiar with this type of safe, check it out and open it for you.    Once it is open, they can inspect the lock to ensure that you have the proper combination and dialing sequence for the lock.

Bottom line, the dialing sequence that you have - especially the part about the "click" is NOT correct for the lock which should be on this safe.

If you don't have a local safe company (check your yellow pages under safes and vaults), then let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I might know in your area.  

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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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