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Antique Safes/decode combination


Herring Hall Marvin manufactures lock
Herring Hall Marvin ma  
Hi can you please help me fide my combination on my Herring Hall Marvin manufactures lock the door is open and I have the lock of the door,the number that the fly is in does not correspond to the combination # how can I decode that

Thank you Jean

Hi Jean,

Normally I don't recommend lock disassembly for the same reason I don't recommend using locksmiths for safe work - without correct knowledge of lock operation it is very easy to cause an expensive lock out.

Generally mechanical issues require hands on diagnostics to determine what the actual problem is, so my first recommendation would be to have it checked out by a trained safe tech from a local safe company.

The hole that the pin is in, should be the correct number for that wheel.   If it isn't then there could be several problems.

1.   You may be dialing the wrong numbers for the wrong wheels.    The wheel closest to the drive wheel is your number three wheel and/or the third number of your combination.    The wheel furthest from the drive wheel (in this case closest to the lock cover) is the number one wheel and consequently the first number of the combination.

2.   If you are dialing the lock correctly with the numbers you have obtained from each wheel, and they still don't line up correctly, then I would examine the lock to ensure that the wheels are installed in the correct order.    Many hand change locks have the numbers running one direction on the odd wheels and the opposite direction on the even wheels.   If one of the wheels are out of position, then the numbers may be dialing up 180 degrees out, or not even close.

The dialing sequence will either be LRLR or RLRL, depending on the last turn of the drive wheel and lever engagement to retract the lock bolt.    You should be able to determine this by observation of the lock while turning the dial.    If this doesn't make sense, then this is why I would recommend having it checked out by a trained safe tech.

Alternately, if you can't figure out the combination by observation of the pins and holes, then you can figure out WHERE the lever would engage the wheel pack to unlock, and by observation of each wheel dial it up, going the correct direction for that wheel, until the wheel gate lines up at the engagement position.    As the lock is pretty well sealed up, this could be fairly difficult, and may require dialing and disassembly several times to get the wheel pack to line up correctly.    Obviously this is NOT the best way to do this and would be a last resort.

As you already have the lock disassembled, give it a try, but if you can't figure it out, then I wouldn't recommend wasting a lot of time on it - call your local safe company to have them recover or reset the combination for you.

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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