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Antique Safes/Old Hall's Safe & Lock combination



Wheel pack
Wheel pack  
Hi, I have acquired an old Hall's Safe and Lock Company safe. I do not know the age and can't see any kind of serial number, but the approximate dimensions are 6ft tall, 4ft wide and 3ft deep. The doors are open but the combination was lost years ago. Is there some way to determine the combination by looking at the wheel pack? It was a very simple procedure to remove it as a whole unit with three wheels. There are no numbers on the wheels except identifying the order (1,2,3). There are pins screwed into each wheel (front and back in different locations on the wheels 2 and 3. There are 13 holes in each wheel. Of course from the photos attached, you can see there is another wheel attached to the dial. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!
Mike Lamb

Hi Mike,

The wheel that is still inside the lock cased, and directly attached to the dial, is the drive wheel.   This wheel is basically YOUR communication between the dial and the lock.   What ever YOU do on the outside, it is doing on the inside.

The removable wheel pack or lock curb, is where the actual combination is stored.   When it is dialed correctly, the individual gate in each wheel will line up, as you have it in the photo.    If you have it dialed correctly, these gates will align with the bolt work tail piece.   After dialing the correct combination - correctly!    Turning the handle will drive the bolt work tail piece into the gates of the drive wheel and combination wheels allowing the door to open.

To find the CURRENT combination, either as set, or after moving the drive screws on each wheel, to new positions, you will notice a small rectangular hole in the back of the lock curb.   Originally the owner or safe man would have had a special "key" which as the dial is turned the key would insert into each wheel gate in turn.    Observing and noting the number on the dial would then give you the current number for THAT wheel.

Note:  you have to turn the dial in the correct sequence for this to work, or for the safe to unlock.    This lock can be dialed either LRLR or RLRL, however each sequence will have a different combination, so which ever method YOU use to determine the current combination, MUST also be used every time to open the lock.    The correct dialing sequence would be 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, ______   (this number would be the gate in the drive wheel, and will not change for either sequence.)

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.

As you probably don't have the combination recovery tool, you can also use a flashlight to observe the wheels.   Turn the dial as indicated above, stopping when the gate for that particular wheel arrives in the small rectangular hole.   Observe the number on the dial, and then dial for the next number.

Note:   If you don't understand these directions, then I would recommend having a safe technician from a local safe company service the safe and recover or reset the combination for you.

In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.  

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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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