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Hello Terry,
 I bought a turn of the century building that has a Cary safe in it. The previous owner stated that the safe was in here when he bought the property, and he never had a combination. It is open. I would just like to know how old it is and could I change the combination. Serial # on handle is 47820. The lock has a three bolt plate with the serial # 58330, there is no Y above the #. The acorn nuts on the hinges are the thin, tin like covers. Any info will be greatly appreciated. I took a few pictures that I will email to you.
Thank, Eric.

Hi Eric,

I answered most of your questions under a separate private email, so this is just a follow up.

Your safe was made around 1896, so it is an Antique safe.

I’ve included a couple photos of a similar lock to yours.   The wheel pack is a “screw change” configuration.    Normally I don’t recommend lock disassembly by other than a safe technician as it can result in a VERY expensive lock out, HOWEVER, you can decide if you want to do this or not.

1.   Remove the wheel pack (back cover – photo 1670).    

2.   Remove the screw (photo 1667), and take all of the parts of the wheel post.   Lay them out EXACTLY as you remove them – in order!!!!   One piece out of place will cause a lock out.

3.   Changing “screw” positions of either the top or bottom (or both) of each wheel, will change the combination of the lock.    And in answer to your next question – NO you don’t get to pick a combination!    You get what ever random numbers come up.

4.   Reassemble the wheel pack exactly as you removed each item.      Reinstall the wheel pack, back in the lock.

5.   Finding the new combination.     Several manufacturer’s used “similar type” locks.    I’ve included a photo of the recovery key for another manufacturer (photo – Halls combo recovery key).     While this isn’t the “same” key, it gives you an idea of what you need, though I have two methods for you.

The key will fit in the small rectangle hole on the back cover of the lock.    As you turn the dial, following the correct dialing sequence for your lock, as the first wheel aligns under the rectangle hole, the key will slip into the wheel gate.     Please note the associated number on the dial as this happens.    Rotate the dial the opposite direction until the key slips into the gate for wheel number two – again noting the associated number on the dial.   Continue until you have recovered the new combo for each wheel and the drive wheel.

Test dial the combination several times to ensure that the safe unlocks correctly before closing and locking the door.

If you don’t have the key – and/or can’t make one then you can simply use a flash light and look down the hole/key way to align each wheel gate (as above) until you have recovered the combination.    Note:    This may not be quite as accurate if not done correctly.

If you don’t understand any of these instructions and/or don’t want to mess with it, then contact a safe tech from a local safe company to have them recover or reset the combination on your safe.

If the lock doesn’t unlock smoothly and/or correctly at any time, lock the door OPEN, and contact your local safe company to have them check it out.

Hope this helps,  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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. 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

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 - 2013 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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