Locksmithing/Yale Lock


My grandfather had a safe with a Yale Lock on it.  I think it was made ~1880.  I am fairly certain it still has the try-out combination and I think it was 40-30-20-10?  Does this sound right and if so, how do I dial the sequence properly?  I had the code on a piece of paper and used it to open the safe a couple of months ago but that paper has been misplaced.  

Next I will want to change the code (if I can successfully open the safe) since I don't want to leave it at the try-out setting.  Can you tell me how to reset the factory setting once I have the safe open?



First there is no such thing as a "try-out combination".   Lock manufacturers did not set combinations on the locks, they would have been set by the safe manufacturer when the lock was installed, or by the sales agent or dealer, when the safe was sold.    Yale locks were generally sold in either a three or four wheel version.   Based on the combination that you have provided, it appears that your's may have been the three wheel version.

The dates on the dial would be a "Patent" date, NOT a manufacturing date.   So while the patent may have been issued in 1880 (or later), your lock might not have been manufactured for up to 20 years after this date.

The dialing sequence should be:
4 times right to the first number (40),
3 times left to the second number (30),
2 times right to the third number (20),
1 time left until the dial stops (should be around 10).

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.   For instance you would turn the dial clockwise (right), stopping the fourth time the number 40 arrives at the index.   There is NO starting point, simply start dialing and count the number as it arrives, or right to 40 once, 40 twice, 40 three times, stopping on 40 the fourth time.

There are only three reasons that a safe lock won't open, they are (in order):
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence (operator errors),
2.  Incorrect combination (wrong numbers),
3.  Mechanical problems.

Based on the information that you have provided, your problem is either #1 or 2.  As this lock would have around 1,000,000 possible combinations, guessing a possible combination is not going to work, even if you are close, the lock won't open.

Resetting the combination requires disassembly of the lock.   I don't recommend this as a DIY project for the same reason that I don't recommend using locksmiths for safe work.   Lack of training, knowledge or tools can result in a locked up safe.   As mentioned previously, there is no such thing as a "try-out combination",   Your combination was either set by someone to this combination, or it was requested.
It is never a bad idea to have a combination reset, if you believe that it has been compromised, or if someone should no longer have access to the container.   Contact a local safe company to have them reset the combination for you.

If you elect to try to change the combination yourself, I will need you to send a request directly to me, as I have a hold harmless document I require signatures on before providing this type of info,  I will also need an accurate ID of the lock that you have to provide you with the correct instructions.   If you can't ID it, I'll need photos of the safe, and the lock.

If you are not able to open the safe with the instructions above, or with your combination, then you will need to have a safe technician open the safe to recover or reset the combination anyway - have it done all at the same time.

Hope this helps,


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 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. 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 Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

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 Expert 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 and Western Nevada)

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