Locksmithing/Protectall safe


QUESTION: I have a Protectall safe that a friend gave me (which I've lost touch with) 15 years ago which hasn't been opened since. He opened it one last time to make sure it was empty. He gave me the 3 digit combo and I swear when I watched him open it he turned it to the first number (or maybe the second)and then pulled the dial outward about 1/8" before he turned it the opposite way to the last number. It doesn't feel like the dial wants to pop outward and maybe I'm remembering it wrong but does this sound right? Everything I've read I don't see where anybody mentions pulling out the dial before going to the next number. I've read about the 3-2-1 sequence but have not tried that yet but I will. Also what does Class C fire rating stand for and does this safe contain asbestos because the bottom of it is open and there is white insulation type material that you can see.

ANSWER: Kevin,

There are only three reasons a safe lock won't open, they are incorrect dialing sequences, Incorrect combinations and mechanical problems.   Generally when someone passes on a combination with the safe, and it won't work for the subsequent owner, its simply because combo's get passed on the way the owner "understands" the dialing sequence and NOT necessarily the way it actually works.

The Protectall safes were manufactured between 1930 until it was acquired by Mosler in the early 1940's.   Mosler continued the label until 1949 when they closed the factory and moved the facility equipment from the Syracuse, NY facility back to their Hamilton, OH plant.   Any continued construction of safes afterwards were not the same, though Mosler did use this logo, but it said Mosler Protectall.

None of the safes built by Protectall, had push or pull dials, and this company was never known to have used asbestos.

Protectall safes used a couple different locks but dialing sequences were essentially the same, though while some used LRLR, others might use RLRL.  Dial sequence is:

4 times Left to the first number,
3 times Right to the second number,
2 times Left to the third number,
1 time right slowly until the dial stops.     (if this doesn't work then try RLRL vs LRLR)

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 if your first number is 50, you would turn the dial counter clockwise (left), stopping the fourth time the number 50 ARRIVES at the index.

If it still won't open, you probably don't have the correct numbers.   At this point I would recommend contacting a safe technician from a local safe company.   I NEVER recommend using locksmiths as they generally don't have the training, education or tools and can cause excessive damage or charge exhorbant fees.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I know in your area.

The Class "C" fire rating, indicates that this safe was built to protect documents (paper) in the event of a fire.   It is NOT a burglary resistive safe.   Internal temperature of the safe is designed to be kept below 350 degree F. during a fire.  NOTE:  Safes over 50 years old do NOT meet current standards and should not be used to store valuable or irreplaceable documents.

From the sound of your last sentenance, it appears that you are thinking about attempting to open the safe by going through the bottom.   While you will gain access to the interior of the safe, you will probably NOT get the door open, and at a minimum will have ruined the safe.  NOT recommended.

Hope this helps

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

QUESTION: Thanks for answering so quickly. I finally tried the different number sequence and was able to open it. It took a couple of tries. I guess I was wrong about the push/pull dial, funny how sometimes you can think you remember things clearly.
The reason I asked about the insulation on the bottom was not because I was going to break into it, it was because when I picked it up you could feel it, so I tipped it over to see. Was worried that it might be asbestos since the safe was made so long ago before using asbestos was such a no-no.
This safe does not have a handle that turns, rather a stationary handle to pull it open. How can I lubricate the mechanism to insure it keeps working properly? Can I remove the inside panel to gain access and what type of lubricant should I use?
Thanks again


Some of the smaller safes were built with the lock controlling the bolt work rather than simply blocking its movement.   These would have a pull handle to open the door.

Glad you were able to get it open.

While you can always try to service the lock as a DIY project, I never recommend it for the same reason that I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work.   They generally do not have the training, education or tools to work on safes and can cause expensive lockouts.

I would recommend that you have a safe technician from a local safe company service the lock to ensure its proper operation.

However, if you decide to take this on as a DIY project, take photos of the lock to assist you with reassembly.   lay the parts out in the exact order that you remove them.   One part turned over can keep the lock from working correctly.

Clean the lock completely with a product similar to "Tri-Flow" (teflon or Silicone cleaner lubricant, and wipe it dry.   The only parts that should have any grease would be the bearing surface of the dial and the drive wheel.   LIGHT GREASE ONLY.   This is one of those times where less is more.

If you have any problems contact a local safe company.

Good luck with it.


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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

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 and Western Nevada)

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