Locksmithing/Cary Safe


Safe 1
Safe 1  
Safe 2
Safe 2  
QUESTION: I have an old Cary safe that I cannot open.  It was originally in a small food market opened in about 1920.  I have the combination, but I and several others have had no success in unlocking the safe.  It probably hasn't been opened in about 15 years,and the last person being successful at it was probably my mother-in-law, who is now deceased.  I remember her saying that one had to jiggle (either the handle or the dial?)to open it.  We've had no successful with that either.
The combination is left-right-left-right, and the safe is 24 5/8" wide, 23 1/4" deep, and 35" high, including wheels.  Serial number on the handle is 148272.
I've attached an image and anything you can suggest would be appreciated.
Martin Bacher

ANSWER: Martin,

The three reasons that a safe lock will not open are (in order):
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, (operator errors)
2.  Incorrect combination, (wrong numbers), and
3.  Mechanical problems.

Based on your serial number, the lock that I would expect to find on your safe, would be a Yale Y6.   These locks came in both 3 and 4 wheel versions.   Chances are you are using the combination the way that someone else gave you the instructions.   generally combinations are passed on the way that people understand them, and NOT necessarily the way they actually operate, as indicated by the "jiggle the handle" comment.   The handle has nothing to do with the lock operation, and any jiggling is as much coincidence as it is out of frustration.   This lock is a friction fence lock, which means that unlike a gravity type lever, jiggling or vibrating the lock WILL NOT cause the lever to engage.

Locks are like most other mechanical items, including watches.   In order for them to work corrctly and accurately, they MUST have periodic maintenance (clean, lube & service) done at regular intervals to keep them operating correctly.   Old lubricant, wear, etc can keep the wheels from lining up at the correct positions, even when dialed correctly.

So based on your description you could possibly have several problems.   First we will start with the possiblity that you are dialing it incorrectly.   As you didn't provide the actual combination that you are trying to use, I have no way of decoding it to figure out what you may be doing wrong.  So I'm going to have to make some assumptions based on the info that you have provided.  It appears that you may have the three wheel version, but JUST on the chance that you have a four wheel lock with the last two wheels set on the same number, I'll provide you with instructions that should cover both situations.

Basic dialing sequence:

5 times left to your first number,
3 times right to your second number,
2 times left to your third number,
1 time right until the dial stops.

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 fifth time the number 50 arrives at the index mark.   so, basically you are NOT count the revolutions of the dial, you are counting your first number (in this case 50) EACH time it arrives at the index mark.

If it still won't open, then you may have a mechanical problem or the wrong numbers, in either case you will need to have a safe tech from a local safe company check it out to service and/or repair it.   
NOTE:   I never recommend using locksmiths as they generally do not have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.   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.

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

  Thanks for your very quick response.  Tried your suggestion with no success.
  The combination we have is handwritten, but found in three separate locations, all of which were identical, as follows:
   Start at 0
   Left to 10 four times
   Right to 40 three times
   Left to 63 two times
   Right to 0
   Turn Handle
Your email seemed to indicate that with the last movement of the dial, the dial will stop.  I assume then that the dial should stop at 0 if this combination is correct.  It does not.
    Once again, thanks in advance for any help you might be able to give me.
   Martin Bacher


People tend to pass combination instructions on, the way that THEY understand them, and NOT necessarily the way they actually work.  For instance the "start at 0" is not necessary.   Kind of like telling a man to go stand in the corner of a round room - there is no starting point.   If you want to use "0", as obviously someone did, it was for THEIR benefit only and NOT that of the locks.
Also the "Right to 0" instruction.   If this lock IS a Yale Y6 (which it should be), the dial WILL come to a stop, if it doesn't then you have either made a dialing error, or this combination isn't correct.   When the dial comes to a physical stop (it won't turn any more), the lock bolt has retracted, allowing the bolt work to pass, and the door to open.   If you stop the dial early, the lock bolt will NOT retract, and the bolt work will not be able to clear the lock.

So using the Basic dialing sequence:

5 times left to your first number, 10
3 times right to your second number, 40
2 times left to your third number, 63
1 time right until the dial stops.

If it still won't open, then you probably don't have the correct combination, even if you found it written on the safe.

NOTE:  Many times people will code their numbers when writing them down, so that they are available for them, but won't work for someone who doesn't understand the code.   Try reversing the directions or RLRL to see if it will open, though you will have a slightly different sequence:

5 times right to your first number, 10
3 times left to your second number, 40
2 times right to your third number, 63
1 time left to 0
1 time right until the dial stops.

You can also try moving the numbers around in the sequence to see if they work.

If you still can't get it, then it is time to call in the local safe tech.   NOTE:  I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes with out causing excessive damage.  


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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)

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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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