You are here:

Locksmithing/Could a S&G lock spin in reverse (R/L/R/L)?


Hi Andy, Iíve read your answers to other questions and hope you can help me.  I have a floor safe that Iíve owned for almost 20 years.  It was probably made in the late-40ís (maybe earlier) based on where it came from.  It has a UL Inspected Safe plate with a 6 digit stamped number (2224XX) and ratings of Fire Classification B and T-20 Burglary.  The combination dial is stamped S&G in the center, and surrounding the S&G logo around the outside of the center section of the knurled ring is the name Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Co.
I removed the door and had the lock serviced when I bought it in 1994.  It was cleaned and lubricated by a local lock shop, with some claim to safe knowledge (or so the Yellow pages said).  It gave me 7 or 8 years of trouble free service.  I then acquired a much bigger two door model, which has become my primary safe.  Iíve kept some things in the HHM safe but used it very infrequently over the last 10 years or so.
The last time I was in it (two years ago now), I inadvertently left the small card with the combo written on it in my shirt pocket.  After a run through the washing machine, I had a clean shirt, a wrinkled card and an obliterated combination.  
I couldnít remember the combination with certainty (although I have a couple of good guesses) but I was pretty sure of two things:  that the three digit combination ended in 15 and that the lock direction, unlike my larger safe (or most S&G locks that Iíve read about), started by spinning to the Right for the first number (not to the Left).  I tried many times in the weeks and months that followed but never got in it.
Recently, I had a need to get into that safe, so I visited the shop that serviced it in 1994.  I learned that they do record combinations of serviced safes, but that practice only began in 1999, so they had no records that could help me (maybe that was a good thing Ė not so sure I want them having a record of my combination?).  When I described my recollection of starting by spinning to the Right for the first number, everybody there poo-pooed me until the owner came out of his office.  He did say that was possible for a S&G lock from that era, and he coached me through the combo opening process. which I thought wss different from my larger safe (I couldnít remember if I should be counting the number of times turning by the next number itself, or the number of times turning by zero Ė he said count the numbers itself, not the zeroes).  
He also said if I couldnít get it open, heíd have to pull some old books to understand the drill points but he could drill the door as a last resort, however only on a per hour basis, with no minimum or maximum.
So my question is:  Does a combination that begins with a Right spin sound reasonable (or even possible) to you given that this is an S&G lock, but dating back to the 40ís?  I want to believe that the last turn of the dial (from 15 to 0) was one that was closer to 300 degrees of rotation (by spinning Left), than one that would barely be 50 degrees of rotation (if the last spin was to the Right).  
Finally, I noted in your last answer to Julie, that you would recommend Capital Safe & Lock in Manchester, CT, which is just around the corner for me.  I appreciate your comments on the fact that some folks like yourself (and perhaps them) will work on a flat rate basis.  Thanks!  David


Your safe would have been from the 1940's or 50's, so chances are it would have had a standard S&G lock, which dials LRLR.   S&G did make a Left Hand lock which was used on safes with reverse or left hand doors, which did dial RLRL, though for every 1000 Right hand locks you might find 1 left hand lock.   This doesn't mean that someone didn't put it on your safe.

However, in 40 years, I've found that in most cases when dialing a lock, many people (including locksmiths) don't know their lefts from their rights.   There are ONLY three reasons a safe lock won't open, in order they are:

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence (operator errors)
2.  Incorrect combination (wrong numbers)
3.  Mechanical problems.

So assuming that you are dialing it correctly, if it won't open, you probably just have the wrong numbers.
Assuming that you have the correct numbers, you could easily be dialing it incorrectly, which not only includes the directions but the "4-3-2-1" count.   You don't count REVOLUTIONS of the dial, and for get passing other numbers, etc., most of which is simply extraneous, extra, confusing nonsense.

The correct dialing sequence SHOULD be:

4 times LEFT to the first number,
3 times RIGHT to the second number,
2 times LEFT to the third number,
1 time RIGHT until the dial stops (should be around 90).

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.   If this doesn't work, then try reversing the directions or RLRL vs LRLR.

As far as this locksmiths goes, and opening the safe, I would look around for someone better trained with more knowledge.   sounds to me like he doesn't really know what he's doing, and is simply charging you, to learn on your safe, at YOUR expense.   Any one who knows what they are doing, will know exactly what they have to do to open your safe, and can flat rate the work.

Feel free to contact Capital Safe & Lock to see what they can do for you.   If you aren't satisfied with their proposal, I'll see who else I know in your area.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

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)

©2017 All rights reserved.