Locksmithing/Old Cary Safe


QUESTION: I have Cary safe that I would assume to be about 100 years old. The serial number is Y 23809. The safe has an inner safe with the same type dial as the outer door. The problem I am having is I have the combination for the outer safe and can get in. I also know that the outer door had some type of chemical container to help prevent somebody from getting in the safe. That was disabled at some point in time.  However, I have no combination for the inner safe. Is there a way to get in? Would it possibly have the same chemical deterrent? I know the inner safe hasn't been opened in about 40 years and we don't know if there is anything in there. Does it have to be drilled?

ANSWER: Hi John,

Sorry, but that is the serial number for the lock (on the back of the wheel curb).   The serial number for the safe would be stamped into the ball of the handle.

Based on the serial number list that I've collected, and your lock serial number, I figure that your safe serial number should be between 108400 to 110500, so the date of manufacture would have been around 1909-1912.   I'm still working on some date calculations, so these dates may move one way or the other.

As far as a "chemical container" being attached to the safe, this was NOT installed by the manufacturer.   It was an aftermarket item either installed by a safe sales company or by the owner, at some point, to provide additional burglary resistance.   NOTE:   These tear gas vials may be illegal to own in most states as they contain CS/CN type tear gas.   If the vials are still in the device you need to have them removed.
Yes it is possible that the interior chest may have tear gas vials as well, though opening the safe, if done correctly by a trained safe tech should NOT damage or break the vials.

WARNING:  CS/CN type tear gas can be extremely dangerous, and could potentially cause death to anyone who has respiratory problems.   At a minimum it will cause serious discomfort to anyone exposed, and if the safe is in your house, it may take several weeks for the chemicals to dissipate sufficiently before you can reuse the room without similar effects.

By "inner safe", I'm assuming that your safe has an interior jewelers chest.   You basically have two options for opening it - you can try dialing all of the 100,000,000 possible combinations for the lock, or you can have it opened by a trained safe technician from a local safe company - NOT a locksmith.  

As for your question concerning "does it HAVE to be drilled"???   that would depend on who you have open it, what training, education and skills they possess, and how much time they have available.   For instance I cover one of the largest service areas in the US and may have 3-5 safes to open on any given day.   If I have other customers waiting for service, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on your safe.   On the other hand, if I have no other jobs in line behind you, I have much more time available to work on your safe.   While it is possible to manipulate the lock on this safe open, chances are it is a 4 wheel Yale Y-6 series lock so it won't be as easy as the later Yale M16 series lock with 3 wheels.   Manipulation is NOT a guaranteed service, which means that you will be paying for the service NOT the end results.   If the safe tech is unsuccessful, he may have to drill the safe to open it - for an additional fee.
Drilling when done correctly will NOT damage the lock or the safe, and the single small hole can easily be repaired.   You definitely don't want to use a locksmith or safe tech who indicates that they may damage or ruin the lock or safe.    While a few replacement locks are still floating around, you DON'T want to have to pay an additional $500 to $750 for a replacement lock!!!!!

I would recommend testing the combination for the outer door (or variations of the combination) on the interior chest to see if they might open it.   Many times owners used the same combination or a variation of the numbers on the two locks to make it easier to remember.

Contact a local safe company to discuss having the interior chest opened.   If you don't have a local safe company, then let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see if I know anyone in your area that I might recommend.

Hope this helps.    Don't forget to check the handle for the actual serial number so we can try to figure out when it might have been made.

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

QUESTION: The serial number is 109501. I have tried variations of the outer safe combination on the jewelers chest to no avail. I took the outer lock plate off and found that I have a 4 wheel lock. I am interested in getting a quote on getting the jewelers chest open. I am in Northeast Tennessee zip code 37664.

Hi John,

I refigured some of the dates, which would place yours as having been made around 1909-1910.

The lock that I would expect to find on your safe would be the Yale Y-6, four wheel version.   The interior chest should have the same lock.

Probably the closest companies that I would recommend are in Lexington, KY, however they are around 4 hours away (8 Hours round trip).

A closer company would be:

Sevier Lock & Safe Co.,          about 75 miles away
1225 Upper Middle Creek Road
Sevierville, Tn  37876

Call them up to get a quote on having the interior safe opened and repaired.   If you have any questions concerning their pricing or proposal feel free to run it by me.


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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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