You are here:

Locksmithing/fletcher\diebold safe?


the safe
the safe  
QUESTION: i recently bought a Diebold safe from an old market near my home. it is a round door safe. when i bought it it was open and unlocked but was locked during transportation. The previous owner acquired it when he purchased the the market and had a lock smith open it with a dialer. After it was opened he never used the safe for 15 years. It sat at the back of the market unlocked. The previous owner insists that he had the combination changed to his birthdate which he said was "20 42". He called the locksmith today 'feb 18 2013' who confirmed that the combo was changed to his birthdate but was 3 digits so i added the month of his birthday "02" trying every sequence of those numbers both anti and clockwise. also i tried the 2 digit combo as well as variants of 20 42 ie. 20 40 02 and so on. The safe appears to be a diebold safe incased in concrete by another safe company "fletcher lock and safe co" is this possible? I have a few other questions. 1. is it possible for a diebold safe to have a 2 digit combination? 2. what is the proper dialing sequence in any case? 3. how old roughly do you think the safe is? 4. what is the safe roughly worth? 5. if the safe tech put the combo in wrong what would be the proper dialing sequence 6. ive heard of a "forbidden zone" which the number 2 falls into, do you think the combination i was given could even be the proper combo?


The body of the safe appears to be factory.   The Fletcher lock & safe either sold it at some point (used safes), or serviced it.

One of the problems with this safe/lock is that parts are no longer available for it.   It is an obsolete container.

The "forbidden zone" has NOTHING to do with unlocking the lock, it has to do with trying to lock it after successfully dialing the combination, which is NOT your problem.

There are ONLY three reasons that a safe lock will not open, they are (in order)
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence (operator error)
2.  Incorrect combination, (wrong numbers)
3.  Mechanical problems.

Based on yout discription of the problem, you are either not dialing it correctly, or do not have the correct numbers, though I feel it may be a combination of the two.

In answer to your questions:
1.  Yes it is possible to set only 1 or 2 numbers on the lock.   Has nothing to do with it being a "Diebold".

2.  The proper dialing sequence for the lock on this safe 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 until the dial stops - bolts retracted - door can be pulled open.

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.

3.  These safes were built during the late 1950's through the 1970's.

4.  Locked up the safe has a negative value - cost to open it could be in the $300 to $500 range, and parts are no longer available, which means if it isn't opened correctly, it basically becomes a boat anchor!
Value (after its opened)
Fire resistance:          $0     This is NOT a fire resistive safe.   While the cladding will offer a certain amount of heat resistance, it is there for weight, not insulation.
Burglary resistance:      $0     While this is a burglary resistive safe, it is obsolete, there are no parts available, it has an extremely limited storage space for the size of the container.
Resale:          $0     This container has NO commercial or retail value.   It should not be used for overnight storage of cash, jewelry, valuable documents, or anything that you can't live without including passports, vehicle titles, etc.
Antique:          $0     Not over 100 years old.
Collectible:          $0     Not considered a collectible.

Basically if you called up most safe companies, they would charge you to haul it away.

5.  I'm not sure what you mean by put the wrong combo in????   If the customer gave hime a combination to set the lock to, and the safe tech set that combo, I don't understand how that would be a wrong combination????    If the safe tech set a random number, and wrote down the combination incorrectly, that would be a wrong set - however after setting combinations most safe techs test the new combination several times with the door open and closed to verify that it is working.
Generally what happens is that previous owners pass the combos or instructions along the way that THEY understand them, and not necessarily the way that they actually work.

If you are questioning a "dialing error" during the original setting of the combination, this is possible, and does happen.  As long as the customer or owner of the safe maintains or performs that same error, each and every time, the lock WILL open.   If you attempt to open the lock by dialing it correctly, without the error, the lock will not open.

The problem isn't so much a dialing error, as it is not having the CORRECT combination.   If this is the case, and using your original two numbers "20-42", the dialing sequence might be:
4 times right to the first number, (20)
2 time left to the second number, (42)
1 time right until the dial stops.

Without knowing WHAT the actual numbers are or what the mistake is, you are simply guessing.   While you could make up a spread sheet with all available combinations based on the numbers the original owner believes it to be, and trying various dialing sequences of these numbers, again all you are doing is guessing.     I don't know HOW many times I have to go out to open a safe, being told that "THESE" are the numbers that I've always used.   When I get the safe opened and find out what the ACTUAL numbers are, the customer usually back pedals saying, "OH RIGHT, those are the numbers"!

While the customer may be considered "always right" in most businesses, when it comes to locked up safes, generally the customer is usually always wrong!   Sorry, may not be politically correct, but its true!  LOL

6.  Forbidden zone - see answer above.

Based on the information that you have provided, I tend to think that the old owner does not remember the combination or the dialing procedure, and is only giving you what they believe it to be.   As you have indicated he hasn't used it in 15 years.   I'm sorry but I'm rather skeptical of the claim that the previous owner contacted his locksmith, who maintains records for 15 years, including copies of their customers combinations.   I've met very few who can go back for the past 7 years with documents they are REQUIRED to keep, much less 15 years, and I'm equally sure that the locksmith doesn't remember what combination that they set 15 years ago.   On a side note, if I used a locksmith who I found out keeps copies of keys to my home or business, or copies of my combinations, I would immediately seek a new locksmith.   For obvious security and liability reasons, this is NEVER a good idea, even if your customers request this service.

So basically I'm back to my original assessment that the combination is incorrect, and/or you are also dialing it incorrectly.

You need a real safe technician, and not a locksmith if you want this safe opened and not damaged.   Contact a local safe company to have their safe tech check the safe out.   If they are unable to open the safe without ruining it, then you may want to look around for someone else.   Heck, if they are going to ruin it anyway, you might as well save the money and do it yourself.

Hope this helps.

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

QUESTION: that is terribly unfortunate news. i'm already $1,000 into it..... do you think its worth it to have it opened? is there any resale value? thanks


Sorry to hear that - I wish you had contacted me before getting it, to evaluate it's value.

Unfortunately, I feel that you are probably $800-$900 to deep already - NOT considering the fact that you may need to pay someone $350 to $500 to have it opened.

As I mentioned before, this container has $0 value under ANY of the mentioned categories, it has no commercial or retail value, and with the fact that it is obsolete and no parts are available, all add up to make this one a really tough sell.

The only way out of this is if you get it opened, with no damage, have it cleaned and serviced with the combo recovered or reset, so that it works.   Strip the main chest out of the clading, you might wind up with something you can use as a wall safe.    Again, if you do get it operational - have it serviced regularly so that it will last long enough to become an antique.

Again, I wish the news was better.


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.