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Locksmithing/unkown safe manufacturer and no combo.

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Question
I recently bid on a safe at an auction under the assumption that any locksmith can open it( not my assumption).  I have pictures of everything you may need to 1) identify the safe, 2) possibly identify a means to open it.  I understand that it can be drilled but would rather not go this route unless absolutely necessary.  I don't want to spend much money on it but was going to use it to preserve papers and certain tools from rusting.  Very humid here.

Answer
Art,

Sorry, but it always amazes me that someone would bid on an unknown item - I guess that's why I never became much of a gambler!

First item - if you had planned on using it for security - or for storage of and/or preserving documents - then you should have purchased a safe or container designed for this purpose.   Again buying an unknown at an auction is simply guessing or taking a chance that it "MIGHT" be what you want - guessing or hoping is NOT a very good security strategy!

I don't want you to think that I'm chastising you for your purchase - I'm simply laying all the cards on the table before having to actually present you with any bad news.    Hopefully you lucked out and got something that will be useful,  but just like gambling in Las Vegas to try to get enough money to pay your rent has never been a good idea - buying "unknown" items at an auction to fill a specific "security" need is also NOT a good idea.   

I would be more than happy to look at your safe to try to ID it for you - HOWEVER in many cases the "OUTSIDE" can look very similar on many safes, it is how the safe is constructed that we use to ID the safe - which means that we may not get a full ID until after it is opened.

As far as opening the safe - while manipulation may be possible (depending on the lock installed on the safe), it also may NOT be possible.   Some locks simply don't want to talk, and/or you may not have a trained safe technician available in your area.   Unlike Starbucks, trained safe techs are NOT on every corner, and generally "locksmiths" do NOT have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes.   Also, as Manipulation is NEVER a guarantee, you may be paying for the service, and NOT the result.

Drilling, when done by a trained safe technician, will NOT damage the safe or the lock, and the very small hole can usually be repaired very easily.   The combination can either be recovered or reset to a new one.

As far as not wanting to spend much money on it - this isn't the 1950's - everything costs much more than it did 10 years ago.   Generally you will be paying based on the security rating of the safe.   Lower rated safes will cost in the $350-$500 range to open & repair.   Medium Security Safes will cost in the $600 to $900 range.   High Security safes could easily cost $1000 to $1500 PER lock!   While these prices illustrate the labor rates, they don't include any replacement parts.   depending on the lock you could be looking at $150 to $1000 per lock.

Now - before I give you a heart attack, lets try to find out what you have gotten yourself into.   First order of business will be to look at the safe to try to figure out what you actually have, so that we can come up with a plan.

Next item would be to locate a trained & qualified safe technician (NOT a locksmith) in your area to work on the safe.   If you don't have a local safe company, I'll need to know where you and/or the safe are located (zip code), so that I can provide you with a possible reference.

I will need photos of your safe, to include full exterior photos and close ups of the dial, hinges, handle, and any markings on the safe.    Photos should be of good resolution as I will need to zoom in to look for details, in the 1 to 2 mb range.

Please send the photos directly to me at:   andy@securitysafeusa.com

Photos which are blurry or do not show details don't do me any good, so please look at them before sending them.   If you can't see the item, then neither can I.    As soon as I get your pics, I'll take a look at them.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)

Expertise

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.

Experience

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".

Organizations
SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

Publications
The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes AllExperts.com

Education/Credentials
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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