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Locksmithing/Changing Combination on S&G


I have two file cabinet safes.  I purchased from a surplus auction.  I have the correct key to change the combination and also have the instructions to do so.  The problem I have is that I received the safes with the door open so I do not know the combination.  The instructions say to start with the 3rd number aligned to the changing mark.  What do I do If I do not know the 3rd number?


Combination changing instructions "assume" that YOU already have a working combination.   If you don't have a combination for the lock, then the instructions don't work.

In order to recover or reset the combination for the lock, partial disassembly is required.  I NEVER, EVER recommend any lock disassembly, as a DIY project, for the same reason that I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work.  Lack of training, knowledge and tools can and do, frequently result in locked up safes.   The small amount that you would pay to have it done correctly, will long be forgotten when you see the huge bill you could get if you lock the safe up.

As far as "training you", my basic safe servicing class, which includes combination changing, is about a week long, and has a pre-requisite that you are all ready a locksmith.    So I'm not going to be able to get into any discussion on lock disassembly.

IF you do decide to try this as a DIY project, don't remove anything other than the lock back cover.    DO NOT remove any other parts of the lock.   Attempt to recover the combination by observation of the lock wheels, AND the corresponding numbers on the dial.
IF you are successful in recovering a working combination, then reinstall the lock cover.   Test the combination out several times to make sure it works - THEN you are ready to try to change the combination.

DO NOT close and lock the drawers until AFTER you have successfully dialed the combination several times.

If you have any problems or can't figure the lock out, then you need to go back to what I would have originally recommend as "Plan A" in the beginning.   Contact a local safe company to have their safe technician either recover or reset the lock correctly.

while combination changing MAY seem easy, I wind up having to open a couple safes every month, that had the combination changed (or attempted) by either a locksmith or a safe owner (DIY).

Bottom line - if your file cabinets are GSA containers, you could EASILY be looking at $650 to $1000 to open and repair it if you make even a simple mistake.   Even if it isn't a GSA container, you could be looking at $350 to $500 to have it opened and repaired.

Good luck with it.  


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

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 - 2014 - 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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