Locksmithing/Safe combination


QUESTION: My dad recently passed, and I have inherited his old double door herring hall and marvin safe. He wrote down 5 numbers on the floor joist above the safe, but I'm sure he had his own way of deciphering the numbers. How many numbers would be in the combo, and what would be the most likely stop number?


The dialing sequence for the lock on this safe would be as follows:

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.

As you didn't provide the "numbers" that are in question, I have no way of trying to help you decode what you have, but assuming that it is written down something like  3-0-5-5-7, you could make the assumption that it might be something like 30-5-57, or possibly 75-50-3  (note the last number of the combination should not be between 90-20 on the dial, so the #3 would not be a good number.   If the number was 4-6-2-1-7, it might be something like 4-62-17 or possibly 71-2-64.

If you try ALL of the possibilities of the numbers that you have, and it still doesn't work, then they may not be or have anything to do with the safe.

You may need to have a safe technician check it out and/or open the safe for you.

Hope this helps,

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QUESTION: The numbers are written as follows, 10-48-16-89-12...
It doesn't look like it should be this complicated, but it has been frustrating...
I'm sure he did something goofy like swapping the first and last numbers, or just the last 2 numbers,
If you have any idea what the first or last number would be, I think I could figure it out.
Also, you said the sequence is
Right til stop... Is that correct?
Thank you, I really appreciate any help!


The locks that were standard on these safes were ONLY three wheel locks.   While it may have been changed to a 4 wheel lock, this wouldn't have been standard for this safe.   Also remember that I mentioned that the last number should NOT be between 90 and 20 on the dial - the number "12" would violate this rule.   While the lock could be mis-splined to give it a different drop in area AND stopping point, with out having the lock in hand to diagnose how it is set up, I can't say one way or the other.

"IF" the lock is a four wheel lock, then the dialing sequence would be:

5 times right to the first number, 10
4 times left to the second number, 48
3 times right to the third number, 16
2 times left to the fourth number, 89
1 time right until the dial stops (should be around 90)

NOTE:    This safe is a Diebold safe with what looks like a Herring-Hall-Marvin logo.   This safe would have been built after HHM was acquired by Diebold (probably early 1960's).    While years earlier, Diebold did use some reverse locks, I would NOT expect this to be one of them, but that shouldn't keep you from trying it out.   Dialing would be:

5 times left to the first number, 10
4 times right to the second number, 48
3 times left to the third number, 16
2 times right to the fourth number, 89
1 time left until the dial stops (may be around 12).

As you mentioned, he may have scrambled the numbers or "added" numbers to the sequence.   Your job would be to try the three different dialing sequences with all of the numbers that you have, in varying orders to see if any of them will open the safe.   There is all ways the chance that they are also "coded" like add 10 to the first, 20 to the second, 30 to the third, etc, though without knowing the coding sequence, you are simply guessing.   

As far as figuring out what the "first number" could be, if there are 100 numbers on the dial, then there are 100 possible numbers that could be first!   Sorry.


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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

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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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