Locksmithing/combination sequence


Safe dial
Safe dial  

J. Baum Safe
J. Baum Safe  
I just got the "combination" for a J. Baum safe.  It's a family inheritance.
I was expecting 3 numbers for the combination but they gave me a 5 number combination...  Could this be right or did they not give me the correct combination?
They gave me 21-9-4-16-37
I tried various sequences...
1.) 5,4,3,2,1 to the right and left
2.) passing by each number once each time (starting right and left)
3.) I even tried a typical class II dial lock sequence (4,3,2,1)using a variation of 3 of the given 5 numbers.
I am submitting a picture of the dial on the safe.  There is a line at the typical 12 o'clock position but there is a deeper line at the 9 o'clock position...  which line should I use?



The "J. Baum Safe & Lock Company" safes used their own version of a Yale OB type lock.   During the later years they actually used the Yale OB series lock, though these were easy to distinguish as the dial actually said "Yale" on it.   While they did have two versions; a two wheel and a three wheel, I would expect the three wheel model on this safe.   The dialing sequence for the lock would be:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right - slowly until the dial stops (possibly your fourth number).   In the majority of the photos that I looked at to answer your question, the dial stops between 0-5 usually at 3.

There are only three reasons that a safe lock will not open - in order they are:
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence - operator errors.
2.  Incorrect combination - wrong numbers or numbers out of sequence.
3.  Mechanical problems.

When combinations are passed along, they are generally done so the way the original owner "UNDERSTOOD" the dialing sequence, and NOT necessarily the way the lock actually works.   In some cases the owners may have added additional information to keep someone from using a written combination to easily open the safe.

As the dial rings on J. Baum safes NEVER had an index mark at the 9 o'clock position, this leads me to believe that one of two things has happened here - either someone has worked on, and possibly made modifications to the lock, or possibly (most likely) a previous owner has remarked the dial ring to confuse people trying to open the safe.   They may actually be using this index to dial the combination to, rather than the normal 12 o'clock position.   They could even be using a combination of the two index's.     Without knowing what their "thought process" was, it may take some time to decode your combination.

I would try variations of the numbers that you have, using the dialing sequence that I have provided at each of the index marks.    Note:   at the 12 o'clock index, as the last number is most likely going to be between 0-5, I would not even try the #4 for these test combinations.   Set up a spread sheet to diagram all of the possible combinations.

When testing the combinations at the 9 o'clock position, note that the #4 will still probably need to be at the 12 o'clock position in order for the lock to be aligned correctly for the gravity lever to engage.   For this last sequence part, you don't need to concentrate as much on an individual number as you do on the sequence instruction:

1 time right slowly until the dial stops.   If you have dialed the other three numbers correctly, the dial WILL come to a complete stop when the gravity lever engages the drive wheel.   When the dial stops, turn the handle to open the safe.

Sorry, I can't be of more help, but in this case, I can't even be sure that the numbers you have are correct.    They may even be written backwards.

If you still can't get it open, you may need to have a safe technician from a local safe company open the safe, and recover the actual combination.    NOTE:   I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

Bottom line - do not vary from the dialing sequence that I have provided.   You can test any number that you wish for each line, but the dialing sequence has to be the same.

Hope this helps,


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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)

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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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