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Locksmithing/Hercules Closet Vault Safe

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QUESTION: I saw this posting:
Expert: Terry V. Andreasen (Andy) - 9/10/2011

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safe
safe  
I have a combination safe that looks rather old, and i'm unsure on how to get information on it. It is a Hercules closet vault that is Meilink built. Apparently it is from Toledo, Ohio and on the combination knob it has Meilink E612. The dementions are approximately 14 inches wide, 14 inches tall, and about 12 inches in depth. I am attaching some images of a wall vault that is completely identical except that the mounting brackets are located on top of the safe. The images of the vault similar to mine had that vault for sale for $500 and the combination was included. Mine is open but I do not know the combination. The only other difference is that on the interior of the door underneath the certified one hour test sticker, there is a metal rectangular plate that has "SAFE MANUFACTURERS NATIONAL ASSOCIATION" on it, along with different numbers for the inspection i'm guessing. If needed I can send pictures of mine. Thank you very much for your time.
Your answer was for the person who has the door open to figure out the combination but my safe the door is locked and I can't find the combination. I called locally and the company said it would have to be drilled for aprox. $250 and would then be rendered useless except that I then would have the items inside.  Is there a way to get this unlocked?

ANSWER: Carol,

No photos were attached.    Secondly, don't assume that seeing something similar on the internet is the same as what you have - the majority of the time that I hear this the containers are not the same and/or value is not the same.

You indicated in your description that your safe is open (1st paragraph), but then in the second paragraph, you indicate that the door is locked and you don't have the combination!!!   So you have me slightly confused.    I'm going to assume that YOUR container is locked shut, and you don't have the combination.

As far as the company that indicated that they would open the safe for $250 but ruin it - I would NEVER recommend any company that would charge for ruining something.   When you hire them you should assume that they are professional, and you should expect professional results.

You wouldn't take your car to someone for an oil change, only to find out that they are going to ruin your engine changing the oil, so you shouldn't except this from a locksmith or safe company.    Note:  I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally DO NOT have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage or charging exhorbant fees.    While the fees quoted are acceptable, the results are not.

My first recommendation would be for you to contact Meilink to see if they still have any records for combinations for your container.   You can contact them at:

http://www.fireking.com/mk_home.html
1-800-528-9900     Customer Services    M-F 8am to 5pm
1-800-452-4655     Tech Services        M-5 6am to 8pm,  Sat 9am to 6pm, Sun 9am to 3pm

If they don't have any records for your container, then you will need a safe technician from a local safe company.   if you don't have one, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see if I know anyone in your area.    Again - anyone who indicates that they would intentionally ruin the container should be avoided.

Your only other option would be for you to simply dial all of the potential combinations, which could be as many as 1,000,000.    At 500 per day, every day, it would only take you about 5.5 years to test them all.

Sorry I don't have any better answers for you, but hopefully this will give you some direction.






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

QUESTION: Andy, I'm sorry I gave you wrong info this morning!  you gave me a great answer with the pitiful info I gave you!
I'll start again.  I have a Meilink Hercules Closet Vault, F-728 that is indeed locked and I can't find the combo (inherited the vault from my parents). I can almost guess that calling the company would be my best bet but thought I would straighten out my question in info before Monday when I can call them.  If you have any better ideas for this model please send them.  If I don't hear I will assume that calling the company still stands.
thanks.

Answer
Hi Carol,

Sorry but the info is still the same - choices would be:

1.  contact the manufacturer to find out if they have any info,
2.  Test possible combinations for the container,
3.  Contact a local safe company.

Note:   the manufacturer may have you jump through a couple hoops before they give you any info.   Obviously they don't know who you are and/or what your relationship to the safe is, and/or whether or not you have authorization to request the info.    While it may be a pain in the butt, they have security and liability issues that they have to guard against.

While trying all of the possible combinations IS your least expensive option, it will take the longest, and be the most mentally trying.   Though if you turn it into a family project, it could be fun - kind of like the longest Monopoly game you'll ever play!

The quickest solution but most expensive will be having a local safe company open the safe.   Cost could run anywhere between the $250 to $500 to have it opened, however YOU need to fully understand what you are paying for BEFORE the safe tech even begins working on the safe.
For instance, drilling is a totally reasonable method to open the safe, and if done correctly by a PROFESSIONAL safe technician will NOT ruin the safe.   generally we drill a very small hole, less than 1/4" usually, which can easily be repaired.   We do not plan on damaging ANY parts which can not be easily replaced.   You should understand ALL the charges up front, there should be NO hidden charges.    Locksmiths that charge progressive rates based on labor hours, drill bits, etc. usually don't know what they are doing, and have these "open" rates to protect themselves and/or pay for the amount of time they waste on your safe.    Companies that flat rate the price, know that it is in their best interest to open the safe in a minimum amount of time, with the least amount of repairs.    But don't base time on cost - you may pay more for the better opening, or safe tech, but the end results are worth it.

The last item is cost vs worth issue.    I'm not sure where you got the $500 from, as used containers like this are MAYBE worth $50 to $150 in great condition (maybe less).   Your container is neither antique or collectible, and if it has an SMNA label it would be over 50 years old which means that it does not meet any current standards for fire resistance, and it is not a burglary resistive safe.   
Current price for a similar new safe (AMSEC WFS149 or WEST149) is between $500 to $550.
http://www.amsecusa.com/Wall_Safes/

You may want to decide, based on the cost to open and repair the container, whether or not it is more economical to have the container opened with no repairs, and then replace it with a new one.
Your best choice would be to check the factory first though.

hope this helps,  

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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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