QUESTION: Hi Terry (Andy),
We recently purchased an old safe and have what we believe to be the combination but the dial won't turn. We were told that it could be a safety lock that has engaged after being tampered with? The safe has been painted so we can't find a name but it does have a Yale lock. What are our options for opening this safe without ruining it as we would like to restore it.
ANSWER: Hi Dennis,
I'm not sure who came up with the idea of a "safety lock", but don't listen to them any further as they are simply making stuff up, without having any useful knowledge. There is no such thing as a "safety combination lock" for safes. While some electronic/digital locks do have a penalty period to keep people from simply pushing buttons to see if they can find your code, mechanical locks do not have this feature.
My first recommendation is that YOU need the services of a trained safe technician, however there are some things that you can check out first.
If the dial doesn't turn, then you could have some serious problems. My first thought is that the lock is possibly unlocked (engaged). If the lock is in the unlocked position, then the bolt work may be jammed or rusted. While you can "tap" on the handles with a rubber mallet or dead blow hammer - if you are hitting the safe or handle hard enough to damage it, then you are hitting it too hard - QUIT!!!
Check the doors to ensure that they are fully closed and then check the handles again - active door first, and inactive door second.
Your safe appears to be a Cary safe. This company manufactured safes from about 1878 until 1929. The lock that is actually on the safe will depend on when it was made. Luckily I've got pretty good records established on these safes, but I'll need the serial number which is stamped into the ball of the handle.
Unfortunately, mechanical issues like this tend to be HANDS ON type issues, meaning that you need someone very familiar with your safe, to diagnose the actual problem, get the safe home, and perform repairs.
Check with your local safe companies to see if they have anyone trained on their staff.
NOTE: I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes.
If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see if I know anyone that I might recommend in your area.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Andy,
Thought about your answer that the safe could be open and just jammed, went and worked on it with a rubber mallet and after a lot of hitting and prying I was able to open the safe! Pictures attached.
You are correct it is a Cary safe, serial# 121021- Yale lock #Y3866
Thank you a bunch for your advice, is there a chance you can tell when it was made? And possible ball park value?
The combo that I thought I had doesn't seem to work, so will probably have to have someone look at the wheels and tell me what it is.
I would be more than happy to look at your safe to answer any questions you might have.
Based on the safe serial number (121021), your safe would have been made between 1911 to 1915, probably 1913ish. However, the lock serial number I would have expected to be around 35000 to 38000 rather than 3866 - are you sure you got that number correct???
The lock that I would expect to find on this safe is a Yale Y-6, four wheel lock.
In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos. They should include full exterior and interior. Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage. Note: You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.
I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe. If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.
Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe. Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container. Note: with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email. If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.
Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos. Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination. Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.
Please send all of the requested photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity. Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.
Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.