You are here:

Locksmithing/Opening a safe with key


Hello Andy
Trying to open my dad's safe. Its old and made in "Madras". There is no dial or key pad.
There is one key hole, and I can get the key turn once clockwise. Which then allows me to turn the handle counter clockwise and I can hear a "bolt drop". But the door does not open. My mom thinks that the key needs to be turned one more time. For some reason we are lost at this stage!
Help !

Hi Lee,

I wish I could offer more assistance, however my specialty is in American Made Safes.    Sounds to me like your container was made in India, and possibly a long time ago.   I have a friend in Singapore that you may want to check in with as he is more familiar with safes from that area, especially antique European and Asian safes.

You can check their webpages out or contact them and ask for either David or Desmond Siah.

In general there were two types of key locks used on most of the safes I've seen similar to what you are describing.    They are "single throw" and "double throw" locks.

A single throw lock only requires ONE revolution of the key to unlock.    A double throw lock requires two complete turns of the lock to retract the lock bolt far enough for the main bolt work to operate.

Your mom may be right.    Turn the handle back to the fully locked position, and try to turn the key two full turns.    NOTE:   if it won't go easily, then don't force it.    It won't help matters if the key is broken!!!

If the key turns two full turns, then test the handle to see if it turns as much or further than originally.

QUESTION:   When the key lock is in the fully locked position, does the handle turn as much or less than after you have turned the key a full revolution???

In general mechanical problems require hands on diagnostics and solutions.    If you still can't get it open, and if David or Desmond Siah can't help, then you may need to take it to a safe technician or safe engineer at a local safe company.

Sorry, I wish I could be of more help, but without having the safe in front of me, I'm afraid I can't be of much help.

Hope this works.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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

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)

©2017 All rights reserved.