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Locksmithing/reprogramming mosler safe


QUESTION: I just picked up a small mosler safe (with combination) and would like to reset the combination. I would also like to know the approx age. I cant find any markings other than "the mosler safe co new york" on front and "mosler patent"inside. The outside box dimensions are about 16"x16"x20". I removed the plate behind the dial and I think I could reprogram it with the right guidance. I dont think it requires a change key but I could be wrong (good chance).  See pics

Thank you for any info you can provide.
Also, since I am using this for my personal documents, how much fire protection can I hope for it to provide.
Thanks again.


your Mosler safe appears to be from the 1920's or 30's.    Without having a serial number I can't narrow it down much more than that.    I would expect the serial number to be stamped into the ball of the handle, possibly on the hinges or on a manufacturer's data plate (not UL or SMNA).

The "NEW YORK" reference was simply a sales outlet of Mosler's - the safe was made at their Hamilton, OH factory.

As far as its fire resistance capabilities - basically it is considered to NOT have any at this point.    Safes over 50 years old DO NOT meet any current standards for fire resistance, and this little container is NOT a burglary resistive container either.

While I'm sure that it would offer some resistance, without actually testing it (which would of course ruin it), there is no way of telling, at this point, how much fire protection you could expect.

My recommendation is DO NOT use it for ANY overnight storage of cash, jewelry or valuable documents.    Documents stored in this container should be general purpose documents, which are relatively easy to replace.    You should have back ups or copies of everything in this container.

I'm not going to go into "Safe Basic's 101" for you as there simply isn't enough room or time - I would recommend that you have a safe technician from a local safe company clean, lube and service the lock, which would include resetting the combination.   As you have indicated that you plan on using it - the cost to have it serviced would be MUCH less than having to have it opened if you make even a little mistake!!!    Seriously!

NOTE:   I NEVER recommend lock disassembly as a DIY project for the same reason that I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work !!!    Lack of training, knowledge and correct tools can result in a VERY expensive lock out!

However if you are going to make this a DIY project, you will need to completely disassemble the wheel pack.   Lay all of the parts out exactly as you take them off the wheel post.
Each wheel has two main parts - the inner hub and the outer wheel.    Their relationship when put together is what determines the combination number for THAT wheel.
If you look very carefully, you will see a jagged separation line between the wheel and the hub.    Pressing up on the hub with your thumbs while pulling down on the wheel with your fingers will separate the two.
On the edge of the hub is a very small index line.    When you put the two back together, choose a number for that wheel, and install the hub so that the index mark is adjacent to it.   Ensure that you are paying attention to the number that you put the index next to.    It is EXTREMELY easy for someone to incorrectly note a number.    For instance if you pick one of the small index marks on the wheel, two numbers from 50 - did you actually pick 52 or 48 ????

Generally numbers on wheels one and three will run opposite as the ones on wheel number 2 and possibly 4.    Make sure YOU know which number YOU assign to each wheel.     AND more importantly keep everything in order.

Reassemble the wheel pack in the reverse order you disassembled it.   Reinstall the wheel pack into the lock body.    Install the two screws and then test dial your new combination several times to ensure that it unlocks correctly BEFORE YOU CLOSE THE DOOR !!!!!!!

If the combination does not work, or you don't understand any of these instructions, then you will need to contact a local safe company (NOT a locksmith) to have them reset the combination correctly.

Hopefully up to this point everything is working well and you are through.   HOWEVER - (I always like a however towards the end - LOL),   IF you are actually planning on using the safe for daily use or storage of documents which you need - I highly recommend having it serviced to ensure that everything operates correctly.

If you want to save some money - pull the door off the hinges and take it in for service.    make sure you clean and lubricate the hinge pins before reinstalling the door so that these work well also.
Worst case, have the safe tech make a house call.    While it will cost a little extra it will ensure everything is ok!

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Well, thank you for your advice, I apparently made a novice mistake in thinking this safe would meet my needs. The question I should have asked is:
What kind of safe should I buy to protect our important documents and a few valuables from fire and theft. We have a safe deposit box that we rarely use because of the inconvenience. I figured that I could put that rental fee towards the purchase of an affordable, in home safe that I would use much more. I started looking online which led to the sentry safes which our obviously garbage. I thought that perhaps an older floor safe would fit the bill. And that is how I got here. Any thoughts?

Hi Erik,

Before I can point you towards a particular safe, I have several questions that you need to answer,    My recommendation would be for you to go to an actual safe company to see what they have and to compare differences between different types of safes, so that you can become an informed consumer.

You can call us up at 800-326-4224 to talk to one of our sales people, or you can check us out by going to

Safes are designed to provide one of two types of protection - fire or burglary.    The third type of safe would be a composite safe, providing BOTH fire and burglary protection.

Before you are ready to shop - you need some personal info.

1.   How much "STUFF" are you going to put in the safe.   Yes size does matter.   You don't want to buy a safe that will fit your needs only to get more "stuff" tomorrow.    If you need 5 cubic feet of storage space today, then I would recommend doubling or better yet tripling the size so that you have room to grow for years!

2.   What is the "VALUE" of the stuff you are going to keep in it???     Obviously if you are only keeping documents, you only need fire protection, however IF your documents are valuable, like passports, titles, valuable books, etc. etc. that you don't want stolen, then you also need some burglary protection.
If your valuables don't really need fire resistance, like coin collections, then you might only need burglary.

Safes are rated in their ability to protect.    Fire safes are rated, in time for how long they can potentially keep the INTERIOR of the safe below 350 degrees F.   (Paper chars around 412 and combusts around 451 degrees F.)     If you have computer discs, film or similar type media storage, then you need even better protection.    Data safes are designed to keep the temperature below about 150 degrees F.    Standard fire safes are rated in 1 hour, 2 hour or 4 hour safes, though some cheaper companies offer 30 and 45 minute safes.    While these safes will provide more than the UL listing, this is simply the "STANDARD" that they are tested to.

Burglary rated safes are rated in their ability to keep people OUT of your safe.    Non-rated safes comprise the biggest number of safes and are also the most confusing.    You can look at several manufacturers which all may BASICALLY look the same, but on closer examination have extreme differences.    For instance how much more protection would a safe door which is 1/2" thick steel provide over one which is 1/8" thick????    Yet BOTH are considered to have the "BASIC" burglary resistance.
Non-rated burglary safes are rated to store usually less than $5000 and on the top end of the scale less than $10,000.
Rated burglary safes begin with a UL TL-15 rating and go up from there.   Values that rated safes can hold vary by rating and by insurance or mercantile provider,   but generally on the low end can hold less than $50,000 to more than $1,000,000 in value.

Let me put this in to some kind of perspective - "IF" you have a couple really nice rifles, that are worth around $5000 each, and you put BOTH of these guns in a top rated, though NON-rated gun safe (this includes ALL RSC rated safes), you have maxxed out the storage value of your safe, and you still haven't put anything else into it.
If you have 6 more guns, you will need more safes because you purchased a safe which does NOT meet your actual needs.

Bottom line, calculate the amount of storage space that you actually need AND the protection levels and $ values that you intend on putting in the safe, and NOW you are ready to begin looking.     However don't wait too long deciding - a friend of mine was looking at safes, and had pretty much decided, however due to the price of the safe elected to wait a bit.   Within two weeks, they were burglarized and lost close to $100,000 worth of their stuff.    If they had purchased the safe, at least a portion of that would not have disappeared.

Ok, balls in your court - start doing your homework!  


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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

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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