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Question
I have inherited a safe purchased by my grandmother's uncle. My father used it until he passed last year. I have the 6-number-long combination, but cannot make it work. The safe says THE HALL'S SAFE CO. and has the eagle with the disclaimer under it (not Hall's safe & lock co. which quit business in 1892,etc.). The dial is 1 to 100; the number carved in the handle is 75014. Are there understood conventions about turning clockwise 1st or passing the 1st number before stopping at the second, etc.? I know the 6 numbers, but I have no instruction about how to dial. Do you know any rules to help me? Also, I don't know about her uncle, but my grandmother was born in 1901. Thanks!

Answer
Hi Kathy,

Very few Hall's Safe & Lock Company locks used a "6" number combination - this was in fact quite rare, so chances are the combination or the dialing sequence that you have is not correct.
As the safe YOU have is from the Hall's Safe Company, and NOT Hall's Safe & Lock Company - then the chances of your having a 5 wheel lock with 6 numbers is about zero.

While "Daddy Hall" (Joseph L. Hall) died in 1889, and his three sons merged his business with three others to form Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company in 1892.   The Hall's brothers had a falling out with HHM in 1896 and subsequent to their completing their contracts all left to form the "Hall's Safe Company" in late 1896.

The "Eagle" trademark was adopted in 1902, though the disclaimer was not added until around 1904 or 05.   With a serial number of 75014, I would expect your safe to have been made around 1910, however there is no serial number listing which would give us any exact dates.

The lock which I would expect to find on this safe is a three wheel, direct drive, straight tail piece type lock, with a dialing sequence of:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right stopping exactly on the fourth number - turn handle to open.

NOTE:  Because of the design of this lock this sequence may also be dialed RLRL vs LRLR, however the same numbers will NOT work in both directions - a second combination of different numbers would be required in the reverse direction.    However, I would recommend that you test the combination that you have in both directions (LRLR and RLRL) to see if one opens the safe.

Next item - combinations are generally passed along the way that they are understood by the previous owners and NOT necessarily the way that they actually work.    As you have not provided me with any numbers or sequences as passed along to you, I have no way of trying to "decode it for you.

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
3.  mechanical problems.

At this time, based on the information that you have provided, I would have to assume that:
1.  the chance that you don't have the correct numbers is high, and
2.  You are not using the correct dialing sequence.

My first recommendation would be for you to provide me with the numbers and any instructions that you have, so I can try to come up with the proper sequence for you.
Secondly, as you have 6 numbers, make up a spread sheet, utilizing all 6 numbers and using the sequence listed above to formulate a series of possible combinations.   Then test all of them using BOTH LRLR and RLRL sequences.

Lastly, if it still won't open, then I would recommend your having a safe technician from a local safe company - NOT a locksmith - open the safe and recover the correct combination for you.

If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you and/or the safe are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I might know and/or recommend in your area.

Hope this helps,

Locksmithing

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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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