Locksmithing/Mosler Safe


Mosler Safe
Mosler Safe  

Mosler Safe
Mosler Safe  
I inherited a safe that was used in my father's gas station for many years.  Upon his death we had forgotten the combination but fortunately the door was unlocked and open.  I called a safe company  that told me how to use the numbers on a tag located on the door inside the safe. My brother wanted the safe so I gave it to him along with the combination. Fast forward eighteen years and my brother has passed away and I again have the safe and the same predicament and bad memory.

The safe has a tag on the right hand front leg with what I think is the serial number 11148-152 which indicates it was manufactured in 1952. This would be about the time the service station was opened.

Can you help me with the combination?  Attached are pictures of the safe, one with the inside panel with the lock assembly removed and inverted.

I would like to use the safe for keeping documents, wills, auto titles etc. Do you think it has sufficient fire protection considering it's age?



Hi Tony,

Unless the local safe company set the combination - USING the tag on the safe for the combination numbers - the tag has absolutely NOTHING to do with your combination.    If manufacturers actually used serial numbers as part of the combination, this information would not be kept secret for very long and the manufacturers would or could be held liable for any losses suffered by their customers.

As far as the serial number for your container while the 1951-53 is probably as accurate as we are going to get, the 152 has nothing to do with the year.   For instance the listings that I have indicate that safes built during the year 1951-53 had lot numbers running from about 10131 to 11544, the second set of numbers was the number of your safe, built in that lot number.   So your safe would have been built in "Lot number 11158, safe number 152).
Note:   unfortunately I have three separate listings of serial numbers for Mosler Safes, and they ALL have slight discrepancies as to the actual years.   The best I can do is to estimate 1951-53 as when it was made.   As the manufacturer is out of business, and there are no published records available, the best we can do is estimate, based on the above info.

As far as the combination for your lock, as it is open you should easily be able to recover it yourself.
NOTE:  I never recommend lock disassembly as a DIY project for the same reason that I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work.  In general not having the training & knowledge can easily result in an incorrectly reassembled lock and a very expensive lockout.   DO NOT close and lock the safe door until AFTER you have ensure that everything is operating properly.

To recover the combination you will need to disassemble the lock curb or wheel pack.   As this is a hand set lock, you can easily read the combination that is set on the wheels.  The wheel that is the first one on the wheel pack - visible in your photo - is the number three wheel and the third number of your combination.   The wheel at the bottom of the wheel pack is the first number of your combination.

Each wheel is similar to a wheel on your car (reference only), you have the outer wheel (with the numbers engraved) and the inner hub.   If you notice the separation area between the wheel and the hub is a serrated type edge where the two meet and lock in.    The "ALIGNMENT" of the wheel and hub is what sets the combination on THAT particular wheel.   On the outer edge of the hub, opposite the moveable fly area, you should notice a small index mark.
In the case of the wheel visible in your photo, the index mark is aligned with the number "58".

By removing the small retainer clip off of the wheel post, you will be able to remove all of the wheels and isolation washers to view each wheel and obtain the number that, THAT wheel is set on.
NOTE:   Please make sure YOU verify what number you are looking at.   For instance on the wheel shown in your photo, it is VERY easy to make a visual mistake, and write down 62 instead of 58.    Obtaining the WRONG combination will ensure that your lock will not open.

Once you have obtained the numbers to each wheel, you can reassemble the wheel pack and lock and test your combination.    A problem with hand change locks is that they are NOT extremely accurate, and older, used locks may not dial up, exactly straight on the numbers that the lock seems set on.    You may have to dial up +/- 1 to 2 numbers on one or more wheels in order to get the combination to actually dial correctly so the lock will open.

If you have any problems recovering the combo, or during disassembly/reassembly of the lock, or if it will not dial correctly, then I would stop and have it checked by a trained safe technician.

Dialing sequence for the lock WILL depend on the lock model that you actually have.    It is determined by the last turn of the dial to engage the drive wheel and lever to unlock the lock.   For instance if you turn the dial clockwise to retract the lock bolt and unlock the safe, then the dialing sequence for your three wheel lock would be:    LRLR.     If you have to turn the dial counter clockwise to engage the drive wheel and retract the lock bolt, then your dialing sequence would be RLRL.

So using the former as an example, the correct dialing sequence for a 3 wheel Mosler lock would be:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right until the dial stops, and the bolt is retracted.

Note:   Left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.   Do not count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the index mark.

Hope this helps.    Again - if you have any problems, contact a local safe tech to have them check it out for you.

As to your last question concerning using the container for storage of valuable documents.

Safes OVER 50 years old DO NOT meet any current standards for fire resistance, and should NOT be used for overnight storage of cash, jewelry or valuable documents.    While it may still provide some fire resistance, with its age there is no way of telling how cracked or broken the insulation is.    Any single crack can let in enough heat in a fire to damage or destroy all of the documents in the container.

In answer to your question - NO I do not believe this container has adequate fire protection for valuable documents.    This doesn't mean that you can't store copies of general purpose documents, or documents which are easy to replace, but need some fire protection.

Hope this helps.


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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 AllExperts.com

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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