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Question
We Have a safe going into the History of West Museum. The outer doors are open. There is a safe inside the bottom with a-z on the dial. We are trying to figure out how to open it. We would like to know where to start, how many revolutions and direction to turn the dial to try to figure out the combination. We are going to give it a try to see if we get lucky, as well as make it a game for people to try to guess while visiting the museum. The safe belonged to T.M. (Thomas) West. Founder of West, Texas. If I need to send a picture, please let me know. I will have to take some.

Answer
Hi Chris,

Basically these locks which were proprietary locks made by MacNeale & Urban for their exclusive use, were basically a 4 wheel lock, the dialing sequence for these locks is:

4 times left to the first letter,
3 times right to the second letter,
2 times left to the third letter,
1 time right to the fourth letter.

Generally the excepted "rule", is locks set from the factory, were probably set with the last wheel set on "K", and the four letters many time spelled a four letter word ending with "K", like "bank", "lock", etc. - so it is worth while to test variations of this to try to come up with a combination that will work.

HOWEVER, that being said, if the lock was ever reset, the combination of letters could be rearranged to almost any combination.

Note:   Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual letter as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.    Possible number of combinations is slightly more than 460,000 possibilities.

Good luck with your guessing game - "IF" you have the combination to the exterior safe door, you might try it on the interior chest as well.   Sometimes they were set on the same combination - depending on previous owners requirements.

If you are really desirous of opening the container, then I would recommend that you contact a local safe company to have their trained safe technician - who SHOULD also be familiar with this particular manufacturer and type of lock.    I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally do not have the training, knowledge or tools to work on most safes, much less antique safes.

Hope this helps,  

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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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