QUESTION: I have your typical story here, Bought a house with a giant Victor safe in it.  single combo lock 100 digit.  I have been having fun trying to get the combo myself and know (think) that 2 of the numbers are 9 and 14, the darm dial almost stops when you pass them after turning 4 times to the left, Question is, on this safe is the lever itself riding on the spindle or the lever fence?  or is the entire lever fence all that there is?  I saw a video of a victor lock that just had a fence.

If that's the case then with all the noises that this makes I may be headed in the right direction already?

ANSWER: Hi Bill,

sorry but your questions don't make a lot of sense, either that or you don't really understand how a combination lock is built.

1.  Is the "Lever" itself riding on the "spindle" or the "lever fence".

There is NO contact between the lever and the spindle, and the lever "fence" is part of the lever, so I'm not sure how the lever could ride on the fence????

2.  I'm not sure what video that you saw, but you are incorrect in that it "just had a fence".

Bottom line - without a thorough understanding of all the lock parts AND more importantly their operation and influence on other parts, you aren't going to get anything out of the lock other than random noise.

When opening a lock we are NOT looking for the noise that it makes - unless you are a TV safecracker.   We are looking for very specific functions of the lock.   The sounds we are listing for are NOT indications of the combination, as much as they are verifications of the functions.

Basic lock operation is as follows:
1.  The dial is attached to a drive cam by the spindle.   This is simply a shaft that connects the dial and drive wheel.   It's ONLY function is to transfer motion from the dial on the outside of the safe, to the drive wheel on the inside.

2.  The drive wheel, transfers the motion to rotate the wheels.   Each succeeding wheel, passes on the rotation to the next wheel.

3.  The lever assembly is attached to a locking bolt or the bolt work, it has a right angle protrusion called the fence, which rides perpendicular to the circumference of the wheel pack.  When the wheels are correctly aligned, the fence can drop into the wheel gates.   At this point the lever will either retract the lock bolt or door bolts to allow the door to open.

Other than testing each of the 1,000,000 possible combinations that may be possible, with a 100 number dial and a three wheel lock, you chances of dialing it open by "playing" around with the dial and listing to the noises it makes are slim to none!

If you are really interested in trying to open the safe by any form of manipulation (other than shear luck) means that you first need to learn how the locks operate, what parts are inside the lock, how each of them operates and how they affect every other part, correct dialing sequence for the lock you are working on, and how manipulation is possible.

I'm not trying to discourage you, and in most cases, this is exactly how many of us came to be in this industry.   So good luck with your endeavor, but if you want "sweet success" and not merely "sad frustration", then you need to back up a few steps and begin your education on how the locks operate.

Hope this helps.

As far as providing you with any details on how to open safes, sorry but for obvious security and liability reasons we do not do that on this site.   We have no way of verifying who you are, and/or what your relationship to, or authority to work on the safe is.

If you get stuck and can't get it open, your best recourse is to contact a local safe company to have their trained safe technician open it for you.   You never can tell, you might begin a friendly relationship with them and get some free education.

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

QUESTION: Sorry about the dumb question, it was after a bottle of wine in front of the safe!
Here is what I meant, does the fence ride directly on the wheel pack on this Victor lock?
I am starting to understand the workings, I am an engineer, aircraft mechanic and love mechanical devices.
A picture close up of one would be great, but I haven't found one yet.  I may go try to buy a lock itself to get the grasp.

ANSWER: Hi Bill,

Been there and done that.   I found out that it takes at least two cases of beer to rebuild a transmission.   I still haven't figured out where those three extra parts go - and after less than 6 months I'm going to have to have it rebuilt again!     I think this time I'll let a Transmission guy rebuild it!    LOL

Generally "NO" the fence does NOT ride on the wheels, the nose of the lever rides on the drive wheel, however on your Victor lock, the nose and the fence are basically the same thing, so in your case "YES" the fence does ride on the wheels.

Problem with buying a new lock (currently available models), while you can learn the basic operation of a current model lock, some of the concepts won't apply to one which is over 100 years old, and which was very much - "manufacturer specific".

This is one of the reasons that I don't generally recommend DIY projects like this for the same reason I don't recommend using locksmiths.    Good safe technicians have usually spent dozens of years studying thousands of safes to become proficient at their job.    We usually see more safes in a single day, than most locksmiths see in an entire year, or possibly even their whole career.
While most locksmiths might have to open a couple safes in a year - we open 3-5 safes almost every day.

A great book that you would love - especially as an engineer - is:   American Genius - Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time locks, by David & John Erroll.   It lists for about $95, but you can find it on Amazon for around $40.  
It doesn't have any pictures of the locks you are working on, but I think you would enjoy it anyway, and you may have found a new career!

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Read an old book on the topic, I have found the 3 wheel contacts.  I spin 5 right stop at 0 then start left, first one 92ish next 84ish , next 76ish after spinning dial around of course.  I can feel and hear things around the 14, 9 82, and 90 ish if I continue after picking up all the wheels.  could be the +35 +5 +26 blah blah combo?
don't know.  Starts to the right 4 turns to the first number?  or am I bassackwards.  Having a good time anyway...wife wondering why I sit in front of an old safe in the hangar after dinner (I live on an airport).  Guess that is how it starts.

Hi Bill,

Three wheel Victor locks start to the LEFT.   The correct dialing sequence for them is:

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 - the lock should be open.    IF there is no handle, then the door should be open.

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 12 o'clock index mark.

Yes you are correct - this IS the way it starts and after 42 years it hasn't gotten any better, except in addition to working on safes and safe locks I'm also volunteering on a help web site answering questions about - you guessed it - safes and safe locks!    

Good luck, I guess there are worse hobbies to have!


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

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 - 2014 - 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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