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Locksmithing/Sargent Greenleaf combination lock


My friend inherited a locked safe with a Sargent Greenleaf 1865 combination lock.  He has the combination and it appears to be a 4 wheel lock.

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right, to open

What position on the dial is "open"?  There is not a 4th number on the paper with the combination.  The safe has a broken wheel and is laying on it's back on a dolly.  Does it need to be standing upright in order for the mechanism to work properly?

Thank you.

Hi Lee,

The lock is NOT an 1865 lock.    If you are referencing the patent date stamped into the dial, that is simply referencing the date the PATENT was ISSUED, which has NOTHING to do with the date either the lock or the safe might have been made.    For instance I have a Colt model 1908, baby hammerless pistol which belonged to my Grandfather, however the pistol was NOT made in 1908, it was made in 1924.    Don't confuse patent dates with actual dates of manufacture.

I don't like to deal with "appears" or "assumptions" - if you don't know for sure, then we need to actually ID the lock that is on the safe.   As you didn't include a photo of the lock (not the dial), I have to base my comments on the info that YOU are providing.    Also, as you didn't provide the actual combination, I can't try to decode what you might actually have.

"IF" the lock is an S&G 4 wheel lock (standard model), then the dialing sequence should be:

5 times right to the first number,
4 times left to the second number,
3 times right to the third number,
2 times left to the fourth number,
1 time right until the dial stops (should be between 80-90)    the lock should now 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.

Many times owners don't want to deal with the full combination, so they have it set "short", with two wheels on the same number, if this is the case, the dialing sequence should be:

5 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 (should be between 80-90).

The lock that I would expect to find on your safe, (based on your descriptions) WOULD be a gravity lever, meaning that the safe would need to be upright for the lock to work correctly.

Hope this helps.


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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

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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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