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Locksmithing/Cary Safe - Open but no combination




My grandfather has a Cary & Sons safe that has been in his workshop since I can remember. He passed a year ago, and left me some things, safe included. The doors were partially opened but the safe was locked. I figured there would be no way to get it open, since he was the only one who had the combination. One day, I just took a little pry bar, and behold the doors opened. The issue is, I'm moving soon for a job change and I've had to downsize. Selling my stuff isn't a big issue, but I'd like to find the safe a home for someone who would actually appreciate it. Not sell it at some seedy auction. I took the little box off of the inside of the door, and there are 4 d dials, one inside the door, and three that came out with the cover. I played around with the dials, which might have been a mistake, but I was attempting to see if I could figure out the combination by looking at the numbers. It's a double door safe, and it came from the bank in town when it closed long ago. The number on the door handle is 130973. The sign on top says it's a deposit safe. There's a screw that goes in that box that seems to only go in when all of the dials are set the same, allowing it to go in. I left that screw out, so the door opens and closes with no locking (I have a curious three year old). Although it would be nice to find out the value, I'm more interested in the history behind this type of safe. I have yet to find one like it online.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. I can email other pics, but I didn't see your address.

Hi Tim,

I'm not sure where you came up with the "Cary & Son's" name - the name of the manufacture was simply "Cary Safe Company".    As far as its individual history, Sorry but if you don't have this info, then it basically starts with you - or in this case your Grandfather.     While I can give you some basic history on the manufacturer, and an approximate date that it was made (1912ish), I will need more photos to discuss its construction and type.

I would like to see more photos of the safe, as the basic design is unusual for Cary.    The cap on top may have been provided by them or it may have been something added by the bank at some point, again not a standard Cary item.

Based on the "photo", the safe appears to be a skeleton type container (no insulation), though with out further photos I can't answer this question yet.

The lock "curb" that you included with picture of the wheel pack, is NOT the lock curb that I would expect to see for your safe, based on the serial number you have provided.

As far as figuring out the combination for this wheel pack, if you think of the wheels, similar to the wheels of the car, you have the outer wheel and the inner hub.  (see the serrated line separating the two pieces.    On the outer edge of the hub, is an index mark.   The index line (numbers) on the wheel that it is adjacent to, would be the number that is set on that wheel.    In the case of the top wheel in the photo, the number it is set on is "82".

The problem is that as this is NOT the lock that I would expect to see on this safe (based on the serial number), I don't know how your lock would be handed (mounted), which means that this number may not be the actual number the lock opens on.    Depending on the way the lock is handed and any alignment issues between the dial ring and lock, the actual number could be anywhere from slightly off to WAY off!

If you collect and observe the numbers the wheel pack is set on, if it doesn't open on that number, you can simply add or subtract (+/- 1) to each number until you have a total of 100 test combinations.    Dial each one until you find the combination that actually works or unlocks the lock correctly.
Obviously, if you can't get the numbers or can't get them to dial up, the next logical step would be to have a trained safe tech from a local safe company check it out to either recover or reset the combination for you.    Actually that would be my first recommendation before recommending lock disassembly.

Again, obviously, if you have (and I do) questions about the container and specifically the locks installed, I will need photos of the safe to try to answer any further questions.

In order to answer questions, identify, evaluate or appraise the “current condition” of your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos (close-ups) should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.

If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please use a “jpeg” format, not a bitmap (bmp) image.   Also, I don’t like “website” photo dumps.   While it may be an easy place for you to store them, retrieving photos which allow me to zoom in to look at details, takes a lot of extra time.   Please send the requested photos directly to me.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.  


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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

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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