Locksmithing/Gary Safe


Hello Andy,

We just bought a house and there is a Gary floor safe. It hasn't been opened in 25 years.  We tried lubricating the dial since it was stiff and this did loosen it. It still won't open but we also cannot hear anything when we approach the numbers of the combination.

Do you have any ideas what could be wrong? If you thing we need a a locksmith we live in Seattle and would appreciate any recommendations.


Hi Kathleen,

You've been watching too many movies.    Combination locks do not make "clicks", "whistles", "bumps" or other noises when approaching possible correct numbers.   If they did they wouldn't actually be very secure, now would they???    Movies are not in the business of portraying reality, and for plot development, they don't have the necessary time to realistically show how locks work, so they come up with some fictitious methods, which make it seem real.

The only "noise" that a lock actually makes is when the nose of the lever assembly is in contact with the drive wheel.    The lever and fence is held above the combination wheels so that there is no contact, and subsequently - no noise!

There are only three reasons that a safe lock will not operate correctly or open, in order they are:
1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers,
3.  Mechanical problems.

At this point there is nothing to indicate that you even have the correct combination and/or the correct dialing sequence.

Generally combinations are passed along the way that they are "understood" and NOT necessarily the way the lock actually works.    As you have indicated that you have only recently acquired the house and safe - AND that it has been around 25 years since it has been opened, I have to assume that you do not have the correct combination.

While there may be some mechanical issues due to age - these would NOT be my first concerns at this point.

So first recommendations would of course be to have it checked out by a trained "safe technician" - NOT a locksmith.   In general, while MOST safe technicians are also locksmiths, VERY FEW locksmiths are actual safe technicians.    Contact a local SAFE Company to have their trained safe technician check out the combination that you have and the safe.    If necessary they can also open it and return it to operational service.

Hopefully you have the correct numbers and are simply making a dialing error, however as it has been 25 years since it was opened I have my doubts that you have the correct numbers.

If you don't have a local safe company then I would need to know where you are located (zip code) to try to recommend someone in your area, though I do have a couple companies in mind already.

One of the best safecrackers in the Northwest lives in Washington, and he would be my number 1 recommendation.

Dave McOmie
Camas, WA  98607

You can email Dave to discuss your safe and opening options.    If Dave can't help you, he may know of someone closer that he might recommend.

Other local companies would be:

Northwest Safe & Vault
Seattle, WA   98148
206-241-7233          George Thornton

Auburn Safe & Lock
Auburn, WA   98002
253-939-7233          James Ebeling

You can also check your local yellow pages under "safes & vaults" to see if you have any other companies listed in your area, however just because they may list, doesn't mean they actually know what they are doing.

Unfortunately, most of the solutions for your safe will be hands on, which means you need to contact someone to check it out.

Hope this gives you some direction.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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)

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.