Locksmithing/Lock Mechanism


QUESTION: We have a Cary Safe that we have successfully dialed in the correct combination in order  to get the handle to move from the 6 O'clock position to the 7-8 position.  One can hear movement of bars/rods inside, and the clearances around the door clearly move.   However, cannot move the handle to  the 9 O'clock position where I assume " Full" open to be.  Is this a " Call in the techie" problem or are there things a mechanically capable person can attempt?

ANSWER: Hi John,

Don't make assumptions!   Following up on an assumption could cause major damage where parts are NOT going to be available.    Handles don't necessarily move as far as you might think that they would.    They only need to move far enough to retract the bolt work to open the door.   In most cases this is only going to be about a 45 degree movement, NOT a 90 degree movement.

If the handle and bolt work are moving freely, but the doors won't open, then you may want to examine the doors more closely.    Generally there is a slight amount of play (in and out) even when the doors are locked closed (with the exception of pressure bar doors).   As the bolt work is retracted (open position), the doors should have more play.   If they are tight, then I would have to start considering rust or something caught into the door.

If it were something jammed or caught in the door, I wouldn't expect the bolt work to operate easily, however if the doors are rusted shut, the door and door jamb may be swollen where the door won't open.  

If you have double doors, the active door MUST be opened before the inactive door.    Trying to open both at the same time WILL jam them.

You can try using a rubber "deadblow" hammer, around the edges of the door to free them up slightly.    The vibration can loosen rusted areas slightly to open the door.    Also try pushing in while turning the handle.    pushing in may relieve some pressure to allow the bolt work to retract fully.
NOTE:   If you are hitting the door hard enough to damage the paint or the safe, then you are hitting it too hard.   The deadblow hammer will give you the same results as a small sledge hammer but with no damage.

As you didn't provide any useful info on the safe, like photos and serial numbers, I don't have much more to go on.

Recommendation:    If you can't get the doors to open without causing damage, then yes, it would be time to contact a TRAINED safe technician, not a locksmith.    Someone who IS familiar with Cary safes would be best.

Check your yellow pages under "safes & Vaults" for a local company.   If you don't have one, then let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see if I know and/or would recommend anyone in your area.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Since your response last month,  I have not been able to dial in the correct combination again to allow the handle to move.  Some additional info for you might help.
The Serial Number of the Safe is 137103, which is stamped into the handle of the single door safe. It seems that when my father -in law had his house built, his dad being a builder found this safe, and built it into a wall in the basement.  So it has been in a somewhat humid environment for 50+ years.  He has alzheimers so his help in decoding his own notes ( combination) is not useful.  In the " Notebook" the combination is listed like this.
    (4)     L4  x 24
    (3)     R3  x 80
    (1)     L2  x 61
         R1  x 0
I believe that the numbers in parenthesis were supposed to indicate the order of dialing, since reading it " as-is" simply does not work. I've tried many variations of these numbers with no luck since that first time when I wrote.  During my only successful Dialing, I  vividly remember 24 being the last number dialed before returning counter clockwise to zero, where the handle freed up.  This is the opposite of the directions in the notebook where the last move was R1 x 1.  I prefer using CW and CCW so there is no confusion. So if this additional information can provide additional guidance for another stab at it, please do tell.  If not, our zip code is 07650, recommend a technician.  Thanks

Hi John,

The lock that I would expect to find on your safe would be a Yale Y6, four wheel lock.   The dialing sequence should be as follows:

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 80-0).

Note:   left is counter clockwise and 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.

Unfortunately combinations tend to be passed on the way that the previous owner understands it and not necessarily the way that the lock works.   If the sequence or combination is "CODED" you will need to know what the coding sequence is to get it right.   Also, as some owners simply don't want all of the right left right turns, two of the wheels may be set on the same number, usually wheels #1 & #2, so your sequence might be:

5 times left to the first number, 24
3 times right to the second number, 80
2 times left to the third number, 61
1 time right until the dial stops.

There are ONLY three reasons a safe lock won't unlock - in order they are:

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors.
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers,
3.  Mechanical problems.

At this point I would have to assume that the problem would either be a dialing error, or more likely the wrong numbers.  You might try moving the numbers to different positions in the above sequence.

Fortunately you have a really good safe tech in your area that can open your safe.   I would recommend your calling him to discuss having your safe opened, the correct combination and dialing sequence recovered and/or the lock checked for proper operation.

Precision Lock & Safe
516-616-0854          Elaad Israeli
240 Jericho Turnpike
Floral Park, NY   11001  


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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 AllExperts.com

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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