Locksmithing/Hinges on Safe


QUESTION: Prior to his death, my father forgot the combination to the Montgomery Wards safe #9017. He removed the hing pins trying to get in. Now, when I try the combination and reach the point where it should stop, the dial continues to turn. Could removing the hinge pins have caused the mechanism to malfunction? How can I get the safe open?

ANSWER: Hi Janice,

The hinge pins ONLY support the weight of the door.   Pulling them will NOT allow the door to open.    Also it shouldn't have any affect on the lock, unless the door is now binding against the bolt work.

Safe makers figured out the hinge trick about 150 years ago, so with the exception of the movies and REALLY cheap safes it doesn't work.

There are ONLY three reasons that a safe lock won't open, in order they are:

1.   Incorrect dialing sequence,  operator errors
2.   Incorrect combination, wrong numbers
3.   mechanical issues.

IF you have the correct numbers then you may be making a dialing error or there may be a problem with the lock.
IF you don't have the correct numbers - well, that one is self explanatory.
If there is a problem with the lock, even dialing the correct combo may keep it from opening.

Verify that you have the correct numbers AND ensure that you are dialing correctly.

If it still won't open, then you may need to have it checked out by a trained safe tech, from a local safe company.    If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I might know and/or recommend in your area.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Is the combination sequence based on using "0" as the reference point for the next number? (Example: 4 turns left past 0, stop at 42; 3 turns right, past 0, stop at 32; etc.)

Hi Janice,

Many times people pass on combinations the way that THEY understand them and/or how they use the lock, NOT necessarily the way the lock actually works.

The "0" is NOT part of the dialing sequence and or a reference point - kind of like telling someone to stand in the corner of a round room!    If YOU need to use "0" as a reference point for starting, go ahead, as long as you understand that this reference is for YOUR benefit and has NOTHING to do with the combination and/or lock operation.   Generally trying to use 0 or adding something to the dialing sequence will do little more than confuse you.   I do not recommend it.

The dialing sequence for your lock should be:

4 times left to the first number,  42
3 times right to the second number,  32
2 times left to the third number,  _____
1 time right until the dial stops (should be around 90)

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.   

For instance for the first number, simply start turning the dial counter clockwise (left) stopping the FOURTH time the number 42 arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   Then turn the dial the opposite direction, clockwise (right) stopping the THIRD time the number 32 arrives at the index mark.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

There are only three reasons a safe lock will not open, in order they are:
1.  Incorrect dialing sequences, Operator errors.
2.  Incorrect combination, WRONG numbers
3.  Mechanical problems.

If you still can't get it opened with these instructions, then it may be time to have it checked out by a safe technician from a local safe company - not a locksmith.

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

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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