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Locksmithing/Old firehouse wall safe


Hi Terry. My name is Brandon Davis. I'm a fireman here in Texas. Here at the station, in a closet, we have an old wall safe that has what looks to be a regular combo master lock. Looks like what you would see on an old school locker. I've asked the older guys at the firehouse about it and they say it's been locked since they started close to 10 years ago. Nobody knows the combo and there are a bunch of stories that the guys on duty used to keep their guns in it while on shift. Obviously it's kind of a cool old piece of station history and we don't want to try and drill it out or pry it open, even though it appears that it would be easy to do. We would like to preserve it and just see what kind of history may or may not be in it. Looks to be a fairly cheap/cheesy wall safe with a dial/combo master lock that spins freely. The safe door is about 16 inches across by 8 inches tall and the lock is recessed into the door in a small square inset by about 1 inch. I see no make, model or serial number anywhere. Just a master lock combo lock.  Any thoughts? I appreciate any help. Thanks

Hi Brandon,

Sorry but this is NOT a safe, it is simply a sheet metal security container with EXTREMELY minimal protection.    It has NO fire resistance and NO burglary resistance.

You are correct in that it basically is using a Master "locker" lock.   The ones in the schools though, generally had an override key in the middle of the dial, so if a kid lost or forgot his combination the key could be used to open the lock.   Once open, the locks serial number would be found on the back of the lock and then the combination could be recovered or matched from a list that the school kept.    These containers were popular in the 70's & 80's, so it isn't that old.

These locks came in two versions a dead bolt which offered more security and a latch bolt which would operate like any latch on any door.   Even with the lock locked, when you closed the door the latch would slide into the lock housing and then extend back behind the door jamb or face to secure the door.

While I understand your "misplaced" value of this containers historical value, I have to tell you that to have a trained locksmith or safeman come out to open the container, the cost would far out weigh any historical value.   As this container is only thin sheet metal I basically have one recommendation - pry it in the middle of the door, top and bottom enough so that the latch will release.    Unfortunately there is no guarantee one way or the other that the bolt will be a latch bolt or deadbolt, so going after it may be wasted.    Prying with a flat wide tool, top & bottom in the middle of the door will keep any bending or deflection to a minimum and would be very easy to straighten out.   If you chip or scratch the paint - repaint it after it is opened and you have straightened out the door.

The serial number for the lock should be on the back of the lock - contact a local locksmith to recover the combination with the serial number - or worse case replace the lock!    Don't ask me for the combo based on the serial number, as this is NOT a real safe, I don't deal with these locks.

Hope this helps.  


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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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