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Locksmithing/Opening a Morris & Ireland safe



Safe Combination
Safe Combination  
Hi Andy, my family got an old safe from a family friend who had it for a long time and no one's been able to get it open. The safe was made by Morris & Ireland. We have the combination for it and we've tried doing the combination many times and it hasn't worked. Underneath the company name it says Boston. It has a letter dial with the letters A-Z on it. Thank you for reading this.

Hi Katherine,

There is a good chance that your safe is a MacNeale & Urban Safe - sold by Morris & Ireland.   Once we get it open and have a chance to look at the lock and bolt work we can determine what you actually have.

I'm not sure what your "matrix" illustrates other than your trials and errors for dialing the sequence and/or if you actually have the combination or are guessing based on research.   While M&U locks generally ended with the fourth letter on K it could also be other letters.   They also used half letters, similar to your illustrations of "IJ", "EF" and "AB".

While some of the dials used letters with open spaces between them, some of them also used the letters with 3 index marks in between, so the combination may be a letter, plus or minus x number of marks as in    B2 - 1A - N1 - 2K    with the number indicating the index mark on that side of the letter.   Some of these dials were in alphabetical sequence and some had the lettering out of sequence.    Unfortunately I can't make out which dial you have.   This site isn't especially photo friendly and your photo of the dial is slightly blurry.

Assuming that it is a M&U the dialing sequence would be as follows:

4 times right to the first letter,  B
3 times left to the second letter,  A
2 times right to the third letter,  N
1 time left to the fourth letter,   K
Right until the dial stops

Assuming that your second set of letters is the correct combination then the dialing sequence would be:

4 times right to the first letter,  IJ
3 times left to the second letter,  EF
2 times right to the third letter,  AB
1 time left to the fourth letter,   K
Right until the dial stops

Regardless of the letters used in the combination, the dialing sequence above would be correct for the majority of the M&U locks.

NOTE:   Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the INDIVIDUAL letter as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   It doesn't matter where you start rotating the dial, your ONLY concern is the letter you are working with.   For instance if your first letter is "B", you will turn the dial clockwise (RIGHT), stopping the FOURTH time the letter "B" arrives at the index mark.

There are ONLY three reasons that a combination lock will not unlock, in order they are:

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

At this point, assuming that you have received the correct combination of letters, then I would suspect you are simply dialing the lock incorrectly.    If you are dialing it correctly and it won't open then I would suspect the combination letters are NOT correct.
At this time there is no reason to suspect a mechanical issue.

If you still can't get it to open, it may be time to have a trained safe technician check the safe out.   Check your yellow pages for a local company, under "safes & vaults".    I generally don't recommend locksmiths as they usually don't have the training, knowledge and/or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage, especially on antique safes.

If you don't have a company in your area, provide me with your location (zip code) and I'll see who I might know and/or recommend in your area.

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

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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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