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Locksmithing/small on guard safe (door open)


QUESTION: Hi Terry,  i have the same safe as refered to in the question below. my neighbor gave me this safe door locked open. i see the inside has 4 small bolts covering a plate on the inside of the door. can i see the locking dogs and and using your instucstions below, watch for the locking dogs to drop and crack it myself?  or can you tell med if their is a cost effective way to restore the safe to service again?  Thank you.


Michael Kruper

ANSWER: Hi Michael,

I have no idea what safe you are referring to as "the same safe".   Unfortunately this site isn't necessarily photo or web friendly in that references don't necessarily come through.

Also, as I've discovered over the years, very rarely are questioner comparisons accurate or even close, so I tend to discount and ignore them to concentrate on what you actually have.

If you would like me to look at your safe to be able to answer questions about "your safe", then I would be more than happy to look at it.

You've indicated that the door is locked open, so there isn't a need for you to "crack" it as it is open.    I assume that you are referring to recovering the combination to the safe by observation.

As far as a cost effective way to restore the safe to service - my recommendation is always going to be to have it done by a trained safe technician.    The reasons that I recommend this are the same for DIYers as much as locksmiths.   Lack of training, knowledge and sometimes tools can and do result in VERY expensive lockouts.   Even a simple mistake can result in a locked up safe.

As I personally don't have a problem with your making this a DIY project with the caveat that you DO NOT close and lock the door until you have verified several times that the bolt work and lock WILL function correctly.    If you aren't sure what correctly is, then back to plan A, have it checked out by a trained safe technician.

If you would like me to look at your safe to offer advice, then I will need photos of it.

In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.

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on guard small safe
on guard small safe  

on guard safe
on guard safe  
QUESTION: Hi Terry.  Thank you for all your effort and time, it's very appreciated!  i am sorry i made a mess of my initial question. i forgot to attach the other question you answered on what i believe is the same safe as i have. that question is below:  

Locksmithing: On guard safe can't get it open, combination dial ...
Nov 23, 2012 ... I have an On Guard safe, it is a cream grey coloured, and likely from the ... Please note, it is not that safe, it has the same style combination dial ...

As per your previous answer is there any way i can get the combination again? i am willing to do any mechanical work myself and use your dial instructions from the answered question i refered to once i can see the locking dogs to try and retrieve the combination.  pics as requested attached.  Thank you again for your assistance, sincerely, michael kruper

Hi Michael,

You should be able to recover the combination by observation of the wheels and dial, and by aligning the gates in the wheel with the straight tail piece or fence.    When the gates line up correctly, the handle can turn, driving the fence into the wheel gates.

Note:   On these cheaper safes the combination is not really adjustable AND the safe can be dialed either RLR or LRL though EACH direction WILL have a different combination based on its rotation.    These different combinations are NOT reversible.   If you obtain your combination by dialing LRL, then you must ALWAYS dial it LRL for it to work.

The dialing sequence will be:

3 times left to the first number,
2 times right to the second number,
1 time left stopping on the third number - turn handle to open.

Note:  left is counter clockwise, right is clockwise.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dials, count the individual number as it aligns at the 12 o'clock index mark on the dial ring.

Note 2:  The first number on the lock in the photo is going to be on the wheel CLOSEST to the dial and the third number will be on the wheel furthest from the wheel.    I guess that would leave the second number for the middle wheel!!!

If you still can't get it to operate correctly, I would recommend having it checked out by a safe tech from a local safe company.

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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