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Have and old tilton and mcfarland safe I'm trying to open. No known key to be found. Alphabet dial a - t. Has the numbers 15321 punched into the knob. Any info would help.

Hi Brian,

The Tilton & McFarland locks had fairly stiff springs and/so are a pain to try to pick.

In general the correct operation would be to turn the left handle counter clockwise to raise the lock levers.   Insert the correct key.   Turn the left handle back clockwise to the center position.    This allows the key to hold the levers aligned.    Then dial the combination and finish turning the handle right to retract the locking bolts.

You can also dial up the combination and then turn the handle counter clockwise to raise the lock levers, then insert the correct key, then turn the handle fully clockwise to retract the locking bolts.

The problem is that you either need the key to find the combo or you need the combo to try to pick the key lock.    If you don't have either, then it may be necessary to surgically drill the lock to achieve one or both.

Note:   While I would normally indicate that I would recommend using a trained safe technician and NOT a locksmith for safe work - in this case I would ONLY recommend using a trained safe technician who is ALSO VERY familiar with this type of safe.

As these safes are easily 130 to 160 years old and parts have not been available for equally as long, opening and repairing has to be done in a manner that DOES NOT damage the safe or locking mechanism.    I have several of these safes and am very familiar with them and their locks.

As far as providing opening instructions or drilling info - for obvious security and liability reasons we don't provide any info to open safes.   We have no idea who you are and/or your authority to work on the safe.    While I'm sure that you are probably the owner - even if you were a locksmith we have no way of vetting you to give the info to.    I'm sure you can understand why we have this policy.

I would recommend your checking with local safe companies to discuss the project with them.   Check your yellow pages under safes & vaults for local companies.   If you don't have one, let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I know and/or would recommend in your area.

sorry I can't be of more help, though if you have any questions about your safe I would be happy to look at them.


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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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