Safes & Security Containers/resetting combination on a Cary safe


I recently acquired a Cary safe which is of great sentimental value. It is currently open (inner door drilled by a certified individual so contents could be retrieved.) It appears to be in working order and I would like to reset the combination. It is my understanding that the combination has previously been reset. This safe is of extreme fascination to me and I've done extensive research but have not found an exact match for what I have. The size is 35 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 27. The patent date is September 16th 1890. It has locking double doors. Inner storage space is 10in x 16in x 12in. It has a C5 type locking system. The serial# is 50858. On the back of lock on first door is the number 62770, the second door back of lock 62237. Inner gate bolt# is 26 outer is 70. Also...acorn pins are hollow. My goal is to reset the combination but I would like to gain as much information as possible about this safe. Can you help?


First off, I NEVER recommend combination changing as a DIY project for the same reason that I never recommend using locksmiths.   lack of tools, education and training can result in a very expensive lock out.    If you elect to try to change the combination yourself, you also assume all of the risks and responsibility that go along with it.

The number stamped into the ball of the handle, is the safe serial number.   The numbers stamped on the back of the lock case, is the lock serial number.   With the numbers that you provided I would expect that your safe would have a Cary C-5 lock.

The Cary "C-5" lock is what we classify as a "screw change" variety.   In order to "change" the combination, the lock must be completely disassembled.   Combination changing is accomplished by changing the positions of the screws in each wheel.   Sorry but you don't get to pick your new combination on this lock.
The new combination is found by observation and using a combination decoding key inserted into the small slot in the back of the lock cover.
Turn the dial as normal while inserting the decoding key in the back.   As the gate of each wheel arrives under the key, the key will insert slightly further.   The corresponding number on the dial, should be observed and recorded.   After recovering the new number for each wheel, you can remove the key and test the new combination several times.

NOTE:   The number on the drive wheel will not change, it will remain the same.

Your dialing sequence can be EITHER LRLR or RLRL - doesn't matter as long as you are consistent.   You cannot recover the new combination by dialing LRLR and expect it to work by dialing RLRL - this lock does not work this way.   Each dialing sequence WILL have a different working combination.    So, YES, as you concluded, there are actually TWO combinations that will open this lock!

Test your new combination several times WITH THE DOOR OPEN!!!!   If it won't work, or if you have problems, then it is time to contact a local safe company to have their safe technician check it out and/or reset it correctly.

If you are able to accomplish the task, you may want to consider a new career field or hobby - restoring older or antique safes.   Good luck.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 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. NOTE: I also answer safe related questions in the Locksmith and Antique Safe Categories sections.


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 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 Experts 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, including western Nevada

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