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Re: antique safe combinations

Posted By: Ken Dunckel Safecracker-Boxman <kendunckel@aol.com> (cache-mtc-ab02.proxy.aol.com)
Date: 6/28/4 07:41

In Response To: Re: antique safe combinations (Karen Brown)

Hello, Karen.

Based on the information you supplied, here is how a safeman would approach and diagnose the problem:

1. Customer has correct numbers, not dialing them correctly.

This is most often the case when the circumstances are as you describe. Upon hearing your problem description, we will generally ask

"How long ago did it last open successfully?" Then, "How often did you open it before this problem occurred?" The case for correct numbers, incorrect dialing procedure gains weight when we hear answers like "I only open it once or twice every month or less," and "it last opened one (or two, or three or more) months ago."

People call me all the time with this problem. They are so sure they are dialing correctly that they would pass a polygraph. However, if you believe something that is wrong to be right, you will come across as truthful while still being wrong. You can dial the right numbers incorrectly for a hundred years and it will not open.

This occurs most often with safes that are not in daily use. People tend to dial with their brains on autopilot and if asked about the actual dialing sequence, they get it wrong. Similarly, when a problem such as yours occurs, they are forced to pause and concentrate on the dialing sequence. Often the result is that they "lock on" to the wrong sequence, ensuring that their correct numbers will never work.

2. Correct numbers, correct dialing sequence, numbers out of order. Again, the causes for this are similar to those listed in (1).

3. One or more combination numbers incorrect. Is the combination and dialing sequence written out on a business card from a safe and lock company? A safe combination properly written usually occupies four or five very brief lines on the back of a business card, such as. 4 times left to xx 3 times right to xx 2 times left to xx 1 time right to stop When safe users write out safe combinations they tend to make a prose project of it, and it can be quite confusing. I've had people hand me combinations for which the instructions occupy a half page of notebook paper.

When safemen hear the slightest bit of doubtfulness in the user as to whether the numbers are correct, we tend to be instantly skeptical, especially in the case of older infrequently opened safes. We're right more often than we're wrong. Especially if the numbers aren't written on a combination card.

4. Last, numbers correct, dialing procedure correct, mechanical problem.

Your safe is old, am I right? I can bet with over 90 percent certainty that it hasn't had any professionally rendered service in years. When safes don't get any attention in the way of service, eventually there will be a problem. It's like driving your car 100,000 miles and never having the oil changed.

The most commonly-heard safe owner reaction to the question "when was it last serviced?" is "Nobody ever told me it needed to be serviced."

Safes and vaults do need service with time and especially frequent use. Safemen hired to open safes after mechanical problems cause lockouts often encounter reproachful or even indignant attitude from customers who recoil at the price for such services.

Safe opening costs appreciably more than routine service, and we are not apologetic about this -- people have no idea what it takes to learn this trade, and it's not something that's available at WalMart or Costco. It's skilled service delivered to your door and often performed under varying types of duress and distractions.

A common mechanical problem that causes a otherwise intact working lock whose numbers are known and dialed correctly is that contents of an overfilled safe are either pressing against the back side of the door, or something is blocking the full extension of the door bolts.

One way to test for this is see if there is any "play" in the handle (if your safe has a handle that control s the bolts -- many Victor Safes have only a dial) and second to see if there is any in and out play in the door -- there should be a little.

If not, a bolt bind might be transferring to the lock, which would cause it not operate on the correctly dialed combination. This is very similar to what happens when you park your car with front wheels hard against a curb and find that you must put turning pressure on the steering wheel before you can turn the ignition key to unlock the steering column.

If you must call for service, look first in the Yellow Pages under "Safes" for a specialist. If no luck, try "Locksmiths" second. Not all locksmiths are good at safe lockouts. Good luck to you -- please post back to tell everyone how the problem was resolved. Ken Dunckel Owner,Safecracker (San Francisco Bay Area) Editor/Publisher Boxman

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