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Re: antique safe combinations

Posted By: Ken Dunckel Safecracker/Boxman <kendunckel@aol.com> (cache-dtc-ab01.proxy.aol.com)
Date: 5/9/4 07:43

In Response To: antique safe combinations (Roland)

Many old safes for which combinations are unknown can be unlocked by a process called manipulation. A safe technician who is skilled in manipulation uses sight, sound and touch combined with knowledge of the lock's construction to deduce combination settings.

This is not as simple a process as portrayed in movies and on TV, wherein a stethoscope allows the operator to "hear tumblers fall." If you want to hear tumblers fall, get a ringside seat at the circus and wait for the acrobats to make a mistake.

Also, disregard comments such a one posted here about cyanide in old safes. No such animal, and all those who allude to such things are repeating what are the equivalent of locksmith old wives tales. If you ask, none of the people spreading these rumors can provide any true substantiation, such as names dates, locations, police agencies, or lab reports.

It is true, however, that some old safes were fitted with tear gas ampules that could break during a burglary attempt. Some of these are still mounted, and if found should be dismounted. But they are not explosive, just very irritating to eye, nose and throat. Another old wives' tale told and retold by lock and safe people is that these commercially produced tear gas units deteriorate with time into an explosive substance.

It's also true that aside from commercially produced and marketed tear gas burglary deterrents (which incidentally, are not in production and haven't been for years)that a safe owner could conceivably rig a boobytrap on a safe, but this would be the exception rather than the rule.

None of the yarn-spinners can provide any real evidence that this is so, no matter how believeable their stories sound. The safe and lock industry people have been going round and round over this for years. Everyone loves a good story, and this one won't fade away because it's much more fun than the truth.

If you are looking for a safe technician who is skilled in manipulation you can try visiting the public forum at clearstar.com and asking there. Clearstar.com is attended by safe and lock techncians from around the world, and if you provide information regarding your locale, someone there can put you in touch with a skilled manipulator.

Not all old safes are responsive to the manipulation process, and not all safe technicians are skilled in manipulation. However, a skilled safe technician who does not manipulate can do a very neat and nearly undetectable drilling and repair job to open a safe and restore it to use. The holes that are drilled are ususally quite small; in the neighborhood of 1/4" and as I say, will not do grievous damage to an old lock.

Manipulation is my specialty and my first choice when dealing with unknown combinations, but I don't usually take an opening job for which the customer wants to dictate my methods. I sell the results, not the process. However, when you hire a manipulator you are at least assured that the manipulator probably wants it to open "on the dial" more than the owner does. Thus you will get an honest effort in that respect. Whichever method ends up being successful, though, your safe will be open and usable and definitely not destroyed.

If you want to search out a safe techncian locally on your own, look in the Yellow Pages under "Safes" first. If no listings, then try "Locksmiths." Avoid hiring anyone who is unsure of the result you will get, and don't pay anyone for failed attempts. We in the safe business follow lots of this sort of work, and the damage done to old irreplaceable safes by unskilled so-called "safecrackers" is often quite sad to see. Ken Dunckel Owner, Safecracker (Serving Northern California & San Francisco Bay Area) Publisher & Editor Boxman

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