I have come into this safecracking field wholey by happenstance. An elderly lady who had been a friend and client for many years changed her estate plan when her only son predeceased her, and so she left much of her modest estate to me. When she passed away a year or so ago and I started going through her stuff I discovered a large old safe in her garage covered with a sheet of some kind and very much other stuff that should have been thrown away long before. It is the Herring, Hall,& Marvin Safe that is about 44 inches tall, 28 or so wide and about 25 inches deep. The only markings on it are the maker's name and that is imprinted in tiny letters around the knob of the dial on the lock. The safe has been repainted crudely, probably more than once. I am sure from some other history I discovered, that it came out of an old Hotel here in town when she shut down the bar in the hotel that she ran for several years just before I became acquainted with her. I could not find the combination to the safe anywhere in her house.
The dial on the safe indicates that it has had very much usage, probably given that it was used in the Hotel regularly for guests' items. The dial and its shaft will move up and down about 1mm and sideways about half that much. Last year I went online to learn what I could about safecracking without having it drilled. I also checked with the local locksmith and he said that manipulating only works about 15 percent of the time so it will likely have to be drilled. I found and read what looked like pretty good stuff on manipulating and spent several hours trying that. In my first graphing attempt I found what looked like three indicated numbers, but they would not open the safe. I couldn't understand some things I was trying to learn, like "parking the wheels" and some others I have forgotten, so I finally gave up. I let it go for about a year and have just been working on the property getting it ready to sell.
About a month or so ago I got interested in trying again to open the Safe, so I just started over. In fact I had pretty much forgotten much of what I had previously learned anyway. I went back online and found some of what I had found before, but not the best of it, but I found quite a bit more, and even bought three booklets about manipulating; and then I downloaded and printed The National Locksmiths Guide to: MANIPULATION. That was the best help so far.
I again started graphing (but I just write the numbers down and don't actually draw the graph) and I have what I call a micrometer eye, so I used tenth increments between the dial marks. First I had previously found that turning this dial revealed absolutely nothing, and I had discovered that last year. There is no feel of anything and the dial turns very smoothly. Then I found that by turning the handle CCW I could feel the lever running on the wheel which must be the drive wheel or cam, and I can then very clearly find the gap on the drive wheel. I later learned that this makes it a direct drive type of lock. I also learned later that the lever is on the bottom and works upward into the gaps.
In my first graph I again found three numbers, one indicating pretty clearly around about 29 to 32, and another around 12 and one around 83. Then I had to learn how to dial the combination if I had one. Out of that research I decided that this lock is likely a Yale, but it isn't marked that I can so far find, so I decided it would be a RLRL method of dialing. Back to the smooth running dial, I couldn't even feel the wheels as they are picked up in dialing AWL or AWR, so I had to guess that it is a three wheel lock. Later I discovered that by spinning the dial I could actually hear the three clicks or clinks as the wheels were picked up, so that was confirmed. My efforts to dial the three numbers I thought I might have found did not open the safe. So I studied my results some and tried some other things.
I finally decided that perhaps the only number I had found in my graph was the number around 30. I graphed it some more using every number on the dial from about 25 to 35 and finally decided it was either 29 or 30. With the wear in this lock I suspect either one will work. So, I went through some dialing of various hypothetical combinations to try to find which wheel 30 might be on. I did that is several different ways that I don't recall exactly but the results were pretty confusing. I finally decided, after looking at all of my data, that the number 30 must be on the second wheel.
Then I started graphing the last wheel putting 20 on the first (randomly selected) and 30 on the second then testing number three at every second number from 90 downward. The gap, by the way, is 91 to 06. I had earlier learned, or mislearned, that none of the combination numbers would be in the gap. With the graph of the third wheel I got a clear indication the the last number in the Combination is 42. In fact I think I stopped graphing there when I got that indication it was so clear.
Then I started testing the first wheel by dialing combinations with 90 then 88 then 86 and so forth in the combination each time and that was a lot of dialing. I got all the way down to just above the 6, at 8 and found absolutely no indication and the lock didn''t open. While I was sitting there thinking about starting the whole process over again it occurred to me that what I had more recently learned and had not paid much attention to was that it is only the last number in the combination that should not be in the gap and I
was searching the first wheel, so I dialed 6, 30 and 42, with no result, but at 4, 30, and 42 the damn handle finally turned all the way and the safe was open. What a thrill. My young daughter happened to be there with me and was nearby so we were able to share the moment together.
Then we had the enjoyment of going through all that was in the safe. It didn't make us rich, but it made the effort mildly worth our while; and now the safe is probably worth a bit more since I have the combination. Now I am mildly addicted and will tell you more about the other one later.
OH, one other thing I learned about this from that last graph of the first wheel is that the wheels are not concentric. The graphs would show smooth curves from 92.3 and 4.8 at 90 gradually changing to 93.2 and 4.1 at about 40 then back to 92.3 and 4.8 at 10 and even 92.0 and 5.0 at 6. I didn't graph any more across the gap after it opened at 4. That first wheel is either not concentric or it is not round. That fact is probably the thing that both helps and hinders manipulation by hiding some of the gaps, but by making opportunities to graph seperate wheels by parking the others in different locations, if I am using the word "parking" correctly.