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Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:02 pm

Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

Hello everyone, this is my first post here. I am new to combo locks, but not new to locksport.

The other day my boss dropped off an old HHM safe that he couldn't get into using the known combination. its about 13"x12" and ten inches deep.
The dial has the HHM brand/logo on it. Not Yale, nor S&G.
It has no opening lever.
The combination is written in chalk (in two places) as "L44, 1, 64, 5". From that, I am assuming that this is a left right left, with a turn to the right all the way to 5 to extract the bolt.
Regrettably, the bolt does not ever seem to catch or "lock up" like it should when the combination is entered. - there is zero feedback suggesting that it has been entered. (in other words, not re-locked)
I can feel 3 wheels inside the lock.
the first two wheels pick up easily (#'s 3 and 2) but when I pick up the last one the dial is quite hard to turn. harder in some areas than others.
it has a very wide contact area. 92-10. - I think it is NOT a friction type, because it does seem to have a contact point on both left and right.
the fly width is different between wheels. the first wheel to pick up seems to have a fly width of 7 increments. the other two feel like 4. - is this unusual? does it suggest a stuck fly?
I have tried the combination every which way, and tried tapping on the case with a mallet to try to get the fence to drop into the gates, but no luck.

I have attached some images of the safe in my google album.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/dgA8rCiHUqYefxvB9

I tried my best at graphing the contact area in hopes of finding candidates, but the contact area doesn't seem to want to reveal anything. certainly nothing special around the areas where the numbers should be appearing. also, because the wheel is really stiff, I am unable to "feel" the contact points. Instead I have to listen for them, which is tedious as hell with a stethoscope. - so I picked up a couple of stick on piezo microphones and patched them into an amp. :) - regardless, the safe remains dutifully unopened...

Doubting my abilities, I decided to pick up an S&G 6741 lock and mounted it to a board so I could practice manipulation, and I was able to decode its combination in a day and a half off. Confidence restored, I returned to the HHM with graph paper in hand, only to be denied again and again...

so, I suppose my first question is, what can anyone tell me about this safe? what vintage it is, why it has an HHM dial and not an S&G or Yale, and possibly what I could do to get it to unlock....
also, I am not above drilling this out. Boss wants it open. We can install a new lock on it if we have to, but I would prefer to enter it without destroying that HHM dial...

Has anyone seen this dial before? does anyone have images of what this looks like on the inside of the lock body, or the door?
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MartinHewitt

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Post Mon Oct 05, 2020 9:59 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

Hi Jonny. It seems you found a forum where discussion about manipulation is allowed.

If you turn the dial, can you hear something like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALCe_tpmoSo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJkUrZ-EbjQ

I would like to understand your pickup shifts. So when you turn everything to 50, then reverse direction you get the first pickup (which is W3) at an offset of 7 and the others at an offset of 4? Do you need to turn over 50 or is it before you reach 50? Btw. it would be generally very helpful if you would describe very detailed what you do.

HHM build their own locks and most of their safes have them installed. The dial you have is the typical HHM dial. No one else constructed them like this. Most of their locks have a roller fence where the opening direction is left. It might be friction loaded like in the videos linked above, but I think they have also spring loaded roller fences. There are locks which are key change, mesh change and hole change. Your's should not be key change, because there is only one index. Mesh change wheels normally have a pickup of slightly more than one turn per wheel, i.e. maybe -0.5 or so. (I use positive numbers when pickup requires more than one full turn and negative when it is less.) Hole change wheels have a pickup of a few numbers less than a full turn, i.e. maybe -3 to -5. All this adds up and the first pickup has often an additional offset due to the drive cam being something special. I don't think you will find a replacement lock and I don't think you will need one if you do not use force.

When you try to manipulate that lock do not only look for the position, but also on how much of a bump you feel. With the old friction fence locks I have found that the CP is very faint due to wear of the fence, but if you find a good position of the wheels it will get very noticeable. I have also found that there are often phases in the manipulation where the CP does not shift at all, but gets just stronger and weaker.
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:55 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

MartinHewitt wrote:Hi Jonny. It seems you found a forum where discussion about manipulation is allowed.

Hah! indeed I have. good to see you here MartinHewitt.

MartinHewitt wrote:If you turn the dial, can you hear something like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALCe_tpmoSo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJkUrZ-EbjQ

No, nothing from this lock makes sounds like those. in fact, my lock sounds very much like the group 2 S&G 6741 that I picked up the other day, though with a lot more friction on the dial when all 3 wheels are picked up. - not so much when the first two are picked up.

MartinHewitt wrote:I would like to understand your pickup shifts. So when you turn everything to 50, then reverse direction you get the first pickup (which is W3) at an offset of 7 and the others at an offset of 4? Do you need to turn over 50 or is it before you reach 50? Btw. it would be generally very helpful if you would describe very detailed what you do.


OK. when I spin left and pick up all wheels (AWL) and stop at 50, then reverse direction nearly a full turn, I hear and feel a light tap at 57.(so, Before) - if I do the opposite, All Wheels Right, stop at 50, reverse, I hear the tap at 43. If I push only that one wheel from 43 up to 50, then reverse direction, I will feel the tap again at 57. I will note that the pickup is incredibly delicate. virtually imperceptible. I can only detect it with the stethoscope, or my ear pressed firmly against the safe door. - which I believe would suggest there is very little friction on that wheel. - the second wheel is also very light, but the last wheel is very stiff and drags a lot on the dial. -

Next, If I stacked the wheels up with AWL and stopped at 50, then turned right to pick up the first wheel at 57, around again I would pick up the next wheel at 61, and the last at 65. Repeating this with AWR, stopping at 50, wheels are picked up at 43, 39, and 35 respectively.

MartinHewitt wrote:
HHM build their own locks and most of their safes have them installed. The dial you have is the typical HHM dial. No one else constructed them like this. Most of their locks have a roller fence where the opening direction is left. It might be friction loaded like in the videos linked above, but I think they have also spring loaded roller fences. There are locks which are key change, mesh change and hole change. Your's should not be key change, because there is only one index. Mesh change wheels normally have a pickup of slightly more than one turn per wheel, i.e. maybe -0.5 or so. (I use positive numbers when pickup requires more than one full turn and negative when it is less.) Hole change wheels have a pickup of a few numbers less than a full turn, i.e. maybe -3 to -5. All this adds up and the first pickup has often an additional offset due to the drive cam being something special. I don't think you will find a replacement lock and I don't think you will need one if you do not use force.

these are less than one turn per wheel, and they do add up. - is a S&G 6741 a mesh change? because I noticed that the pickup on that seemed to occur half a digit over the number I had placed the wheel. I thought I was just being sloppy.

MartinHewitt wrote:When you try to manipulate that lock do not only look for the position, but also on how much of a bump you feel. With the old friction fence locks I have found that the CP is very faint due to wear of the fence, but if you find a good position of the wheels it will get very noticeable. I have also found that there are often phases in the manipulation where the CP does not shift at all, but gets just stronger and weaker.

This sounds like good advice. I noticed when graphing it that sometimes I really struggled to hear the boundaries of the contact area, and other times it was much more pronounced.

I will have another go at graphing it with this in mind.
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MartinHewitt

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Post Tue Oct 06, 2020 6:59 am

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

This wheel is a mesh change: https://youtu.be/x6L_jQJRQXQ?t=403 The S&G 6741 is key change. From the pickup offsets yours is probably hole change.

When graphing bump strength it is not necessary to have absolute values. Relative estimation is fine. When I graph this I make the line in my ordinary graph thicker and thinner to add this dimension.
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Wed Oct 07, 2020 8:33 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

ugh.. I had another go at trying to graph it. Boy this thing sends some confusing signals... I am beginning to think I have a slipping wheel or wheel drag or something... something mechanically wrong inside. I really which I could find out more information about this specific model safe. - I usually pride myself on being good at googling, but I am just not finding what I need.

does anyone know of any "HHM devotee's" who might be able to identify this?
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MartinHewitt

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Post Wed Oct 07, 2020 9:06 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

That is a difficult safe to find information about. You can show us your graphs if you like.
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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MartinHewitt

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Post Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:08 am

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

Wheel slipping is probably not possible, because of the hole change wheels. Wheel drag could be, but the dialing you did should have improved the situation. Also with manipulation the wheel drag is not that bad.

Knowing the exact model would help when you know the combination, but it is not necessary for manipulation.
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Fri Oct 09, 2020 7:12 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

I am ready to drill it. I have exhausted all of my other options, barring calling a pro, to which the safe and it's contents are not that valuable to us to warrant the expense. I am convinced that their is something wrong with the lock.

I cannot find ANY information about this lock, despite my very best efforts at searching. I did find pictures of the inside (with door open) of a somewhat similar HHM safe which made me think that I might be able to open the safe by driving out the hinge pins, but that didnt work either. the hinge pins came out easily, but the door is held in by some hook, tab or bolt on the hinge side too. it was worth a shot anyway.

So. I am ready to drill it. I have a big enough drill press in my shop, and carbide drill bits aplenty. I would like to save the lock.

I could cut the back off of the safe, sort out whatever ails it, and then weld it back together, but I would like to show my IT Security students how the process of drilling a safe works. - plus, I want to experience it myself.

If only I could find actual photos of this exact lock's internal mechanisms!

I imagine a bunch of folks have been reading this and thinking "DON"T DRILL IT YOU STUPID AMATURE!". And I apologize... Unless someone can get me some legitimate information about this safe, its vintage, internals, and so on, I see no reason not to drill.
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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Fri Oct 09, 2020 7:18 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

Also, as far as my graphs are concerned: @MartinHewitt thank you for offering to help. I am unable to produce any consistency with my graphs. the dial is far too "crunchy" to reveal anything usable. it has huge amounts of drag in a couple places on the dial, and too much of it in others. It even seems to vary wildly between each of my attempts to graph it. ho hum :(
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madsamurai

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Post Sat Oct 10, 2020 9:48 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

JonnyPhenomenon wrote:Unless someone can get me some legitimate information about this safe, its vintage, internals, and so on, I see no reason not to drill.

That alone is reason enough, and I'm not saying that because I don't think you could do it, but because you don't know what you're working with. Drilling isn't just putting a hole in the safe, you need to get to specific places where you'll be able to see or drill thru meaningful parts. Every lock is a little different, and without knowing the lock, you don't know exactly where those places are. There are references and drilling templates available, but they're typically restricted to locksmiths/safe techs. You'll also need a scope to see into the hole(s) you drill, and those aren't cheap. Maybe see if you can get your locksmith to demonstrate for your class? It would be good to have a pro check out the lock anyway to see if it's actually broken before drilling, or if he has some other trick that might work without damage. I'm all about DIY, but this is something I wouldn't attempt without the right tools and some actual training.
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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Sun Oct 11, 2020 4:54 am

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

madsamurai wrote:
JonnyPhenomenon wrote:Unless someone can get me some legitimate information about this safe, its vintage, internals, and so on, I see no reason not to drill.

That alone is reason enough, and I'm not saying that because I don't think you could do it, but because you don't know what you're working with. Drilling isn't just putting a hole in the safe, you need to get to specific places where you'll be able to see or drill thru meaningful parts. Every lock is a little different, and without knowing the lock, you don't know exactly where those places are. There are references and drilling templates available, but they're typically restricted to locksmiths/safe techs. You'll also need a scope to see into the hole(s) you drill, and those aren't cheap. Maybe see if you can get your locksmith to demonstrate for your class? It would be good to have a pro check out the lock anyway to see if it's actually broken before drilling, or if he has some other trick that might work without damage. I'm all about DIY, but this is something I wouldn't attempt without the right tools and some actual training.


this is all very good advice madsamurai, thank you. Thankfully, boroscopes are cheaper than ever these days (50$), so I do have one, and an otoscope as well. I drilled an exploratory hole in the back of the safe, hoping that when I looked around inside that I might find something I could work with. the only thing "safe related" to be seen inside was the fire exposure rating tag on the non descript olive drab inner case door cover. I was however, able to identify the contents of the safe, and by looking at the dates on the contents, I could tell that the safe had been opened at some point during the last 20 years. (Borescopes are NEAT!)

I had said that the lock itself was more valuable to me than the safe was, and was given the green light from the boss to do whatever it takes to get it opened. He said we could split the contents 50/50 once I got it opened, so that's what I was going to do.
- but since I wanted to save the lock, I decided the best course of action would be to extract the lock in it's entirety. I carefully cut a large section out of the face of the door. the sheet metal this is made of is surprisingly thin. nothing hardened here..
once I was through the skin, I just pried at it and wiggled it a bit until the entire lock mechanism, dial, bolt, body and all, came right out. easy peasy.
I can weld a new face on to the front of the safe if I want, but boy this lock is kind of a treat. I was convinced this lock was busted, but when I looked closer at it I realized it was fine. I just didn't crack the combo.

the combination was set to 68, 97, 20. - not at all like what was written on the outside. clearly someone had changed it, or maybe just wrote the wrong combo on the outside just to be a prick. haha.

Looking back at my graphing notes I realize just how close I was to having this open. I had found the first number as 67, and the second number I was convinced was 1. - it was written on the safe, and it felt like it might be right, so I fixated on it. I then tried all of the possible options for the 3rd number wheel, starting AT 20!. if I had tried a couple numbers lower on my second wheel, I would have had it opened days ago...

ahh well. live and learn.
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madsamurai

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Post Sun Oct 11, 2020 11:06 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

Glad you got it all worked out.I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love to see pics of the lock you got out of it... very curious what was in there. I see you added a video to the album in your original post... neat little lock there, too bad it's not working. Hopefully just needs cleaned and lubed... will the bolt slide if you push it when the fence is aligned with the gate? If it's sticky, just clean and put some new grease under there... if it slides easy then you'll probably need to replace the spring, I'd think.

That's actually pretty good success getting two of the three numbers on a blind lock your first time manipulating... congrats!
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JonnyPhenomenon

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Post Mon Oct 12, 2020 12:43 am

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

madsamurai wrote:Glad you got it all worked out.I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love to see pics of the lock you got out of it... very curious what was in there. I see you added a video to the album in your original post... neat little lock there, too bad it's not working. Hopefully just needs cleaned and lubed... will the bolt slide if you push it when the fence is aligned with the gate? If it's sticky, just clean and put some new grease under there... if it slides easy then you'll probably need to replace the spring, I'd think.

That's actually pretty good success getting two of the three numbers on a blind lock your first time manipulating... congrats!


The lock is actually working fine. I took that video right when I had it opened, and due to confirmation bias, I was convinced that the lock was not working, when really I just needed to press the relocking spring down to make it pick up.

I took some better pics of it today and added them to my album.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/dgA8rCiHUqYefxvB9 I tried to get clear photos of each of the parts. let me know if there is anything specific you want me to take a closer look at.

note that the lock body is made from a folded sheet of brass. not cast metal.

The lock is working fine. any combination I set it to seems to work.
Unlike my S&G 6741 lock, the cam wheel in this lock is NOT bigger than the number wheels. As a result, the 3rd wheel, or first number in the combo, has a significant interference fit with the fence. no matter what I set it to, I can find it by feel alone, every time I try. - by "feedback" in this specific case, I mean that I can turn the dial AWL, and I can identify exactly where the fence drops into the 1st number gate every time, as it passes, without turning the dial back to the contact area to check cp. I can get *some* feedback from the second wheel in the same way as well, provided the second number is not between 92 and 10 anyway. a quick graph of the "drag" on the second wheel gives me 4 candidates. - without checking the CP. The third wheel doesn't give me any feedback at all, which doesn't really matter as I can just try every other number around the wheel until it opens.

Now that I am really familiar with the way this specific lock behaves, I believe I could crack it in an hour or two if I had someone set a combo for me, and didn't put any of the wheels anywhere between 90 and 10.

I would like to mount this to a piece of plexi like I did with my S&G, which would require that I cut the spindle down an inch. - and I would also like to cut a view hole in the back of the cover to expose the wheels. But I kind of want to get the opinion of the group, to make sure I wasn't destroying a priceless piece of history by doing so...
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MartinHewitt

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Post Mon Oct 12, 2020 2:45 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

Thanks for showing us the detailed photos of your lock!
In case you wonder ... Martin Hewitt is a fictional detective in stories by Arthur Morrison:
Martin Hewitt, Investigator Chronicles of Martin Hewitt
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edocdab

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Post Mon Oct 12, 2020 7:24 pm

Re: Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe with HHM dial

I don't know about the priceless historical value of the lock as I know very little about the topic, but I mounted my lock on a thicker piece of wood so I don't have to damage anything. To see it in action I remove the back cover. I guess you can also cover the back with some plexi.

Nice that you were able to recover this lock!
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