Bought a safe; decoded; sold

This is a short story of me, Jan-Willem, buying a floor safe without a combination. Then failing to decode it, resorting to an alternative method, and eventually having to part with it again.

Let’s start at the beginning. I’ve found a rusty Major floor safe for sale online, without combo. The ad looked alright and the price was good. I miscalculated the drive and spend the next five hours in the car to pick it up. (Note: I live pretty cental and the Netherlands is not that big.)

The safe was also a lot heavier than anticipated and comes in at about 40kg (~90 pound). The safe door is about 8kg (17 pound).

Failing to manipulate
First up was cleaning the safe. The dial felt quite gritty and washed most of the sand away with lock spray from the WD-40 company. It worked quite well. It also created a huge mess in the safe but that was not my concern at the moment.

I’ll just say this outright: I’m not good at manipulating safes. I’ve beaten a few S&G but never beyond 6730 and 6741. Manipulating it was a pain as the space was tight and the dial didn’t show much. I must have spend 10h on it over a week and gave up on it.

Opening the safe, slightly destructive
When I have projects like this I want them done as soon as possible. I decided manipulating was not fun and resorted to the semi destructive method of drilling a small hole and use the key change hole to dial the safe open. I’ve used a 8mm (1/3th inch) hole and a 4mm (1/6th inch) camera. (Hopefully more about those in an upcoming blog.) The process was still quite painful but I’ve learned a lot from it. It did not take more than 60 minutes in the end.

As the camera is actually an integrated USB webcam I’ve recorded the process and shared for your entertainment. The short version is 82 seconds and the long version just over half an hour. [note to self: fix Word press so it embeds YouTube videos properly.]

Short video: https://youtu.be/t72zbyRs2EI
Full video: https://youtu.be/jezF5elcHbc

Selling the safe
I’ve promised to share the full story so I’ll share a bit about selling the safe as well. These safes are quite rare here. From a quick search I’ve found a new safe door would cost me about €1k. Mostly shipping and import charges.

I love buying second hand goods. I search online and find an item, strike a conversation, place a very good bid, and pay minutes after we struck a deal. Selling on the other hand is extremely painful. (Hence why good manners work so well as a buyer.) For this safe I’ve taken plenty of detailed pictures, included all measurements, and put the safe up for sale. The difference between one buyer and another is clearly noticeable. Many people offered me to take the safe away for free or next to nothing and were offended when I said no. Finding a buyer took a few weeks.

The buyer asked for details on the change key mechanism and I’ve found the La Gard change key worked well. I’ve reset the combination to a random but valid combination. The buyer was unfamiliar with safes and how to operate them. We must have spend an hour on it. Instructing him how to dial the safe and he preformed the dialing a dozen times.

Just before the buyer left with the safe, afraid they would forget, they recorded them selves opening the safe. I’ve discussed this with a few locksmiths and it’s apparently normal. People, scared to forget, will take videos or involve spouse to help remember.

I’ve made a bit of profit on it, not including my time. Learned a few new tricks and have another story. I’ll think twice before buying another safe without combo but we know it’ll happen again.

Pictures
Lastly I want to add a few pictures for the archive. The lock is integrated in the safe door and can’t be removed or function without the door. The safe door has a cover that’s held in place with a large spring washer. Without the cover a relocker prevents the lock from opening.

Photo credit: CCBY4.0 Jan-Willem Markus, Toool Blackbag

Other than the circular nature of this lock it’s very similar to a La-Gard 3330.

2 Responses to “Bought a safe; decoded; sold”

  1. femurat says:

    Well done, J-W! I was planning to do something similar more than once but, luckily, it never happened. I’m too sentimental to let a safe go. My story would be: got a locked safe, manipulated it open, kept it for myself!

    Cheers 🙂

    • Jan-Willem says:

      Thanks! Yes, it’s hard to let go of cool toys. I’m just limited in space and have to take hard decisions and acquired three more safes between picking it up and selling it.

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