Safe Signage

Making Sense of Safe Signage and  Labels

What does it all mean?

When someone calls a safe company about solving a safe lockout, the first thing the safe company

needs to know is the safe maker's name. After that, model, rating, and a small handful

of other questions arise.

In the Bad Old (pre-phone camera and texting) Days, this meant a protracted Question/Answer session that

usually left one or both parties frustrated and annoyed. Nowadays, safe techs who have

experienced the exquisite anguish of the safe and vault Question/Answer Game have come to regard texted

digital photos as huge timesavers.
Painted maker names, cities, etc.

if the maker's name is painted on, it will usually be painted on the door. The names that so often

appear on the frame over the door are (usually) not safe makers' names. Back in The Day it was a

standard frill on the purchase to offer safes personalized with owners' names.

Some older units were works of art


Painted illustrations

I don't know if the often-elaborate and always interesting scenes and abstract designs painted

on many safe doors of old were standard practice or available for added charge, but there are

still lots of  "painted ladies" out there.

Each hand-painted door image was unique


Serial (or other) numbers stamped on handles, door frames, safe bodies or metal tags.

Sometimes the numbers people find stamped on safe components are helpful, but mostly they're not. In some cases, provided the safe maker is still in business, somebody at the factory can look up the serial number of a safe and thus get the original combination that was set at the factory.

When a safe's maker has been gone for a century or more, though, numbers stamped on parts are less useful.

Service labels.

These are the steamer trunk labels of our industry, the equivalent of a dog marking his trees and

fire plugs. It's common (in fact, wise) practice for service vendor representatives to affix an

inexpensive label prominently on a safe or vault after servicing it. Service labels usually get

placed above dials and keypads, the better to imprint one's company name and phone number in

customers' minds. They will see the company name every time they open their safe. Safe owners often confuse service labels with makers' labels.

Rating tags/labels

If a safe submitted for UL testing successfully passes testing, the safe maker will affix a UL label attesting to that fact and the rating the safe qualified

for. Other rating labels might be visible, but the most common in the US market is the UL tag. UL and other

rating tags are typically small rectangular metal labels, and are supposed to be permanently affixed, most often by blind rivets or drive pins.

Labels of all types help safe technicians get an idea of what kind of safe they are (or will be) working on. This in turn helps techs decide if they need to bring any specialized gear or parts when they visit to do any service.

Knowing a safe's rating also helps at the all-important price-quote stage of a job. It's more common than not for safe owners to start with "How much do you charge to . . . ?" If the safe company knows the safe's rating they can often give a caller a relatively accurate price estimate.

Dial imprints and logos

Safe dials have a variety of talking points. Often there will be a maker's name embossed or

otherwise imprinted with the lock maker's name (most often) in the center of the dial. This often

causes confusion. This is especially true with older safes, based on the number of callers who

open with, "I have a Yale Safe that I can't open," or words to that effect.

While it's true that any information visible on the dial helps with the safe maker ID, it's also true

that a name on a dial cap or dial grip isn't always the safe maker's name.


The numbering method can help sometimes, as in 1-100, 0-99, 20-100, 1-80, 0-60, etcetera.

The dialing index can be a tipoff to the lock maker. The index mark can be a simple straight

vertical line, three lines that resemble a bird track, a circle, an arrow, and a few more etceteras.

Different lock makers had what amounted to signatures with respect to identification. Sometimes

the dial index is one of the only clues safe technician can find.

Below is a very small sampling of different safe dials by a variety of makers.



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