Today I went up to Georgetown, TX to change the locks on the home of a retiree who had just split with her boyfriend. Straight-forward job, nothing special. At the end, she asks me to "open a combination lock I have". I agreed to look at it, and then watched as she pulls an expensive, and very old, Haliburton brand briefcase out of her hall closet. Some combination lock!
Her plan was to give it to her son as his birthday present—if it could be decoded. I told her I would do it mainly for the challenge of opening something billed as "high-security", which she thought was funny.
A few years back I would have turned this job down, opting for safer work I've been well trained in like home rekeys, office rekeys and lock installs. Now I'm getting bored, and leaving my comfort zone adds some variety to my days as a locksmith.
I've successfully cracked other simple combinations. Realtor lockboxes and bicycle chain locks for instance. This shouldn't be any different using the same method. For security reasons, I won't divulge my plan of action, but you can figure it out if you search through Google for a bit. Still no easy challenge for a locksmith, but this is the life I chose.
The original Haliburton aluminium travel luggage were actually custom made for Erle Halliburton in 1938. He was an oil man who was disappointed when his other luggage couldn't hold up to the hot weather and dirty conditions out on the oil fields. What he created became the world's first air-tight, all-metal travel cases.
You've probably seen this same briefcase on TV or in film at some point. It's been in over 300 films and TV shows such as Lost, Mission Impossible, Inception, Ocean’s Eleven, Men in Black and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Now just to get this out of the way, the briefcase only has 3 dials that number 0-9. There are only 1000 different codes possible. If someone has an hour or so to sit there and try every possible position, they CAN get the travel case open without any skill whatsoever.
However, I am a locksmith! My job is to be more clever than the average person.
Sadly, I have to skip the description of the technique used to open it. Knowing how rotary dial combination locks work is the beginning of understanding how you can "feel out" the combination. Then of course having the patience to slowly break down which number works the dial. Here's a pic of it opened up, sitting on top of my toolbox.
Looks like it also contained a very nice camera with a giant lens too. She will be very happy with this result!
It took me about 25 minutes in all. My skills weren't great that day, otherwise I think I could've done it in 5-10 minutes. That emotional high when you go from frustration to success is always amazing though! Being a locksmith can sometimes be pretty fun.