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Antique Safes/Floor safe repair


QUESTION: I have an old, small floor safe that has a Wells Fargo decal.  I'm not sue its actually a Wells Fargo but thats beside the point.  As I was opening it today i dialed in the combination and the dial stopped appropriately on the final number but when I turned the handle it pulled out of the safe.  The shaft of the handle is approx. 2 & 3/4 inch long with about six threads at the tip that appear to be intact.  The shaft is round except for the portion right before the threads and then it becomes a 4 sided square.
When I re-insert the handle into the hole the threads will not re-engage.  
How should I proceed?
Thank you.

ANSWER: David,

The two biggest "faked" items I see, are safes claiming to be either Wells Fargo, or a Railway Agency container.   Without documentation, I always assume that these items are not what they appear.

As for your safe, what you are experiencing is what we term a "bolt work disengagement".

For what ever reason the retaining nut has backed off, or come off of the spindle. pulling the handle out has caused the drive cam to drop loose.   Re-Inserting the handle will NOT re-engage anything, as probably there is nothing there to re-engage!

You didn't mention how "BIG" the safe is, but you may be able to tip the safe over on its side (if it is small enough), to cause the bolt work to slide to the open position.

WARNGING:   This can be extremely dangerous if common sense is not used.   Safes with wheels can lose their balance rather quickly with the wheels causing the safe to slide and drop rather quickly.   Older safes weight quite a bit, from several hundred to several thousand pounds.   Dropping it on its side can cause immediate damage or injury.
Also, IF the bolt work suddenly drops to the open position, the door may suddenly flop open.   Again this can be an extremely dangerous thing as these doors can also weigh several hundred pounds and will cause damage or injury.

I don't recommend your doing this unless you have prepared for ALL eventuallities.   I strongly do not recommend that you try this, unless the safe is small enough to be easily managed or handled.

My recommendation would be for you to call a safe technician from a local safe company.  With the proper equipment, they may be able to snag the bolt work through the existing spindle hole, to retract it, or the safe may have to be drilled, to probe the bolt work into the retracted position.

Once the safe is opened, repairs can be made, and the handle/cam assembly can be reassembled correctly.   Maintenance should be done at this time to ensure that the bolt work and locking system is operating correctly.

NOTE:  During all of the above procedures, the lock must be in the unlocked position.   Unlock the lock and use a piece of tape to hold the dial in the retracted position.

Hope this helps.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I know in your area.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you so very much.  The safe is about 16 X 21 inches, on whels, and VERY heavy.  I don't think I could tip or turn the safe.
Do you have suggestions for technicians in my area, Tulsa, zip 74136?
Is this something most safe technicians could tackle?
Does "drilling" the safe run the safe?
Thank you.
Happy New Year


I would recommend your contacting:

Underwood Safe & Vault
RR 2 Box 16
Broken Bow, OK 74728

I understand that Underwood's is around 110 miles away, but I don't know of any one in your area that I would trust more.  There is a smaller lock & safe company in Tulsa, however, I don't know what their education or skill level is.   If you decide to use them I would discuss what their plans to open and repair the safe are.   If you have any questions concerning their proposed methods or pricing, feel free to run it by me BEFORE having them do any work.

Charley's Southside Lock & Safe
5123 So. Peoria
Tulsa, OK 74105

Drilling the safe, if done correctly, will NOT ruin or damage the safe, and can easily be repaired.   If done incorrectly it may ruin the safe.   If your safe is possibly an antique, then any damage which can not be easily be repaired should NOT be an option.

A professional safe technician should be able to give you a flat fee which includes opening and repairing.   Generally if they are charging an hourly fee, it is because they don't know what they are doing, or how long it will take, or they are simply trying to run up the bill.   The price for a safe like yours should include a mobile service charge, the cost to open and repair, plus any necessary repair parts.   With the exception of the repair parts (which may not be known until the safe is opened) you should know exactly what the cost will be - with no hidden charges.  You should be looking at between $350 to $500 to have your safe opened and repaired (plus parts).    If you have the ability to take your safe to the safe company, you will save the cost of the mobile service.   Also in shop fees may be slightly lower than field rates.

Hope this helps, remember if you have any questions, send them to me BEFORE having the work done.

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2013 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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