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Antique Safes/1913 Mosler


1913 Mosler
1913 Mosler  
QUESTION: I am wondering if you have, or can tell me where I can get, any assembly/repair/parts documents or manuals that would help me in restoring this safe. Would it be possible to give me a range of hours it can take, in general, to dis-assemble, refinish and re-assemble one of these, and advise to the availability of hardware. If you need more info let me know.
Thank You!


Sorry but my wife broke my crystal ball about the same time that she killed my money tree. LOL!

Seriously though, parts haven't been readily available for safes like this for over 80 years.   In fact the ONLY parts available are donor parts taken or salvaged off of similar safes which are in too poor shape to restore.

Unfortunately there is no aftermarket source, and there is no listing of who might have old parts - Anywhere!   Manufacturers also never provided manuals, or documentation on their products for obvious security, liability AND patent infringement reasons.   If you want a manual for your safe, you are going to have to make one up, as you disassemble it.   I recommend a photo essay.   The photos will help you to reassemble the safe and other parts correctly.

As far as finding replacement parts, you are going to have to "accurately" identify those parts that need replacement, so that as you contact various safe companies, you can give them a listing of what you are looking for.
NOTE:  As safe companies DO NOT salvage old parts for sale, they save them for their use, unless you are a serious buyer, they aren't even going to look through their parts bins for you.   Chances are they do not have them organized and certainly they won't have a listing.   these old parts are also going to have some serious price tags, for instance if you need a replacement lock, dial and dial ring, you could EASILY be looking at $500 to $750!!!

As far as a range of hours - I suppose that could go from 0-250 hours, depending on your level of commitment.   For instance the best I can get out of my Grandsons is to wipe the safe down with Pledge Furniture polish - that would be 0 hours.
Obviously the amount of time would depend on your method of restoration.   If you take the safe on as a DIY project, depending on your resources and capabilities, it could take you several weeks or months.   If you have professionals in your area to help with painting and cabinetry it could be much quicker.
time and cost of restoration are all dictated by who is doing the work, their skill levels, and the amount of work that you are accomplishing.  

Complete sanding, fairing and painting of the exterior of the safe could take weeks depending on the finish that you are looking for AND the amount of art work.   The cabinetry could similarly take weeks depending on whether or not you can simply sand, stain and revarnish, or if you are completely replacing the cabinetry.

Hopefully you don't think that I'm not trying to give you a complete answer, but you have asked me an open ended question, with no quantification of what you are actually looking for.   If you are looking for some type of quote or estimate, then you need to be discussing this with the person who is going to do the restoration.

Again, there are potentially three types of restoration available to you, they are the:
1.   DIY approach - dependent upon your capabilities,
2.   The Professional approach - usually very good results, and the
3.   semi Professional approach - you might be able to get the art department and wood working department of a local community college to take on the safe as a restoration project.

Each of these has its benefits and problems.   While the DIY will possibly be the cheapest, it could also be the longest, and may not achieve professional results.   The professional approach will be the most expensive, but will yield the best results, and in the fastest time.   The semi professional approach can be fairly inexpensive, however it could take longer than is necessary, depending on availability of workers.   You may be able to hire some talented students for some $$$'s to help keep the project on track, or to augment your DIY skills.

Sorry I can't be more specific, but based on the question, hopefully I've given you some ideas.

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

QUESTION: Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I have a classic car restoration shop that has been asked to restore this safe and give an estimate, so I am just trying to get a feel for how much time it "could" take to dis-assemble, refinish, and re-assemble a safe like this. While we are proficient at working with and refinishing metal and wood, we have never taken on a safe before.

Hi Ron,

Obviously it would depend on how much "dedicated" time you have.   If other projects keep putting it on the back burner, it could take forever.    if you can dedicate the time, you should be able to knock out a quality restoration in around a week, maybe less.

Fortunately you will have a better idea about the length of time that it would take the paint to dry, and/or you may have a quality paint booth which would reduce that time.

When we are starting one from scratch, we strip off all the working and dress items, and bead blast it down to bare metal.   Fairly quickly you WILL want to get a primer coat onto the metal, as it will begin to rust rather quickly.   Generally at this point, depending on the finish or final look that I want, I'll use a "fairing compound" to smooth all of the problem areas in the surface.   With dry time and sanding this could easily take a full day.   shooting all of the body colors with dry time and sanding could be another couple of days.

Prior to final or clear coating, you would want to do all of your art work, pin stripping and lettering.   And finally clear coating or varnishing to protect the paint.

NOTE:   Special care must be taken around the doors and/or opening areas, as too much paint WILL keep the doors from closing correctly.   Keep the paint as thin as possible in these areas.

While you are working on the body,   All of the bolt work, handles, dials, hinge acorns, etc which need to be polished or replated, should be sent out, so that by the time you've got the paint completed, you will be ready to reassemble.

Cabinetry - depending on its condition, you may simply want to light sand and revarnish it.   If it is destroyed or pretty much gone, strip it out and start over.   This is a good time to design a new interior that WILL be a show piece.   You want it so nice that you will NEVER want to close the doors.

Once its reassembled you are done.

Time wise - depending on how much can be done concurrently, and how many guys you can throw at the project, AND more importantly, how much work you are actually doing to the container, it could easily take from a week to several months.

As I've said before - I'M not a painter - so if it doesn't come in a spray can then I'm going to get someone to do it for me.   One of the painters that I have available for occasional use is Steve Faraone - who paints a lot of Arlen Ness's custom bikes.

you can check out the following episode of American Restoration for some ideas.   While I think that this crew is completely staffed by idiots, it will give you some basic ideas.

Hope this helps,

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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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