You are here:

Antique Safes/Old Diebold safe with broken hinge


Diebold 1
Diebold 1  
Diebold Lower Right Side
Diebold Lower Right Si  
QUESTION: I have had this old Diebold safe in my garage for about 20 years, I got it from my Dads grocery store when he closed it. I think I know the combo but I can not open it. Could it be because the safe is lying on its back with the door facing up ? It is about 16 inches square and its very heavy, feels like 200 pounds or so. The main door hinge on the bottom right side of the safe has a crack clear through it, right thru the bolt hole.  Would you have one of those or know who could weld it back together ? I may restore the whole thing if I can find that part. If I do restore it, what would you think I would spend to have the Crane Hinge replated, I think its Nickel ? Also, how old is it and is it worth restoring ?

ANSWER: Steve,

This would be a Jewelers chest, not a safe.   This container was never meant as a "stand alone" type safe, it would have been built inside of another safe, which was generally a fire resistive type safe.    This chest was for extra protection for cash, jewelry or other valuable items.

As far as "finding parts", good luck with that.   These containers haven't been made since the 1920's at the latest, and yours may have been made quite a bit earlier than that.    Which means that the broken hinge support will have to be fabricated.    chances are this is a cast piece, meaning that "welding it", may not be an option.    Cast Iron is a very porous and brittle material, and is a difficult material to weld.    Many welders simply won't do it, as they don't have the training or knowledge to reliably weld this material.   Excessive heat will simply further ruin the hinge if welding is not done correctly.
You will have to take the hinge to some of your local welders and discuss repairs with them.   If they can't repair it then you will need to have a new one made.

Your other option would be to have a new hinge fabricated out of a good quality steel.   Afterwards, it can easily be plated.    I would probably recommend re-plating ALL of the nickel plated surfaces at the same time so they would match.

As far as whether or not it is "worth" restoring, the decision is yours.   If you are planning on selling it, then it will need to be open and in operational condition - which means yes you need to repair and/or restore it.    If you are planning on having it just as a decoration/display item, then it would simply depend on how YOU want it to look.    As a display, conversation piece, it is much more enjoyable, if you can actually open it to discuss its operation and history, than if it is simply a block of "decorated steel"!    So again, restoration and/or repair is a positive.

Next item - not being able to open it.   Regardless of the containers position - if the combination is correct and/or you are dialing it correctly, the lock SHOULD come to a full and complete stop.    If it does and the door still won't open, THEN it may be because of its position and/or the broken crane hinge.   It may also be rusted shut, or have another problem.
If however, the lock does not unlock correctly, then you either do not have the correct combination or you are not dialing it correctly.    In either case, you may need to have a safe technician from a local safe company check it out and/or open it for you.

Note:   I never recommend using locksmiths for safe work, especially on older or antique type safes.

Hope this helps answer some of your questions.

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


Inside View
Inside View  
QUESTION: I think I will take the hinge off and take it to a machine shop and see if they can make one, and then get all the parts replated with Nickel. I found this image on the web, this is just like mine, but as you said it looks to be welded into a larger container. The only difference between the two is mine has a flush slot head screw holding the dial on. Thanks for the info.


Yes I do like these little jewelers Chests.   I've got several that I salvaged out of safes that were not worth restoring.    I've got a Chicago, a HHM and a Hall's Safe & Lock Co., jewelers chest.

If you can't find a machine shop that can do it for you, I have a small one in my garage and do make various parts.   Let me know if I can be of any more help.

Antique Safes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900'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.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and 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. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". 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 Safe & Vault Technicians Association

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

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 - 2015 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

©2017 All rights reserved.