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Antique Safes/Antique Hall Safe


I recently purchased an 1886 house with a Hall safe installed into a concrete wall. The dial has been damaged and has a flat spot on the edge of the dial. I believe it was caused by a heavy object, subsequently the dial will only rotate 359 degrees then it stops.
Any suggestions on the repair and in aging the safe?



In order to evaluate or age the safe, I would need photos of the safe, including the interior, which would indicate it would need to be opened.

First question - do you have the combination for the safe???   If not, then you will need to have a safe technician from a local safe company to open the safe.

The "dent" in the dial will have to be temporarily removed to open the safe.   Once opened if it isn't damaged to badly, it can be repaired.

Note:  I don't recommend using locksmiths for safe work as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.

Whom ever "cemented" the safe into the wall, has pretty muched "ruined" the antique value of the safe.

If you don't have any local safe companies, let me know where you are located (zipcode), and I'll see who I know in your area.

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

I was able to open the door with a very firm pull. The safe was open, but the handle won't turn. The  dial only rotates from 80 to 80. I do have the combo. Is it true the combo can shift over time?
The inside is great with a pristine image of the Hall safe factory in Ohio. The serial on the handle is #109899
The dimensions are 22"x 26", the internal is 15" x 9" by 9" deep.
What other images do you need?


On the older Hall's safes, the way the wheels are designed, there is NO "combo shift" at all.   On the newer key change variety (1920's and up), because of the wheel/hub locking mechanism design, wheel/combo shift is possible, but time isn't as much the culprit as is lack of maintenance and operator spinning or whirling the dial.

On the Older Hall's safes, the wheels are basically solid, with drive screws placed in different holes, or pins placed in holes to determine what number is assigned to each wheel.  Unless you are abusing the lock to a point where you have damaged a drive screw or drive pin, the combination CANNOT shift.   Damage to the pins can account for extremely minor changes, unless you have a 130 number dial, in which case the difference can be up to a full number, depending on the damage.  

Your description of the handle only partially turning, and the lock not locking is probably due to the "day lock" feature of the safe.   On some of the straight tail piece type locks, the Drive Wheel is designed with a recess cut out.  When the lock has been unlocked and the handle/bolt work retracted, the dial can be spun off effectively trapping the handle in the unlocked position.
To be able to relock the door, the dial would be turned BACK to the last number of your combination, then the handle would be able to turn to the locked (bolt work extended) position.

If you don't know what this number is, simply turn the handle, applying slight pressure, while turning the dial from 80 to 80.   Most of these locks were set up to unlock at 0 (100), but as I'm not at your lock to see what has been done to it, you will have to simply test it to find out.


If you don't have the correct combination, it is very easy to recover it.   If you look at the back of the lock, you will notice a small square hole.   This was designed for a "combination recovery key".   As you turn the dial, as the gate in each wheel aligns at this slot, the key will drop into the gate.   You will obtain the number for each wheel, by observing the corresponding number on the dial.  Reverse dialing direction and proceed to the next wheel.   The dialing sequence should be:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
1 time right to the last number - stop - turn handle.

Based on your serial number, your safe would have been built around 1883-1887.

In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 10mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos.   Also, please don’t use on line photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.

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

So painted along the top edge of the safe is A.F. Blume.
It is the same paint scheme as the Halls lettering.
What does this mean?


It was standard practice by many of the safe companies, to paint the name of the original owner.  If you have an idea of how old the safe is, and in this case information concerning the house it was found in - now with a name, you can do some more research to try to tie the safe to an actual person and period in their life.

while this information may not add any $$$ value to the safe, it will make it much more interesting to find out who may have used the safe.   Instead of simply being a "fixture" of your home, the safe now starts to take on a life of its own, and a history.

Document everything that you find, so that you will have something interesting to pass on to the next owner.

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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

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