You are here:

Antique Safes/Cleaning Mosler Bahmann safe lock


QUESTION: I have a Mosler Bahmann safe, 41" wide x 29" deep and 74" high.
Single door purchased in the 1890's.
I think the lock should be cleaned and lubricated.  The lock box is brass and is 3" x 4" x 2".  There is one screw, but the cover doesn't want to just pop off.  I thought I would ask for some information on how to proceed.
Thanks, Ron


First off, classes in safe lock servicing take about a week and one of the pre-requisites would be to have a back ground in locksmithing.   So, this isn't the type of subject that can be broached in an email.

Second (and more importantly), I "NEVER" recommend servicing as a DIY project for the same reason that I don't recommend using locksmiths for safe work.   Lack of training, knowledge and tools can result in an expensive lockout.

Unlike some other projects like working on a clock, or an engine or a computer, if you make a mistake, it is a simple (well maybe not simple) process to disassemble the item, to reassemble it correctly or to replace the failing item.
Safes on the other hand are EXTREMELY unforgiving.   If you make a single, teeny tiny mistake in the assembly of the lock, and/or setting of the combination, if you close and lock the door you could easily be locked out - NOW looking at an extremely expensive opening and repairing lesson.    As parts are NOT readily available for your Mosler-Bahmann, you can't afford to have an obsolete, possibly rare lock damaged by a locksmith or safe technician who may not be familiar with your safe or the installed lock.   Cost to open and repair the safe could easily be in the $350 to $500 range, and if the lock has to be replaced, "IF" you can find one, you could easily be looking at $500 to $1000 for a replacement!!!

So, now lets see if we can't answer your question concerning "How to proceed"?

I would recommend that you contact a local safe company to have their safe technician (NOT a locksmith) service the lock and/or safe.   Having it correctly serviced is a heck of a lot cheaper than the alternative I've illustrated above!

As to the back plate not coming off the lock, it may be locked on by the combination (LOBC).   LOBC type locks must have the combination dialed to a specific point, to release the back cover.   Your dial ring may have several index marks.   One would be the opening index, one might be the service or combination changing index, and if you have a LOBC type lock, the last would be the back cover release.

While you can do a simple wipe down inside the lock to remove dust, dirt or debris, this is NOT a cleaning, which requires a complete disassembly of the lock and wheel pack.   Again, I recommend that you have a safe tech perform this work, to ensure that it is done correctly and so that you won't have any problems.

Hope this helps,

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

Mosler Bahmann Safe
Mosler Bahmann Safe  

Mosler Bahmann Safe Door
Mosler Bahmann Safe Do  
QUESTION: I want to Thank you for your reply!
Not to toot my horn, but I am a Certified Master Watchmaker.
I have made watch parts and repivoted, rebushed and replaced teeth on clock wheels.  I made a dividing head for cutting gears.  I have rebuilt numerous car engines.  Reformated, replaced drives and upgraded CPU's in computers.  I recently rebushed and changed the combination on a friends safe.  Due to wear, the combination wouldn't always open the safe.  I made 2 bushings to reduce the dial wear, completely taking it apart and cleaning. I used small amount of lube and wiped it off, so there is a minimum amount. Then I changed the combination for him.
What I have been doing with my safe, is when it gets sluggish I'll spray it with a light penetrant.  This frees it up for several years.
I'll include some pictures of the safe.
The story my Dad told me is, that the orginal buyer bought this at the Columbia Exposition or World's Fair in Chicago in 1893.  This jeweler always bought top of the line things.  This safe seems like it was probably a very high grade safe for its day.  The serial number on the
I belive is 62628.  If you can fill me in on any information or value on this safe I would appreciate it very much.


I'm just starting to train to work on time lock movements.    Unfortunately there are not a lot of individuals in the industry servicing these items, and the number is growing smaller.   I'm not certain how far I'm going in this direction as I already have the career that I want.

While I'm sure that you can disassemble the lock and reassemble it, safes are NOT like clocks.   The big difference being - if you make a mistake with a clock, you can simply disassemble it again.   With the safe, once that door closes, there are NO do overs.

This doesn't mean that I don't expect that you aren't going to do the work, I just have to make you aware of the problems, and the cost of even a simple mistake, and on a bankers safe like the one in your photos, you could easily be looking at $1000 to $2000 to have it opened and repaired.    Price difference is because, originally I thought you had a standard Mosler-Bahmann cast iron fire safe - you don't!!!  You have a Bankers model!!!

As far as the serial number on the safe - this is a hard one as we know that Mosler-Bahmann changed (or restarted) their serial numbers at least once (possibly twice).    This company started in 1867 with Gustave Mosler and Fred Bahmann.   In 1874 after Gustave's death, there was a "falling out" between the Mosler family and Fred Bahmann.   The Mosler's left to start a new company, Mosler Safe & Lock Company.   Both companies were located in Cincinnati until 1891 when Mosler Safe & Lock Company moved to Hamilton, OH.    We are pretty sure that one of the dates of "serial number change" happened about 1875 after the separation.   Unfortunately there are no documents to indicate what, when, why or how.
We do have copies of an 1887 to 1892 ledger, listing serial numbers 10640 to 19490.   Again not knowing how they were keeping records, and with no further dates or numbers to work from we have to make certain assumptions.

In order to answer questions, identify, evaluate or appraise the “current condition” of 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.   Please use a “jpeg” format, not a bitmap (bmp) image.   Also, I don’t like “website” photo dumps.   While it may be an easy place for you to store them, retrieving photos which allow me to zoom in to look at details, takes a lot of extra time.   Please send the requested photos directly to me.

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.

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.