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Antique Safes/Thomas Skidmore safe


QUESTION: Hi Mike, I have recently been given an old Skidmore safe and would like to restore it. This is what I have considered so far:
Either wire brush  or 'soft' sandblast any rust (not much)away and then paint with 'Hammer-Rite'. The handle on the front of the door is missing although the spindle is still in place. The interior drawers seem intact but there are no keys the door or the drawers.

My questions are: 1) Is it worth doing? Is my restoration plan ok and are handles and keys available? Is there a serial number or something I need to quote for keys if they are available. I am not looking to sell it but restore and keep it as an item of beauty and interest.
regards Clive Collins

ANSWER: Hi Clive,

Whilst these late Victorian safes have little value, they do make interesting curios and I love to see them tastefully restored.  For security reasons, safe makers never keep any record of safe keys and even if they did, Skidmore's disappeared so many years ago that any records would have long been lost.  

A good master locksmith with a safe engineering section will be able to cut keys to the existing lock.  Go to to locate locksmiths in your area.  They should also be able to find a suitable replacement handle.  

Is it worth doing?  The cost of refurbishing and obtaining new keys and a replacement handle are likely to cost more than it's worth but if it was mine, I would certainly keep it and restore it.

To get some ideas regarding the original colours of these old safes, go to ebay and search for 'antique safes'.  There are usually a few up for auction.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

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

QUESTION: Hi Mike, firstly, many thanks for a quick and helpful response - much appreciated. Was my proposed method of restoration i.e. wire brush and/or 'soft' sand-blasting followed by a Hammerite type paint a suitable method or do I need a specialist type paint? I'm particularly concerned not to damage the surface of the metal.

Regards and thank you again
Clive Collins

Hi Clive,

I am no expert on refurbishing safes but in the past I have sent safes for sandblasting back to the bare metal.  They were then primed and spray painted with high gloss enamel.  Your safe is made of a number of mild steel plates riveted to an angle-iron frame so it seems unlikely that you could do much damage,

Skidmore used to have a very attractiv brass name plate which looked very special when polished.


Mike Palmer FSyI
Mike Palmer Consultancy

Antique Safes

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Mike Palmer


I earn my living identifying safes and suggesting cash limits for risk advisors and insurance surveyors in the UK. I'm am pleased to comment on safes manufactured in the UK or Mainland Europe but I am unable to accept questions regarding safes made in the USA or elsewhere.


I have been in the UK safe industry for 40 years and have one of the largest archive databases of old safe literature and serial numbers in the country. I started with Chubb in 1960 and became Assistant Manager of their Bank Security Division before moving on to become the Insurance Liaison Manager with the John Tann Group. I became Sales & Marketing Director for Guardian Safes Limited before semi-retiring. I am a Fellow of the Security Institute and ex-Chairman of Eurosafe UK, a trade body representing the interests of UK safe makers and distributors. I now work as a part time consultant.

I am an advisor to the Safe Committee of the Association of Insurance Surveyors, a Fellow of the Security Institute and founding Chairman of Eurosafe UK.

I have had literally scores of articles published in various security trade publications. So far this year I have had 24 features published in various journals including Keyways, Professional Security, Pawnbroker and Safe India. I have published one book, Peckham Boy, the life and times of the world's greatest safe cracker.

No relevant educational credentials.

Awards and Honors
In 1997 I was awarded the annual shield by the Association of Insurance Surveyors for "..outstanding services to crime prevention"

Past/Present Clients
I have represented or been an agent for the John Tann Group (Stratford, Ratner, Dreadnought and Tann safes); Churchill Safes, Chubb Safe Co Ltd, SLS Safes, SMP Safes, Dudley Safes and several others

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