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Antique Safes/antique bank vault door removal


Mosler vault door
Mosler vault door  
Hello Andy,

Thanks for taking your time to help folks like myself, very generous of you.

I am looking at buying a 1920's era Mosler crane hinge vault door.  It has the two inner doors as well and is still in place in the old bank building.  That building is in use and the vault with door is actually now in an office and used for file storage.  I want to use the door in as a functional accent piece in our new home that we are building.  It would front a small vault.

So, numerous questions.  First, what would you place the value at of a door like this that is still in place and needing removal?  

How hard is it to remove along with the frame, inner doors and sill?  Does it take specialized knowledge and tools or can someone mechanically minded with lots of construction experience get it done?  The key in this case is doing so neatly since it is in an occupied building and simply bringing the jackhammer is a problem.  Is there an orderly procedure that can be followed that would result in minimal damage to the surround?

If this is, in fact, a very specialized job what would be a reasonable price to have someone remove the door and load on my trailer?  I would crate it in place first.

What is the approximate weight of these type doors and frames?  

I am not sure the picture successfully attached to this site, if not I can email you if you give me an address in your reply.

Finally, the combination was lost over the years but I assume this is not a problem for a competent locksmith to retrieve.

Thanks so much for your help, I look forward to your reply.


First off, I never, ever recommend using locksmiths for work on safes or vault doors.   While 40 years ago, a competent locksmith could work on them and take care of most problems, the current crop are little more than trained monkeys and key cutters - and my apologizes to all the actual trained monkeys of the world for the comparison.    While most SAFE Technicians are also locksmiths, very few locksmiths are also trained safe technicians.
A safe technician from a local safe company should be able to either recover or reset the combination on the door.

Second problem is assigning a "value" to the door.   In general vault doors have no value unless they have been removed from their current location and are cleaned and prepped for a new install.   this is not the case with this door.

Third problem is the removal of the door, transport to a new location, AND reinstalling it correctly.    This is a very specialized project requiring the removal of the doors, frame, vestibule and day gates.   Any damage that is done to the doors during removal or transport WILL affect the new installation and/or operation of the doors.    These doors require critical alignment to operate and close correctly.

generally these doors were "grouted" or cemented in place, many times requiring jack hammering or a concrete cutting company to remove them.   After the doors have been removed, all the excess grout or concrete have to be removed and cleaned.   Jacking bolts which were previously installed, may not be repairable, and so new ones would need to be made.  

The weight of the doors could easily be from a couple thousand pounds to tens of tons, obviously this door is NOT one of the heavy weight doors, but this doesn't mean that YOU don't have some calculations to do.   In general steel weighs around 42 lbs per square foot, 1 inch thick, so do some rough calculations and then round up to get an idea of what you could be dealing with.

Usually the doors, framing and vestibule is removed as a single piece.   While removing the door from the crane hinge, and the crane hinge from the frame may result in smaller chunks of weight to deal with, you WILL have problems reinstalling everything correctly and realigning it to work correctly.    This can be a major problem and head ache.
Calling in a professional after the fact to try to remedy problems can be really expensive - possibly more so than if you had them do the work in the first place.

Obviously without having more info about the installation, and it current location, I can't even begin to give you removal pricing, but if you don't have a budget in the $10K to $20K you could be in trouble before you even start.

As far as a value for the door - assuming it was removed and cleaned - by itself, it could go from a couple thousand to $20K.   Sellers who have a potential buyer on the hook, can tend to ask higher figures because they know you are interested.   on the other hand a safe company that removes a door like this is usually making money off of the removal and installations, so the doors tend to go for lower dollar figures.   They also want it out of their warehouse.    A seller like this doesn't really care, because the door can stay right where it is for another 20 years if necessary.   They look at it like THEY are doing YOU a favor by selling it and allowing you to remove it.

As far as giving you an orderly procedure for removal - you are doing demolition work, with a vault door that weighs thousands of pounds - orderly procedure is slightly less than what you see on a football field on Sunday!
Usually when we have a door like this to remove, they require us to work at night or on weekends to keep the noise and dust down to a minimum.   We usually come in with a concrete cutting crew, and take the door WITH the attached concrete as a single unit, removing the excess at our shop.    That is about as clean as it gets.

This is NOT the kind of thing that you do as a first time project, without the correct tools, equipment and knowledge - even if you have a mechanical back ground and construction experience - and not expect some major problems.

Sorry, to be intentionally vague, but if it were a simple process, you would have more than about one dozen companies throughout the US, that actually do this type of work.   West of the Mississippi, there are probably only 5 or 6 companies that do this type of work.   Maybe 6-8 companies on the east coast.

I think it is a great project, but obtaining an installed door has a lot of hidden costs and major problem areas that will even give the pro's problems and/or headaches.

Hope this helps some.

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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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