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Antique Safes/Maintenance of a HHM Safe


Front with door open
Front with door open  

Hinge Cap
Hinge Cap  
I have a Herring Hall Marvin safe that is in operation more as a decoration piece but still opens and I have the combination and keys.  I will pass this onto my son and would like to know if there is anything I can do to protect or prolong the mechanism.  I opened the inspection plate (inside the door behind the tumbler and to discovered why it was so heavy, it is metal clad concrete.  There is a hole to access the locking mechanism.  I know that when we begin restoration we will most likely kill any value the item has but our goal is to have the old guy looking as much as original as we can it will not be leaving the family.  We will strip, paint and gold leaf where appropriate as indicated by images from this site.

Anyway, I don't want to damage it operationally thus my locking mechanism question.  I don't know how many images I can attach but am also looking for a "acorn", mine are flat top brass and one is missing.  Is there is a source for this item or must I have one machined?  Thanks for all you do as you have already been lots of help from my reading other questions and answers.

Jake, there are 3 areas of concern mechanically, the lock, hinges and boltwork. Inspecting the boltwork is pretty much a no go, and as long as it is working okay, I wouldn't worry about it.  It's pretty rare to have problems there anyway.  Generally the hinges on a safe get ignored until there is a problem.  Not sure on that one but it may have a ball bearing race in it.  You could pop the door off and inspect the pins and clean, but again if it is working good order I wouldn't bother.  Many of the safes of that era have better hinges than the later models.  Lastly the lock wheels and dial could be removed, inspected and cleaned.  That is the only relatively easy job to do on your safe, but since the lock mechanism is built like a tank, added to the fact it is no longer in daily use, I don't think it necessary.  On the hinge cap, I think finding one will be more time consuming than its worth. I would just machine one up.  Doug

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Doug MacQueen


This unusual and highly innovative safe from the later 1800's is a Corliss. William, the much younger brother of George Corliss of steam engine fame, spent several years perfecting this design and it was first displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia U.S. Centennial Exhibition. I do extensive patent research helping me in the study of antique U.S. safes and safe locks. Repairs and part making for antique U.S. safes of the early to mid 1800's, both key and combination. Also the study of early round door chest designs up to and including cannonball safes of the early 1900's.


40 years in the lock and safe trade with a stint in bank service work. Openings, repairs and moving of safes of all types.

Charter member Safe and Vault Technicians Association SAVTA, National Safemans Association NSO, National Antique Safe Association NASA. No longer current.

SAVTA monthly magazine

CMS (Certified Master Safecracker- NSO) and CPS (Certified Professional Safe Technician - SAVTA)

Awards and Honors
2nd place national combination manipulation contest 1986 and now in 2016 1st place

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