You are here:

Antique Safes/Herring-Farrel Safe Removal


We have been recently contacted by a general contractor to bid on the demolition and removal of a Herring-Farrel safe on the first floor of a county courthouse. The safe is approx. 10'W x 12'L x 9'H and has a center dividing wall. I don't assume anything but possibly they are (2) two safes back to back since there is also (2) two entry doors. I do have a few pictures of the safe and from some research I did the building was constructed around 1854. Since there is no estimating book on safe removals (that I can find)my question is how do you think the safe is constructed and what is the approx. weight of the doors? Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,


First we need to get our terms straight so that we are talking apples and apples.

A safe is a storage container, which can be moved from point A to Point B if necessary.   A "VAULT" is a structure - not a container, which is built into a building, and is NOT designed to be easily moveable.   Vaults are generally also designed to allow people to walk in and out of.

If you have a structure that is approx. 10 feet wide, by 12 feet long and 9 feet high, this would be a vault and NOT a safe.

While I understand that you are the contractor for this job - the first question that comes to my mind would include - does this building and/or this vault have any historical significance - which WOULD dictate possible alternatives and/or what is ultimately done with the door.

Let me caveat this by saying that I'm well aware that while many buildings on the east coast can easily be 100 - 200- 300 years or even older, and wouldn't be considered anything other than an old building - on the West Coast, pretty much anything older than 50 years old gets looked at!    Yeah I know - but what can I say, its California!

You are correct that there are no books concerning the subject of safe or vault constructions for a couple reasons - the first has to do with security.    If the information was published or readily available from the manufacturers, they could (and probably would) be held liable or responsible for any and all break-ins!    This is the main reason this information was never released.
A second reason and almost as important, has to do with patents and patent infringements.   Much of the current patent laws have come about over the years based on safe manufacturers and the items built.   In reality, the safe manufacturers WERE one of the leaders in manufacturing in the early 1800's through WWII.   In fact in EVERY major war the US as been involved with including the Civil War, WWI and WWII, the safe manufacturing facilities were the first companies who were capable of turning to war time production of materials and weapons.

While Herring & Farrel were generally "TWO" separate manufacturing facilities, the two became partners during the late 1850's to early 1860's, though it wasn't formalized until 1869.   The Herring facility was in New York, and the Farrel facility was in Philadelphia.   Both companies were part of the 1892 merger that became the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company.   The Philadelphia facility was closed down in 1897 after the opening of the new HHM facility in Hamilton, OH, where all of the manufacturing was moved to.

In general, you are going to have two separate structures to deal with.    The Vault Door, and vestibule was installed after construction of the vault walls.    Installation and removal of the door is a separate issue from the walls.

The walls are usually going to be some type of concrete or mortar and brick construction.   Demolition of the walls is going to be fairly straight forward.

The door will need to be removed intact with the vestibule and framing.    This generally takes special equipment to do, to avoid damaging what is considered an ANTIQUE door.    

Weight of the doors should also be fairly straight forward.   Steel weighs about 42 lbs per square foot one inch thick.     You can calculate a base weight for the door and frame based on its size, and then add at least 1/3 of that weight again, for items like bolt work, hinges, locks, etc., that you can't see or calculate.    The vestibule & frame is calculated similarly.

Note:   Chances are the door may have been grouted in place when it was originally installed.    They never intended for these items to be removed.    This means that you may have to have the doors and frames - saw cut & jack hammered - before you can remove them.    Again this is a specialized process.

My recommendation would be for you to contact a local safe company to have them work with you to solve the problem and to remove the door.

Wilson Safe Company
3031 Island Avenue
Philadelphia, PA, 19142     
Phone: (800) 345 - 8053

hope this gives you some ideas and directions to help solve your problem.  

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.