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Antique Safes/meilink home deposit vault??


meilink safe
meilink safe  
QUESTION: Hello, i purchased a meilink safe at a yard sale for 3 dollars and id like to know more information on it if it even exists. its really small. HEAVY, id say at least 60-70 pounds, 13" Hi 7 wide & 8 1/2 deep. 4 digit combo and screw t handle that fastens the door to the body instead of bolts. door says meilink home deposit vault then on the bottom guarantees fire and water resistance. all original, gentlemen lost combo but door was locked open, popped the back lock plate off and figured out the combo via wheels. so its in working order although i guess the wheels are gunked up and you have to dial slowly or it wont work right. im guess some PB blaster to free up the mechanics? any info would be great. thank you so much.

ANSWER: Hi James,

Congratulations on your purchase.   This may be the first safe of your collection!

The Meilink Safe Company was founded in 1899 by Charles F. Meilink.   This company ran continuously until it was acquired by FireKing International in 1990.    Though safes are still built under this label, it is not the same company.

Your safe was built in the early 1900's (prior to 1915ish), so it is an antique, and definitely a collectible.

Normally I would appraise a safe like this around $500, however I was surprised at an auction last year where a number of these containers were sold.   Prices ranged from $1500 to $2500 depending on the size and condition of the container.    So again, congratulations on your purchase.

Because it is an antique, I would very much recommend that you approach ANY repair work or restoration work carefully as while you may think you are doing the safe a favor, you may actually be damaging its value.   

While rust may make a safe look older - it is NEVER a good attribute, and should be removed.   Rust killer can be painted over the rust, and then neutralized afterwards.

As far as its weight - "HEAVY" safes start at about 5000 lbs, so your little Meilink would be a "Super Feather Weight class" safe.   While it doesn't offer any current fire protection and it is NOT a burglary resistive chest, it is highly collectible due to its size.

Maintenance should be done to ensure that everything is clean and operational, but as this would require the complete disassembly of the lock, I would recommend that this be done by a trained safe technician at a local safe company and not as a DIY project.

Again, congratulations on your purchase and welcome to antique safes, and safe collecting.

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

QUESTION: Ok, thank you so very much for the info. I asked around a bit and learned mr meilink owned a bike shop that burned down, crushed by the event he decided to make fireproof safes?

Oh wow. I had no idea it was worth so much, considering it only cost me 3 dollars. Although i dont plan to sell it. :)

Well thats the heaviest feather ive ever picked up. Weighing it on my scale it came in at 101.9 pounds.
Pretty impressive for something so small.

There isnt any rust thanlfully as it was kept in air comditoomong most of its life. I dont plan to restore the safe as i find it in very good condition considering its age? The only thing i plan to do are straightem the edge of the door alittle as at some point someone maybe tried to use a screwdriver to open it (failing obvisiouly) and to free up the wheelpack. Would you recommend PB blaster? Its a rust and gunk desolver and lubricant or something else?

My last concern is that the t handle when the safe is open is loose. Now comsidering its a screw this should be normal causee when i close it, it has no play in it?

Im sure back in the 10's when this was made it protected against fire and water as the now hardened seals are still on the door jam. But i know now thats moot and i dont plan to use it for anything perishable or of value. Mostly a bookshelf piece. :)

thank you Andy for your knowledge and kindness in sharing you knowledge with me about this little safe. I feel fortunate to habe acqired it and will keep it forever. I learned alot from you. :)

ANSWER: Hi James,

PB Blaster is a penetrating oil and NOT a lubricant.    While the lock WILL work better as all of the old grease will be broken up or dissolved, this is NOT a good condition.   The lock needs to be completely disassembled, AND cleaned, then correctly lubricated and reassembled.

While the PB Blaster would be ok to clean the old debris from the lock, it (the PB Blaster) needs to be cleaned from all of the lock components before lubricating.   We use very specific lubricants for locks, because of the materials and dirty environments they work in.   The grease is lightly applied and then wiped all most dry (less is sometimes better).   As brass is a porous material, it will hold most of the lubricant that it needs, but you still need a lubricant that will not dry up over a long period of time.    Generally we use something like Aeroshell G-22.    WD-40 and PB Blaster are NOT lubricants, and will eventually cause more problems than they solve.

As for the handles - yes this was a poor design - functional yes!   Eventually, between 1910-15 the design was changed to incorporate actual bolt work, instead of the handle cam arrangement.    Many of the early models the "handle" was ONLY meant as a PULL device, and had nothing to do with the locking of the safe.    If this is the case with your model, then you can tighten the bolt as the handle really does nothing.   Sorry, I can't tell what you have by the photo you included.

As far as its "FIRE" and water protection - while it was designed for fire resistance, it was not designed for water protection.   Safes were actually NOT tested for their ability to protect from fire until after 1914.   Prior to that it was simply test by fire.   Some safes worked and some safes didn't work.    There was no standardized methods for testing until UL began testing in 1914 and the Safe Manufacturers National Association began testing in the early 1920's.    Even then many manufacturers didn't take advantage of standardized testing until AFTER WWII.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Gotcha. Then its better i take it to a locksmith and have professionally cleaned and lubricated. Id hate to cause damage.

My safe locks the door by literatlly screwing a screw into a hole in the frame of the safe. Like youd tighten a bolt to a nut. Once tightend you turn the dail and this throws a bolt into one of the not hes in a solid steel ring collar on the insdie preventing the handle from beimg turned and thus unscrewed and ooened. Whem the safe is opened the handle is really loose. So im assuming this is correct.

Hi James,

NOT a locksmith - you want a trained safe technician, at a local safe company.

Based on your description of the door, either this is correct, or it has been modified to work this way.    I would have to see it.

I wouldn't worry so much about its total operation as this is just going to be a display item.    While you do want it to operate, so that you can open it up, hopefully you don't plan on using it on a regular basis.  

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland Safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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. 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

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 - 2013 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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