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Antique Safes/THO's BARNES safe questions


I have a few questions about a safe I picked up a few days ago.  Can you identify the year and model it was produced.  Is it rare because it is painted "THO'S BARNES PITTSBURG, PA. 6460" That is different than the others I have seen online.  The S&G lock has the last patent date of 1871. I have read your 2 other answers about Barns but mine is a bit different.  I have posted several pictures on my photobucket account.

The lock works, but unfortunately the guy I purchased it from said his building collapsed and the safe sat outside face up for a month and filled with water.  He also mentioned that the old lady he bought it from said it was from the Barnum Bailey's Circus.  I have no documentation that it is true, but a neat back story.

I am also would like to know a few things about doing the restoration;
Will it hurt the value to replace the wood inside or should I reuse it.  What type of wood is it made out of.  If I do reuse it I would like to open up the bottom and correct the shelves on each side of the lock box.  One is missing and the other is broken.
Does anyone make the combo resetting key for the back of the lock?  Or are old ones available?
If I take the lock apart to clean it will I need that key to reset the lock?
What do you recommend for filling the dings on the edge and what type of primer and topcoat should I use?

I am sure I have alot more questions but lets start there.

Thanks.  ..Tim

Hi Tim,

I'll see if I can answer some of your questions - but first let me address "photo bucket".   If you would like me to check out your safe closer, I would be more than happy to, however you will need to send the photos directly to me - sorry but I don't do photo drops - they don't allow the necessary inspections that I need and the resolution available is not usually adequate.

Now back to your safe.   Up through at least 1876, Barnes safes were listed as being built in "Pittsburgh, PA" - that would be PITTSBURGH with an "H".    Some time around the late 1870's Pittsburgh was briefly referred to as "PITTSBURG" without the "H".   In 1911 the name was officially restored, though I've found many newspapers that were still resistant to the change through at least 1916.    I'm not sure when Barnes Safe & Lock made the change, but it was possibly before the early 1880's.

As far as the patent date on the lock - it has nothing to do with a "manufacturing date".   This was ONLY an indication for when "THAT" particular patent was issued, and in this case, the patent was for the lock and not the safe.    Patent's would be listed for up to 20 years, or as long as the patent that references that particular item was in use on the lock.   What this date does indicate is that the "LOCK" could NOT have been manufactured prior to July 14th, 1871.
The lock that this patent refers to was S&G's "C60 series lock", in this case either the C62 (4 wheel), or the C-66 (3 wheel) rotary bolt lock.    This lock was eventually replaced by the S&G 6810 series lock in the early 1900's.

If you are referring to your safe being different from other safes you've seen, due to the paint job - sorry, but it really isn't as different as you would hope for.    Barnes safes, like many other manufacturers at the time at several paint schemes available, just like most manufacturers.   You can buy the "plain Jane - off the shelf version", or you can get a slightly upgraded model with some art work, or you could get a much better quality paint scheme which in some cases bordered on Picasso type art.   Again, this wasn't unique, the majority of the safe companies were doing the same thing with their safes during this same period  (1875 to 1900).

As for the story, as you've indicated, without documentation it is simply a story.   Unfortunately the majority of the people out their today believe EVERY story regardless of the source, and with no documentation of any source - what's that line they use - if you can find it on the internet it HAS to be true, because you can't lie on the internet!   LOL

Too bad about all of the water damage.   You definitely want to get on top of that, to make sure it is dried out and all rust immediately addressed.    Any restoration work will quickly be destroyed by rust.

The wood inside the safe doesn't appear ruined, but the photos you provided don't allow me much examination.   As you are the one actually looking at the safe, YOU will have to decide how much is recoverable and how much needs to be replaced.
As for its value - let me ask you - if you were going to buy a restored safe for display, would YOU be more interested in having a perfect interior, or an older partially damaged interior??
As your safe as no documented history, then there is no reason to save damaged items.    Think about the manufacturer, if you had the chance to talk to Thomas Barnes to ask him about the condition and purpose of your safe, to you believe that he would want it to remain in a decrepid condition, or to be restored to as near to new as possible, so that it would still provide some use for years to come???

Manufacturers used a lot of different wood, including Ash, Birch, Oak, and Walnut.   Changing the type of wood will have less bearing on the value, than on the work that you do.   Use the existing design to give you some ideas about the style, and then rip it out, and put some new cabinetry in.   Don't forget to sand and paint the walls with a rust preventive type paint.

As far as parts and tools for your safe, in general the answer is no they don't exist, and there is no aftermarket manufacturer - sorry the market is too small to support aftermarket locks and parts.    So your options are limited to finding them in someone's collection and offering them enough money to part with it, or finding another similar safe to use for donor parts, or finally having a machinist manufacturer any parts you need.

Obviously if you have the necessary skills to fabricate missing parts, fabricate new cabinetry and to paint the safe in the style it was originally, then making this a DIY job is a great way to go.   On the other hand if you don't have any of these skills, then you WILL have to sub much of the work out.    Just like any other restoration project, break out the wallet and prepare to pay some $$$'s to have the work done.

My recommendation as far as the locking mechanism is to contact a safe technician from a local safe company.   They can clean and service the lock, and make sure that everything is working correctly.   they can either recover the current combination, or they should be able to reset the lock to a new combination of your choosing.

As far as paint - sorry I'm not a painter - remember Dirty Harry???   A man's GOT to know his limitations.    I would recommend that you discuss the paint with a local paint store that can supply everything that you need.

Depending on the damage to the paint and surface of the safe, you have a couple options.   My first recommendation is before you do ANYTHING, photograph and document any art work fully, so that you have templates to work from.    You can cover the safe with clear plastic sheeting like visqueen to allow you to copy the art work, pin striping and lettering exactly.  Again, this will give you a template to work from.

Afterwards if the art work isn't salvageable, it may be necessary to strip the safe to a bare surface.   If sand or bead blasting is available, you might have it surface cleaned.    immediately apply a rust preventative primer.   Then I would recommend using a fairing compound to give you a smooth surface.   make sure that your fairing compound is compatible with the paint you plan on using.     paint and sand your base coats until you have a nice looking, smooth surface.    You should be ready for your art work, pin stripping and lettering.

If your art skills are not up to the job, it would be a good idea to have an artist available, you can use a professional artist or sign painter, or you might discuss the project with a local community college or university's art department to see if they might be interested in taking the project on as a restoration item.    If not they still might have some really talented students willing to work for some $$$'s.

After the art work don't forget to protect the surface.   Originally the manufacturer used a varnish, and this is still a good way to go, however there are better options available - again - discuss it with your paint supplier.

Hope I covered most of your questions - and I'm sure you will have more.

If you would like me to look at your safe, I would be happy to, however as mentioned I don't like and/or use photo drops, so you will need to send photos directly to me.

In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.  

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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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