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Antique Safes/Many Thanks/cleaning Macneale & Urban safe


Macneale & Urban safe
Macneale & Urban safe  

Macneale & Urban safe
Macneale & Urban safe  
First 1000 THANK YOU's for this blog as today it helped me open a Macneale & Urban/Hamilton,O/A.Wies & Co.Agts/Chicago letter dial safe locked for 51 years. I want to clean the great art scene on front and the whole safe w/o damage to patina and know if it has any value.
It has pitting and some rust spots but colors are still quite viable. Do you know its age and still not accept cell phone photosm (those are the only ones I have at present)

Hi Ann,

Glad that you were able to get the safe opened - that by itself saved you a bunch of money.

But first I have to make a couple corrections - As far as All Experts is concerned - I'm just a volunteer here.    I have nothing to do with its presentation or content, it is a great service, but it isn't mine.

Second is the use of the word "patina"!   This is the second most abused words in the English language when discussing "old stuff", only second to "vintage".

Patina has nothing to do with the "old" look of your safe.  Patina is the green oxidation which occurs on Bronze, Brass, Copper and Silver.   With the exception of possibly some bronze statues, copper roofs and/or the statue of Liberty, oxidation is NEVER a good thing.   The brown, worn color of your dial and handle is NOT patina, it is dirt, wear and metal fatigue, based on the acid in the oil of people touching it over 100 years.    If you want to leave this condition on your safe, to keep it looking older, that is fine, but it is NOT patina.

Other than rusted scratched and/or damaged areas, the biggest problem with the paint is the aged varnish.   If you want to bring a lot of the colors back to life, then you need to remove the old varnish.   This must be done extremely carefully, one layer at a time until you are back to the painted surface.    At this time any paint restoration can be done as well, and afterwards a new coat of varnish or clear coat to protect the surface.

I would recommend that you discuss various cleaners and/or varnish removers with a local paint company, and then carefully use it on hidden areas like the back of the safe, until you learn how to carefully remove the old varnish, one layer at a time.    Yes this is extremely time consuming, but considering the safe has been waiting for your care for over 100 years I think it is worth it.

As far as dating or evaluating the safe, I will need photos and yes they need to be GOOD quality, high resolution photos so that I can look at your safe, as if I was standing in front of it with a magnifying glass.

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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