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Antique Safes/repaint a 1939 safe


We have been asked to repaint the door on a 1939 Schwab safe/ vault. I do not have much more info than that other it is approx 7ft by 4ft . The historical society is very concerned with this,due to it being in a historical federal building . We are not being allowed to do much prep on it and are just being asked to turn it black and not damaging the emblems or pin stripping on it . It would be nice to know what type of material / paint is possibly on it or what should be used to re-coat it . Any help at all would be helpful   the color we know is Drop Black

Hi Richard,

First question - where did you come up with a date of 1939???   Manufacturers never put dates that containers were made on them.

Second item, Historical societies rarely impress me.    While there intent is good, there direction and focus tends to be very narrow and misguided in many cases.    While having a safe from 1939 may be a "neat" display, unless it played a significant historical role, in a significant historical event, then it is simply a display and NOT a historical display.

In general, Schwab safes were fairly PLAIN JANE type safes.    There was nothing special about them and basically they were little more than office equipment, designed to protect documents from fire (heat).   That's it - no better, no worse!

If the safe has a specific decal or emblem on it, it was possibly added at some point, by someone other than the safe manufacturer.    As you didn't provide any photos of the safe or the emblem, I can't address that item at this time.

Basically, Schwab safes had several standard, basic colors.    Any special colors would have been requested by the purchaser from a sales agent or safe distributor, and painted by them.    Standard paints were oil base paints and colors were Olive Green, Brown, Black and Beige.    Other colors used included Red, Blue and White.   I have no idea what "Drop Black" is, as it is not a color as much as a type of paint in the form of drops or pellets.

As far as types of paint available, I would recommend that you contact a local paint store to pick from something available, that meets your historical societies color demands.

Unless you have a very good painter to work with, trying to paint around an existing emblem or decal is probably going to look very amateurish especially if the decal is not an original part of the safe.

Sorry I can't be of more help at this time, but its sounds more like the problem with this restoration is the historical society itself, NOT the actual project.

Good luck with it though.  

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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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