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Antique Safes/Stiffel and Freeman safe


QUESTION: We inherited a Stiffel and Fremman Co. safe.  We need to have it moved and we were told that it could contain asbestos and therefore been unsafe to move and use.  Is this true?  Can it be safely moved and used?


ANSWER: Hi Dave,

The Stiffel and Freeman Safe Company was NOT a known user of asbestos as an insulation media.   This company was in business from 1896 until the late 1920's.   An easy way to find out for  sure, to ease your worries, is to have the insulation tested.   If you don't have a local HAZMAT testing facility, you can obtain a "do it yourself" test kit from most hardware stores and possibly CVS Pharmacies.   You can also order one on line by going to:

Follow the instructions and send the sample in, with the testing fee to the lab to obtain the results.

Even if your safe has asbestos, there are some simple rules to follow for it to be safe.
#1 Asbestos ONLY presents a health risk "IF" if becomes airborne, AND
#2 it is inhaled.

As long as the material is sealed inside of the safe walls, it poses little threat.   Don't let the Eco-Nazis and ambulance chasing liars (I mean lawyers) on TV scare you.    As with anything a little common sense and prudent care will keep you safe.

IF the safe does show that it has asbestos, then you can cross that bridge at that time, to determine whether or not you want to keep it or dispose of it.

There are literally 10's of thousands of safes still in use and/or in collections in the US, today, that are being used, which don't pose a threat, as long as the asbestos is sealed inside of the safe walls.

So what are your options ???

#1.    Your safe, and the manufacturer was not a known user of asbestos.    Move the safe and use it.
#2.    IF you have any doubts, have it tested.

Hope this helps.

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

QUESTION: As a follow-up, do you recommend that the safe be moved by specialists?  Should it be serviced during the move process?  The safe has been used indoors for decades and seems fine.  can the lock mechanism be damaged if moved improperly?  We live in the northern Philadelphia suburbs - any companies that you could recommend?

Thanks again!


Hi Dave.

In general - yes.   I do recommend using a professional safe company.

The problem with heavy items like safes is that gravity is not your friend.  If it gets away from you, it will get away really fast, taking anyone and anything in its way - especially if its on wheels.

If the lock or dial is hit during the move, it can change the combination or damage the lock.

Safe companies generally move safes up to thousands of pounds.   We top out around 10,000 before we have to use a rigging company.    We anticipate everything that can go wrong, not only to protect the safe, but the workers and the surrounding environment - things like walls, floors, tile, steps and stairs, etc. etc. etc.

One of the nearest companies that I would recommend would be:

Wilson Safe Company
3031 Island Ave.,
Philadelphia, PA  19153

We do a lot of work together, back and forth, so I'm very familiar with them.    Wilson Safe has been in business for around 100 years.

Hope this helps.

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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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