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Antique Safes/restoring a HHM safe


brass plate
brass plate  

I inherited a HHM safe from my Dad he bought it from a very old hardware store that took it in trade for merchandise. It appears to be of a business size. It's a 3 bolt fire safe the back of the door is original paint as it still outlined gold trim. There's a very large brass name plate on the inside. The rest of it has millenniums of paint. Where the original paint can be seen it's very thick layers. The door is about 2 3/4" thick and side walls are 2 1/2" ----- height including wheels 44" -- depth 26" -- width 30". wheels are about 4" - hinges including caps about 11" the front bottom facing is scalloped by way of wheel attachments to bottom of box. The interior is gutted -- have seen some picture of interiors they seem to look like a plywood material w/ some felt looking material. I'm guessing could make the interior a blank slate - the dial was hit hard it's partially bent and wobbles when spun. See no model or serial # would like to restore it to what it might have looked like. The paint I'm sure has lead and would sandblast off it would take forever to chemically remove. it looks like it's a fire safe though no seal on door. Any info would be great. Thank You I have taken about 20 pictures of it don't know which would be most helpful

Wayne, as I am not a painter nor woodworker, I can't help you there other than recommending you contact Matt Lamborn.  He has a lot of pictures of safes he has restored on his Facebook page.  Regarding the bent dial, it is often difficult to get it straightened without removing it from the safe.  Ideally, installing it in a lathe chuck allows you to identify exactly what needs to be done.  The steel spindle and brass dial are soft enough to get it straightened without using excessive violence.  It is a bit more difficult but definitely doable with it in a vise, if you have a good eye and adjust it slowly.  Getting the dial out of the safe requires the wheel pack, spline key, drive wheel and possibly the lock case be removed.  At least some of the locks have a hidden floating retaining plate behind the case that needs to be lifted in order to remove the dial.  If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself, find a old timer safe locksmith to help out.  Doug  

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Doug MacQueen


This unusual and highly innovative safe from the later 1800's is a Corliss. William, the much younger brother of George Corliss of steam engine fame, spent several years perfecting this design and it was first displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia U.S. Centennial Exhibition. I do extensive patent research helping me in the study of antique U.S. safes and safe locks. Repairs and part making for antique U.S. safes of the early to mid 1800's, both key and combination. Also the study of early round door chest designs up to and including cannonball safes of the early 1900's.


40 years in the lock and safe trade with a stint in bank service work. Openings, repairs and moving of safes of all types.

Charter member Safe and Vault Technicians Association SAVTA, National Safemans Association NSO, National Antique Safe Association NASA. No longer current.

SAVTA monthly magazine

CMS (Certified Master Safecracker- NSO) and CPS (Certified Professional Safe Technician - SAVTA)

Awards and Honors
2nd place national combination manipulation contest 1986 and now in 2016 1st place

Past/Present Clients

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