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US Safe Co Yale Lock
US Safe Co Yale Lock  
QUESTION: One of my friends recently discovered a locked safe in his new home. The former owners never opened it, we all are assuming it to be empty. I haven't seen it, only the attached picture, but it's a United States Safe Co. model with a Yale lock. I would assume, because it is set in the wall, that it is a smaller one. We're all curious, what is it probably made from, did this manufacturer have a broad set of manufacturing techniques for general consumer models? From the location in the wall of his house I would doubt that it is anything more.

ANSWER: Hi WIlliam,

Generally the lock installed on this safe was either the Yale OB (4 wheel) or OBB (3 wheel) locks.     The three wheel lock gives you about 1,000,000 and the four wheel version about 100,000,000 possible combinations to test!

In general, previous owners DON'T leave stuff in side of safes!    The caveat would be a death in the family, but usually family members want anything inside the safe.    So chances are it is going to be empty.

This company was in business from about 1905 until the early 1930's, possibly another victim of the Great Depression.

I'm not sure what your questions concern about the manufacturing techniques.   You will have to be a bit more specific so I know how to answer your question.

As far as this being a wall safe, it isn't.    Though it is built into the wall, I'm willing to bet there are wheels and castor supports under the safe, that it is actually sitting on.

These were fairly standard model safes for the time, offering minimum burglary protection and fire protection.    They were designed for small business or personal use.

What other questions do you have???

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QUESTION: Thanks for your prompt reply, all the information you gave was exactly the sort of stuff we were curious about!
To clarify my question, what were these sort of safes built from? Is it solid metal, layered, laminated, insulated, or some combination? How much would it probably weigh, or, if we removed it from the wall, could we use the weight to gauge its construction?

Hi William,

We classify these safes as "cast iron" construction, however that isn't actually, factually correct.

While the "frame" of the door and door jamb ARE cast iron, the rest of the safe is built from angle iron, plate steel, what ever insulation material the manufacturer used and of course the cabinetry on the inside.

The insulation material can be a number of different materials depending on what that particular manufacturer decided would be best to keep heat and/or fire out of the inside of the safe.    Materials included mortar, gypsum, plaster of Paris, alum, sand, water, asbestos, air pockets, etc. etc. etc.    Suffice it to say that your safe is probably, mostly a mortar, gypsum, plaster of Paris mix.

The insulation also provided "weight", so that the safe couldn't be easily moved, however the manufacturer then installed wheels and castor supports - to make it easy to move.    As the general purpose of these safes was FIRE protection and NOT burglary protection, having wheels on it was not of paramount consideration.

The corners of the safe are made from angle iron with plates of steel, generally around 1/8" thick - sometimes more, sometimes less, riveted together.    The interior between the inner and outer walls would be filled with the insulation material, poured into the safe - upside down.    After the material had baked or dried, the bottom would be sealed with another layer of steel skin.    

As far as the weight goes, sorry but I don't have enough information about your safe, however you can do some basic math based on the size of your safe, thickness of the walls, etc.    As Concrete weighs about 150 lbs per cubic foot, and steel weighs about 42 lbs per square foot 1" thick, you can do some figuring to come up with an "estimated weight", however you will need access to the interior to measure the thickness of the walls, the interior dimensions and the exterior dimensions.

Hopefully this gives you some answers to your questions.  

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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

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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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