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Antique Safes/W.H. Butler Safe


Andy, I texted several phone photo's to Steve to see if there was any interest in the Butler. I've restored several dozen 1800's safes over the years, but this one I'm going to spend some time on. It was originally painted woodgrain to make it look like a piece of furniture. I've done several safes in old crackle style, off white paint to make it look real old, but I've not attempted woodgrain yet. I bought a graining tool and am going to practice on some sheet metal until I get the hang of it. The interior panels on the doors still has the woodgrain that was done by Mr. Butler. Do you know if they used varnish on top of the brown leaded paint in the Civil War days?
Greg Kline

Hi Greg,

I'm not sure if he showed them to me or not, I've had about 2 dozen requests to look at safes today alone.

Best thing is to send them directly to me at:

My recommendation if you are interested in doing the woodgrain type finish would be to contact either David or Desmond Siah in Singapore.   This is one of the styles that they are very well versed in.

Generally yes, all the manufacturers used varnish to clear coat and protect the safe paint.    As old as most of the varnish is on these older safes it leads to severe yellowing and/or crazing of the finish.     I have people tell me all the time that their safe looks like it has been through a fire, but they have no records of these.    I have to tell them it's simply the really old varnish.

I'm not sure what you mean by "interest in the Butler".    If you are looking to sell the safe, then no.   We do not buy older safes.   We are simply not in the antique business.    That doesn't mean that we don't acquire and/or do some restoration work, it simply means that is not what our main business is.
Are we interested in your safe, yes I'm interested in all of the old safes that I see, and I love to see people that are interested in restoration work.

Great idea to practice on a separate piece of sheet steel BEFORE starting on the safe.    I've got one of the tools however little kids with crayons have more artistic capability than I.

Good luck with it and yes I would like to see what you actually have.


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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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