You are here:

Locksmithing/interior safe removal


inner safe
inner safe  
QUESTION: Hi there.

I'm about to more a rather large old safe and I can lift the doors off in order to remove some weight from the overall beast.  Inside, there is a smaller safe that (given the weight of the door) I can only imagine weighs quite a bit on it's own.  (perhaps it's just the door?)

I'd like to remove the inner safe for moving and restoration purposes but there are two very large screws in the back of it.  My question is, would it be likely that there is more holding this small interior safe in place other than the two big screws?  I don't see any sign of spot welds, rivets or anything like that but I haven't moved the wood away yet as it seems like it has been adhered somehow.  There is nothing visible or obvious other than these two screws but I thought I'd ask before I waste my time and possibly damaging the screws attempting to remove it. (I'm not even sure where I'll find a screwdriver large enough if I'm honest - picture includes a standard sized pen for scale in relation to these screws)  

Thanks for reading.

ANSWER: Kevin,

In "general", interior chests, are built into the safe during construction, and are VERY difficult to remove.   It would appear though (based on the photos you provided), that this container may have been an "add on" unit.   The two screws may be securing it to the back of the container.   That being said, you may be destroying the wood to remove it, complicating the restoration process.
As stated, in "general" interior chests were not welded, but built into the safe during original construction, which means that it could have been fastened to the interior walls, before the insulation material was poured.   In many cases the only way to remove this chest would be to destroy the outer safe.

My recommendation would be - AFTER removing the two screws, "IF" the container does not easily remove, then leave it in place, and perform your restoration process around it.

While understand your need to remove the container to lower the weight, it may only lower the weight 200-250 lbs.   steel is basically 42 lbs per square foot, one inch thick, so it should be fairly easy to calculate how much of a weight savings you will actually accomplish.   It's hard to tell from the photo, but the walls don't appear to be over 1/2 inch, and the door about 1 to 1-1/2" thick.   Again, without actual measurements, I'm just estimating, but using the weight I've given you, it would appear that the container would be around 150 lbs and the door about 90lbs.

If you don't have the equipment to safely move the container in "as is" condition, then removing a small amount of weight is not going to make a lot of difference.   If stairs or steps are involved, as the actual safe is probably in the 1200 to 1500 lb range you will definitely need specialized equipment.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: That does help a lot and thanks.  

I do have the proper equipment to move it but I wanted to lessen the weight as it needs to first move roughly 100 feet in order to get it to the machine / boom, that will remove it from the building.  I have a pallet jack BUT the safe is in a position such that I can't slide the forks under - so I have to move and turn it by hand with the assistance of steel bars, leverage and muscle - only 20 feet or so.  (should be fun)

It would certainly be easier to pull the wooden shelving out to refinish but if it's adhered, I'd rather spend the extra time to refinish an original one than just buy a new one.  I'm pretty sure it's glued to the small safe somehow.

I'll take your advice and undo the screws (once I find a big honkin screwdriver) and see if it's free.  I agree that it looks to be an add on but if not ...... plan b and leave it alone.

Again, I appreciate the speedy response.


yeah,  the wood is probably glued down.   Usually they would hand fit everything,  and then glue the heck out of it.   Very few nails or screws were ever used.

If your pallet jack doesn't quite fit,  you might try straddling two wheels,  across the safe - left front to right rear,  for example. If the jack won't go high enough,  use blocks to lift.

Good luck with the move.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 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. 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 Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

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 Expert 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 and Western Nevada)

©2017 All rights reserved.