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Locksmithing/Tilton & McFarland safe


Andy,  I have an old 1860 Tilton & McFarland Safe that was salvaged from a building in Cambridge, MA prior to demolition.  It is cast iron with key lock entry and I'm told it used a "flat key" which is sheared off in the front door lock.  The key hole is very narrow and no part of the key extrudes that you can grab to remove.  Any suggestions how to get the key out?  I would like to sell the safe but I think it would sell better if I had an original key to the lock.

Hi Rob,

Yes, I'm very familiar with these locks and have about 6 of them on my work bench right now.

The key is trapped by the lock, to release it the handle has to be turned so that the cam mechanism, raises the lock levers up, then the key can be removed.

Note:   I recommend that ANY attempts to remove the key are done with the door OPEN, this way you can't accidently lock it shut.   It may be necessary to remove the lock in order to remove the broken key, however I don't recommend any of this as a DIY project.   In fact I don't recommend even using a locksmith or safe technician who isn't already familiar with this safe and this type of lock.

While some of the Tilton & McFarland safes had maintenance access doors to the locks, just as many had them covered over with their insulation mortar.    Removing the mortar to access the lock is NOT an easy task, and then it has to be repaired to return it to its former condition.

It is possible to remove the key from the front with special tools, but again, this is not something I recommend as a DIY project.

I would need to know where you and the safe are located (zipcode), so that I can see whom I might know and/or recommend in your area.

Probably the first person I would recommend in MA, would be:

Philip Shearer, of
Lock Defeat Technology
990 Washington St.
Hanover, MA 02339

Give him a call and discuss the matter with him.

Hope this helps,


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

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 - 2014 - 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)

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