Locksmithing/Art Metal Safe


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QUESTION: I have a very Large Art Metal Safe (image Attached)that I am trying to have opened. It came with the apartment and according to the company whom owns the building, the safe hasn't been opened in 50+ years.

There are a few problems that I have faced since trying to get the safe open.

1. I don't have the right knowledge or equipment.
2. All of the door hinge pins have been removed.
3. The handles have been removed.
4. The combination dial has been removed.

Could you give me some insight on how to open this safe the safest and most cost effective way possible? Is there anything I should take into consideration?

Best Regards,


ANSWER: Hi John,

Several problems or "issues" come to mind with this container, so I'll try to address them with some statements of facts and some questions to try to help you come up with solutions.

1.  People DO NOT abandon safes with "stuff" inside!    With the exception of a death in the family, and generally family members don't leave them unopened.

Q.  WHY do you want to open this container???    If you think it is going to be full of treasure, I would recommend that you save your money and buy lottery tickets instead.

If you are thinking about using it - YOU have already provided a list of pieces and parts which are missing and need replacement.   Most of these items are NOT going to be available, which means that you are going to have to have them fabricated - VERY EXPENSIVE!

2.  This manufacturer was a known user of ASBESTOS as an insulation material.

Asbestos is considered a Hazardous Material (HAZMAT), which means that IF it becomes airborne and IF you breath it, you can have serious health repercussions.  

Before YOU try to have it opened, I would check what your local, state and federal regulations are pertaining to HAZMAT items, specifically asbestos.    There are rules pertaining to selling, transporting or disposing of HAZMAT items.   If the safe belongs to the  company that owns the building, or if they "gave it" to you, they may still be responsible for the item.    Ownership is not necessarily abrogated by "giving" something containing HAZMAT away, without dutifully notifying the new owner of the issue - REGARDLESS of whether or not they knew it existed.   

3.   "IF" the safe were upright, in working condition, with all the necessary parts present, I would have a couple options available for you, however in its current condition I only have one.

I'm not sure why you would assume that there would be a "COST EFFECTIVE" way to open the container.   This would be similar to taking a locked up broken car with missing pieces to a mechanic and asking for a cost effective way to make it work.    If you aren't coming to the table with a bunch of money AND a serious attitude about having it opened and repaired, then the answer is "NO", there isn't a cost effective way.

MINIMUM cost to have the container opened up would be in the $500 range, and that would NOT include any repairs or parts - it would only allow you to open the door to find all of the lost treasure - or possibly a couple rubber bands and paper clips (more than likely).

If you still want it opened, I would contact a local SAFE company - NOT a locksmith, to have their safe technician open it for you.   You can discuss various issues with them, such as cost to open only, possibly repair or restoration costs, setting the safe BACK upright, and/or moving or disposing of it for you.    Check the yellow pages under "Safes & Vaults" for a company in your area.

Whom ever attempted to try to get the safe open by removing the hinge pins, handle, locks, etc. has caused serious, expensive damage to what was at one time a working safe.     Getting it open is going to be the easy and cheapest part.    If you elect to repair the container, then you are going to be faced with fabricating necessary parts.

Lastly, if you elect to simply dispose of the container, I would check your local ordinances to find out what your liabilities are, and to check the cost.    Generally we dispose of similar containers for around $400 to $600.

So having it opened up - ONLY, and then having it disposed of, could set you back about $1000+

You MAY want to discuss the issues with the company that owns the building, as it may be their burden and not yours.

Hope this helps,  sorry the news probably isn't what you wanted to hear, but at least it gives you some directions.

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

QUESTION: Thank you for your reply.

The safe is currently standing upright so that may make it easier to open. I don't think that anything in in there, I would just like to have it open because its a very nice piece that could be used as an interesting storage unit.

I understand the costs will be upwards of $1K to get it opened I just don't think I want to pay for the fabricated parts.

Thank you again for giving me some clear answers to my questions.



ANSWER: Hi John,

Sorry, my bad!   The photo you posted came up sideways, making the safe "appear" to be laying on its back.

Just for clarification - it shouldn't cost you $1000 JUST to have it opened.   Anyone charging you that much JUST to open your safe should be avoided at all costs.   The $1000 that I mentioned earlier would be OPEN only (no repairs) AND disposal of the container.

Cost to have it opened ONLY should be less than $500 and THIS should include any mobile service charges and labor.

Cautionary note:   UNLESS the hinge pins have been replaced - DO NOT attempt to have the doors opened!!!    Large doors like this are very heavy, and as soon as they are free (if they are not "hung"), gravity WILL take over!!!     This can be an extremely dangerous situation if not done correctly.

Once the doors are open, you can have the parts made at your leisure, and/or if you don't want the bolt work, simply add several locking hasps to the doors, to provide you with a way of locking them.

Hope this clears up a couple things.

Check your local yellow pages under safes & vaults to see who might be available in your area.   If you don't have any safe companies, let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

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

QUESTION: Mr. Andreasen,

I live in Philadelphia Pa, 19106. Would it be possible to provide me with some names?

Thank you again for your insight. You are the first person who has given me some noteworthy answers. I appreciate your time.



Hi John,

Here are a couple companies in your area that I would recommend - in order, they are:

Wilson Safe Company
215-492-7100          Ask for the service department
3031 Island Ave
Philadelphia, PA  19153

JR's Lock & Safe Co.
856-809-9997          Joe Reustle
17 Horseshoe Ct.
Atco, NJ  08004

Houdini Lock & Safe Co.
215-884-2500          Larry Schwalb
932 Old York Road
Abington, PA  19001

Hope this helps,  


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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 AllExperts.com

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)

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