Locksmithing/mid 1800's Cary Safe


Hello Andy,  I just acquired a mid 1800's Cary Safe . It is a safe in a safe. Weighs about 1,000 lbs.  
The combination dial is damaged and I was wondering if you carry new or refurbished dials and or locks.  Also wondering if you refurbish safes like this?  I'm disabled now and used to love working on stuff like this, but I'm unable to now due to a severe neck injury. I live in California and if there is anything that you can advise me on, that would be very much appreciated.

Thank you, Lee

Hi Lee,

I'm not sure where you came up with the "mid 1800's" time frame which would be around the 1850's, as the Cary Safe Company didn't even begin until around 1878.    Fortunately I've been keeping track of every Cary safe I've ever run across to narrow down a time frame or date of manufacturing - so I can probably get within one or two years of the actual date it was made.

NEW or Refurbished parts???? there is no such thing.    This company has not been around since 1929, so unless you have a time machine you aren't going to find ANY new parts.   Refurbished - again, no such thing.    Any parts that are around are coming off of salvaged safes which were not worth saving - too much damage.    So parts are VERY few and far between - and if available can be very expensive.

Before we go looking for old parts, lets take a look at what you actually have to see what condition they are actually in.

There are multiple problems with safe restorations.    First, they take a back seat to ALL regular work, which means that it can take quite a while.   We aren't in the business of only restoring safes, its an extremely small portion of the business.   Second, because there are so many stages from prepping the safe, painting it, polishing and replating the bolt work and locks, etc., many people are involved and everyone of them has to fit it into their schedule.   Lastly, restoration work isn't cheap you can easily spend from $1000 to several thousand dollars to have it restored.

Unfortunately, unless you come up with your own group of people to do your restoration, there are only - MAYBE -  1/2 dozen guys in the entire country doing this type of work.    One of my friends on the east coast just finished a three year restoration job.   I've currently got one in for paint that is going on about 10 months now.   

Obviously, this type of work can be done much quicker if I dedicate my guys time to this project only, but that means that you are paying full bore for labor, instead of us fitting it in to dead periods.

Last problem with restoration work, which is why many companies shy away from this type of work, is the customer.    You will have an idea in your mind of what the finished project will look like.   This doesn't always match what's in the eye of the metal fabricator, body worker, painter, etc.    While we try to work as closely with the customer as possible and have you "sign off" on many of the steps along the way, this still doesn't mean that it is going to be exactly what you envisioned.    Most companies would rather do a restoration job and then find a buyer for the project.   This way you are getting the safe as is, with no preconceived ideas about the finished project.

I would be more than happy to look at your safe for you, but right now, I'm not taking on any new projects like this until the end of the year.    If you would like me to look at your safe, I would be more than happy to.

In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos.  They should include full exterior and interior.  Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage.  Note:  You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.

I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe.  If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.

Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe.  Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container.  Note:  with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email.  If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.

Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution.   Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination.   Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.

Please send all of the requested photos to:  andy@securitysafeusa.com

Note:  As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity.  Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.

Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.



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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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