Antique Safe and Vault Information

Antique Safe & Vault Experts


Dave LaBarge, of LaBarge Lock and Safe Technicians, is a nationally known antique safe and vault expert who regularly receives calls from across the country for advice and information from bona fide safe and vault technicians.  Dave has been a member of SAVTA, the Safe and Vault Technicians Association since 1987 and has authored numerous trade journal articles on antique safes as well as today's modern security equipment. 

Locked out of your "Old Black" safe???


We commonly receive calls concerning "old black" safes that no one knows the combination or has lost the key to.  Many have sat in basements or barns for years, or even decades, rusting away.  But the owner continually there anything in that "old black" safe?  Probably 99.9% of the time the safe is empty but there has been times when true treasure has been found, but that is a very rare exception.

Safe Openings by Manipulation


Many antique safe locks can be manipulated open.  That is opened without drilling the safe door or body.  The senses of sight, sound and touch are used to determine the combination lock's numbers and the order in which their dialed.  Not all combination locks dial the same, and while most have three or four numbers some locks do have more.  If a locksmith or inexperienced "safe technician" can't determine which lock is in the safe he won't be able to open it without causing unnecessary damage.  

Safe Openings by Drilling


Not every combination lock can be manipulated open for a number of reasons.  

The age or condition of the antique safe's lock, lack of servicing for decades causes lubricant to dry and harden preventing the lock from working properly.  When that happens the safe may have to be drilled open.  

A common myth about safe drilling is that the safe is no longer good after drilling.  If drilled open and repaired properly the safe should be usable and still provide the intended fire or burglary resistance.   

When an unknowledgeable or inexperienced  locksmith drills an antique safe open you may end up with numerous holes or worse yet, one very large hole possibly destroying the safe.

After Opening Repairs and Servicing


While some safe openings are "Open Only" where the customer only wants to see if there are any contents many still do want to use their "old black" safe.  We can professionally repair your safe and then service your safe lock's operating mechanism.  This ensures that you can enter your safe when you need to and not leaving it "to chance" of getting your safe open again...

LaBarge Lock and Safe Technicians can provide you with the professional safe and vault services your security equipment requires.

Need parts for your antique safe?


Are parts missing from that old black safe that's been in your family for decades?  Do you have dreams of restoring the safe for display in your home?  We have many antique safe parts in stock available for purchase.  Whether your missing a safe dial & dial ring or missing the entire safe lock we may be able to help you.  If we don't have your part in stock we can probably find that part or parts for you due to our extensive safe and vault industry contacts. 


We also sell and rent antique safes and safe parts to the movie and film industry.  Whether you're looking for that certain looking antique safe dial and/or handle for your custom safe or vault stage set or an entire safe for your "safecracking movie" we may have what you're looking for.

Feel free to call us at 518-271-0783 for more information or email good quality close up pics of your safe and any info you can provide to:

Due to the excessively large number of out of local area "telemarketer" calls, as well as state laws against driving while talking on a cell phone, we may not answer out of our local area calls but if a voice mail is left your call will be returned as soon as possible.  

Antique Safe and Vault Hazards

Hazardous Safes???


Some antique safes and vault may be hazardous to your health.  Aftermarket devices such as tear gas vials were installed by salesman during or after the safe was sold to the customer. Other hazards included asbestos insulation and lead paint used by some safe manufacturers.

Tear Gas in Safes


Many companies made various styles of tear gas devices and containers however, they mainly had one thing in common.  They contained one or more glass vials containing a clear liquid which when exposed to air gasified leaving noxious fumes leading to temporary blindness and nausea. 

Tear Gas Vials and Housings


Tear gas housings and canisters came in many configurations from single vials, the most commonly seen dual vials, to four, six and eight vial housings.  While most were long, tubular vials some were rectangular or even round vials fitted over the safe dial although the most common type of tear gas vials were usually fitted over the lock on the inside panel of the safe door.

Asbestos for Fire Insulation


Asbestos is know to have been used as insulation in a number of antique safe manufacturer's safes.  Usually it was within the safe door and body in the from of asbestos matting described as "monolithic insulation".  Only testing the material in a certified laboratory can prove if the insulation does contain asbestos.

Safes Known to have Asbestos


While a number of safe manufacturer's are known to have made safes with asbestos insulation such as AllSteel, General Fireproofing, Remington Rand, and York, there are a number of antique safe makers that are suspected to have used asbestos but have not been known to have been tested for it.

Lead Paint in Safes


Although banned from most uses since 1978 Lead paint on the exterior and interior of safes and vaults cannot be absorbed through the skin but may be considered hazardous if continually handled and then absorbed into the body by inadvertently breathing it in or ingestion.