Antique safe restoration in Chicagoland?


Old 02-13-16, 12:32 PM
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Antique safe restoration in Chicagoland?

Hi all,

I'm unsure of where exactly to post this on the forum. Mods, please move this to the appropriate sub-forum, if necessary.

I'm looking to buy an antique safe that I'd like to get restored and customized close to its original glory. I was thinking of doing some light DIY to it myself before sending it off, but I believe it's a task that's best suited for a professional.

However, if there's a recommended step-by-step instruction that I can follow to do at least some of the DIY work and if it means less restoration cost, then I'll be up for it. Please note that I don't have any major equipment such as a sandblaster. I do have a bench grinder and other "typical" garage tools for the amateur-intermediate level DIYer.

In any case, is there an antique safe restorer located close to Milwaukee, WI, or in Chicago or the greater Chicagoland area?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-13-16, 01:18 PM
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You might try locksmith companies that do safe work.
Old 02-13-16, 01:22 PM
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If you have any antique malls in your area, maybe you could find someone there or someone that knows someone.
Old 02-13-16, 01:35 PM
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I'd definitely try to get it done locally, preferably in its final resting place. Those things are super heavy. Shipping it may be terribly expensive.
Old 02-13-16, 03:23 PM
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What needs restoring, just the outside?
Any car body shop could handle that.
Places like on that show American Restoration are few and far between.
Old 02-13-16, 08:25 PM
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Outside and inside will need restoration. I'm not sure how good the lock is either.

I'm trying to find a restorer nearby the place I have to purchase it from.

Maybe they can pick it up, too, not sure.
Old 02-13-16, 08:47 PM
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I was doing on-line searches for safe refinishers. Apparently there are only a few in the country.
None I located are anywhere near you.

I'm guessing you should check with locksmiths in your area and see if any of them can point you in the right direction.
Old 02-13-16, 08:55 PM
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Post a few pictures so we can get an idea of what you need done.
Old 02-13-16, 10:23 PM
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Here are the pics from whom I'm planning to buy from:

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Old 02-13-16, 10:52 PM
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I agree with joecaption I too believe that any good body shop could do the work for you. It would be an odd request and you might get a few laughs over the phone, but once they know you are serious they might do it depending on how busy they are. As for an antique looking finish I doubt you will get that at an auto body shop but it will look better than it does now.
Old 02-14-16, 06:25 AM
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This would be an excellent diy project if you were up for what is required.
What sort of restoration do you want?

This would not be a complicated project.
It is obvious someone painted over the gold leaf on the front that would have looked like what is on the inside of the door.
You would do well to try to determine the year and make of the safe and I am sure you could find examples of what the safe should look like.

The first thing you need to do would be to strip the paint on the outside and that could easily be done with a small angle grinder and a wire wheel.
You then follow up with hand or machine sanding to make thee surface as smooth as possible.
It would then be possible to either send the safe to a body shop for painting or diy by using aerosol spray paint if you have a space to do that.
There would be lots of choice of good paints in a can that would closely match the color and sheen.

The part that would make the most impact would be the decoration and a sign painter should be able to do that.
modern sign painting actually involves making a computer generated decal that should match the original artwork exactly.

If you wanted to diy there are many here than can help further.
Old 02-14-16, 09:30 AM
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Yeah, I may be able to do some of the work, but I'll need to know what I'm getting myself into first.

Here's a similar looking safe below that shows what it should look like when it's all done.

Though, instead of the gold color, I'm thinking red gold colors to accent the borders and letters.

The interior would have to be changed completely in terms of what's inside (e.g. no carpet lining, remove all but one interior lock box).

Maybe an auto body shop can do the finishing touches on it (e.g. car wax/polish, detailing, etc.). They certainly can handle the weight of the thing, given that they deal with much heavier stock.

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Old 02-14-16, 09:34 AM
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First it needs to have all the paint [and rust] stripped off, then you'd make any repairs to the metal [if needed] prime and paint. Since I have spray equipment I'd consider it a diy doable job. If that doesn't work for you I agree with the suggestion to try a body shop. They should be able to give a rough estimate off of the pics.
Old 02-14-16, 10:23 AM
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Here I would look for a small "mom and pop" auto paint shop. They would probably be hungry for work and be happy to see you. You might try a local community college art department to see if they would be interested in the decoration as a project.
Old 02-14-16, 12:18 PM
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If you are interested in doing the restore yourself you might be interested in viewing you tube videos of a Victor safe restoration by Keith Rucker of
He volunteers at Georgia Museum of Agriculture restoring antique machinery.

Find him at [URL=""[/URL]

or vintage

Have fun!

Old 02-15-16, 06:07 PM
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Thanks everyone for all of your help!

I'm going to have to think through all of these options.
Old 03-24-16, 02:30 AM
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How is the project coming along? I'm thinking about a similar project.

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