In part one I removed the lock case and got that working again. My next step was to disassemble the safe door; the levers, bolt cylinders and bolt cylinder guides, along with all the bolts holding everything in place. [I'm not sure my terminology is quite right but you get the idea.]
In the last blog I wrote that this building had been abandoned for a number of years. What I hadn't realized is that for many of those years, the roof had collapsed in, exposing everything to the weather (and pigeons, too!). The above photo gives a good idea of how cruddy everything had become. I was very worried that the bolts would be completely corroded into place but one good turn revealed some very good news...
The bolt heads were a bit corroded to the surface but the rest of the bolt was undamaged. They were in such good shape, in fact, that after breaking the initial bit of corrosion loose, I could unscrew them with my fingers.
The parts looked awful as you can see below. They were covered in loose rust, pigeon droppings and penetrating oil that the owner had put on everything to help loosen it up.
I knocked the worst of it off in the washtub and then moved onto the wire wheel on the bench grinder.
After cleaning the first part, I discovered that it threw out so much rust and dust that everything on me became coated in the stuff, including my nose, mouth and eyes, hence all the safety gear you see me wearing.
All the spots where the bolt cylinders moved through the guides came apart surprisingly well, usually needing no more than a good thump with a steel mallet and wood block to loosen them. All of them, that is, except for ONE particular piece that had been on the bottom of the safe door and seemed to have collected the most water and droppings. No amount of pounding and PB Blaster was getting me anywhere so I took the offending piece to Ripley Products Company where he heated it (a bit hotter than he would have liked) but finally got it loose.
The result was pretty impressive for a safe that looked like a lost cause. Below are some before and after pieces.
To clean out the holes that the bolts and bolt cylinders went through, I used a dremel wire brush and drum sander to get it shiny smooth.
All in all, I probably put in around 40 hours cleaning all the parts up and even then, they weren't in perfect condition. Early on in the process I consulted the owner of the safe and discussed his options. While it would have been possible to clean each part to the Nth degree and even get them re-plated with nickel, he was realistic about the money he was willing to spend on this project. I think this is a good attitude because, for me, much of the beauty of an antique like this lies in its function rather than its appearance. It gives me a lot of joy to think of all the people working on this safe over 100 years ago knowing that what they created and installed will once again be up and working and still carrying on with its original function.
Next month: Putting it all back together again.
Sandy Eisele is owner of Peninsula Locksmiths and loves to talk and write about all things lock related.