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LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

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00247

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Location: Wisconsin

Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:44 am

LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

In this thread I will share the rework of a Mosler screw door bank safe. This will be a detailed tutorial on the screw door anatomy and what it takes to bring it back to it's former glory that will be made in multiple installments. The safe is completed, just waiting for one minor detail to be addressed. A quick recap on how I came to own it from another thread:

This Mosler turned up after I ran a wanted ad on Craigslist. After a phone call I decided to pass on it as the price was to high and the time lock was missing. About a year later I ran across the phone number and called again but the story was still the same. Over another year passed and I happened to be passing through the town where is was and recalled the owners name so I tracked him down. The timing was right as he now wanted the safe out of his way and a deal was made.

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This Mosler is a rather cute safe, a little on the smaller size for a bank safe standing only 39" tall with a 24" square body, but that makes it a bit more easy to handle than it's larger cousins the cannonball safes. At around 1500 lbs. it is a manageable weight and it's compact size keeps it from being top heavy like the larger units. This one had it's original artwork although it was in overall poor condition. All the external parts were there including the door crank but on the inside the time lock was missing along with all the related linkage and hardware. The inner shelf was also missing. Fortunately, the decorative nickel plated rear door cover had been reinstalled, a very important piece. I thought I might find a time lock but didn't think I would ever see it functional as where would I ever find the other parts? The serial number on the nickel plated dome on the door pivot bolt dates this safe to 1915 according to the Mosler serial number ledger. It is over 100 years old and qualifies as an antique safe.

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This model screw door consists of the square body bolted to a cast base with wheels. They were also built with the wheels bolted directly to the square body. I can't imagine that made for a very user friendly design with it so close to the floor. Here is one such model.

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There also was a larger screw door safe that was about 28" square. It predates the smaller version with starting dates back to the 1890's and a slightly different construction. The weight was substantially more.

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I had assumed the safe body was a cast piece but had not looked at it closely. A center seam could be seen around the middle of the square so I thought it had been cast in two halves. Looking inside, cracks in the filler showed that there were bolts holding the assembly together. Closer inspection on the outside revealed the same bolts where they penetrated the outer shell and were ground off.

Seam marked in blue chalk.
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Inside bolt.
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Outside of the bolt.
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We will explore the construction in more detail once the safe is sandblasted. For now, the artwork had to be documented as I wanted to duplicate it as original as possible. Pictures, measurements and tracings of all lettering, stripes, and art were taken. All the nickel plated parts and the lock were documented, bagged, and stored away.

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For anyone looking for an old safe to restore, I would advise to find one as complete as possible. Parts are very hard to come by and get expensive. It is not uncommon to have to make parts and make bolts as once you get back to the early 1900's and earlier non standard threads start turning up.

For this safe the goal is to honor the original look of the safe but to bring the quality of the bodywork and paint up to modern standards. Some of the workmanship on this Mosler was terrible. How there can be two extremes from fine machining and fitting of the door to absolute crap work and hidden f'ups is beyond me. Perhaps cheap unskilled labor was the reason. I'll show some examples later.

I started the search for parts through contacts on several forums and of coarse Ebay, Right off the bat I hit pay dirt. A similar Mosler turned up in Florida on Ebay, complete but it had some structural issues. The owner turned out to be a keypicking.com member who I actually had some contact with previously before starting this project. He agreed to part the safe out and with one purchase I had a time lock, all the linkage and hardware, a spare lock, door crank, the inside shelf with special bolts, and a host of extra misc parts. I was off to a great start.

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In the next installment the dirty work begins. Stay tuned.
It is time... stand up for a constitutional America. Without it, we have shed blood in vain.
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MartinHewitt

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Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:35 am

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

This thread will be magnificent! Thanks!
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macavity

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Familiar Face

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Post Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:04 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

Yeah, this is getting good already! Keep 'em comming :D
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00247

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Familiar Face

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Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:04 am

Location: Wisconsin

Post Mon Feb 27, 2017 4:42 am

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

With the details of the safe's artwork and parts taken care of it was time to get started on the time consuming rework. First up is trying to get the door threads shaped up. The results will set the tone for the rest of the restoration. I was a little concerned what the results would be. It reminded me of what my mother used to say, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." Which reminds me of my first wife, but that's another story. If the door threads and jamb don't shape up to be respectable it is pointless to do the rest of the safe to a high level. These parts are raw steel and if not kept oiled and in a good environment rust soon sets in. This safe spent some time in an unheated shed so here in Wisconsin with changing temperatures and humidity rust had a good start on the surfaces.

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It takes a variety of tools to polish the steel. I use air die grinders with 3M EXL unitized wheels in various grits and firmness. Some are just under a grinding wheel and others are soft for polishing. It takes a number of different size and thickness wheels to get in the corners of the threads.

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It also takes a number of long hours of effort to get results. With persistence things started looking promising. One side of the door has some pitting but the Mosler machining is not the greatest so the textured surface hides it well. There is evidence of the cutting bit chattering when the pieces were turned and the machining has uneven steps in tapers and uneven cuts on flat surfaces. Despite less than impressive machining the assemblies shape up quite nicely. Note the pinion gear that is turned by the crank which spins the ring gear mounted inside the door cover. The pinion gear is nickel plated but has some rust. The joint where the threads are bolted to the stepped portion of the door can also be seen. By golly, the sow's ear is looking better.

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All parts of the safe are stamped with a production number. All pieces are hand fit and the numbers make sure the correct pieces are assembled together.

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Once the door is polished I go through several attempts to adjust it for proper fit to get a good understanding of it's operation. All this is done dry as I do not want to introduce any lubricants at this point that could cause contamination for the bodywork and paint. If the door operates good dry it will spin easily once lubed up after final assembly. The practice with the door is invaluable during final assembly to prevent incidents that could damage fresh paint.The pivot bolts for the door are threaded and are used to adjust the door u[p or down. This Mosler does not have any side to side adjustment as that is set when the crane hinge is mounted to the safe. If the hinge doesn't have any issues I would not recommend messing with the mounts. That could open up a can of worms that may be difficult to overcome. Mosler doors do not fit as tight as a Victor which makes them somewhat forgiving.

A trial fit of the "new" shelf was also done. It was a little too wide as it was hand fitted for the donor safe. I took a body file to both sides to remove some material while leaving a nice finish. With the notch cut in the front and the angled corners the shelf will just fit through the door if you twist it into one of the upper corners and then level it. It took a few tries to figure it out.

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Next time we will sandblast and see how this safe is put together.
It is time... stand up for a constitutional America. Without it, we have shed blood in vain.
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00247

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Familiar Face

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Location: Wisconsin

Post Wed Mar 01, 2017 5:32 am

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

After double checking that all the artwork was documented it was time to breakout the sandblaster. No turning back now. Sandblasting is always a miserable job but thankfully the materials on this safe blasted off easily. Once in it's naked glory some surprising clues were found as to how this safe was assembled.

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Some caution is in order when sandblasting to not force sand into the door gap or into the hinge joints. Sand in these areas could cause some major headaches especially with the door the next time you try to unscrew it. The joints were masked with duct tape and were cleaned up manually later. Note in this picture how the hinge mounts are bolted to the body. The bolts are leaded in and are covered with filler hiding their location. You can also see the ends of some of the bolts that hold the inner door jamb. Note the porous surface to the hinge casting, lots of body work required to make it look nice.

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With the door cover removed for sandblasting a repair to the teeth of the door ring gear was found. An interesting quality repair was done by machining a wedged slot, inserting a replacement piece, then drilling a hole (probably tapered) and pinning the assembly to lock it in place. A very nice repair.

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This picture shows the retaining ring that holds the rotating door assembly to the door cover which is mounted on the hinge.

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I had mentioned before that I had assumed that the body was two cast pieces bolted together. I was way off base on that guess. Each half (front and rear) is a sheet of 1" steel that has all four sides bent around at 90 degrees to form a box. How in the world they managed to make these sharp bends in 1" steel is beyond me. I wonder if it was done with the metal hot as there are a number of marks in the steel from working it. Each bent corner has a slightly different radius but they are pretty close. The joints in the other corners are hammer fused although one has cracked apart slightly. Arrows point out the hammered seams. You can also see some of the many bolt ends all over the sides.

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The door jamb and threads are bolted from the inside before the safe is assembled. Naturally all the machining and fitting of the door parts were done before hand also. This picture shows the 1" outside steel shell, a 2" stepped spacer that is bolted to the shell, and finally the 2.5" threads which are bolted to the spacer. All are bolted from the inside before assembly. Now it starts to make sense why all the parts were numbered to stay as a set. The door is 5.5" thick!

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When the two halves are put together they are held in place by a number of angles and flat plates all bolted from the inside with 5/8" bolts, lots of them. There was a good deal of fitting, drilling and threading involved in some thick steel. I feel for the poor bastard that had to tighten all those bolts from the inside! Especially with slotted heads. The walls are about 3.25" thick.

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Once the two halves were bolted together the center seam of the two halves did not fit tightly together in some places. A hammer and chisel were used to pinch the gap together.

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The base is a cast unit of decent quality. It does have some casting voids here and there. Like most castings the flat sides did have some warpage.

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This is a good time to check the surfaces to see how level they are. With a straight edge I check for high spots to grind down to prevent problems when applying the body filler. A little extra prep now saves a lot of frustration later.

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After sandblasting I like to wire wheel all surfaces to remove the gritty film that likes to attract moisture and start the rust process almost immediately. The sand also peens the surface and leaves tiny sharp edges that wire wheeling polishes off. Then it gets a complete scrub down with Prep-All solvent and a coat of epoxy primer to seal it. If the surface had been very rusty or had rust pits I would have shot a coat of self etching primer first, but the metal was in good shape so the epoxy primer will suffice. So far it has been a a dirty job and a lot of work. The next step, body work, is more of the same. Stay tuned.

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It is time... stand up for a constitutional America. Without it, we have shed blood in vain.
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00247

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Familiar Face

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Location: Wisconsin

Post Fri Mar 03, 2017 5:21 am

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

One other issue I had to deal with was wear in the hinge pin for the trap door that the lock is mounted to. The door sagged and would hit the notch in the door frame. Molser liked to hide fasteners with filler and under paint. The trap door is hinged on a hidden pin that has the ends ground flush with the curvature of the door. It also has two small bolts that lock the pin in place which are also ground off. The door had a lot of play in it and when I dissembled it I found the pin quite worn. I'm not sure why it would be worn as it is not necessary to open the door, just dial the lock and retract the bolt with the dial, and the main door can be rotated. I was surprised to find the final adjustment of the door is done by putting a bend into the pin. There was a small amount of wear in the door's pin hole but I was able to adjust the new pin enough to compensate. A small lubrication hole was added for oiling.

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Now the body work starts. Automotive body filler is used to correct the shape. Filler is spread on trying to get it as level as possible to lessen excessive sanding. The first layer is rough sanded out to show where more filler is needed and if there are any high spots in the metal. Remember, I tried to address that after sandblasting, but there is always a high spot that was missed so some touch up grinding may be in order. It usually takes three layers of filler with sanding between each coat, each layer getting thinner with the last just a skim coat to ride out slight variations. Most sanding is with 80 grit with final sanding down to 120 or even 180 depending on results.

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I usually get some questions so here is what I like to use. I'm old school, I started body work back in the 70's in high school. I prefer to do my sanding by hand. If you want it straight do it by hand. I may do an initial knock down with an air sander but the rest is done by hand. Like any trade, good tools make the difference. My favorite sanding tool is the AFS sanding block. It has three steel rods which can adjust it from rigid to flexible. It is tough enough for sanding filler yet delicate enough for blocking out primer perfectly flat. I also love Dura-Block sanding blocks as they are perfectly flat and come in a variety of shapes. I also use the old stand by 3M fiberglass sanders and rubber blocks plus a variety of flexible pads and even the stray chunk of wood. When it comes to filler I fork out the money for the best that Evercoat has to offer. 3m sandpaper is the best but I often use Norton to save a few bucks as it is almost as good. I only use self stick (psa) paper.

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Once I'm satisfied I have all surfaces shaped up (or I am sick of correcting little flaws) It is time for the first coat of primer. I use a urethane catalyzed primer that provides a lot of fill, cures chemically for no shrinkage, and is easy to sand. I use Nason which is the old Dupont line which is now called Axalta. When the first coat is blocked out you find out quickly how well you did with the filler. The highs and lows even if they are minute, will show quickly. Any imperfections will now show and with more filler or using a polyester glazing filler they can be filled and sanded out. Here is the first block out on another Mosler I am working on.

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Then more primer, blocking, primer, and blocking. By the third coat things are usually shaped up close to perfection but touch ups may be required. First coats are sanded with 120, then 220, and the final sanding before paint is down to 600 grit. I can't tolerate sand scratches in paint. Guess what I look for on show cars...

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Now it is time for paint. I am fortunate enough to have a dedicated paint room. Not a booth mind you, but it is a controlled environment with filtered exhaust, filtered heated make up air, and lots of light. I used a catalyzed single stage paint. While I want a great paint job, I don't care for the clear coats for this application. I am going for an original look with updated workmanship. Painting is always a challenge with Murphy usually showing up to F'up something. After a thorough wipe down with Prepsol, then a tack rag (anti static), careful mixing of the paint, and with some luck, the paint goes on as close to perfect as possible. Murphy was a no show.

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I followed up with a light wet sand with 2000/2500 grit to take care of a few dust specks and then a buff with Meguiar's compound and it is ready for artwork.

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Next we'll mop up a few other details and after that, artwork and assembly.
It is time... stand up for a constitutional America. Without it, we have shed blood in vain.
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Riyame

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Post Fri Mar 03, 2017 12:08 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

That is some truly amazing work.
PhoneMan: I always knew I'd say something stupid and it would be someone's sig
macgng: i am an equal opportunity pervert
macgng: aww fuck thats goin in someone sig :-(

If life gives you melons, you might be dyslexic.
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madsamurai

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Post Fri Mar 03, 2017 5:19 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

WOW! what a difference. She's gonna be beautiful... much respect.
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ratlock

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Post Fri Mar 03, 2017 7:07 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

I love the attention to detail you are giving your restoration.
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Altashot

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Post Fri Mar 03, 2017 7:16 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

One word: WOW!

M.
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Oldfast

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OldddffAASSTT the Spin Master Extraordinaire and American Lock Slayer
OldddffAASSTT the Spin Master Extraordinaire and American Lock Slayer

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Post Sat Mar 04, 2017 8:34 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

Look at that mirror finish?! Ha! Just fantastic.
What a treat to watch this in phases. Thanks
for all the time in documenting & sharing this.

Can't wait to see more.
" Enjoy the journey AS MUCH as the destination."
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00247

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Post Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:26 am

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

The nickel plated parts and the combination lock also needed to be freshened up. The parts that were nickel plated went to the the Chrome Shop in Neenah, Wisconsin. This was my first experience with this shop as I was not pleased with the last one I used. I drove over with the first parts to make it clear what I wanted. Once I established a rapport with the owner subsequent parts were shipped. I did the parts for this safe and another Mosler I started during this project. I don't like two projects going on at once but because both safes were so similar I did it this time. Thankfully, Moslers don't have too many plated parts, plating gets expensive. To reduce labor costs I prepped many of the parts. Remember that pinon gear with rust in the nickel plating? It's looking much better now.

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Parts to be plated were the locking bolts and domed cover for the door pivots, the pinion gear for the opening of the door, the parts for the ratcheting crank, and a few misc screws. The other Mosler also has a ratcheting crank, most of the same parts, but some are times 2 because it is a double door. There were three styles of cranks that were used on the Mosler screw doors and cannonballs. A smaller solid crank for the smaller screw door, the ratcheting style (optional) for both, and the standard crank for the larger screw door and cannonballs that is similar to the ratchet style but it has a a non ratcheting head and no directional button (not shown).

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The parts of the ratcheting crank. All hand fit and numbered.

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Here is the ratcheting mechanism. With a half turn it reverses the action.

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I had some fitting issues when it came time to assemble the cranks. The build up of copper and nickel made some parts fit too tight or not at all. A considerable amount of time was spent filing and buffing to get back to proper clearances. It was all worth it once the shiny parts are assembled.

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The combination lock used is a version of the Mosler/Yale 5H. This is a smaller version with only three wheels in the wheel pack. It is a gear driven friction fence model. The lock was in good condition just needing a good cleaning and a new coat of paint. This Mosler had the lock painted the same color as the safe, earlier models had the locks painted gold.

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The new paint has this lock looking proud and it is now sporting a nickel plated bolt for the friction fence and mounting bolts. This lock also has an odd bolt extension that is screwed to the initial bolt and also slides over the spindle support.

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Recreating the artwork and learning to gold leaf are up next time.
It is time... stand up for a constitutional America. Without it, we have shed blood in vain.
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Oldfast

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OldddffAASSTT the Spin Master Extraordinaire and American Lock Slayer
OldddffAASSTT the Spin Master Extraordinaire and American Lock Slayer

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Post Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:20 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

00247 wrote:I had some fitting issues when it came time to assemble the cranks. The build up of copper and nickel made some parts fit too tight or not at all. A considerable amount of time was spent filing and buffing to get back to proper clearances. It was all worth it once the shiny parts are assembled.

Ah, ok. Yeah, I was wondering just how much of a layer the plating would add to the pieces. So would you still do it all the same way? I mean, there's really no way to determine what parts/portions will be too thick after plating - so it's not like you could 'thin out' certain areas prior to having them plated? The proper way is what you did?... making the adjustments afterwards?
" Enjoy the journey AS MUCH as the destination."
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macavity

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Post Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:45 pm

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

Safes hold no particular interest with me, but proper restoration of venerable old things does.

This is one very interesting journey to follow, and I admire your level of perfection and craftsmanship immensely!

Can't wait for the next installment!
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00247

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Familiar Face

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Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:04 am

Location: Wisconsin

Post Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:48 am

Re: LET'S REWORK A MOSLER, SHALL WE?

Oldfast wrote:Ah, ok. Yeah, I was wondering just how much of a layer the plating would add to the pieces. So would you still do it all the same way? I mean, there's really no way to determine what parts/portions will be too thick after plating - so it's not like you could 'thin out' certain areas prior to having them plated? The proper way is what you did?... making the adjustments afterwards?



The issue could have been avoided for the most part. I recall the plater asking if build up would be an issue. I foolishly said that I could take care of it if it was a problem. After all, how much could it build up, right? I might be slow but I'm not stupid and I learned my lesson well. He has the pinion gears right now for the double door and they fit with minimal tolerances. We had a discussion about where plating should be and where it can't. He can tape off the areas to prevent plating in those spots. The parts were sent with full documentation showing what needs to be done.

It is interesting that the build up of the copper and nickel is not the same in all areas. Depending on the flow of current through the part while it is in the tank, material will build thicker where there may be edges or a thickness variation of the part. When trying to get a good finish on these old turds they end up putting on quite a bit of copper in order to buff the finish out smooth.
It is time... stand up for a constitutional America. Without it, we have shed blood in vain.
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