Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

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drillpoint
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Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by drillpoint » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:33 am

Since it was soon after the Civil War it isn't too hard to figure out how they came up with this idea for a safe. This particular one was made by Marvin of NYC. It is a 26" cast ball and has a 4" wall thickness. This chrome iron was some pretty tough stuff to drill, especially on the outer surface. I have read that it could cut glass. Anybody know how hard in Rockwell that would have to be? Doug
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hammermill
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by hammermill » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:42 am

not sure how hard it is. but the good thing is you have it open and know the combination.

looks like its maybe over 100 years old

is it a solid round sphere or does it have a flat bottom??

Harold_V
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by Harold_V » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:46 pm

That's really interesting. I have a passing interest in cannonball safes---having seen a couple of them years ago when I purchased an old US post office safe. Both of them were built on an arm, and raised for easy access. Yours is truly a "cannon ball", in that it lacks the arm and other features. Way, way cool.

Glass isn't all that hard, although it is reputed to be. I expect you'd have success scratching glass with something as soft as 50Rc. Drilling material that hard would be difficult, but could be managed with persistence. I expect the safe isn't any harder than that, and likely somewhat softer. It may have a very hard surface, however. High carbon steel, properly heat treated, would be too hard to drill successfully, especially by hand. It's capable of hardness beyond 60Rc.

Harold
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SteveM
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by SteveM » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:40 pm

Remember that when that thing was built, hard to drill meant with a brace and bit, not a Walker Turner drill press.

Very cool!

Steve

drillpoint
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by drillpoint » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:04 am

The cannonball pictured was the first of the cannonball safes, of which there were many types, especially in the early 1900's. It is round on the bottom and sits on a very small 4 leg metal divot framework. It was much harder on the outside, very similar to drilling the chilled cast iron Corliss cannonballs which came out in the mid 1870's, but maybe a little harder. Certainly not as nasty as the later cast manganese steel cannonballs of the early 1900's. Chrome iron, which preceded chrome steel, was made from iron ore having a naturally occurring high level of chrome (Chromeisen). This was similar to the Speigeleisen and Franklinite high manganese iron ores that were used to make cast manganese iron plates during the same period of the mid to later 1800's. By the early 1900's cast chrome steel and Hadfield manganese steel had replaced the earlier cast iron alloys in the safe making trade. And they did have drill presses when this safe was made in the late 1860's. Sometimes it is hard to imagine how advanced machining was back then but remember, steam locomotives and ships (think about the "Ironclads' of the Civil War) were already around. And these required some huge and pretty sophisticated machines to make. Doug

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steamin10
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by steamin10 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 12:43 pm

Nawww! Maybe a post drill for making barn joints, and the Blacksmiths shop. But such equipment for drilling a safe was very advanced at that time. Places where they cast Iron guns and plates for the War effrot, were very special, ablbeit primitive by todays standards.

No my romp through history of the times, would make such a safe nearly impregnable compared to todays situation, where we have plasma cutters and massive column drills in so many places. I believe the home handy guy could open the double door monster I have, in about an hour with a backyard shop. The old Mosler I have is nearly, a ton, concrete filled 1920's security. Knock it over and go in the bottom, brute force, smash the tumblers, and it will pop.
Big Dave, former Millwright, Electrician, Environmental conditioning, and back yard Fixxit guy. Now retired, persuing boats, trains, and broken relics.
We have enough youth, how about a fountain of Smart. My computer beat me at chess, but not kickboxing
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drillpoint
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by drillpoint » Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:14 pm

It is true that at the time when these different types of cannonball safes were made, they could not be drilled with the existing high carbon steel drill bits to achieve forced entry. These were designed to be burglary safes against hammers, punches, wedges, drills and explosives. Your Mosler sounds like it is a fire resistive safe which is quite a bit different animal. Doug

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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by Harold_V » Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:42 pm

drillpoint wrote:It is true that at the time when these different types of cannonball safes were made, they could not be drilled with the existing high carbon steel drill bits to achieve forced entry. These were designed to be burglary safes against hammers, punches, wedges, drills and explosives. Your Mosler sounds like it is a fire resistive safe which is quite a bit different animal. Doug
Yep, I'd agree.

The old safe I spoke of, the post office safe, was made by Sergeant-Greenleaf and was intended to resist the common methods of cracking safes for the day. It's laminated and has nitro seals around the door. Walls are right at 2" thick, and it has no insulation. It is not a fire safe, and is actually pretty poorly rated as safes go, but it was quite the safe in its day.

While I have no information on the date of manufacture, I would guess the turn of the 20th century.

Harold

edit: corrected spelling
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drillpoint
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by drillpoint » Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:06 am

This is a great example of a chilled cast iron Corliss cannonball a little over 5' tall. Made by William Corliss, the much younger brother of George Corliss, the steam engine builder. This particular safe was made in the late 1880's or early 1890's. Again with a very thick wall where the white iron outside slowly turns into gray as you get deeper into the casting. it weighs in around 10,000 lbs. The front half and rear half are screwed together and pinned from the inside. Inside is like a Lazy Susan ball, with the door face on one side and the inner compartments and shelving on the other. Like the first safe I posted, this is a burglary safe and was tested by the US Army for the US Treasury in 1892 with heavy loads dynamite and nitro. Passed with flying colors Both the locks in this safe and the first one were made by Sargent and Greenleaf, which by the way, is still in business today. No piece of cake here. Doug
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Harold_V
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by Harold_V » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:25 pm

drillpoint wrote:Inside is like a Lazy Susan ball, with the door face on one side and the inner compartments and shelving on the other.
So the inner ball isn't on center---it's the face of the inner ball that we see, and that's why it appears different in each view? How cool is that?
How hard is it to rotate the inner ball?

Harold
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steamin10
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by steamin10 » Fri Jun 24, 2011 2:44 pm

Yes, I agree, a fireproof safe. 2hr rating. If in a fire, it is meant to be in the heart of a structure fire, and survive the fall into the basement, when the structure collapses, and in theory, be below the hot spot of the fire, and in cooling waters, saving the paper contents and valuables..

The Cannon Ball safe, which I believed to be an Oddity, Seems to be more than just security, but a statement of power also, as any safe would be. They are rare, and I have never seen one personally, but have owned a dozen or so 'modern' store, and business safes, that are a mere eggshell by comparison.

Those are impressive.

My research on safes, told me the favored method for 20's and 30'3 safe cracking, was very simple. ########################$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$###################$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%.

Edit: Uh, I decided to erase the method I was told that gave about a 9 of 10 success rate. I think it wiser to leave sleeping dogs, uh, sleep. No offense to the board, but certain things should not be posted. :roll: Sorry.

PS. 1 Mosler safe for sale. Freshly painted cranberry, and striped. Must bring own truck. Approximate weight #1400 lb estimated. On iron wheels. 8)

2nd safeabout 30 inches cube. Painted Black. Also striped. has iron wheels for movement. Bring small truck. :mrgreen:
Big Dave, former Millwright, Electrician, Environmental conditioning, and back yard Fixxit guy. Now retired, persuing boats, trains, and broken relics.
We have enough youth, how about a fountain of Smart. My computer beat me at chess, but not kickboxing
It is not getting caught in the rain, its learning to dance in it. People saying good morning, should have to prove it.

drillpoint
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Re: Cast Chrome Iron Cannonball Safe circa 1868

Post by drillpoint » Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:04 pm

Yes they are impressive. And to think that was one Corliss's smaller models. The big one weighed 32,000 lbs. This was at the beginning of the big vault door era. Regarding the door mechanism, it was connected to the internal vertical center pivot and was moved in and out of the body aperture to lock/unlock via a large acme screw. Then locked by a large expanding steel ring into body jamb like a huge C-clip. Mechanically the Corliss is a very interesting study and took several years to perfect. Doug

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