How to get a safe out of your basement

About a month ago, I asked for suggestions on how to get a huge safe out of my basement without the need for a full body cast. I'm now dutifully reporting my progress.
I called a couple of local safe companies to come and take a look. Each of them looked the safes over, looked at the access, turned and fled. This tipped me off to a few things:
1) Getting the big safe out in one piece was gonna be a mother. 2) The safes themselves had little worth. 3) I was on my own.
But Mr. Larry Caldwell had clued me in on how safes are constructed. Namely an outside layer of fairly thick metal, gypsum filler, and a thin inside layer of metal. This was confirmed by one of the safe guys before he left skid marks in front of the house.
I don't own a cutting torch, but I do have an angle grinder and a recp saw. Off to the blue borg for implements of destruction. A few metal cutting blades, a few metal cutting disks and down to the basement.
At this point I should mention that I have a 4-year-old boy who (for now) thinks that everything I do is the coolest thing ever. He is almost always at my side during hardware store runs and while I'm doing projects. He has his own safety glasses and ear muffs. And so it was on this day as well.
I figure I'll start small, so I bolt a cutting disk into the angle grinder and go to work on the top of the small safe. The grinder unleashes a 6 foot long gout of sparks from the safe. It makes quick work of the first cut and the disk is only about half chewed through. So far so good. I turn to look at my son who is sitting cross-legged on the floor on the other side of the basement. He looks at me, pauses, then says "That was the coolest thing ever!" with wide-eyed astonishment. Yes, it's good to be the daddy.
So I make the next two cuts and now I can pull the sheet metal back to expose the gypsum filler. I try beating on it with a hammer, but it's too soft to do much good. I manage to dig out some by driving a cold chisel into it. Once I have some room to work, it comes out in big chunks. My son gets in on the fun by giving it a few whacks and helping me pull out the big pieces.
Now the inside is exposed. Back to grinding. This time it goes even easier. In no time, I'm inside the safe. And there's something there. An old shoebox. So I pull it out and it's heavy. It's full of rolled change. Even a few bills. There's a bank bag with more change, a few pieces of silver flatware, and another shoebox full of rolled pennies. About $200 total. More than I was expecting, but I can't retire on it. Darn.
Now that I'm inside, there's a plate screwed to the inside of the door. I take it off and the combo is written on the inside. *Now* I can get the door off.
After a break, I tackle the beast. I go to work on one of the sides. I burn up a whole cutting disk just making the short cut across. I grab the recip and see if that works any better. Actually, it does if I start a hole with the grinder first. And so it goes, alternating between grinder and recip. I takes more work to get through this, but it's not too bad. After I peel off the metal, I'm left with a wall of gypsum. But this stuff is much harder and solid than what I encountered with the small safe. Good. I grab a small sledge and start wailing away on it. It breaks apart like soft concrete. Quickly, I'm to the interior. The recip makes short work of it and I'm inside.
Now you know that if I found something in the small one, that the big one *must* contain even more wealth. Jewels, cash, land titles, stock certificates, who knows! It was, of course, empty.
But at least I now know how to get the damned things out of the basement. We'll be getting a dumpster to get rid of some garbage that was left in the yard, the bits 'o safe will get thrown in there as well.
Many thanks for all of your suggestions. I appreciate your help.
--
Joe Wells

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Just out of curiosity - isn't gypsum made with asbestos? Hope you took the necessary precautions beyond goggles and earmuffs!
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PhotoMan wrote:

Some. Through the late 70's http://www.motleyrice.com/asbestos_mesothelioma/asbestos_products_with_asbestos.html
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Not even close. Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral; it isn't "made with" anything.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
Save the baby humans - stop partial-birth abortion NOW
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On Tue, 05 Aug 2003 16:00:18 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

So is asbestos. It is a by-product of vermiculite mining.
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And your point would be....?
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
Save the baby humans - stop partial-birth abortion NOW
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On Tue, 05 Aug 2003 10:13:51 -0500, PhotoMan wrote:

Gee, I hope not. Gypsum is what's in sheetrock. We'd all be screwed.
--
Joe Wells

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I guess you're ready for Geraldo Rivera the next time he goes looking into hidden treasures. LOL!
Congrats on the progress (and for being a kids hero.)
Jim

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And he found a lot more than Geraldo did, too.
---JRE---
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It goes to show a couple things. First, a fellow with common sense and some energy can do a lot of interesting things.
Second, a man with enough tools and time can open just about any safe -- just need enough tools and time.
Third -- please take that bag of coins and bills to a coinshop, they may be worth more than you think.
To my knowledge gypsum is fairly nontoxic, and should not contain asbestos.
--

Christopher A. Young
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. It's full of rolled change.

Joe, I don't remember you ever saying how long those safes have been there, but before you spend the change, check the dates on the coins to see if they are of any collector value. Pre 1964 (I think) they would be silver and worth more these days than face value.
Good luck (and share with the four year old assistant)
Charlie
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there,
they
Plus, they make a much more pleasant "ting" sound when they clank together!
Seriously,
If you ever find two or more real silver coins, shake them around in your hand together and listen.
Then take a couple of those zinc/copper sandwiches they call quarters, and try the same thing, and see how dead they sound.
Just another bygone pleasure future generations will never know about.
(In fact, some people reading this might not think this is true. All I can say is, try it. You may have to borrow a couple silver coins (or buy) from a coin store)
Rufus
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On Tue, 5 Aug 2003 21:20:54 -0400, "Rufus V. Smith"

I dont know what any of this has to do with the safe in the basement, but you will probably need to either remove the stairway, or cut a hole in the basement wall, and then use a piece of heavy machinery to remove it. Unless you know about 4 weight lifter guys who will volunteer.
As far as the gypsum, that is NOT the same as asbestos. Drywall is gypsum. It's a kind of plaster...... Where some people get these ideas, I will never understand !!!
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On Tue, 05 Aug 2003 14:42:05 -0400, Charlie Bress wrote:

I haven't taken a good look at the coins yet, but the most recent ones I've seen are from the late '70s. There are a bunch of Bicentenial half-dollars and quarters as well as wheat pennies. Not sure if any of it is worth more than face value, though.
--
Joe Wells


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wrote:

Nice story, Joe.
Hope you guys popped open an orange soda to celebrate!
Have a nice week...
Trent
Dyslexics of the world ... UNTIE !
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Joe Wells Spilled my beer when they jumped on the table and
<Story snipped>
Cool story! Thanks!
NOI
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Does this mean that all those safe-cracker movies with drills, acetylene torches, and dynamite were just "fiction" ?
Sounds like all you need is an electric outlet ( grounded or not ) a hand-grinder, and several cutting discs......
On Wed, 06 Aug 2003 06:10:05 -0400, Thund3rstruck

<rj>
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The safe cracker stories I've read are part truth and part fiction. I'm guessing there is a LOT of truth.
The fellow was working on a fire safe. Had he been working on a burglar resistant safe, it woulda took longer.
--

Christopher A. Young
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I would think that all is needed is an oxygen lance. I worked at a rockwool plant, and if the furnace ever failed, you ended up with a large steel vessel packed full of solid rock. A small oxygen lance would cut through the steel and rock like butter -- don't see why it wouldn't work very nicely on a safe as well. Mind you, I wouldn't bet too much on the contents of the safe being useable after you had cut into it :-)
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You're dealing with steel. Safes often have layers of highly conductive metals such as copper to draw heat away.
--

Christopher A. Young
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