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10 must have tools for vintage toy restoration V2

10 Must Have Vintage Toy Restoration Tools

1st Edition – December 2023

Here’s 10 tools and materials you’ll need to do a quick and basic restoration

Vintage toys are not cheap! They’re rare, and getting more rare and expensive by the day. This means that unless you’re seriously cashed up or exceptionally lucky, most of the items you buy will need a serious cleanup or full restoration. So do you just throw it in the laundry tub, and give it a spray down? NO! You need the right tools and materials for the job.

PACKAGING & BOX RESTORATION

An ironing board and a thin cloth are the key tools for flattening out boxes, but there’s more tricks needed to really fix up those damaged areas.

Book Binding / Archival Glue
or Acid-Free Neutral PVA Glue
for general box repair

Not the regular cheap PVA used by kids!

Regular PVA will cause the colors to run. Make sure you get the proper archival variety! Great for re-attaching ripped areas, broken side flaps, closing damage and fluffy cardboard.

I’ve reviewed what’s available in the US, UK, and Australia, and linked products that either I’ve used, or which look like the right type and I’d buy myself.

USA: Amazon US | eBay US
UK: Amazon UK | eBay UK
AU: Amazon AU | eBay AU 1 or 2

Other countries: Look for ‘PVA acid free’ or ‘ph neutral PVA’.

Kraft Paper Tape
for repairing holes and tears

An excellent material for repairing all kinds of damage on cardboard boxes (used on the inside) it blends with the non-printed internal cardboard better than regular tape, and its water-activated glue helps it mold right in. Especially good at reattaching flaps and acting as an internal base to repair holes and tears on the outside.

Kraft Tape
Kraft Tape with a K – but be careful, there’s several types.

Avoid this: Self-Adhesive, Gloss , Reinforced
Get this: Dull matte version (as pictured) which has the water activated glue.

Global: Buy on AliExpress
US: Buy on Amazon US
UK: Buy on Amazon UK

Other countries: Look for ‘kraft tape’, avoiding anything that’s self-adhesive, reinforced, or appears shiny/glossy.

Lighter Fluid / Zippo Fluid
for removing stickers and evaporating without damage

There are many good ways to remove stickers from boxes, but most of them will damage the surface or cause ink to run or fade. Lighter fluid will do its job and then evaporate, leaving no sign it’s been there. Obvious warning: flammable! For adults, do not use near flame or heat.

You will need to apply it liberally around the sticker or gunk to be removed, squirt it right up under any loosened areas. It will look like it’s left a greasy mark, but let it dry and that will vanish.

US: Amazon US | eBay US
UK: Amazon UK | eBay UK
AU: Amazon AU | eBay Australia

Other countries: If you don’t have Zippo brand, I expect other lighter fluid may work the same so long as its clean burning.

Acrylic Window Sheets
for replacing damaged box windows

Replacing the damaged window is a must if the existing one is preventing you from pushing the car back into the box, but what material to replace it with? Acrylic? PVC? Acetate? How thick or thin?

Photo of clear PVC sheet
10 Must Have Vintage Toy Restoration Tools 11

This needs a whole article in itself, with Pros and Cons of each material (scratch resistance, UV resistance, clarity, etc.) however the most important factor for me was simply thickness. I went for 0.3mm in my video ‘How to Replace Clear Window on Vintage RC Car Toy Box‘, which was too thick, I’ll be going for 0.1mm next time.

US: Amazon US 0.1mm and 0.15mm
UK:
eBay UK 0.1mm | Amazon UK
AU:
eBay Australia 0.3mm | Amazon AU 0.1mm

Other countries: Look for ‘clear PVC sheet’, acetate also works, but check pictures to ensure its not hard/solid.

CLEANING VINTAGE TOYS WITHOUT DAMAGE

These are the products I enjoy using when first receiving a new, dirty model from overseas that’s sat in someone’s shed gathering dust and dirt for decades. Most important is avoiding damage to the stickers, so any home chemical cleaners must be avoided.

The #1 item I use for the initial clean to remove the bulk of dirt, dust, and grime is…

unscented baby wipes
10 Must Have Vintage Toy Restoration Tools 12

Unscented Baby Wipes! Of course! And if you have a kid, you’ll either already have them, or not need an excuse for buying more. It’s perfect! Just be careful not to get stickers moist.

Now on to the less obvious stuff…

Weicon Multi-Foam / Multi-Schaum
An excellent cleaner that evaporates and won’t leave sticky residue

Sometimes an item is so filthy it needs more than water, however you don’t want to use anything that might damage the stickers, melt the plastic, or leave a sticky residue.

I’d seen this recommended a few times, and had to try it myself – and it is good stuff. It won’t damage or discolor plastic, and evaporates leaving no residue after you wipe.

Warning – Most stickers are fine (those covered in a thin layer of plastic), however I’ve found the paper stickers Taiyo / Tyco uses inside the battery compartment can bleed / run as they’re uncoated. Be careful.

US: Buy on eBay USA
AU: Buy on Amazon AU
UK: Link to an independent supplier

Other countries: Check for a Welcon supplier in your area, usually there’s an exclusive distributor in each country.

Super Clean Gel
For corners, inside wheels, and hard to reach areas.

After you’ve done your general clean all-over with baby wipes, and used Multi-Foam on any especially dirty areas, go over it all again with this cleaning slime. It will change from a bright color to a much darker shade, showing all the extra gunk picked up!

It’s also fun to use, relaxing, and will leave your item clean and shiny. They’re all a little different, so my advice is to buy a few different ones to see what you prefer.


USA eBay USA | Amazon US
UKeBay UK | Amazon UK
AU eBay AU | Amazon AU

Other countries: Look for ‘super clean’ and ‘magic cleaner’.

Ultra Soft Detailing Brush
always have at least one

Probably the most useful physical tool for cleaning has been my soft brush, which I first got from my wife (they’re basically makeup applicators) but cheap versions are now sold online for cleaning purposes, typically as car detailing brushes and work just as well.

They have an uncanny ability to clean without water, so are great for electronics, and just general nooks and crannies that are impossible to reach with anything else.

USA eBay USA | Amazon US
UKeBay UK | Amazon UK
AU eBay AU | Amazon AU

Other countries: Look for ‘ultra soft’ detailing brush, usually with the fluffy white tips.

Microblading Cotton Swabs
The Q-Tip’s Pointy Cousin

Often the hardest part to clean is the tiny little indent lines along an RC vehicle, or other areas that only a razor might fit in, but you can’t use that without scratching. So what to do? Microblading swabs!

You’ll love these! But be careful, as under that cotton is wood, so use it delicately. There are also plastic stick ones with a blunter tip, I’d not recommend these for several reasons.

USA eBay USA | Amazon US
UKeBay UK | Amazon UK
AU eBay AU | Amazon AU

Other countries: Look for ‘microblading swabs’ at your favorite store.

REPRODUCTION DECALS / STICKERS AT HOME

For most people I’d recommend you purchase pre-printed stickers from Nostalgia RC , however for those who are creative then you can create your own stickers and print them at home quite easily.

Equipment Needed

I’m not going to cover the process of creating the artwork here, but the basic tools you’ll need to do the job are…

  • A camera to take photos of the car and existing article. This is critical both as guidance for the art, but more importantly for scale and sizing.
  • Adobe Photoshop and/or Adobe Illustrator to create and prepare the artwork
  • A color printer. It doesn’t have to be special – I’m using an Epson ET-2810.
  • The right ‘paper’ to print on.

Vinyl Sticker Paper for Ink Jet and Laser Printers

In the past, obtaining quality stickers and printing onto vinyl was difficult and expensive. And while it’s still not super cheap, it’s doable.

What to look for
Be careful when selecting the right product. Initially I’d thought I’d wanted transparent (clear) film to print on, however after placing my first transparent sticker on my black Wild Thing I realized how incredibly stupid I’d been! (the print was barely visible, it needs a white backing). Transparencies may work well on certain color models, but not black. For this reason I’ve gone with the white vinyl sticker paper and it works well.

Probably the weakest link in printing your own is finding something that’s nice and thin – a professional print shop will offer you premium grade ultra thin decals, however the selection and thinness of paper on Amazon and eBay may be less diverse, depending on your region.

AU: Amazon AU | eBay AU – this is what I’ve used so far, would like something even thinner in the future, and will update if I find it.
US: Amazon US
UK: Amazon UK
US/UK readers: I’ve not tried any brands available to you, so I’ve prepared the correct keywords in the links above so you can find one you trust that meets the right specification. What I haven’t included is how thin, and ideally you should try to find the thinnest available, however it’s rarely mentioned in the actual product specs.

What’s Next?

More is coming!

  • Glues and Plastic Restoration
  • Paint Removal without Harsh Chemicals
  • Airbrush and Painting
  • How to Fix Chrome
  • Electronics and Wiring
  • Replacement Springs
  • Hand Tools and Other Useful Gadgets!

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