Volume VIII, Number 2

By Craig Mueller

I recently came across an old Tootsietoy boxed interchangeable truck set from around the late 20's or early 30's. The truck and accessories where in nice shape, but unfortunately the box had been severely chewed up by a rodent, and could not even function as a box. This article explains how I attempted to save an important piece of toy history from the trashcan.

I first took a sharp exacto knife and split the few seams, that remained intact, so I could flatten the box parts. I then color copied, both the box lid and bottom, both outside and inside, on white cardboard stock.

At this point, I had four one-sided sheets, which were then cut out. Next I lined up the insides and outsides of both the front and back and applied a thin layer of Elmer's glue to one half. After carefully putting the halves together, while aligning the edges, I then left them under some flat heavy books for hours to dry (otherwise they would curl from the moist glue).

I now had a flat repro box lid and bottom. Next, I cut out the donor portions of both the box lid and bottoms from the repro sections. To do this, I carefully overlapped the repro with the original, and cut out a neat edge of both, simultaneously, with the sharp exacto. This assured that the parts would mesh or align perfectly. The main donor sections were taken from the repro mirror or opposite side of the bad sides. On the lid, I could not take as large of a section as I needed because it would have had some of the truck rear-end drawing on it, so I had to take a smaller piece and fuse on an additional strip. The old and new box sections were then glued together, again with a thin edge coat of Elmer's. This was a very tedious phase, requiring patience, awaiting glue to dry, while holding the halves. I also used a sheet of paper, with glue on both sides, as a tool to get between frayed sections of cardboard to reattach them. Once this was all finished, I then had a complete box.

Next, I reglued the corner seams of the lid and bottom, recreating the box shape (note that on the box lid section, two sides, and part of the front are all repro). All seams were then strengthened with glue. I then cut out two squares of brown paper bag to use as inside liners for both the box lid and bottom. By gluing these in with a glue stick, I was able to hide the obvious internal seam lines.

I now had a box that was missing the truck's front end and lettering etc. Therefore, I cosmetically recreated the missing parts with pens, lead pencils, colored pencils, and markers. I drew in the truck front end and "Tootsie" letters, first with a pencil, and then permanently with a black pen. I then colored in the truck front and other sections with the markers and colored pencils. I was fortunate to have an artist set of multi shade pencils for matching the dark color shades.

Once all coloring was finished, I used an artist's matte finish protective spray, to seal in the coloring work and prevent smudging. Artists commonly use this to protect charcoal drawings.

The last thing I did was to create the missing cardboard divider sections for the truck accessories. I did this by cutting out cardboard strips from a thick mailing envelope at the correct width with extra length. I then used the individual truck parts as a guide and bent the cardboard at the appropriate corners with a straight edge. I was then left with an unattached four-sided box with one side too long, so I cut off the excess from the final side, and glued the single corner seam. After repeating this twice, I had created the three missing compartment sections and had finished my project.

This restoration would certainly fool no one, as you can see from the final pictures, and was not intended to. The camera is actually a bit unforgiving and makes the colors look much more inconsistent than they actually are. Some purist collectors might balk at what I have done with the coloring etc, but in this case, I don't think I had much to lose, with the extremely poor condition box that I was starting with. I would personally rather have a seamed or fused integration of new and repro, than a more convincing, all repro box. I think of it like an old archeological skull artifact, with a missing portion, which has been deliberately patched or filled-in, to represent what the skull had looked like complete. The box, although maybe not worth more, is at least now, a nice affordable salvaged representation of our toy history, and this little Tootsie truck, once again, has a home!