Toy Restoration by The Toy Works

If you have a treasured old toy that is now looking very tired and sorry for itself, why not look into having it restored? Many rocking horses and doll’s houses have been thrown away through the years because their owners thought they were beyond repair.

Rocking Horses

Below is a before and after of a restoration. Every job is unique and each one throws up its own set of challenges, that’s what makes the job so interesting.
Take that old rocking horse that has been stored in the back of the garden shed or garage or shoved away in the loft for years.
It could be a valuable antique but it has been damaged by years of neglect or rough play. It has damage to the ears, the tail and mane have been given a hair cut by some over enthusiastic child, the leather tack has become brittle or even lost along with the stirrups. It may even have a broken leg or two and the gesso is all flaking off and leaving bare patches of wood. Please do not think about throwing it away as it could be repaired and returned to its former glory.

I have shown some examples of before and after restoration below to give you an idea of what can be achieved. Restoration is not cheap as it is very time consuming work and the materials used can be very expensive.

Anyone offering to carry out the work for a few pounds is not going to do a proper job and what may seem to be a bargain will undoubtedly lead to tears and disappointment.

Some horses come in as very seriously sad cases, even rescued from rubbish skips.
These go into the ICU to be resuscitated by a time served craftsman and given a new lease of life!
Below is an example of major restoration work to give you an idea of what can be done to save your seriously damaged horse.
Some of the worst cases I have worked on meant the entire horse had to be dismantled and rebuilt. Below are some pictures
showing the extent of the work that has to be carried out to bring a new lease of life back to these once cherished, but now
rather poorly horses, to get them ready to be loved, played on and enjoyed by a new generation of riders.

Sometimes the ears get broken and it is necessary to fit new ones. The most common cause for this type of damage is
positioning the horse too close to a wall so that when it swings the head butts into it and chips or breaks off the ears.

This horse has lost its ears and the top of the head has damage where the mane fixes

To replace them I need to cut out the damaged area and insert a new piece of timber securely bonded in place.

When the glue has dried I can then carve the new piece of timber to the correct profile.

The horse now looks a lot healthier sporting its new ears.

I hope that the above examples showing just a handful of the horses I have restored through the years will give you an insight into what can be achieved when restoring what might seem to many as irreparably damaged items. If you have an old horse in need of a bit of TLC, why not get in touch and discuss the options available.

Some of our latest restoration projects can be found in the blog section of the site. Get in touch to discuss your requirements.

Dolls Houses

As with all restoration work there are issues you need to consider. If the general condition is in good order but just needs tidying up a bit without removing all of the original features then for the sake of the financial issues alone restoration should be kept to a minimum level. By over restoring something you can reduce its value considerably. Collectors of these items are wanting them in as close to original condition as possible and they will pay good money to achieve this. If the item is in very poor condition and has perhaps been over painted at some stage and all the original wallpapers lost, as in the case of a doll’s house, then you have nothing to lose.

So, what else should you consider? Has the item been affected by woodworm, flooding or damp and in some cases fire? In the case of woodworm infestation you need to discover the extent of the problem. The holes that you see are the exit holes of the beatles, it’s the larvae that do the damage. The beetle lays the eggs in cracks and old holes, these turn into larvae that then start to feed off the timber as they burrow into it. They eventually turn into beetles who breakout to find a mate. Usually about May or June each year you will notice lots of small beetles on windows as they are drawn towards
the light). This whole life cycle takes about 5 years. Plywood is very prone to attack and many doll’s houses were built with it. The early glues that were used to bond the veneers together were animal based and larvae have a taste for it. Later plywoods use resin based glue and are not so affected. If caught soon enough it can be treated by injecting woodworm killer into the holes, but if the timber is crumbling when you touch it there is little you can do other than to cut out the affected areas and replace them.

Before and after pictures of the range and entrance hall.

Flooding is another matter altogether. If the water causing the item to flood is clean then slowly dry it in a well ventilated area before attempting to restore it. But if the water has been infected by untreated sewage there is nothing to do but destroy it as it may be harboring harmful bacteria.

Fire can be either smoke damage or actual burning. Smoke damage can usually be cleaned off with careful use of detergents and a bit of elbow grease. Unfortunately this cleaning may harm things like wall coverings and carpets within your doll’s house and these will need replacing if that happens. Actual burning of the woodwork, depending on the depth of the damage may require some replacement of affected areas. Should you be unfortunate enough to require work to be carried for either flood or fire, I would be pleased to give you a quotation for insurance purposes.

Some of our latest restoration projects can be found in the blog section of the site.

Model Ships

Ship Ahoy! Not every job that comes in for restoration is a rocking horse or doll’s house.
This model of the Golden Hind that came in looking like a shipwreck.
I always enjoy a challenge just to keep me on my toes and get the brain working, this job was going to fit the bill.

The first job was to salvage what remained of the sails as they were brittle and crumbling, I needed these to use as patterns for the new ones.
The next job was to find a supplier of the material that old lampshades were made from. I found a company in Manchester who would supply me a small quantity. Having salvaged as much of the old sails as I could, I then carefully fitted the pieces together with clear sellotape and using tracing paper copied the designs and transferred it onto the new material. These could now be painted in with acrylic paints. I then had to mark out all of the dotted lines which depict the joints in the sailcloth which make up full size sails. The sails then had to be drilled along their top edges where they would be stitched onto the supporting yardarms.

Next job was to thoroughly clean the masts, hull and what could be salvaged from the rigging. This was a difficult job as it had been stored in a dusty loft for many years.

After many hours of work I managed to get the ship back to a model that anyone would be proud to display. I made two stands on which to display it. One was just a hardwood stand as shown in the 2nd photo. The other one was with it sailing the ocean to set it off. The sea was formed using plaster of Paris and cotton plastering scrim to help reinforce the peaks. The final job was to paint the sea and make it look realistic.

I really enjoyed this job and it was worth the effort put in to turn this former ‘shipwreck’ into a ‘ship ahoy’.

There are a lot of people out there who have models of all sorts of things who struggle to keep them free from dust. If you are one of them why not get a quotation from me to have a bespoke enclosure made for your treasured item?

You can send me digital images and measurements to and I will send you a quotation for you to consider.

This wasn’t the first galleon I had restored; another one I had repaired had been damaged during a break-in at the owner’s property. It had been knocked over during the raid and the masts were broken off. It held a lot of sentimental value to the owner and he decided that he wanted it repaired and encased to protect it from any further damage or dust. So having carried out the repairs I built a glass display case for it and mounted it on a seascape base to set it off. The base was constructed in the same way as the previously described above. Luckily this gentleman was able to re-cover his costs from his household contents insurance.

It’s funny how one job can lead to another, whilst working on the ship adjacent to another gentleman who was visiting my shop, saw what I was doing and asked me if I could make a display cabinet for his ship. He told me that his uncle had made the model for him when he was a child and how much it meant to him as his uncle had died some years before. He told me that it wasn’t as grand as the one I was working on but he wanted to protect it from dust and he liked the way the base had been made. So below is his ship within the cabinet I made for him.

There are a lot of people out there who have models of all sorts of things who struggle to keep them free from dust. If you are one of them why not get a quotation from me to have a bespoke enclosure made for your treasured item?

You can send me digital images and measurements to and I will send you a quotation for you to consider.