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I have researched this to death and before I start this project I want to cover all my bases. I am restoring a 1950-60's Cass Toy Co wooden toy chest. The chest I have is not in as good condition of the one pictured. The one I am restoring has lost about 50% of the finish, but all the original images are intact. It has some other issues for repair but the one I am concerned about it restoring the finish.
From the research I can find, these toy boxes were sometimes hand painted, some of them were a type of heat transferred image, some of them were more of a decal type and still others were sprayed on over stencils. Here is my question:

1) Is there a product or solution of some sort that I can safely use to remove the remaining finish without removing the images?

2) Would it be best to clean up the existing finish and repairs, then apply a new finish directly on top of what is left? I'm worried leaving any of the old finish will show the discoloration after a new finish is applied.

3) If it is not possible to do a restoration without loosing the graphics, which would be the best way to duplicate them to put them back on the chest? (I do not free hand paint)

Table Rectangle Wood Wood stain Flooring
 

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Back in the 80's when I did refinishing professionally, we lost a number of images to the refinishing process. But in this digital age, there is help, I believe.
I would take digital images of the patterns you want to keep. Take those images to a company that specializes in either vinyl cutouts, or possibly printing decals. Make sure you have measurements, (Height, width), so they can duplicate off the digital images the same size patterns. It might be pricey for just two-three images, but the other possibility is to hire a local artist who will hand paint them onto the unit after you strip it off. That is what we used to do when the painted image or decal became too difficult for us to reproduce ourselves, which was most of the time.

The other option is to try and just lightly sand the finish and add another coat. If you know what the current finish is, you can apply a compatible finish. Sometimes, a little patina underneath is a good thing.
From your picture, it doesn't seem like there is too much discoloring, and as long as you think in terms of just repairing the top coat with another top coat, you might be surprised at how well you can restore the existing finish. Did it many times.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Tennessee, I was thinking of the digital images and trying Gimp or PS but a pro could probably do that a lot faster with detailed measurements and clear pictures. The value on this chest isn't a great deal to deter fixing it as it is more sentimental and it's my fathers and he's asked me to fix it. The one I've posted pictures is in much better shape than his is. I don't have photos of his chest yet, he's bringing it to me this week. His chest is the same one shown, yet his finish is flaking badly and has some missing trim on the top lid. So restoration is my direction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm sorry it took me so long, but I finally finished. I had to completely strip and recreate the images on this chest. As I mentioned in my post, my actual trunk wasn't near as good as the example photo. I didn't have the trunk at the time I started researching the fix as it's my dad's toy chest from when he was little and he dropped it off over Christmas.

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This is the actual chest and as you can see it's in pretty bad shape. The top has a huge gouge on the top where someone had an accident with a saw, the finish is nearly gone and flaking everywhere and the images of the Pirate, Ship and Wheel are cracked and flaking off as well.

Thanks to Tennesee's help I was able to take photos shot in RAW and remove the color/background to get rough b/w silhouettes of each image to work with. After hours of airbrushing/filling in color I was able to get all the images recreated to use Design Studio and cut stencils with Oramask for spraying back on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Here are a few pictures along the way of the steps I took and the finished chest. Thank you again Tennessee!
Leg Human body Sleeve Art Chest


Brown Wood Art Font Rectangle


Art Working animal Font Painting Fictional character


Brown Wood Rectangle Wood stain Hardwood


Brown Wood Wall Gas Font


Brown Table Wood Rectangle Wood stain


Still looking for some of the nail caps to replace the other trim piece for the top, but for now I moved them to the edges and removed the other center trim until I can find some more of the caps to match the others.
 

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Autozone sells little chromed buttons that come in different sizes. I don't know if they are plastic or metal but you can paint them and silicone them on. Or go to an upholstery shop or sewing store and see what they have.
 

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Wow!!
Outstanding job. You took a lot of time to redo those images, but I believe it was well worth it. And the paint of course is not anywhere as thick as vinyl would have been, and is probably more durable in the long run.

Just a great job!
 
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