Antique wooden toys are treasures unto themselves, for they were animate and made to be played with. They have been around for centuries. Popular antique wooden toys include collectable German dolls such as Schoenhut, and a host of American made toys that depict everything from Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse, rolling toys with turning wheels, and pop culture advertising collectibles. Both vintage dolls and other figural antique wooden dolls were made in similar ways.
Look inside the doll or antique toy wooden figure to see if there is an old string device. This can easily be done by pulling back gently on the head and looking down into the doll or toy body. Often they are hollow inside. On most old wooden dolls and toys, they are jointed, meaning the limbs are move-able, often from the way they were made with a rubber coil mechanism inside. Look to see if your old wooden doll or toy has coil or a rubber band.
Pull gently on joints to see if the rubber string or cord is loose. Look inside if you can while doing this. You are looking for any frays on the rubber band or cord edge. To restring, take pliers and use anything from new thick rubber bands to cord string and restring the doll, going through the toy body starting at the bottom. This is easiest done on small toys only a few inches in height. On old dolls, you may need a professional doll and toy restorer with proper tools. If the doll is restrung too tightly, it will damage the head, and may damage the arm and leg sockets as well. Go to antique shops in your area and ask if they can recommend an experienced antique toy restorer. Or look online under doll and old wooden toy restoration.
Try replacing the wooden limbs on an old wooden toy or doll with the kind of wood that the toy is made from. If you don't know what kind of wood, get an exact colour. This will help to retain the value of your antique wooden toy if original materials are used. Locate the services of a professional wood turner who has experience with antique wooden toys, if you don't know how to do this yourself. Often, a wooden part will have to first be carved, waxed, painted and matched exactly, so this is when a professional should be used. Check the yellow pages for doll and old toy restoration.
Look over your doll or antique wooden toy for dirt. Often, restoring antique wood toys is as easy as removing top layers of dust. Don't remove the old patina when cleaning. This is what retains the value, along with old paint. First, purchase a professional dusting brush, or to save money, a woman's cosmetic large blush brush. The kind used to apply powder blush works great at removing old dust from delicate toy areas, such as around glass eye and face crevices, and on old clothing.
Aside from retouching the paint, on old wooden toys, a waxing may be all you need to retain the beauty of an antique wooden toy. First clean the toy free of dust, then wax the wood, careful around facial paint and glass eyes, non-wood attachments or clothing. Waxing will protect the natural sheen, brighten colours and sometimes even deepen the colour to make the antique wood toy appear new. Try microcrystalline wax products, available online and in hardware supply stores. Use a soft cloth to apply the wax.
You may want to wear tight-fitting disposable latex or non-latex gloves when handling antique wood toys, in case of splintering, or when restoring with wax, or when cleaning.