Beginner looking for help refinishing old toy

I have an old rope game that was my grandfathers from the 1950s. It is wood, and looks to be hand made. I want to refinish it and give it to my mother as a special Christmas gift.

Am looking for advice

  1. It doesn’t look to be lacquered, no thick coating. Looks like it was stained wood.
  2. I want to recreate the labels. I can make them in corel but am not sure what the best way is to transfer them to the wood. Multi color vinyl? Screenprint?
  3. I want to use the original wood, even if I replace the stickers and have to sand it way down.
  4. I have rope rings that are 70 years old. They look dirty. Was going to soak them in oxyclean and hose them down quite a bit. Any advice on cleaning them up>

    Any advice? I am a wood working novice.



Have you cleaned the wood toy off? Before you get consumed in refinishing, a good cleaning might cancel the need to do that.

That said, my guess would be the graphics were water slide decals.
Earlier this year, one of our members did a class on creating old-school decals. However, Spencer landed a job out of town and moved away. Don’t know whether anyone else knows the process.


Should I clean it with something like windex or is there something better for old wood?

INHO, the Beaty of that game is the years of use and fun that makes it look like it does. To refinish it would remove what makes it cool to me. I know it’s not the same, but when I find an old guitar that is functional but not restored, that’s a find. I have a couple that have been completely restored because they were in such bad shape. Reproducing the game would be cool. Just my 2 cents though.

That is a pretty valid opinion Tom. The pegs look pretty rough, might start with a good cleaning then just repaint the pegs if needed. Is there a technique to artificially age something like the pegs if I do repaint those?

What product do you suggest to clean it with? Is there some type of clear finish you might recommend?

Give to several 3 y/o’s for the afternoon.


I wouldn’t use windex… I think that could be too harsh on the decals/paint.

I would start with old fashioned soapy water and a soft rag. Like a bit of old t-shirt, rather than a paper towel. If you wanted to go a bit further, you could go peruse the wood cleaners at a store. Scott’s Liquid Gold comes to mind. Back when I was in college, I had a wood parquet floor in my dorm room, but it looked AWFUL. So I got some stuff at the local grocery store and spent a weekend scrubbing and rinsing by hand. It looked soooo much better when I was done.

Tommy’s idea to make a replica could be a fun project too. You could even update the game by using the laser to engrave the design into the wood, and maybe even wood turn the dowels yourself.


I agree with above that it’s be cool to try to preserve the look of it as much as possible

Neat and meaningful project

When I did a little searching, the combination that seemed to have the best information come up (as opposed to how to clean wood blocks for daycare etc which is what “cleaning wood toys” gets ya) was:

“restoring vintage wood toys”

It came up with quite a few YouTube videos and nice differences of before/after


OOooh! another good suggestion!


Guaranteed to age pegs and parents.

If soapy water doesn’t work, diluted vinegar might. I’d try it on a hidden area in case it removes the color.

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I once bought an old Catalina 27. the lines were all ugly and mildewed. Using oxyclean really refreshed them.

For the wood, there are many levels of restoration. Watching those videos suggested is prob best. Soapy water is a great start. Pledge and lemon restoration finishes prob the next. Then ISP alcohol. Then more aggressive solvents.

It is possible to recreate the decals as printable water slide decals. (good call @jrkriehn).

The pegs can be sanded. if you can remove them, chuck them in a lathe or drill press and sand them a little easier.

fun project!

I’d be inclined to start with Murphy’s Oil Soap – found in the cleaners aisle at many grocery stores.


One thing i would do before you do anything is make sure is to make a backup stencil. redo it in mspaint / gimp and then inkscape so you have a backup. that way anything that you “oops overshoot” is just gonna be water under a bridge. the good news is it looks to be really simple shapes!

i would honestly just consider wiping it down with mineral oil since it is the base carrier ingredient of most wood cleaners without any solvents. that would be the ~least aggressive option.

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I agree. If you make it look new, it loses its antique personality. I’d clean off the dirt as best you can, leaving the paint faded as-is.

Read this for a more comprehensive explanation of what I’m trying to say:


Murphy’s oils soap. Then refinish, most likely varnish or shellac from that period. for the marking use a stencil and spray paint

Be warned once you refinish it any antique value it had is gone…

You can buy waterslide paper for inkjet printers. They are about $2 a sheet (pack of six for $12).

Print on inkjet. Let dry thoroughly (I recommend 48 hours). Cut, moisten, slide, pat dry.