They say that toys were once built to last. But though metal and wood didn’t break quite so easily in the hands of children in the early 20th century as plastic does in the hands of their great- or great-great-grandchildren today, time still hasn’t been especially kind to the playthings of yesteryear. Enter the toy restorer, who can return even the most faded, rusted, beaten-up specimens to a burnished, gleaming condition that would turn the head of even the most smartphone-addled youngster. At least the toy restorer behind the Youtube channel Rescue & Restore seems to possess skills of this kind, and in its channel’s videos you can see them put to use.
Over the past two months, Rescue & Restore has taken on such projects as a 1960s Tonka Jeep, a 1930s Wyandotte airplane, a 1920s Dayton train, and other such miniatures as a piano, a cash register, and even a functional oven. Most of them start out looking like lost causes, and some barely resemble toys at all.
Fortunately, Rescue & Restore possesses all the specialized tools needed to not just disassemble and (to the amazement of many a commenter) reassemble everything, but to clean, resurface, and repaint each and every part, and in some cases fabricate new ones from scratch. Apart from the occasional explanatory subtitle, the “host” does all this work without a word.
Despite their simplicity, the videos of Rescue & Restore have drawn millions upon millions of views in a relatively short time. This suggests that the number of people dreaming of a better future for their closets full of long-disused toys might be large indeed, though we should never underestimate the appeal of seeing the old made new again — an experience whose audiovisual satisfaction seems to be heightened by high-resolution shots and clearly captured sounds of all the dremeling, sandblasting, and buffing involved.
Toys originally opened sixty, seventy, eighty Christmases ago have gone through a lot in their long lives, but after Rescue & Restore gets done with them, they could well find their way under the tree again this year.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.