Have a boxing match with a box!

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I live for the CABE
If you're a collector of old "stuff," sooner or later you will come across ephemera you want to display or use which is a dichotomy because ephemera is a word that describes something, usually paper or cardboard that was not meant to be saved.

I've found that ephemera make great displays, and sometimes a box is worth as much or more than the item that was in it! Unfortunately these boxes often have suffered severe damage and get tossed in the garbage, but now there is hope, so don't toss it, fix it! .

Of course you can't make a cushy, stained, crumpled box look new unless you happen to be a museum curator with an unlimited budget, so If you have a valuable box, you better let a pro restore it.

Here is my method of saving ephemera
All you need is:
1. Clothes iron....got mine from my wife when the steam function stopped working, but you can usually find them at flea markets for a buck or two.
2. Exacto knife &, putty knife, razor blade.....you probably already have em'.
3. Hot glue gun.....brand new in the box at local flea market cost me $3.
4. Glue sticks. Buy the clear ones. Retail is usually $5-$6.. The cheapest place I've found is Harbor Freight. Depending upon the size of the box, usually takes me 5 or 6 sticks.

Now let's get to work. I'll try to save a really crumpled box from a Mustang and a ship model kit, both of which are about 35 years old.




Step 1 Remove any tape or stickers or the label glue will probably melt and cause problems later. I use a heat gun and carefully try to lift up a corner with my Exato. I am then usually able to SLOWLY pull off the label without damaging the printing underneath. No stickers on these kits.

Unfortunately most tape/stickers will leave discoloration or residue and not much you can do about that, but it will look a lot better when done than the curled up, dirty, five miles of masking tape that was on it.

Step 2 Flattening the box. All boxes are printed on flat stock and then folded, so you need to unfold yours......and that's the most difficult part because they are glued together. Fortunately the glue on many old boxes gets so weak the card board will separate easily. I try to find any loose joint and insert a putty knife. Using a sawing action I work it BETWEEN the 2 pieces of card board where they were glued together to form the box. It may be necessary to start the separation with an Exacto knife or single edge razor blade.

Go slow and remember that you will need to glue these two surfaces back together to reassemble so work carefully.

Step 3 After all the joints are separated, lay the cardboard flat. I usually use a flat piece of heavy cardboard for a base, but what ever you use, it must be flat or any imperfections will show upon the restored piece.

Put the iron on warm and iron the box flat just like you would a shirt. Observe your results and make sure you not burring the cardboard or damaging any printing. Repeat until the box lays flat and place a heavy (clean and flat) weight on the box until it cools. You may need to use a hotter setting, but keep a careful watch as you don't want to burn the paper or card board .

I wouldn't use the steam setting at this may distroy the box fibers or cause the ink to run.


Step 4 By now you should have your box nice and flat and it's time for glue up. Carefully refold and take extreme care to line up the seams, and arrange flaps as they when when joined at the factory.. See photo with putty knife. Flap 1was originally on the inside of the box and must be reglued on the inside of the box you will change the size of the box and the lid will not fit.

I prefer hot glue cause it's super strong and "dries" almost instantly but be careful. If you screw it up, you don't get a second chance. You will need to apply some pressure to the joint for a few seconds until the glue sets to get a flat and strong bond.


Again, remember to reglue the flaps in the same order as shown by the arrows in the previous photo.

Step 5 Strep back and admire your ephemera.

Remember this box? Actually 2 boxes (top/bottom) it took about 20 minutes and while not perfect, the difference it quite amazing.


And the ship model box. Some of the inside flaps were were so badly damaged I had to make new ones from a Wheaties and or tissue box.


I just finished an original box for my Red Rider original bb gun that was/is in miserable shape. A good bit of both ends was missing so I filled in with heavy black paper. If I can find a good box, or even a good photo, I will scan then ends and piece it into my box. Again, not perfect but when was the last time you found an original box for a 1952 Red Rider BB gun?


This box was flaking and I covered it in shrink wrap. I got a large roll at a yard sale for $2 (same stuff you find at hardware stores to insulate windows) and it will display nicely and preserve it from accidental spills, dust, or anything else that might ruin my work.



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Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Great tutorial Morton. I have been collecting vintage toys ( and where possible the original boxes) for 40 years and have used some of these tricks shown. Original "anything" boxes ( bicycle accessories) can enhance a display. As an added precaution a light cotton natural white tea towel ( or cheese cloth)can be placed over the box graphics while ironing ( on print) or iron the reverse/non graphic side to prevent damage on the image.

As far as an alternative to a glue gun, I use a product called "Goop" on lots of things. ( It comes in a large tube in Canada) It is similar to silicone but stronger and stickier before it hardens/yet stays slightly flexible after setting. It comes in various types, but I use the clear. It is more "forgiving" than glue stick in that it doesn't harden or bond on contact, takes a few hours( overnight is best) to harden. When you meet the 2 parts you can still slide it for that perfect fit, even do a "mock up" before it hardens. To clamp, you can use those metal paper clamps or paper clips, or light wood clamps.

It comes in a tube. I have used it on sidewall tears or punctures on the inside of a vintage bicycle tire,& automotive applications, the sky is the limit. I should be a shareholder in the product. I have made an unrideable rare used bike tire rideable, and more often presentable and able to display and hold air with a good tube. Happy hobbying! Bob


front crack.JPG

crack inside 2.JPG

inside repair.JPG





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Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Very good step by step instructions. Something I have done in the past is once the box is back to original shape cut a block of styrofoam to snugly fit inside dimensions and put inside. It will prevent future sagging