Nice, readable Labels on plow plane boxes are a plus for sellers or collectors. When is one bad enough to replace? My personal opinion is that if it has good color and is at least 90 to 95% intact I will leave it and try repairing the loose label. If the label is less than 90-95% intact or severely discolored then I will replace them.
A brief search of Historical Society archives indicated that the best solution for preserving old clock and furniture labels was to use an “Acid Free” glue. Memory Mount is the glue I chose to use as it was the highest recommended product by restoration experts.
First and one of the most important steps prior to starting is set up a clean work area with plenty of light.
Before starting have all tools and materials for the job:
#1. 2 small containers, one for clean water and one for the glue.
#2. The glue of course.
#3. My go to tool for all my cleaning and detailing projects is a cheap Olfa knife with a 3/8″ sharp blade.
#4. A wallpaper seam roller.
#5. A small brush for removing debris.
#6. A small thin 1″ putty-knife.
#7. Long handled cotton swabs.
#8. Optional: A Rubber J-Roller.
My procedure for reattaching loose labels begins by lifting the loose paper around all of the edges, being careful not to tear the paper. With the Olfa knife scrap and remove any old stuck paper and dirt that is there. Use the small brush to do this.
Because I only have two hands, I found that the weight of 2 rubber coated paperclips worked as the third hand to hold back the largest piece of loose label back while applying the glue.
Starting with a very small amount of glue on one edge of the putty-knife, gently lift the label with the Olfa knife and insert the putty-knife under the label and as evenly as possible, spread the glue from inside out like a spatula.
Spread the glue liberally around the entire perimeter of the wood where the label has come off the box. It is better to squeeze glue out than to have a dry spot under the paper and have to lift the label up again.
Gently push the label down, working from the center out. For this I use a small soft blunt-nosed brush but a finger would work almost as well with light pressure only.
Again, this time with the wallpaper roller, start from the center and work out. Each and every time you roll out, clean the roller with a damp cloth to keep from spreading glue that the roller forces out from holes and open wrinkles. Continue using the roller until all wrinkles are removed and the label sits flat on the box. Using a dampened cotton swab or soft cloth gently remove the excess glue by dabbing not wiping from the label. Let set for a few minutes while the paper label becomes pliable then use the roller again around the perimeter.
Next clean the wood on the box with a damp cloth moistened with water only. Take care not to disturb the label, wipe from the inside out using a clean section of the damp cloth each time.
Use the back edge of the Olfa knife to squeegee out any excess glue from the label edges. Press down on the edge perimeter of the label keeping the Olfa knife angled at about 10 degrees so as to not tear the paper.
It may seem redundant but after a few more minutes make one heavy pass with the J-Roller to ensure a tight and flat label. Start in the middle and roll out to each end. Clean the label again if necessary.
Label is now successfully reattached to the box and it will live for several more years. This brand of glue easily becomes soft and pliable again by applying a small amount of water or cover with a damp cloth if future restoration is necessary.
There is one final step that I wanted to do but the recommended product is not available at this time. The product is sprayed over the label to prevent the paper from becoming brittle over time and extending the time required for restoration. With proper care and storage this label should now be able to survive another at least another 50 years.
To replace a label most of the above procedure will be sufficient. The only difference would be when cleaning the box. the old label will not be in the way, which will make cleaning of the wood much easier.