Solder on

Last month I finally had a flash of inspiration for the basement of my first Canal House.  For years I thought of making it into an antique...

Last month I finally had a flash of inspiration for the basement of my first Canal House.  For years I thought of making it into an antique shop, run by the owner of the house.  But I was never really enthusiastic about that idea.    It will become an Arts & Crafts inspired dining room instead.

This room is next to the kitchen, so making it a dining room seems an obvious choice.  On the main floor I already have a dining room, but that one is more formal and without an actual dining room table.  That may not make a lot of sense, but in the first half of the 18th century a dining room was just another formal room.  When it was time for dinner a simple table was set up which would be put away again after dinner.   



I printed the wallpaper for this room ('Honeysuckle' by William Morris) well over a year ago.  I love the pattern, but as it doesn't get a lot of daylight it made the room very dark .  

Some of my favourite full sized Arts & Crafts room have wonderful panelling which is sometimes painted.  I decided to put light coloured panelling in the room which helped enormously in making the room look lighter.  

I made the floor from teak wood. It is the same wood I have used throughout the house.  I cut strips of it and bevelled the edges.  In an attempt to keep the room light, I did not wax the floor this time (which is what I did in all of the other rooms).  

The gorgeous fireplace is made by Sue Cook, based on a design by Pugin.  I used the proportions of the fireplace in the paneling.  I also tried to match the colour of the panelling to the fireplace.  The warm grey/sandstone colour happens to be very close to the colour I used elsewhere in the house.  I like that kind of continuity.


As you can see in the photos, there is a bit of a gap between the ceiling and the wall in the corner.  Unfortunately after nearly ten years, the floors have sagged a little and I was unable to jack them up.  Making the coving follow the ceiling line looked odd, so I will just leave it like this now.

The curtain I put up in front of the door hides the gap a little.  I made the curtain from a quilting fabric 'Sweet Briar', again designed by William Morris.   I do love his designs!

By the time I had finished sewing the curtain, work on the room came to a grinding halt.  I needed some supplies before making a few decisions so I went online for those.  After some time I found what I needed and put in my order.

The things I bought  from Sue Cook (yes, I bought more than just the fireplace, but that's for another time), were ordered, paid for, sent and received within five days.  Pretty good for an International delivery considering many flights were cancelled due to wintery conditions.

I have been waiting for my order from a shop in my own country for over a week and a half now.  Very frustrating when you're waiting for something in order to continue!


Anyway, I started looking for something else I could do in my dolls house while waiting for my supplies.  I still had a ceiling rose which needed to be put up in the Entry Hall.  I had to take down a light for that, so I needed to do some work at the back of the house where the wiring is.

Just look at this mess of wires!  Most of them do have labels on them, so I do know which is which, but still...  What a mess!


All of my lights have plugs on the ends which are plugged into a connector which leads to the transformer.  It all works, but to be honest it is not a very stable system.  Seven or eight years ago my father told me it was better to solder all of the wires onto two copper strips, leading to the transformers.  

He drew me a couple of plans,  some of them quite elaborate with switches etc..  These sketches I keep in my Canal House work book as a warm memory of my dad.  


I had bought a roll of copper tape many years ago, so I was ready to start the project right away.  This copper tape is by Mini Mundus, but you could probably use the Cir-Kit Conductive tapewire for it as well.   I have never used the Cir-Kit system so I don't know much about it.  



I stuck to lenghts of copper tape parallel to eachother to the back of my dolls house.   At the bottem I soldered the leads to my transformer.   I then started cutting all of the wires from the lights to length and soldered them onto the copper wires one by one.

After I soldered on each wire, I checked whether the corresponding light fixture worked. This way, if something didn't work, I didn't have to undo all of my previous solders to find out which one was the culprit.

My soldering techniques are not brilliant but my father did teach me how it should be done.  Putting it into practise is a different matter.  I used way too much solder as I only had a  roll of very thick solder available, which is what I used.  I since have bought a roll of thin solder meant for electrical work.

Most of the solder joints are OK though.  Only a few have bad joints with dull solder (this can happen for instance when the object is not kept completely still, or when you blow against it...).   All of the lights work though!

Here's a view of the back now.  The tape is there to keep the wires steady while soldering (as in one hand you have the soldering iron, in the other hand the solder!).  It looks a lot neater now, but more importantly, the system is much more stable.

A quick explanation of how to solder on the wires (using flux-core solder for electrics):

Heat the (clean) soldering iron.  Put a little bit of solder on the tip of the iron.  Heat the copper strip with the iron at the point where you want to solder the wire.  Put the solder to the copper (while still holding the iron against it) and let a little bit of solder flow onto the strip.  Do the same on the other copper strip.

Cut the wire to size (not too short, you may have to redo it and cut off another bit).  Carefully split the wire into two halves and strip the wires bare, around 1 cm. (Don't damage the core wires).  Heat the stripped core wire with the iron.  Hold the solder against the wire and let a little bit of solder flow onto the wire.  Repeat with the other side of the wire.

Hold each end of the split and stripped wire against the copper tape, on the spots where you have put some solder.  Keep the wires in place with some tape.  Now heat both the copper tape and the wire with the iron and hold the solder against it.  Let a little bit of solder flow onto it.  Remove the iron.  Don't move the wires, don't blow against it.

You can work on a joint as long as there is smoke (from the flux) rising from it.  If you heat the joint and there is no smoke, you need to add some solder (flux).  I love the smell of flux (probably because when I was a kid my dad's workroom always smelled of it), but it is not very good for you.

Less is more in soldering.  That said,  my joints have too much solder on them but they still work well.
A joint should be shiny and have a shape like a volcano.   A dull joint with a little dip in the middle is a bad joint.

You can clean the tip of your soldering iron between solders by wiping it on a moist sponge or cloth.

Have a go!  I quite enjoy doing this even though I'm not very good at it.  


PS:  Oh dear, I had wanted to do a short post, now this has turned into one of my longest ones I think!   A big applause to those of you who are still reading...;-)

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58 comments

  1. Josje, This is a Wonderful Post!!! First, I LOVE your William Morris room! The Fireplace is Gorgeous and the Wallpaper Design is one of my Favorites of his designs! I think the gaps at the ceiling are Exactly like in a real old house... so no repair or apology is required! Lol! As for the soldering instructions... Beautiful and VERY helpful!!! I have not soldered any of my wires... but looking at what you have done convinces me I should learn how to solder! Your instructions are Very clear! Thanks for such an informative post!

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    1. Ah yes just like a real old house, that's a good one!
      I'm glad you find the soldering instructions helpful and clear. I find it quite difficult to explain something so specific in English, especially because I don't know all the correct jargon. I should do a little photo tutorial, or maybe a video on YouTube ( although I'm sure there are loads of video's on soldering out there allready). Thank you for your kind comment!

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  2. Hoi Josje, lang geleden voor mij dat ik een bezoekje heb gebracht in de mini wereld! Jij hebt een hoop gedaan in de tussen tijd...en uiteraard ziet het er allemaal top uit!

    Groetjes, Sabiha

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    1. Hé Sabiha, wat leuk je weer eens 'tegen te komen' ahw. Ik dacht vorige week nog, ik zal weer eens op je blog gaan kijken hoe het met je gaat. Ik was het mooie pennendoosje dat ik van je heb gekregen aan het fotograferen. Zó moeilijk om de inscriptie goed op de foto te krijgen! Ik hoop dat het goed met je gaat en dat we snel weer eens kunnen genieten van je miniaturen!

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  3. Brilliant in so many ways! I love the proportions and paneling you devised. And the soldered electrical looks so much better. Good for you for forging into something new like that.

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    1. Thank you Shelley! I enjoy trying out new things. This wasn't difficult at all and I was rewarded with working lights!

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  4. I read everything, even though I knew very little, however, because I do not know anything about those electrical things, but I appreciate the sweet memories to the practical advice given to you by your father. is BEAUTIFUL WHEN PEOPLE CARE creep IN OUR THOUGHTS more mundane, WHILE DOING SOMETHING, SUCH AS THE WIRING OF OUR awaited dollshouse. When I saw these pictures, I was like a deja vu, because this room is how I imagine Bethany House. I really love W. Morris, but I may have to give up dall'indirizzare my choices to this style, because all its most beautiful tapestries are dated later than 1860.


























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    1. Hi Blanche, I know it is difficult to understand an explanation in a different language sometimes. I get that too, especially when it involves inches.

      My dollshouse is also from a different period than the William Morris, but I really wanted Arts & Crafts elements in the house. I solved my dilemma by pretending there had been a fire halfway through the 19th century, which meant the front rooms of the house had to be redecorated. These rooms all have Arts & Crafts influences.

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  5. Dear Josje,
    What great solder job you did. The room is amazing. The fireplace and wall paper.....wow I love that pattern. I think it looks amazing on silk.
    Hugs Dorien

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    1. Hi Dorien, Thanks for the compliments! Yes I think it would look amazing on silk. It actually is a design for fabric originally I think.

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  7. That is a very BEAUTIFUL room!!!! I love everything about it. The Sue Cook fireplace, the paneling the lovely colors in the paper. I know you know how I feel about William Morris. ;-) I also love the floors you always do such a great job making those. It is very nice to see a floor with this sort of finish on it.

    I hope you used some UV protestant spray on your wallpaper. I understand that will protect the color for a very long time (according to George The Mini Guy). As for the gap at the ceiling... When the painter painted my RL living room I had such a gap in the same spot where the heavy cornice molding met the ceiling. He just filled it with caulk. So I assume that could be done in miniature too.

    Wiring a dollhouse is a mystery to me. One I will have to tackle someday. Your soldering project sure made the back look neater and I am sure having all those wires secure can't help but make the lighting system more stable. I hammer solder all the time to make it thinner and snip off tiny bits with solder snips. Having a little pile already cut you can pick it up with the point of a brush (that has flux on it) is helpful when you have a lot of soldering to do.

    Everything looks FANTASTIC!!! I look forward to seeing more posts about this lovely room. XXX

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    1. Hi Catherine, I can't really remember whether I put protectant spray on or not, it's been well over a year since I put up the wallpaper. I hope I did. We'll see what happens to it.

      Good idea to put some sort of filler in the gap at the ceiling. I will do that, maybe with some sort of syringe.

      Wiring a dollhouse is not that difficult. If you ever need help just let me know. You know how to solder so that part is already under control.

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  8. How orderly! will we get to see the working lights?

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    1. Of course! When it is all finished I will show a view of the whole house with the lights on. So far I have 37 light fixtures, there'are a few more to put in so the total will be around 50 or so.

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  9. What a pretty room, Josje! I heart Sue Cook and her lovely pieces and I have received things from her here in the US very quickly, too. Are you certain your ceiling is warped? I just had the experience where the molding was a little off, but heated it up with a hair dryer and it bent right back. The back of your house looks just like mine! I'd try to solder the joints too but I sort of like being able to unplug them for now. Thanks for the tut!

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    1. Hi John, No the ceiling is definitely warped. I changed the interior layout of the dollhouse and removed a couple of walls which caused the floors to sag a little. The false back wall is perfectly straight so the gaps in the corners show up very well.
      I had the lights unsoldered for nearly ten years because I was still working on the house. But now it is nearly finished. And if I need to replace or 'unplug' a light, it is not hard to do. Just reheat the joint and the wires can come off.

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  10. Well, what can I say after all the other comments?? Just this, I LOVE your room, Pugin and William Morris in the same room, now you are speaking my language :-)

    There is a seller on Etsy that sells the most gorgeous William Morris fabrics in 1/12 scale.

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/SydneyStyle?section_id=12957717

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    1. Great link Elga, thanks for that! I know you love Morris, his designs are so wonderful!

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    2. Thanks, Elga. Another interesting address for us followers of W. Morris miniature

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  11. Cette pièce est magnifique. Bon courage pour démêler les fils électriques.
    Muriellisa

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  12. Thanks for the soldering info, very interesting. Your room looks great! Sorry about the gap...I love Teak :)

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    1. You're welcom Linda. The gap is annoying but I think the others are correct, in real houses you get this as well (I have a sloping ceiling in my own kitchen) and you just come up with a solution.

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  13. Hi Josje, je kamer ziet er al erg mooi uit. Geweldig soldeerwerk heb je gedaan. Dat is iets wat ik nog niet gedaan heb (verlichting dan ;))!
    Groetjes, Ilona

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    1. Hoi Ilona, verlichting is vaak een probleem (althans, we denken dat het een probleem is) omdat we er niet zo bekend mee zijn. Maar het valt wel mee hoor. Gewoon doen! (er staat trouwens een uitgebreide uitleg op mijn website onder 'workshops').

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  14. What a stunning room and I'm just mad for William Morris designs, it doesn't matter which one, they are all so beautifully detailed.The floor works really well with the softness of the wall paper and the sue Cook fire place is gorgeous. The curtain in the doorway does just the trick and compliments the wallpaper beautifully.

    The lighting looks way beyond anything I could manage but you must feel better having it all done and out of the way!

    ML Fi xx

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    1. Oh I agree, all of the William Morris are fantastic! As for the lights, if you start with one, it works the same for all the ones that follow ;-)

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  15. Qué habitación más bonita. El trabajo que has hecho ha sido muy grande pero ha valido la pena, te ha quedado preciosa.
    Gracias por toda la información sobre la iluminación, ha sido muy interesante. Besos y feliz fin de semana

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    1. You're welcome Sionchi, and thank you too!

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  16. First of all, thank you SO much for showing us the BACK of your piece :) I love seeing the reality behind the perfection of the interior -- it's like seeing backstage at the theatre. And the walloper goes so beautifully with your choices for panelling and the fireplace. Gorgeous!

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    1. You're welcome! I too like to have a little peek behind the scenes. I think probably because then you begin to understand better how it all works.

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  17. The room is very beautiful and I love what you did with the wiring on the back. Very nice! I'm really going to have to try the soldering technique sometime.

    Dale

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    1. Thank you Dale. I suppose the most difficult thing in soldering is trying to do so many things at the same time, we don't have enough hands! Taping your work down is very helpful.

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  18. Hi Josje,
    Thank you once again for the instructions on soldering. It is a skill that I have just begun to use. Hope to do more. I think it is a more reliable way of ensuring that the lighting stays intact as time goes by.
    The WM paper is great.
    Very nice to hear that you think of your Dad each time you solder.
    Best regards
    Janine


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    1. Hi Janine, my dad was a firm believer in 'I'll show you once and then you have to try for yourself'. By which I think he encouraged me to have a go at many things myself.
      I can see the whole system is far more stable than before, somehow the lights burn more calmly (if that makes any sense). I still have to look into whether or not I should seal the joints to protect them from moisture or dust.

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  19. La habitación me parece encantadora,el diseño William Morris en la pared es fantástico,armoniza estupendamente con la cortina y los demás tonos utilizados,te quedará una maravillosa pieza!!!!!
    Besos.

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  20. I love the way that curtain hangs - it looks so natural! The room looks fabulous.

    I used the copper tape system for my Georgian house and I only have two wires hanging out the back (the transformer is hidden in the roof). It's much much tidier than round wires.

    Karon

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    1. Hi Karon, I have no experience with the copper tape system, other than what I did at the back of the house. With only two wires coming out of the back it is a lot neater! But I don't mind the wires, they can't really be seen. Like I said, the most important factor for me in doing this is that the system is far more stable this way.

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  21. I often use white silicone pushed through a syringe to fill tiny gaps between ceiling and cornice.
    The room looks stunning and I absolutely love the fireplace =0)

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    1. Thanks for the tip Pepper! I will have a go at that, I'm pretty sure I still have a large tube of white silicone laying around somewhere!

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  22. I didn't realise your first Canal house wasn't finished so it's great to be able to follow the progress with a new room. The paper and fabric and lovely and work really well together.

    It's also VERY reassuring to know that there is someone else out there with the spaghetti arrangement of wires hanging from the back of their house! I do feel a bit guilty about the state of it but not for very long although I would like to find a method of tidying it up without going down the copper tape route. Your explanation was very clear but I think I'll just make sure the house is kept up against the wall - lol!

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    1. Hi Irene, yes there still is this room to finish and then the attic. But you know how it is, you get other ideas and get sidetracked ;-) I knew it wasn't a good idea to start on my second canal house, but I just couldn't help myself!

      I love your spaghetti analysis, lol! But it really doesn't matter what it looks like if you can't see it anyway. As long as it is safe and it works, right?

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  23. Hi Josje,

    I started to rad your post last night, but got a bit muddled in the middle so have re-read it again now I have more time ;)

    The William Morris room is lovely, great fireplace, not seen that one before! It works really well with the wall paper, and the panelling looks great too.

    The copper tape and solder technique has always puzzled me, so was good to see it in pictures and have the process explained, understand it all better now I have read it all properly!

    Thanks fro taking the time and trouble to explain it all! Dolls house lighting can be a real headache!

    hugs
    Andy xxxx

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    1. Hi Andy! I often have problems reading long posts myself so I try to keep mine as short as I can. But that's easier said than done!

      Yes isn't the fireplace beautiful?! I like having a piece like this a the focal point for a room, and then use it as a starting point for the reat of the decoration.

      I'm glad you found the explanation useful. I often have problems when it is just a written explanation and I really don't have a clue what I am doing.
      If I have time next week, I'll try to do a photo tutorial to go with the text.

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  24. Excellent intended use for the basement. The room is already so great that the defects are not seen :-)
    I have no sympathy for the electrical issues, therefore, look to your backyard with great respect...
    Wow!
    Lovely hugs
    Flora

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    1. Thanks Flora! Ah yes, many of us dolls house people don't have sympathy for the elctrical part of it. I'm glad I had my dad explaning everything to me very clearly. Six years ago we wrote a tutorial for all of this together, he as the expert on all things electrical, I as the one who understands the difficulties we experience as non-electrical people ;-). Unfortunately this tutorial is all in Dutch (on my website) I don't feel confident enough to translate it into English.

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  25. The wallpaper and fabric are so elegant! This is a very helpful wiring tutorial. Thank you so much. Your father taught you well and you have been able to pass it on. I often wish my house opened at the front. It would simplify the wiring process.

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    1. Hi Lucille, thank you! It is a nice thought to think I am able to pass on my fathers instructions. I know it would have pleased him enormously!
      Yes I understand other types of houses pose more difficult problems with hiding the wiring. Probably the best option is to use a chimney to hide all the wiring (and transformer), or a space in the attic or basement.
      But it is more difficult than with my dolls house, absolutely!

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  26. Wat ziet je kamer er prachtig uit Josje en zelfs de achterkant van je poppenhuis is nu geordend :)

    Groeten Xandra

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    1. Dank je Xandra. Ik wil nog iets leuks met de achterkant doen, maar daar heb ik ook weer aardig wat tijd voor nodig. Het idee daarvoor heb ik al wel jaren in mijn hoofd en ik heb zelfs tekeningen gemaakt (ooit, maar ik weet niet meer waar ik ze gelaten heb!)

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  27. I too love all things Arts & Crafts but I do think their homes must have been terribly dark!

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    1. Yes they did use a lot of wood and warm colours in the homes, so it must have been darker than what we're used to now, but they were concerned with letting in the maximum amount of natural light. If you look at the English Arts & Crafts houses, they often have a lot of windows!

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  28. it was a great pleasure to discover your site. Like you, I love blue and wallpapers William Morris. I use it in the scene I make but I have preferred the green.Merci pour cette jolie découverte. Je reviendrai

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    1. Thank you! And may I return the compliment as it was a lovely surprise for me to discover your blog. I am always surprised there are still blogs out there I have never seen. You make wonderful things!

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  29. I am glad I found this. I have been using the method with the plugs, but sometimes the plugs come out and it does not seem very stable, and so I thought that there must be a better method and so there is! Thank you!

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    1. You're welcome Penelope. It is a good system. Even when I had to take down some of the solder joints due to a short circuit in one of the lights it was quickly done and easy to put back up again after locating the faulty light because all the prep work of stripping wires, 'tinning' the wires etc had already been done. Yes, do have a go at this! Don't forget to label each wire, or think of a system so you know which wire comes from which room/lamp.

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