While waiting for my supplies for the inside of the house to arrive,  I started finishing the back of the house.   Most canal houses have quite deep gardens, often beautifully laid out in a formal style.  I don't have the space for that so I decided to only make a small patio.

Years ago I cut a big hole out of the back gable as I wanted to give the kitchen a wall of windows.  I was not happy with the windows and French doors I made back then.  In this photo I took out the windows from the floor above to see if I could find a configuration I liked.

I used a door I had  laying around in a drawer.  In fact it may the the original door which came with the house.  I made the windows to match the other ones in the house.

 A sheet of acrylic I found in my stash I used to cut the window panes from.  After a lot of cutting and sanding I had them fitting perfectly so it was time to install them.  When I took off the protective covers I found that it was not a clear acrylic!  
Grr! So annoying!

After a long search (I knew I had it somewhere),  I found a huge sheet of clear acrylic which I could use for the windows.   This time I checked whether it was actually clear before I started cutting it. 

For the patio I made a brick step with coloured sandpaper and a partly rendered back wall with leftover brick sheet which I used on the front of the house.   The patio will have gravel eventually.  I bought the wonderful folding garden furniture several years ago from the French maker Serge Piacentino.  

Of course I just could not throw away the bits of matt acrylic, so I used one for a door canopy.  I used pre- moulded plastic, bits of wood and some very thin lead cut to shape to make the canopy.  I like the way it adds a bit off interest to the otherwise very flat back gable.

Ever since I visited Hever Castle about twenty years ago, where I struck up a conversation with the head gardener who was tending the espaliered fruit trees, I have wanted one of my own (an espaliered fruit tree I mean, although a head gardener would be nice too ;-).  My full scale one failed miserably ( it is now a very big tree), but I could try and make one in miniature, right?   

The wall is a perfect size for a small tree.  I used metal wire, paper tape and kitchen paper, spackling paste and acrylic paint for the tree.  I looked at my own full sized apple trees to determine the colour for my miniature tree.  You would think they're all brown, but that is not the case.  Most of my trees are more grey in colour, so I used a grey colour over a brown base to create a natural looking trunk and branches.  

The leaves for the tree were another stash find.  Leftover from a project I did about six years ago.  I dipped them into paint mixed with some varnish, then shaped them using a ball tool.  After the leaves dried I painted the undersides with a grey wash and gave the tops another colour wash.  

Making the leaves seemed a never ending task.  Every time I thought I had enough leaves it needed more.  I'm glad I was making an espaliered tree as it needs far less leaves than a full sized tree.  

Next was my least favourite job.  Fimo.  Hate is a strong word, but I must say I really don't like working with clay.  I had plans of contacting a miniature food maker to ask for a bushel of apples...But I reprimanded myself and thought I should try it myself first before enlisting someone else's help.

So late one night I found my Fimo (all unopened packages) and I tried making a batch of apples.  It was not at all as bad as I thought and my test batch turned out fine so I used them.   After baking I added colour with acrylic paints.   They're OK!  With the little wire stems added they're ready to hang on the tree.

I don't have a photo of the finished tree yet, but I thought you might like to see this instead.  Several people have shown photos of their work space recently and although I am not showing you my work room, here is an uncensored look at my desk while working on the apple tree.  In complete control.
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 tape-wire for it as well.   I have never used the Cir-Kit system so I don't know much about it.  



I stuck to lengths of copper tape parallel to each other to the back of my dolls house.   At the bottom 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...;-)