Canal Boat Remodel

Early in 2012, I had the opportunity to buy a box of second-hand Sylvanians from a childhood collector in Mosselbay. The Sylvanian Canal Boat, The Rose of Sylvania, was one of the items in my box, and I decided that it would be the first project that I would start on.

Sylvanian Families Canal Boat the Rose of Sylvania


This is the only photo that I have before the boat was remodelled. The stickers were badly faded and most of them were peeling off or torn. Most of the plastic had also faded from sun exposure and the whole side of the boat was badly sun-bleached. The boat also didn't come with any of its original accessories, but I was lucky that the toilet seat and all of the covers for the boxes as well as the little table, stove, most of the doors / windows and shower the head were all still intact. I was only missing one outside door.

My project began with a little Googling to find inspiration! I did some research on narrowboats to find their origins and found that they are usually decorated in a specific style. (None of these images are my own, I just love the artwork!)


Sylvanian Families Canal Boat decoration inspiration2 Sylvanian Families Canal Boat decoration inspiration3Sylvanian Families Canal Boat decoration inspiration1

I also found some inspiration for my colour scheme. I decided on blue and red due to these two examples. And, YES, that IS a canal boat cake! WOW, some really talented people out there!!! The other picture is a handmade boat, just as cool!!!

Sylvanian Families Canal Boat colour scheme inspiration

Sylvanian Families Canal Boat Colour Scheme Inspiration


I decided to use Tamiya's model spray-paint for this project. It is very easy to work with, and you get great results with a minimum of effort. I stripped the boat, removed all stickers and sanded the damaged areas flat. My boat had some gouges in the plastic that have come with age, but I managed to remove most of them. After that, I cleaned all of the individual parts with alcohol and then gave them a good wash in lukewarm water and soap.

When they were all clean and dry, I started the meticulous task of priming with Tamiya's matt white primer, followed by a few coats of the individual colours that I decided on. I managed to strip the whole boat, except for the little yellow panes around the windows. After the paints were dry, I used the smallest brush that I could find to hand-paint all of the flowers and details, as well as the golden railing. The original idea was to have new stickers made, but I like the idea of imperfections, paint smudges and a bit of unevenness! This is supposed to be a living space, not a clinically perfect showpiece after all. I also doubt that the real canal boats have perfect paint jobs...


These are some photos of my progress thus far - Holding "Ctrl" & clicking on the photo will open a larger version in a new window.

Sylvanian Families Canal Boat Port SideSylvanian Families Canal Boat Starboard side

Sylvanian Families Canal Boat Missing doors

Sylvanian Families Canal boat open doorsSylvanian Families Canal Boat Closed doors


My next challenge, was to make and fit the missing doors. This took a few tries, but I am happy with the result and I am accepting them as they are now! I used Balsa wood for this. My husband cut out two little holes for windows, and I painted them black to fit the colour scheme of the rest of the boat and decorated the windows with some golden paint. I also added two beads for the door handles on these, just to add a little more detail.


Sylvanian Families Canal Boat New DoorsSylvanian Families Canal Boat New Doors Fitted


Because the Balsa wood is so soft, I had to make quite a few sets of doors before I finally had them fitted... These are not perfect either, but they are as close to it as I am going to get. I used clear epoxy glue to glue two spikey points from kebab-stick into the bottom of the doors before cutting them to size. I fitted the doors and put two kebab-sticks into the doors from the top of the boat to make hinges, also gluing them in place. Once again, the soft Balsa wood started crumbling away, and I ended up with less than perfect doors. The epoxy, however, keeps them in one piece and I am NOT going to redo them AGAIN... Drilling holes in them was bad enough, thank you!


Sylvanian Families Canal Boat New Anchor


Today I finally had the chance to add the anchor to my canal boat! I didn't have the original, so I had to improvise. This one is part of some costume jewelery that I bought for my husband's pirate themed birthday party last year. It is more or less the right size and after I painted it with some golden model paint, it looks the part as well! The ring was removed and a string tied to the loop at the top of the anchor to secure it to the boat.