Sylvanian Families Canal Boat Remodel

AUG 27TH, 2012

Sylvanian Families Customised Canal Boat interior

Early in 2012, I had the opportunity to buy a box of second-hand Sylvanians Families figures and items 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, as it was badly faded and thoroughly loved through the years.

When I got the boat, 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 back side of the boat was badly sun-bleached, causing it to be badly mismatched in colour all around. The boat also didn't come with most 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. I tried to recreate this style as closely as possible and all of the flowers and embellishments on my boat, are hand painted by myself. 

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...

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.

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-sticks 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 Customised Canal Boat interior

After the exterior was completed, I started adding some extrs to my boat to furnish it. I didn't have the original anchor, so I had to improvise. The one that I added, 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.

I also added a little fish basket that I got at a craft shop, and some miniature flower planters and crates of vegetables which I put on the roof. I got a life ring from a collecting friend, as this was one piece that my boat could not be without. Lastly, I added some miniature copper pots and a kettle, as well as some porcelain cups and dinnerware, since the original Sylvanian Families boat items were incomplete.

Lastly, I made some soft furnishings for the beds and outdoor seating area. The bedding can be packed away neatly below the little bunk beds and the kitchen also has a matching tablecloth. When the cushions and bedspreads are put away, the matresses make for comfortable seating on the benches inside the boat. 

The curtains were made from pieces of lace and some ribbon and are stuck to the walls with double sided tape. 

Since all canal boats that I found online, have quirky names, I decided that I would name mine the "Canal Queen". I am yet to find the guts to actually paint her name on the side, as this requires a very steady hand.

Sylvanian Families Flower Template