My canal house miniatures

Started on 9Sep2020, updated 29Sep2020 (Night ligthing). This page is in group MINIATURES. Do observe my Standard disclaimer.

Fig.4 – My Amsterdam Streets houses photographed in front, one by one, and then merged (press for more pixels (5 MB))

According to Google the title of this note, «my canal house miniatures», would spell out as mijn grachtenpandminiaturen in Dutch. Gracht is a canal. I love canals (as well as channels in programming.) Pand means house, as does huis. It seems like I would live in a huis and cycle to work, with my desk in a pand. Personally I did this for some 40+ years.

Thanks, my reseller of these miniatures, for reading my first intro mail and becoming a catalyst of this note! The manufacturer of these miniature houses calls them grachtenhuizen. He would say «authentic historic Amsterdam houses» on his page in English, and add that all these houses still exist. (You will find their names and links in the text. Again: standard disclaimer)

To me, my five miniatures (from a nice trip we had to Amsterdam in 2009) have been a pleasure for the eye and the hand for many years. Also for grandchildren. But when I recently ordered a replacement of one with a broken front, and ordered a sixth model, that’s when I discovered a detail that took them to my blog.

To be honest, it was my wife Mari who first wondered what those Dutch people viewing out of the dormer window in one of the houses, would actually see out there. We were enjoying them by the breakfast one morning. – Don’t you have a smaller house, so the people don’t have to look into the wall of its neighbour? No, I didn’t. That’s when this story started.

Aside: I added the intro, top picture, after some time because I discovered the open door with the staircase inside. So nice! I thought I could use my camera slider (here) and make a fronts-only picture. Six pictures shot and then, through several processes, merged by cloning by hand in Adobe Photoshop Elements. As with all pictures here, the camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100. I tried with f=8.0 but ended up with f=2.8 t=1/60 on all the pictures, since it’s easier to get the colours right. All natural light. I decided to make it one of my blog headers with its own story (here). Just press refresh in your browser enough times and it will appear. If that doesn’t work then going to a another note should. Thanks, Amsterdam Streets!

Mind the gap

Fig.1 – My Amsterdam Streets houses being scanned (press for more pixels)

Here you see them all. I placed them on the scanner to show the labels underneath. Then I discovered that I might just be able to shoot the gap. There it is!

After the scan

Fig.3 – After the scan (press for more pixels)

May this be a perfect Amsterdam morning? Without trees, but still – we can almost see the quiet water in the imaginary canal, my scanner. These houses are replicas of authentic houses from around the 17th century. However, they are not seen in Amsterdam as befriended as this. They would be scattered all over the inner part of the town.

My numbers

Here’s the scan. From left, and street position. To study more, click on top intro picture.

Fig.2 – My Amsterdam Streets numbers (press to read)

  1. 6005: De Ooievaar, in Reguliersgracht 92. Midwife’s canal house. Building 30.0 mm, base 38.0 mm wide. Left corner house
  2. 6025: Trapgevel in Noordermarkt 1, in the Jordaan area. 30.0 mm wide
  3. 6030: Bloemgracht 36. 30.0 mm wide
  4. 6039: Singel 166. 14.0 mm wide. Smallest canal house of Amsterdam (*1) (*2)
  5. 6017: Antiekwinkel, in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 64. 30.0 mm wide. Antiques shop
  6. 6001: Brood en Banket in Elandsgracht 78. Building 26.5 mm, base 33.5 mm wide. Bakery canal house. Right corner house

(*1) Smallest house or narrowest facade, also see Oude Hoogstraat 22 (here and here).
(*2) The Singel 166 is 1.8 m on the street, 16 m deep and 5 m on the back (Wikipedia – translated). See Scale (below).

I have the two corner houses I need. Observe that I don’t collect these miniatures. I don’t collect anything any more, even if I have a gene or two pointing in that direction. (There was one exception: Mercedes-Benz «short and tall» A-class models (here)).

If I, while I’m here, would end up owning the companies’ Amsterdam Streets® and Holland Glory® models (here).., if I would en up with them all – it would be by pure coincidence.

As you understand I do love them. They stand by the window in our kitchen, so I don’t have the pleasure to enjoy them here, while I write, as I do with the one described here: My»Day’s End» by Jane Hart reflection. Similar technology, I assume.

It looks like the detail never wear out. Year after year. After eleven years, the new replacement was virtually equal to the old. I mean equal.


Fig.4 – Anna, enjoying

I must admit, one cannot have these models on display all the time. After some years they were stored away in an upside down lid of an out-of-use CD storage box. I stole a glimpse of them every time I opened the cupboard door.

I showed the lid to a grandchild, Anna, in 2015 – and see how she enjoyed! Studying the photo, I now see that my Noordermarkt 1 building already was broken at that time.

There also is a Spanish church there (thanks, friend Eiler, who bought it just for me!) Plus a replica of the corner columns of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus at the Forum Romanum in Rome. I bought it myself from a street vendor’s table when Mari and I visited there. His table had millions of them, and they looked cheap. But it has charmed for years.

I cannot blog about all those, and those out of the picture (no, I don’t collect!). There are only 24 hours in my days, too. But I can reveal that I do have time to enjoy every now and then. I do have time to study them.

And wonder about – who designed my Amsterdam Streets miniatures? Who did the first positive model? Is it a man or a woman? The manufacturer has not, so far, revealed that secret. But there is more to a name than a name. Even IKEA tells who designed their stuff. I don’t wonder why. There is a value to a name and a face, associated with what I carefully hold in my hands. I miss the one to send my winged regards to. It’s even the «opposite»: on most of the photos here I have not polluted them with the photographer’s (my) name, out of respect for the original designer.


I would also have liked to know the scale they work by.

Let me try this one: The 6039 Singel 166 model is 14.0 mm wide and 1800 mm in the real (ref. Wikipedia, see above). 1800/14 ≈ 129. I assume the scale is 1/130  (1:130). (The closest standard model railway scale is TT scale of 1/120 (here)).

Now, the situation

Fig.5 – My Amsterdam Streets miniatures (press for more pixels)

Here you will see what Mari wondered about. Legend: 0,1 means zero dormer window on the left side, and one on the right roof. With a bit of luck (and clairvoyance) you may agree on this list, as seen from the left: 1,0 - 0,1 - 0,0 - 0,0 - 1,1 and on the rightmost corner house: 0,1. And there are lots of more Amsterdam Streets houses that I haven’t studied. In my list, all the black numbered dormer windows look to somewhere. But not the red dormer window of the Noordermarkt 1 (number two from the left). I think dormer is the correct term, also for these small structures on the roof, see Wikipedia (here).

But when I mailed the reseller Kooijman’s Dutch Webshop in Amsterdam (09Mar2024: ded url removed) and queried about whether the Coffee Roasting Shop was small enough to fit below the Noordermarkt 1, it wasn’t. It’s actually 8 cm tall, according to Koijiman’s display page. I should have seen it.

Noordermarkt 1

Help! The real building is on the (195°-60° = 135°) corner between the Noordermarkt and the even numbered northern side of the Prinsengracht! And the building is somewhat trapezoid, as seen in the bird’s eye view on the map. Here it is in Google Street View:

Study more here.

In other words, the manufacturer had to compromise to make the model possible to be lined up in a straight street. Miniaturisation is always about compromising. This is perfectly ok, and one of the reasons why the results are so fascinating. That’s why this is an art.

On the map this house and the other corner house are grey, like many of the other buildings. But most are yellow. There is no activity, like restaurants etc, in the greyed buildings. I found out that yellow buildings are «areas of interest» or «popular». Grey buildings are «factories, harbours and other heavy duty areas.» (!?) Google seems to infer this by an algorithm. (See here.)

Google Earth also has satellite view. There we can see that this building looks very long and thin. The neighbour on the right side, as seen from the front, has an odd roof structure. This might allow our dormer window, which I think I can see on the aerial photo, to have a view of some sort.

I wish I could give the manufacturer some advice on this. However, what I do know is that if two tourists from the north would sleep in the dormer room, in an imaginary small hotel in Noordermarkt 1, they would be glad to come back if the standard «out of the hotel room window photo» would make some sense.

Stay tuned, I will come back, should the view change.

Night lighting

During the night my little Amsterdam became so abandoned. What about some lighting? Since I did not feel myself in the position to making a diorama, I made an elevated LED block for the place where the lowered water of the canal would else-wise have been. I could also have used a spot from far away, I guess – but it would have lit the whole of the fronts. I mostly wanted to have the lower parts lit. Once I got used to the LED block it’s quite ok. And since it’s not fastened in any way it’s only a sec and it’s gone.

Fig.5 – Amsterdam Streets at night, with LED block (press for more pixels)

I did not want to make any fixture of metal, since any reckless «what’s this?» handling of it might very fast have hit a house and cracked it. But I needed it to be heavy, so that the cable would not be the boss. I found some copper that I cut, meant to be a filler. It’s better to work with and somewhat heavier than iron. The minus with a filler is that the fixture got larger.

I had an e-waste display’s LED backlight strip in a box. It had 8 LEDs and 8 serial resistors and worked off 5V with a series resistor.

I made the box of two long trays from 8 mm sheet PVC and cut it with my table FET saw. It took at least a day with trial and error to find out how the pieces should be there for each other in a nice way. It is the same PVC as I used in my aquarium. I found two tiny screws that was all I needed to fasten the top and the bottom trays. The fixture works (and looks) equally well from both sides, allowing the cable to “enter” on any side. I was lucky to have the cable enter in the rear; this worked best for my placement of the unit and the cable. I usually have a 100% probability to get it wrong if the odds are 50%. Lucky me, for now.

I made two light intensities. A serial resistor from 5V USB of 2.7k is always connected and deliveres 2 mA. An additional 820R is connected as a parallel shunt, with a small slider switch, to increase the current to 4 mA. I soldered this on a board and added strain relief by tying with thick dental floss (I have a type used for this, from the waste when the company I worked for  moved. That strand attach very well to everything.)

It took some testing to find an ok cable. I thought that a cable from a thrown away earplug would do. But I could not figure out how to solder the multi-stranded ends. The lacquer did not go just by heat. I ended op with a 3.5 mm plug’s type of audio cable. And finding a USB cable, well – I only throw them away when there’s no hope for any reuse (or if they start to pile up).

I couldn’t believe that 2 and then 4 mA was enough to satisfy all 8 LEDs. That’s 0.25 mA or 0.5 mA per LED! But they were too white (like 3000K), so I added some yellow plastic film from an A4 paper folder.

Shooting the picture was not possible in auto mode, as the camera would turn everything into a nice, light day. I had to use manual mode to make it look as dark as it should. I tested a dark street view mode, but manual mode was better.

Sheet PVC, tiny screws and table FET saw: here. Shunt: see the chapter and figure I originated on Wikipedia, here.

Epilogue: the flip sides

Just pun. It’s nothing more than this picture. No detail has been left out. I had to finally add this picture since I think it too bad to have shot it and not having shown it to anybody. Enjoy! Including our dormer structure!

Fig.6 – The rears of my Amsterdam Streets houses (press for more pixels)

One final thing. They are made and painted by hand, of course. But, where?

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