Australian enquiry book of household and general information/Building and Decorating

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MANY a man arriving in the colonies finds himself with sufficient ready money in his pocket to buy an allotment of land, but he lacks the required amount to pay a builder to put up the house upon it. There are plenty of men clever enough to do the work themselves, if they have but the clear directions and a plan of the house before them. These are what I purpose giving, as there is really no reason why one should not build a house from written directions any more than one should not make a table, cupboard, or any other article of furniture. You have here before you the whole plans, working and manner of putting together a four roomed hut, which is the usual bush house a selector builds when he first takes up his land, that is if he is a family man and requires accommodation for more than himself. This sort of house is in most respects the handiest to build for the reason that it is easily added to.


Always build your house on the highest part of your land, unless it should happen to be among hills in that event you might possibly choose a low part of the allotment. But of all things be sure you are within reach of good water, as it is very inconvenient to have to carry water a long distance, or indeed any distance at all. Water you must have, and plenty of it, so build your house so that there will be no difficulty about it. The next thing is the aspect. A westerly aspect is the most unpleasant, on account of getting the full force of the afternoon sun, so you require to study the question a little, noticing which way the sun shines, and from which quarter the wind and rain comes most severely and then decide upon the position of your house. A southerly or easterly aspect are the favorite positions. Having settled this matter, take a tape measure and measure and mark your ground plan as in the diagram below, putting in pegs at all the places where piles are to go, or if you do not intend to raise the floor, but build your house on the ground, mark the spots where the posts will go. The plan is 20 ft. by 20 ft. and requires ten stout, strong posts.

The plan is made with a small hall, or passage at the back, because it is much more convenient and comfortable, and the very little bit of space taken for it does not make any noticeable difference in the back rooms. If you prefer to leave it out you can do so without altering the plan, merely leave out one post and alter the doors, but I would advise a passage in all houses however small.

Now dig your post holes and at the very least three feet deep, they would be better four; but I know what hard work this is, so we will suppose the holes three feet deep all round. In picking out trees to fell for posts several things must be considered:— First, be sure it is the right wood, almost any kind of gum tree will do, but I would advise a new chum to ask some old bushman to give him the names and peculiarities of the different trees. Bushmen have certain signs to go by, unknown to others, and which, though absurdly simple, are quite as valuable and as dependable as any botanist could give you. An hour or two's conversation with an old "timber getter" will give you more knowledge of trees, their uses, the signs of soundness and suitability than all the books you could read.


I should have mentioned these before anything else, as of course you cannot do anything without them. However, it is not too late, and unless you are the happy possessor of a complete tool chest the following list contains all that are required for splitting and building. I may mention here, that an emigrant who purposes settling and making a home for himself directly he comes to the country (of course provided he can spare the money to buy them), cannot do better than bring tools with him, for one thing he will get them very much cheaper in England and possibly better, and if he brings them he will not have freight to pay. But unless he meditates settling at once, or within a short time of arrival, it would be foolish to bring them as he may need the money he would spend in their purchase, and they will not improve by lying by, and if he sells them here it will most likely be at a considerable loss. With the list I give the probable price of each tool, so that a man purposing to build can have some slight idea of the outlay he must go to. A cross cut saw 10/6 to 25/-, they are to be had even cheaper, but it is not wise to get too cheap an article, as a good one will last longest.

A hand saw 5s. 6d.
Axe 6s. 6d.
Adze 5s. 6d.
Mortising chisel (socket) 2s. 6d.
Two sugars, 1 and 1¼ in. 3s. 6d. each.
Two maul rings 6d. per lb.
Set of wedges 6d. per lb.
Spade 6s. 6d.
Pick axe 3s. 6d.
Two-foot rule 1s. or 1s. 6d.
Chalk line 6d.
Square 2s. to 3s. 6d.

A Plumb Bob.

This last can be easily made by melting down some old tea chest lead. Get a sound half egg shell, sink it in the ground carefully, pass a piece of wire, bent at the top, through the shell and into the ground to form a handle for your line, then pour in the melted lead till level with the surface, let it cool and you will have as good a plum bob as you could buy.

Now to pick out the best trees for splitting, &c., &c. Most likely you will have these on your own land, or close to it, and it is as well to go right through the timber and mark each tree that you think suitable for your purpose. Gum, iron bark, bloodwood, and stringy bark are all good. Iron bark the best of them. Choose trees not less than four feet in circumference, smaller than this they are not worth felling, and the larger they are the better provided the grain of the wood is all right. In iron bark take a tree with a good rough straight running bark. Sometimes the bark twists as it were round the tree, somewhat like a screw, on no account choose a tree of this sort or your slabs will be crooked and useless. In gum notice the bark also, cut a good sized notch or wedge out with the axe, and you will then see if the grain runs fairly straight; if it is very much interlocked and close leave that tree as useless for your purpose.

Bloodwood has the same characteristics as gum. Stringy bark always runs free, and is by far the easiest of all to work. There are many other varieties of wood, but all spring from the four I have now mentioned, for instance, there is blue gum, spotted gum, red gum, all equally suitable for building.

When your tree is down measure the length you require. If for posts for the house, eleven feet long; if for fencing, six feet six inches; rails for the fence must be nine feet. Having measured the required length, cut a ring round out of the bark, and saw the log through with the cross-cut. Bark your log, and then it is ready for splitting. To begin this, first burst it into halves by putting your wedges in at the smallest end, and be sure you use your smallest wedges when beginning to split. The crack made by them in the end will show on the sides of the log for a short way. Now follow it up on one side, first by putting the bigger wedges into the crack as it shows along the log, helping the wedges with the axe by cutting any cross strings or splinters that show between them, turn the log over and do the same on the other side. When you have the log burst into two, work from the smallest ends, divide each half into two, three or four, according to the width you require your slabs, posts, or whatever you are making.

There is a very great difference in trees, some can be split up very easily. A good "free tree" as splitters call it will take no time to run out. One or two blows with the maul will generally start them, but even with a free running tree you require to watch the grain of the wood and see how it runs, as sometimes they run off or out, stice off as it were, then you must put your wedges into the opposite end and what is called "meet the fault." A good log of about two feet diameter if properly worked should give from ten to fifteen rails or slabs. But now to return to the house. You require four main posts, each eleven feet long and ten inches in diameter at the small end. I say the small end because very often, in fact nearly always, a log will be larger at the butt than the top. You must try to get all your posts as near alike as possible, but none must be less than the ten inches at the small end. Having them eleven feet long will give three feet in the ground, and eight feet out. Now you want eight more posts for your back or skillion rooms, verandah and chimney, they must be nine feet long, and eight inches in diameter at the small end, and must be two feet in the ground and seven feet out. Having cut your posts to the length required knock off the bark, this is easily done by giving the bark a few smart blows with the back of your axe to loosen it, and then peal it off with the sharp edge. I mentioned barking the logs a little while back when writing directions for splitting.

Now to dress your posts, or to use the proper term, square them. First measure the three feet at the end and chalk a circle round the post there. Now mark the end of your post so as to square the four sides. Make a distinct square on the end, and with your chalk line make four plain marks from the end to the circle where it is to go into the ground. Now with an axe first chip along roughly, and then finish off with an adze.

Log Marked Ready For Facing.

Post Faced and Moritised.
One who has had no previous knowledge of tools should, before attempting to build, go to some carpenter or builder and obtain a few lessons in the use of the different tools, or if he cannot do that he had better practice by himself with them for a little while every day, and on useless timber, for if he goes to work on good timber at once he is apt to spoil it, as a cut or two deep may give him the trouble of getting another post or so, or he may cripple himself by a want of knowledge in holding and using the instrument. Besides, all these things are the better for being seen. I tell you to square a post, and you wonder how it is done, it sounds an enigma to you, but once see a squared post and you understand.

Pegging out the ground for your house appears a very simple matter, yet you must have it perfectly and exactly square, and to find out whether it is so, after having put in the four pegs where the four corner posts are to go, take your line, make it fast at corner No. 1 and carry it across to corner No. 3, and so on from No. 2 to No. 4, if they measure the same your ground plan will be straight.

Side View of Slab Hut.

Front View, Showing Chimney.

Before going farther you had better take your plan into your hand and study it carefully. In the sketches I have done my utmost to be plain and understandable. Now I will give the exact list of posts, &c., &c., that are required:—


(For numbers corresponding see diagram of house).

1. Posts (4) Main building, 11 ft. long, 10 in. diameter, 3 ft. in ground 8 ft. out.
2. Posts (8) Skillion, verandah, and chimney, 7 ft. long, 10 in. diameter, 2 ft. in ground, 5 ft. out.
3. Studs for doors and windows (11) 8 ft. 6 in. long; 3 x 2 in.; let into sleepers and wall plates 3 in.
4. Studs for skillion and windows, (10) 5 ft. 6 in. long; 3 x 2 in.; let into sleepers and wall plates 3 in.
5. Wall plates, main building (4) 21 ft. long, 6 in. diameter " " (3) 13 ft. long, 6 in. diameter.
6. Wall plates, skillion and verandah (6) 8 ft. long, 6 in. diameter.
7. Sleepers, main building (3) 21 ft. long, 8 in. diameter. " " (3) 12 ft. long, 8 in. diameter. " " (4) 8 ft. long, 8 in. diameter.

Rafters, main building (22) 8 ft. 6 in. long, 3 x 2 in. diameter.

Rafters, skillion and verandah (22) 11 ft. long, 3 x 2 in. diameter.

Slabs, main building, about (150) 8 ft. 3 in. long.

Slabs, skillion, about (56) 5 ft. 3 in. long.

About 12,000 shingles will be required if shingles are to be used. If iron, it all depends on the size.

Battens for shingles to be nailed on every three inches down the rafters.

Battens for iron roof according to length of iron, or 1 at top, 2 middle, 1 bottom, or 4 battens to 8 feet.

Ridgeboard (1) 21 ft. long, and 6 in. x 1 in., to go the whole length of house.

In this plan I have not provided for a floor, so many huts in the far bush are made without flooring where time and trouble are considered, but a floor is very easily made. Joists would need to be laid across, and slabs or boards nailed across them. Another way I once saw was with sheets of bark laid upon the earth floor. This is not a very even flooring, nor for that matter are slabs.

The following are a few of the terms used in building and fencing, with their meanings, as well as I can give them:—

Mortise, to cut an opening with the chisel in a post.

A mortise is the opening so cut. For instance you mortise the post to receive the rail in fencing. In building the posts have to be mortised so that the sleepers can fit into them, and the part that fits in, and which is also cut and shaped is called a tenon and shoulder, the part under shaped neatly to fit, being the shoulder.

Sleeper showing Tenon and Shoulder.

No 1.

No. 1 post is faced on two sides, has the tenon at the top to fit into the wall plate, also the mortise at the bottom into which the tenon of the sleeper is to fit. The posts are faced according to their position in the building. Some require to be faced on three sides, others on only one.

Post No. 2 is also faced on two sides, but it shows the two mortises for sleepers and the wall plate as it would appear when fitted on. In slab huts of the kind I am describing it is usual to spike the four corners, that is where the wall plates join or cross as below.

No. 2

To hold the slabs the wall plates and sleepers must be grooved, about one inch deep, the sleeper or wall plate is marked with a pencil or a chalk line, and then the groove is cut out with hammer and chisel. A better and quicker plan is to groove only the wall plate and nail (2) two battens on to the sleeper, one inch apart, by this method the sleeper will last longer, and another advantage is that it takes very much less time to do.

Sleeper showing Groove for Slabs.
(Groove made with battens nailed on.)

Sleepers need only be faced on one side. Wall plates on two, viz., top and bottom. Posts according to position.

Wall plate showing Grove to receive Slabs.

The groove must be always one inch deep and one inch wide. Showing slabs fixed in groove on wall plate, and between battens on sleeper, the easiest way to fix the slabs is to nail on one batten first, and when all the slabs are in their places nail on the second.

Having learned to face the posts, wall plates and sleepers, it will come easy to dress the slabs, though in this sort of hut they need not be very particular. Many experienced bushmen are expert hands with the axe and adze, and can dress their slabs as smoothly as sawn timber.

Now to return to the work of putting up the hut. Having your ground pegged out, dig the holes for the four main posts, and having marked and faced them, put them in, and be sure that they are not too low in the ground or too high out of it. To make sure of this do not fill in your holes till you have all your posts in, and to ascertain whether they are even or not place the posts in the holes and across from one to the other lay a batten, and on top of that your spirit level, which will at once tell you when it is on an even surface. Having got your four posts exactly even, fill in round them, stamping the earth down firmly. Now do the same by the skillion and verandah posts, trying them all with the spirit level before filling in the holes. I am supposing that your posts have already been mortised to receive the sleepers and the tenons cut for the wall plates.

Face your sleepers and cut tenons and shoulders like the diagram, there are ten of them of various lengths according to their place in the building. See ground plan. Make the sleepers fit securely which they will easily do if the mortises and tenons and shoulders are properly cut. Next fit in the studs where your doors and windows are to be. Look well at the ground plan and you will see where these are to go. For the windows two studs are placed from sleeper to wall plate, and shorter pieces placed to form top and bottom, which pieces must be mortised into the studs, the same to form the door ways, have a short piece of studding across the top securely mortised or fitted into the upright studs on each side. The wall plates rest upon the studs and are fitted together at the corners and a spike driven through to keep them firm.

You will now have the skeleton of your hut erected, the back or skillion rooms being a few inches lower in the roof than the main building. Now form your two ends, or what is called the gables, to make the roof, by leaning two pieces of rafter, letting them meet (as shown) at the top with the ridge board between. Do this at each end so that the ridge board extends from end to end, and it must be nailed in this position.

Then the rafters being faced, or sloped to meet against the ridge board, are also nailed, and nailed again to the wall plates. The rafters on the skillion rooms and verandah coming from the main wall plate to the outside and to the verandah wall plates. I have shown how the slabs are put in, they must be adzed at each end to fit into the grooves top and bottom, and made to go as close as possible, a little manipulation being necessary to make them fit close. If shingles are to be used the battens on which to nail them must be laid across the rafters at intervals of a few inches. In the far bush, bark is used as a roof very often, and in that event it is a very simple matter to put it on. It being merely laid on sheet by sheet, and secured by strong saplings crossed over the ridge and spiked together. Now-a-days iron is very much used and that also is very easily put on, being laid on evenly and nailed down. Shingles are the most trouble, as they have to be split first, and 12,000 shingles to be split, bored and put on is no simple matter. Regarding the gable ends of the hut, if possible it is best to board them up with weatherboards, but if impracticable then of course slabs must be used, and nailed on to the gable ends.

For the chimney, a good plan is to make a sort of wall of stones a few feet in height all round the inside of the slabs, then above the slabs weatherboard it right the whole way up. All doors must be made of sawn wood. Window sashes can be made, but it is much the best to get them made properly, or else buy them second hand from some builder. In the old days very few bush huts boasted glass windows. The first hut I made acquaintance with possessed a wooden shutter which was held open by a stick placed under it, it being attached with leather hinges. I have, as well as I could, given the details of how to build the ordinary bush hut without flooring, though the latter can be added very simply.

I will now give the diagrams of a five roomed house and the timber required. For details of building those written of the other will answer. I should have mentioned that the probable price of the four roomed house would be about £30, allowing for cost of getting timber, tools, and some labour. Of the five roomed house the probable cost will be about £75. The scale of drawing as ten feet to the inch.


1.–Ground Plan.

2.–Side View.

3.—Front View, showing Chimney.


Posts, main building, 10—14 ft. long, 10 in. diameter, 4 ft. in ground, 8 ft. out.
Posts, verandah and chimney, 10—10 ft. long, 8 in. diameter, 3 ft. in ground, 7 ft. out.

5 Wall plates, 29 ft. long, 8 in. diameter.

3 Wall plates, 17 ft. long, 8 in. diameter.

3 Sleepers, 17 ft. long, 8 in. diameter.

6 Sleepers, 15 ft. long, 8 in. diameter.

30 Joists, 8 ft. long, 4 x 2.

64 Rafters, 10 ft. long, 3 x 2.

Battens for shingles, 3 x 1, to be nailed on every 3 inches.

Iron, 3 x 1, to be nailed on top and bottom, and middle of sheets.

300 Slabs for walls and floor, 8 ft. long.

18 Studs, 8 ft. long, 3 x 2.

14,000 Shingles, about. A square of shingles is 6 ft. x 6 ft., and takes 600 shingles to cover.

In this plan I have allowed joists for flooring, slabs to be used for the purpose. The one house is as easy to build as the other, the only difference being in size, and that is very slight. If you can afford to build your house of sawn timber, so much the better for you, as a house so built is far preferable to one of the slabs, though I have seen the roughest hut (externally) made beautiful with the aid of canvas or cretonne inside. In the old days it was the custom to line the slab huts with unbleached calico, or a cheap calico, and very often then papered over the calico, the effect being very pretty. On most stations nowadays they build with sawn stuff, on many even sawing the timber on the place.

The most effective lining for a slab hut is cretonne or chintz, fastened to the walls with small brass headed nails. Many of the rooms, even though built of sawn stuff, would be improved by a pretty lining. One room I saw done was most effective, having the appearance of a padded room; round the top the cretonne was gathered on to a hoop held up in some invisible way. In many parts of the colonies where wall paper is used it encourages or harbours cockroaches, silverfish, &c., &c.

One of the prettiest decorations for a room is with paint and brown stain, the latter being extended a few feet up the wall, and above it some pale tint in paint. Floors also look well if nicely stained and polished; they can be done in two shades if preferred, a centre square in light, the outer in very dark. In such climates as Queensland and some parts of New South Wales, stained floors are preferable on account of their being so cool. Many people imagine that a lady cannot stain and polish a room herself. That it requires a man's strength this is not true. A persevering, energetic woman can and will do almost everything a man can, and in decorating a room a woman is thoroughly in her element.

To Measure Timber.—Multiply the length in feet by the width in inches, and divide by 12. When of varying width find the average width by taking half-sum of end widths and proceed as before. For instance, a piece of timber 16ft. long and 10in. wide at one end and 26in. wide at the other would have 10 and 26 are 36, one-half is 18in. average width, multiplied by 16 and divided by 12 equals 24ft.

A Good Bush Paint.—Dissolve 8 lbs. of glue in boiling water, and in this slake 1 bushel of quick lime until it becomes of the consistency of paint. Apply three coats of this with a paint or whitewash brush, being careful that each coat is dry before applying the next; over the third dust clean sand or stone dust from an ordinary flour dredger. This is a most excellent preservative for weather-boards, and really looks as well as paint. It may be made green by mixing in common washing blue and yellow ochre, and applying hot. By mixing ochre with the wash any tint desired may be obtained.

Cheap Paint for Fences.—Melt 81b. of glue in boiling water, and with it slake one bushel of quick lime until it is the right consistence. To make it green, mix common washing blue and yellow ochre with it. Apply very hot, and in three coats, taking care to let one dry before the other is applied. This is very good for lattice work outside of summer-houses, etc.

A Good Whitewash for Farm Buildings.—Slake some lime in a solution of salt and water, and thin to the required consistency with skim milk from which every particle of cream has been taken. This is an excellent wash for a barn or hay roof, as it renders the wood incombustible and is also a preservative. Shingles are the better for a coating of it.

A Good Colour Wash for Out-buildings.—To make a good-sized barrel of wash, take half a bushel of lime, 16lbs. of hydraulic cement, |style="padding-inline-start:10px; padding-inline-end:10px; border-inline-start:none; border-inline-end:none;"| and taste made to harmonise so well that the same rooms were rendered quite unrecognisable as the bare unfurnished apartments of a few hours before. I am not writing theoretically only, but from real practical experience; every one of the ideas, suggestions, and arrangements given in this book has either been tried by myself or I have seen it tried, therefore they are all quite possible and not beyond the ingenuity of any tolerably handy lady. A few of them may need the stronger hand of a man to arrange— such as shelves and tables put up, carpentering done, and such like. There really is no reason why a lady should not be able to use a hammer as well as a man. If you can only get possession of the tools and a supply of nails you can be independent. A room that one furnishes and decorates entirely by one's own exertions is thought more of, I think.

Book Shelves and Writing Table. —Most bush houses are built with two rooms in the front, two at the back, and skillions behind again. We will take the sitting-room first, or rather drawing-room I suppose I should say. You have two French lights in that room; usually the space between can very well and advantageously be filled with book shelves. Get a man to make them if possible; if not set about it yourself. Get two pieces of board the height and width you want your shelves, shape each end so that it is thin enough to drive a nail through to fasten it to the wall; this you can do by drawing the shape with a pencil on your board and sawing along the line, or if you have not a fine saw your shelf will look just as well if you cut a square piece out at the top, just sufficient to allow your nail to reach the wall and hold the upright; then nail your shelves between the two upright pieces (of course both ends of the uprights, top and bottom, must be nailed). If a man makes your shelves he will cut grooves for the shelves, and doubtless it looks better to see them nicely fitted, but a woman is seldom a clever enough carpenter to manage this. If your shelves are placed high you can make a small writing table underneath them so: Get a board about 2ft. wide and nail two sloping pieces of wood under tohold it up. It is a rather difficult matter to explain without diagrams, but anyone setting about the matter will soon see how to make it secure. Having your shelves and writing table thus erected, you can ornament them in a number of ways—either paint your shelves or stain the wood with Judson's dye, or else work a border and fasten it along the edges of the shelves with small tacks. I have made a very effective border with ticking worked with wool in feather-stitch; a thick fringe of wool on each side this nailed along the edge looks very well. Another is a narrow scalloped border, the scallops worked in button hole stitch. The top of the table may be covered with green American cloth. Wet the table thoroughly before putting the cloth on or it will not lie smooth. When it is well stretched and tacked round the edge, then tack on the border, either turning a little piece in or finishing it with a cord. You can make a receptacle for needlework underneath by tacking a loose bag of chintz to the table under the border, having an opening in the centre; if well arranged this is often an improvement to the table, and if not required for holding needlework it is most useful for newspapers.

Drapery for a Mantelpiece or Bracket. —In many bush houses the mantelpiece is merely a broad shelf of rough wood, the sideboards quite plain, very often not even varnished. Now these can be made really most artistic in appearance by ornamenting them with ferns in splash work. To make sure of doing them well the boards should be done before being put up, but when that is impossible care must be taken not to blotch the ferns. One of the handsomest bush fireplaces I ever saw, the sides were ornamented with a very small-leafed creeper and flower running right up to the mantelshelf. The flowers were coloured with Judson's dye in different shades of blue; at the bottom there was a group of ferns from which the creeper rose. The whole was varnished a very light colour, and the effect at a short distance was beautiful. There are other ways of ornamenting the sides of a fireplace, for instance, they can be draped with bright chintz and tied back like window curtains; this looks very well when the fire place is overlarge. The drape for the shelf can be made in a variety of ways, from plain chintz with a fringe to Indian needlework or point-lace; the latter I think somewhat out of place in any but a drawing-room used only as such. A pretty drape can be made of ticking worked in wool or filoselle in three or four different stitches, or all in feather-stitch, according to inclination. The handsomest I had was of velvet half-an-inch wide sewn on to the ticking, and small flowers worked upon it. The slips of velvet were of three colours—purple, yellow, and black; on the latter pansies were worked, on the yellow violets, and daisies on the purple. Between each stripe of velvet there was one of gold braid; and the whole was lined with blue silk and edged with deep gold fringe; it improves the drape to be scalloped. Drapery for brackets can be made in any of the above ways, but by far the prettiest brackets are worked in crewels on cloth, merino, silk, &c.; almost any piece of self-coloured material will do.

A Screen.—If you can get a man to make the framework of this all the better; if not, you need to make it very carefully yourself. The most difficult part are the feet, or supports for it to stand on; they must be made like a clothes-horse—indeed, an old clothes-horse makes a very good screen altogether, it only needs being made higher. Black linen is a very good foundation to stretch across your frame. It must be tacked tightly all round, then have Christmas cards or bright pictures of any kind carefully cut out and pasted on with starch. They should be arranged to fit to each other and be grouped with taste—pictures out of old illustrated papers can be used. When all are dry and the screen covered, the whole can be varnished; a shilling's worth of varnish will more than do it. Photographic views look very well on a screen, better, I think, than the cards. A screen is very useful to hide an unsightly door, or to stand in a draught.

Fire Screens are very easily made with the wings of birds spread out and securely fastened in that position, and the tail feathers arranged so as to hide the join, the head of the bird being fixed in the centre. I made a pair of parrots' wings in this way, and had good cane handles put into them; they were looked upon as curiosities. Common fans and screens are easily and quickly made by cutting out the shape in cardboard, covering each piece with chintz, and sewing them securely together. They look well and are just as useful as a palm fan. The handle can be made firm by passing it through one of the boards as one would stick a needle into a needlebook. If the screens are made of dull-coloured wings they can be brightened by being dipped in some Judson's dye; this makes them all one colour, and really very well they look.

Skeleton Leaves.—Most people have seen groups of skeleton leaves, but few know how beautiful they can be made by the help of the diamond paints. There are, I believe, several ways of making skeleton leaves, but, in case some of my readers are ignorant on the subject, I give you my own way, which is very simple and quick. In two pints of water dissolve 3 ozs. of washing soda; let it boil, and add 2 ozs. of slaked quicklime; boil again for ten minutes, then remove from the fire and let it settle, and pour off the clear liquid. This is what you use for the leaves. In choosing the leaves you wish to skeletonise, do not pick them too young; as a rule, soft leaves do best, but with this process almost any will do. Some of the scrub trees have very pretty leaves for the purpose. The best plan is to pick out the whole group you wish skeletonised beforehand. Put the prepared liquor on to boil, and then throw in your leaves; boil for a good hour with the lid kept close, only lifting it now and then to add a little water as it boils away. To see if done, remove a leaf into cold water and rub gently between finger and thumb. If the pulp separates easily it is ready; if not, boil a little longer. When rubbing the skin and pulp off, be very gentle or you will break the veins—after a little practice you will become quite expert; the great thing is to keep the leaves under water while you are rubbing, so that the pulp is, as it were, washed off. Now, to bleach them, make a solution of chloride of lime and clean water, and let them lie in it several hours. Rinse the leaves after bleaching in some strong vinegar and water. Directly they are removed they must be pressed between sheets of blotting paper, and then they are ready to be treated with the diamond paints. Mix your gold and silver paint according to the directions, and with a small brush gild the leaves you wish to treat. Anyone with taste can arrange a group, and either with or without the dyes and paints they make a handsome centre ornament for a drawing-room table. For mounting, the finest copper wire should be used, though I have used the ordinary wire off beer and porter bottles.

Upholstery.—There are many ladies capital upholsterers; it only wants a little practice and a great deal of patience to make and upholster almost any article of furniture. My first attempt was on an old sofa, and for the benefit of those ladies who may happen to have an old sofa discarded as too unsightly for the drawing-room I give my method of proceeding:— My sofa was covered with rep; this I carefully picked off, but first I pulled the whole thing to pieces—took the back off and any other parts that were screwed or nailed together. You will find this best in doing up any piece of furniture, as you are then able to finish off your work neatly. Next I took out the old springs and all the stuffing, and thoroughly cleaned and brushed every part of the wood. I was living in the bush, so was unable to buy either fibre for stuffing or new springs. However, I was near a large swamp, and the rushes happened to be in seed, so I gathered a quantity of the soft fluff, which is beautifully soft and makes as comfortable mattresses as feathers almost. I teased out the old stuffing and laid it in first, but for springs I was greatly puzzled, as the old ones were very little good. However, I had a quantity of steel by me the ordinary steel that used to be worn in the old petticoats; it was the widest, and very strong. This I cut into lengths some inches longer across than my sofa, and fixed seven or eight of these across in my stuffing; it did not give the same effect as the springs, but it kept the stuffing in its place and from sinking flat. Over all that I tacked strong canvas, and on top of it put another layer of stuffing; this second layer is not actually necessary, though it really is an improvement. Over that again I tacked unbleached calico; and now you must be very careful to have this last cover without a crease, for any creases will show when you have your chintz on, therefore it must fit as perfectly as possible; don't spare the tacks, and don't draw your cover too tight over the stuffing, of which you must put in as much as you possibly can. In putting on they chintz or whatever you intend for the final cover it is best to lay it over the sofa and cut it into some semblance of the shape, as then you can the better tack it round, and once tacked to your liking, cut off to the edge as close to the tacks as possible; for you must remember you have to tack a gimp or some edging over it. In doing the back and arm, it is easiest to strap them through and through, sewing a button at each place. When you have all done so far, tack your edging round with the very smallest tacks or gimp pins. If you are not inclined to buy gimp, a very good one can be made of worsted, or even twine, but it depends on the colour. It must be worked up with a crochet needle and a hair pin (most people know the hair pin work I mean; it is very simple, and done as I say in twing makes a capital gimp). When you have all ready, screw or nail your pieces together again.

A Curtain Wardrobe. - This is a great convenience in a bush bedroom, and almost any corner will do for it. Nail a corner shelf at the top, or as high as you want your things to hang. If you cannot get this done a piece of calico tacked across will do; it is only needed to keep the dust out; but you must have a batten across the corner to tack your curtain to - a string is so apt to break; besidesk it does not look so well. I have the shelf top and bottom; the latter does for boots and shoes. The curtains must be long and full, lapping over each other in the centre, then with a nice fringed valance, this forms quite an ornament to the room.

Lustroleum - There is a new work lately come into fashion very useful and convenient for ornamentation. It is called "Lustroleum" and consists of different paints very nicely got up in small bottles. The boxes vary in price. I bought one lately for 15s.; there are twelve different colours - one bottle of "medium" as it is called, but it really is a light coloured varnish, I fancy, for I used all mine and then wanting to some leaves I just used some ordinary spirit varnish and turpentine—and a bottle of spirits of wine for cleaning the brushes, &c. I can recommend them to ladies in the bush; they can be used in a great number of ways in house and home decoration. When I bought them I was told that they were only intended for painting on cloth, velvet, &c., but I have used them for all sorts of things — specially for doing wood and basket ware. I have just finished a lamp globe and an afternoon tea service which would do credit to any artist, which I am not. As the pattern is quite original I give it as a hint to others. I bought some common cups and saucers; they are very small, and a peculiar rough ware, not the ordinary smooth china one is accustomed to. To begin with, I mixed some blue paint — that called bril blue — and painted one cup and saucer with that. When it was dry I mixed some gold paint, and with the brush made little smudges all over the blue ground— not spots, you understand, but just simple quick smudges — and I put a band of gold round the edge of both cup and saucer. The effect is very pretty. I did each a different colour, blue, green, scarlet; gold with blue smudges, silver with green, and citron with scarlet. Of course they will not wash, but I only want them for an ornament to dress a small table I have.

A Centre Ottoman.—This is not so simple as the sofa, for it requires a little carpentering. First procure a common barrel or cask such as bottled beer is packed in. With a gimlet bore holes in every stave as far as the middle of the barrel, eight or nine in each, one about four inches below the other. Now stand your barrel up and make as it were a ledge round it half way down ; you can do it with three- or four old cases, cutting hollows out of them to make them fit the barrel so that you have an equal seat all round. It must be all securely nailed together. Now pad your barrel ; the easiest way is to sew all the stuffing between two-linings and tack it round the barrel. Then cover with chintz, and strap it through the holes you have bored; you will be able to find them from the inside. If preferred this can be left out and the whole thing covered plainly without strapping, but it is a great improvement. To finish off the top of the barrel cover a round lid with chintz and sew it round; it makes a handy little table for a work- basket. I saw an ottoman made in this way the other day, and it looked so well that no one would have guessed what it really was.

An Armchair. — A very good arm- chair can be made with a case and some boards or battens. Knock out one side so that your feet can go under it; now nail three upright battens, one at each corner, and one, or perhaps two, at the back; round this tack a broad piece of calico or canvas and upholster it the same as the ottoman. A kerosene case makes a very good bedroom chair turned upside down and the lid nailed on at an angle, then the whole dressed in cretonne or chintz. A pretty double ottoman can be made of two old chairs fastened back to back.

A Dressing Table. —I know of nothing handier than two cases,one above the other; if you have a shelf put in each they are as useful as a chest of drawers. Dressed with a pretty curtain it adds to the beauty of the room. Many ladies make their table valance like a petticoat; this is not convenient when you have shelves underneath. One of the prettiest and most suitable for this sort of table I saw made as follows :—Say, the under- skirt of blue lining very full, or better still in broad regular kilts, divided in the centre and tied with blue ribbons in three places ; the overskirt mosquito net, darned with blue embroidery cotton in deep scallops; this also divided in the centre and caught back at each scallop with a blue bow. On each side of the looking-glass was a kerosene case standing on end, and four shelves in each ; these were both dressed with blue and darned net andserved to hold laces, handkerchiefs, &c. The glass between rested on a small box which raised it considerably and so allowed of the draperies being brought and arranged over it. It was one of the handsomest dressing tables I ever saw in a bush house, and it was made by a girl of sixteen.

A Good Clothes Basket can be made of a barrel neatly covered and lined, and a bag sewn inside the top to close it; the running string can be opened to put the clothes in and then drawn again.

Horns can also be converted into very pretty ornaments. Choose those that are a little curved, and not too long; clean them thoroughly with soap and water, and pare round the top till quite smooth. Now cover the horn carefully and neatly with plush or velvet, making the seam come on the inside; fasten a ribbon or cord from the point to the other end, leaving it loose, so that the horn will hang gracefully.

The Austrain chairs so much in vogue in this climate are not very ornamental, but their appearance can be greatly improved by making little capes of cretonne to slip over the back. First cut a pattern in paper the exact shape of the chair-back to reach about half way down ; then cut your cretonne in two pieces ; there is no need to leave any fulness; join right round (a piping of some colour is an improvement) ; finish off the bottom with a pretty fringe ; now slip it over your chair, and see what a great improvement it is to your room when all the chairs are so covered. To keep the capes on, fasten tapes underneath at each side and tie to the chair. Anyone who is clever at crewel work might make a set in black satin, and work a spray across each ; they would make a handsome Christmas box for a dear friend.

To Clean and Polish Shells. —Get some hydrochloric acid from a chemist, and clean off the outer covering of the shells by rubbing with a cloth dipped in the acid. When all is removed, wash in warm water, dry in the hot sun, and rub with wash leather. To polish shells that have not much natural polish, rub with tripoli powder and turpentine, then with tripoli powder alone, and lastly with a little sweet oil.

Another way. —First clean off all extraneous substances that adhere to the shells with a penknife, then scrub with a hard nail brush and soap and water. Now make a solution of muriatic acid (if the shells to be treated are very delicate, do not make it too strong) and with an old shaving brush pass it quickly all over the shell, and at once plunge into cold water. Try to do the whole shell at once, as if you have to go over some parts again you may damage those already done. To prevent this you can cover the parts done with warm beeswax while doing the others, but it is a lot of extra trouble. Any small holes made by sea worms can be filled in with plaster of Paris and coloured to look like the shell. When the whole is done, dry well and rub with Florence oil and polish with flannel. Do not let the acid touch your fingers, as it burns severely.

Papering. —I have often wondered that more people do not paper their bush homes, as there is no doubt a pretty paper greatly adds to the beauty of a room. The pictures out of illustrated papers can be made to look very well in a room if they are all cut so as to fit together. They require to be as nearly the same size as possible. I saw a room done very nicely with all the pictures of scenes in the Soudan war. Each one was cut and trimmed to fit the next; not a scrap of margin was left, each picture being pasted close to its neighbour. When all were arranged, and the whole room covered, they were varnished, and the effect produced was capital. For a drawingroom or bedroom I think nothing is so nice as cretonne or chintz; both are to be bought so cheaply nowadays that it makes very little difference in the cost when furnishing. I once saw a slab hut in the bush lined throughout with cretonne; it was fastened down with brass headed tacks, rows of them placed close together round the doors and windows. The effect was better than paper. The large bush fireplaces look the better in summer for being draped with cretonne on each side. Some ladies close them in altogether with a screen on which are pasted Christmas cards or pictures of some kind. In warm weather one is glad of all the ventilation one can get, so we do not close up our fireplaces. If draped on each side like a window with long curtains, and a small box ottoman stood just between a large fireplace, looks very well. One can always stand flowers in the fireplace, or a pot-plant. A very pretty way is to tack two cardboard doors, one on each side. You can have them ornamented with splash work or a drawing; anything, in fact. Let them be wider than the place, so that when they close there is an open space above and below, and they form a bow into the room, and are tied together with a bright ribbon.

A Pocket for Newspapers. —This is made with two pieces of stiff card- board — the lid and bottom of a shirt box answers very nicely — both must be covered; the inside one, which is nailed flat against the wall, need only have a plain linen covering; but the outside one can be ornamented in any way you fancy — of worked ticking, canvas work, &c., &c. Cover both boards in much the same way as you would a book, leaving about a finger length's space for the back or hinge. Fasten the plainer board to the wall with tacks at each of the four corners, then tack or else securely sew two lengths (about a finger in each) of elastic to the two top corners, and to the corresponding corners of the out- side board. Thus you have a pocket which resembles a partly open book attached to your wall; into this news- papers or music can be put, and it can be closed with a button and elastic, or tied with bright ribbon, and it is not only useful, but, properly made, is an ornament to the room.

Wall Pockets. —These are things which can be made in quite a hundred different ways, shapes, and materials; indeed it is almost impossible to suggest any new ideas, yet some people may not have seen old horseshoes utilised in this way. You get an old horseshoe, and cover it smoothly and firmly with any piece of silk, velvet, &c., you have by you. Some people may save themselves trouble by twisting the stuff round the iron; but this does not look nearly as well as when the covering is cut the exact shape of the shoe, lined, and top sewed right round; and before sewing it on you can work some motto round it—"For Luck," "Wish by Me," or any other, according to taste. Having covered the shoe, now cut a piece of cardboard the exact shape for the back, cover it, and sew it on; then form your pocket of card, covered also, and ornamented with a bow. Of course, taste must be used in all these things. Quite the prettiest horseshoe pocket I ever saw was made to represent a gentleman's-crest. The horseshoe was covered with purple satin, on which the motto in Latin was worked in yellow silk. On the back, or rather the centre, was worked in coloured silks a bird standing on a wrist; the hand was perfectly worked, as was also the bird's plumage, the latter in bright silks. In front of this shoe was a sort of tray or stand, just large enough to hold a small vase. The back can be filled in with a toy looking-glass, if you have one, and it has a better effect; or I have often used a picture or photograph. Horseshoes can also be made into photo-frames to stand on a table much in the same way as I have already described.