My first attempt at the base for my diorama started out with problems that compounded into more problems and ended in disaster. Some were my mistakes others were things that just happened. It seemed like I did everything over 2 or 3 times. I didn’t make the land high enough and my bridge was too heavy looking and too close to the water. I used Celuclay and it dried on the surface and didn’t dry inside. The moisture from it soaked through the foam in the base and caused the paint to lift and the plaster to get soft. After that I was on the verge of giving up completely. After taking a break for a few days I decided to start completely over on the base. I’m glad I did because the moisture caused mold to grow in between the layers of foam.
I started the new base by making patterns on paper for holes that the tugboats would fit into. For the base I used a 24-inch x 24-inch piece high-density polyurethane foam on the bottom and the top with a layer of blue insulating foam between them. I positioned the patterns on the base and cut holes for the boats to fit through. The foam was then glued together with Gorilla Glue. I used wooden skewers to ‘nail’ the foam together before the glue dried.
The blue foam was dug out to the bottom of the base so the hauls of the tugs would be below the water. With the tugs in position I sketched out the basic lay of the land. I used a file folder to make a pattern so I could get a pretty good feel of how it was going to look. I rough cut the foam and glued and spiked it to the base. I use a power chisel, a belt sander and a Dremel tool to shape the foam. Once it’s in a rough shape a heavy coat of plaster smoothes it all out. Plaster sticks to the foam polyurethane foam really well, so no priming is necessary, A little bit of sanding on the plaster with course sandpaper to knock off the high spots and its ready for a couple coats of Gesso to smooth it over and create a surface for the paint to stick to.
I wrapped the boats in clear plastic food wrap and put them in position in the holes. I had to shim them with blocks of foam to get them in the position that I wanted. With the boats in position I poured in plaster around the hauls. I wanted to have a solid base for the tugs and be able to seal them in so the holes wouldn’t fill with water.
I’d been trying different ways to make roads. Spreading plaster and painting it is a lot of trouble. It looks ok, but it never exactly right. I used masking tape to mark the edges of the road and built up about 5 layers of tape. I mixed up a batch of plaster that was a bit on the thin side then added black acrylic craft paint until the color was very black. Then I dumped in a bunch of Tallas. I spread the mix with a putty knife then rolled it out with a brayer. It dries in shades of black and dark gray and looks like old blacktop. The best thing is it’s black all the way through so there is no worries about chips in it showing up white.
After the road dried completely I painted the areas where sand would be light tan. The areas where there is dirt are painted caramel color. I use acrylic house paint that comes in one-pint containers at the hardware store.
I used Linka stone molds to make plaster castings for my bridge abutment. I have a short how I cast plaster on my Fotki page:http://public.fotki.com/DaveInTheHat/how-i-make-stuff/casting-plaster/
I chiseled the foam square and fitted the stone pieces just below the surface of the road.
With the plain flat wall fitted in position there was a lack of any detail, so I added another layer in the front, which would also serve as support for the bridge girders.
I started the bridge by running girders across the space and cutting ends to form a rectangle. One side of the bridge is longer than the other so the added cross members don’t work out even.
Sometimes ideas just happen. I had used drywall screen to sand the base and had some lying on my bench. I wanted an open grate type of bridge and this worked out perfect. Just cut it to fit with scissors.
I drew a pattern out for each side and built them on top of the pattern. I used a scale tractor-trailer to gauge the height of the bridge. Some small pieces of sheet plastic were added to each joint to increase the strength of the sides.
I glued the roadbed to the base and cut a strip of the sanding sheet on a 45-degree angle to make a fence along the sides of the bridge. A strip of plastic was then added to the top edge for a finished look. Then the sides were glued to the bridge and cross girders added on the top.
A final check of the position for the bridge and it’s ready for paint.
I cut strips of masking tape about 1/16-inch wide and painted road lines with yellow acrylic paint. Then gave the road a wash of a mixture of alcohol and black ink. This made the road darker and made the texture of the road really pop out.
I brushed Elmer’s White Glue along the edge of the road and covered it with Tallas. After that dried I covered all the dirt areas with Elmer’s Glue and cover it with dirt. I use real dirt that I wash, bake and sift through a screen.
While the base was drying I painted the bridge with a coat of Floquil Roof Brown. Followed by a mist of Floquil Rust and then Grimy Black.
With the bridge painted I went back to work on the base. The areas where I wanted sand were covered with Elmer’s White glue and covered with sand that I got from the ocean.
I started painting the background for the water with Windsor & Newton artist colors.
The areas that I wanted to appear the deepest were painted with burnt sienna.
The shallow areas were painted yellow. Between the colors I painted raw umber.
I added blue to all the other areas.
At this point I started getting a little nervous about the way it was looking. I started blending the color and it got worse looking
I used a 2 inch foam brush damp with turpentine and blended the color together. Keeping the brush just on the tip worked the best. I rinsed it and dried it several times. I made passes with the brush perpendicular to the deeper areas. Much to my relief it all blended together very well and looked like water with out any thing on top of it. After it dried I laid a piece of clear acrylic over it to try to get an idea of how it would look with a layer of clear on top of it.
I used the oil colors left from the water to add color to the bridge abutments.
The bridge didn’t look right completely rusted so I dabbed rubber cement in areas and gave it a coat of light blue acrylic paint. After it dried I pulled the rubber cement off. This gave the bridge a nice pealing paint look.
I made some trees using Woodland Scenics tree armatures and a couple that I made myself. After the trees are made I spray them with Krylon Workable Fixative to keep them from falling apart.
I positioned the trees on the base and drilled holes where they would go and put small dowels in the holes to mark their placement. At this point I also marked where telephone poles would be placed. A mix of Elmer’s White Glue and water was brushed on the grassy areas and covered with Woodland Scenics grass. Having the areas marked where the trees are going helps keep the grass off of the areas under the trees.
I added tall grass that I cut from a used cheap paintbrush that was stained with blue paint. Some small pieces of driftwood were added around the shoreline along with a few bits of rusted junk.
I put the tugs in place and marked along the haul about 3/16 of an inch above the base. I painted along the line with Arleen’s Tacky Glue. Then sprinkled on crushed Tallas to simulate barnacles.
I used wood Q-tips and a 1/16 inch dowel for pilings. I snapped the ends and scraped them lengthwise with an x-Acto saw blade. Then soaked them in black ink.
I drilled holes for the pilings and glued them in place with clear silicone.
I placed the trees in their pre-marked position and glued them in with silicone. Before the silicone dries I sprinkle some dirt around the base to hide any silicon that squeezes out. I ran a heavy bead of silicone around the inside edge of the holes that I cut for the tugs and put each tug and put each tug into position. Any gaps around the tugs were filled with silicone.
While the base was drying I started working on all the animals. I used white metal castings. I washed them in white vinegar and primed them with Floquil Gray Primer.
It is mostly just a lot of detail painting of different colors.
I didn’t like the legs on the seagulls, I thought they just looked like a lump on the bottom. I clipped the legs off with wire cutters and drilled holes and glued in wire. They look much better.
Sides for the diorama were cut from heavy styrene sheet and glued on with a lot of silicone.
I never did a diorama with water before so I was advised by a couple of people on other forums what to use and what not to use. I decided to use “Magic Water” from Unreal Details.http://unrealdetails.com/default.htm
This stuff is fantastic.
It’s easy to use and dries crystal clear with no bubbles. I looked over the surface with a magnifying glass trying to find bubbles and there aren’t any that I can see. The first time I used it I didn’t have the base sealed enough and a lot leaked out. I did a second pour over the first with no problems.
After the water dried I added a lot of the details, signs, animals, seagulls, ducks, figures and telephone poles and wires.
The water looks great, but I thought it looked too still. I used Woodland Scenics Water Effects to create ripples and waves.
24 hours later...
I wanted a ‘red neck’ looking pick-up truck on the road. I started with a ’72 Chevy.
I disassembled it and stripped the paint off of it.
I painted with Floquil Daylite Orange.
Added Bare Metal Foil and some paint details. I used aluminum tubing for stacks and some split up sticks for firewood.
The truck was attached to the road with clear silicone in case I want to change it sometime.
Here are some shots of the finished diorama on my workbench.
I took the diorama to the edge of the river near my house for some outdoor shots.
More pictures are in the album: http://public.fotki.com/DaveInTheHat/davetown/tugboats-along-the-/