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  BEGINNERS GUIDE:   DIORAMAS Tips and techniques for creating better models  26 FineScale Modeler  April 2007 DIORAMAS   for the frugal modeler Imagination and inexpensive materials are all you need By Chuck Bevill and Greg Gregg Photography by Alisha Gregg  Chuck and Greg used ingenuity and inexpensive materials to create an inviting space to fill with 1/35 scale models and figures.  April 2007  27 E  very modeler knows how effective a great diorama base can be. The sky’s the limit, especially with more pre-fabricated materials available now than ever before.However, the imaginative use of basic skills and found materials can save you time and money and help you build great-looking diorama bases. We built three dis-play bases from three 8' lengths of 2 x 4 lumber, a sheet of 1  ⁄  2 plywood, and a 4' x 3' sheet of 3  ⁄  4 -thick drywall for less than $15 – and we used only new stuff. In addi-tion to improving your model displays  with inexpensive, easily available materials,  you can use stuff that may be lying around  your garage or workbench area. Once  you’ve read this article, you’ll agree: If you can’t find a modeling use for it, it’s time to throw it out!Note: Before you begin on any part of this project, you should be equipped with industrial-use eye protection and an approved respirator. Square it up Square bases are easiest to build because all sides are cut the same way. After cut-ting each piece of 2 x 4 to length, we cut a dado, or lip, on its inner surface; later, a square of plywood would be seated on this edge, 1 . Next, the sides were bevel-cut and glued to form a frame; we used a Pony 1215 band clamp (available at hardware stores), which includes a 15' nylon strap, four 90-degree strap holders, and a ratchet device for tightening the strap with a 7  ⁄  16  wrench. The result is a square frame with no nail holes to fill and sand. We waited for the glue to dry before  we sloped the sides at 45 degrees with a tilted saw blade and a “rip fence” to guide the wood through the saw cut. It’s easier to get the corners right this way, rather than making these cuts before assembling the frame, and it saves filling and sanding time at the corners. Ode to drywall  We took this opportunity to demonstrate an extremely versatile yet often overlooked diorama material – drywall. Inexpensive and available at any lumberyard or home improvement center, it comes in a variety of thicknesses and is usually sold in 4' x 8' sheets, although many places sell odd-size pieces for smaller home repairs.Drywall is rigid, durable, and easy to 1/35 scale | Diorama | How-to On the lower left are four frame pieces, each with a dado to hold a sheet of plywood; the beveled cuts at the end of each piece (seen in the assembled frames leaning against the wall) are still to come. The frame on the right shows a Pony band clamp in place with the ratchet tightener at the top of the frame.Sketches help plan the scenery to come. On the floor, left to right: frame filled with drywall scraps; Pony band clamp at rest; and the plywood sheet that seats the drywall within the frame.To remove drywall’s paper covering, soak the paper with water. Use sandpaper on the last stubborn bits of paper.Notice how the frames’ sides have been sloped at 45 degrees. A belt sander quickly levels the dry-wall surface but also makes one whale of a mess; wear an industrial-grade respirator and eye pro-tection. Building a cobblestone road in drywall is easier than you might think. About the only specialized tool in this shot is the Bare-Metal scriber seen on the left side of the road. 12345  28 FineScale Modeler  April 2007  work. You can cut it to shape, scrub it with  water, paint it, sand it, you name it. It can be scribed or sculpted to make intricately curved cobblestone sidewalks, brick road- ways, finished brick, stone retaining walls, or concrete steps. Let your imagination be  your guide.Stay away from salvaged or old drywall. It’s usually too dry and crumbles easily.  The money you save will not be worth the extra time and trouble. Surface preparations  A rough sketch on the drywall surface helps determine proportions and place-ment of details, 2 . You can cut a single piece of drywall or use several small pieces (as we did). A single piece works best if  you will be scribing details that run the full  width of the frame (such as a cobblestone street). The best way to cut drywall is with a table saw, using a rip fence to keep it straight. It’s also extremely dusty; always  wear a respirator and goggles. Without a saw, you can use a razor or carpet knife to score and snap off drywall as you would sheet styrene. However, the edges will be much rougher and less pre-cise.Drywall has a heavy paper coating to resist moisture and add rigidity. Cut this paper from the sides, but leave the rest of it until after you have shaped and glued it to the diorama base. We used Elmer’s  white glue, but any wood glue will do. After a cobblestone pattern is scribed in the dry-wall, it’s painted with a base coat of light gray, oil-based primer.Chuck and Greg follow the base coat with a thin wash of burnt-umber artist oils.Adjusting the contrast, the modelers wipe the wash from the high spots to lend natural depth to details.Fine, light-color sand used for grout also adds realism to the cobblestone, filling in deeper crev-ices and softening the contrast.After the cobblestone is briskly swept with a wide paintbrush, grout is fixed in place with a thin, watery white-glue mix. This glue coat will be shiny until treated with a coat of flat clear.Using contrasting colors of stone and grout pro-duces various results. Experiment to find the look you want. 6789 10 11
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