The Plymouth Model Club has chosen D-Day as the theme for next years show, an exhibition to mark the 75th anniversary of the invasion landings. All the club members have plans to produce something and for my part I thought I would, in addition to a few other models that I will produce, make a sizeable diorama. If I manage to pull it off then it will be the biggest diorama I will have done. Not necessarily the most complicated but certainly the biggest.
It will also be time-consuming to produce so this will most likely be the first of a number of posts on this project. I will post regular updates but for my sanity as well as yours I expect I will work on a few other things in parallel and vary my future posts accordingly.
So what do I have in mind to put together?
The concept is a simple one and one which may well evolve a little as I begin to make progress. The plan is to have three, possibly four, buildings representing a small street scene with troops from the 101st US Paratroop making their way carefully along the road. Dimensions and aesthetics will play a part in the final design. Written down I can’t believe how shit this concept sounds but the image in my head is much better so at this stage you’re just going to have to trust me! The devil will be in the detail as I hope you will come to see.
Key to the diorama will be the buildings. Initially I thought I would do my own completely from scratch but windows in particular are a nightmare. I then decided to buy a kit from Charlie Foxtrot, ironically a company I discovered at this year’s Plymouth show where Colin, the owner had a display. If I like the end result then I will purchase the remaining buildings from him too.
So let’s get this series underway starting with the first building.
The Kit – Ruined House No: 2 by Charlie Foxtrot Models
Below is a picture of the actual kit as it appears on the website. It’s probably easier to look at the pictures of how it is designed to look than for me to tell you, particularly as I have plans to make a number of changes.
The link below will take you to this kit on the website and to the online shop if it’s of interest to you.
Looking at the kit you may well be asking yourself why would I want to make changes to what is essentially a highly detailed kit? There are two main reasons. Firstly the kit is made of MDF which is a great material for accurate laser cutting and etching but the finish is flat and characterless. Secondly, whilst the kit is probably ideal for war gaming in that it neatly comes apart it is not detailed enough when it comes to being a feature of a diorama (well not for me at least). This will probably become clearer as the construction of this kit gets underway.
I mentioned earlier that my plan is to have at least three buildings. This is the first of the them and I expect it will prove to be the most challenging, mainly because it will require internal changes and enhancements in addition to an external makeover. I’ll explain why as the build progresses.
Time for a couple of photos.
The first picture shows an image of the kit unopened in its bag. The second and third show all the bits neatly laid out as I try to work out how the hell it all goes together. A single A4 sheet of instructions is provided and to my surprise it did prove to be sufficient coupled with a bit of common sense and a few references to the online images on the Charlie Foxtrot website.
The model when assembled is meant to consist of three parts. The ground floor, the first floor and the roof. Because it is a war gaming building it is also meant to come apart rather than to be assembled as a solid single construction which is what I will be doing with it. My first consideration therefore was to determine if it would be possible to see inside the ground floor. If it was then I would need to make changes at this point as access to this area would not be possible once the first floor was added.
I decided it would be possible to see a little bit inside through the windows and through the hole in the ceiling as you look down from the first floor but I couldn’t be sure just how much. I therefore concluded that some internal fitting out was necessary, just to be on the safe side at least.
The first thing I decided to do was wallpaper the internal walls. On a “Dolls House” website I found some free wallpaper downloads. I chose a small print for scale purposes and printed a couple of sheets on to photographic paper. Photographic paper being thicker would glue better to the walls and would not make the inks run. Each wall was “papered”and the floor too was covered with a wooden floor board print which I also found on the same website. Normally I would use coffee stirrer’s for a wooden floor but didn’t think that was necessary on this occasion given how much would be seen.
The next step was to glaze the windows using clear hard plastic. Pieces were cut and stuck to the inside of the walls. The windows would go in later after they were painted. Completing the glazing at this stage would also stop the windows from falling into the building when assembled when it would be harder to get them out if that happened. I also made one of the windows with “broken glass” by simply cutting the clear plastic accordingly. Using some paper painted with acrylic paint I also made curtain for the windows which would be visible from the outside looking in.
A similar problem to the windows existed with the front and back doors so to prevent them from falling in when it was time to fix them in place I glued matches to the top and bottom of both the door openings. When the first floor is in place there is a hole in the floor which looks down and into the ground floor. Now was the time to put debris in place so ground plaster board along with a few scale brick and pieces of timber were added. At this stage the modified ground was complete and duly assembled.
The next step was to direct my attention to the first floor.
The first floor is divided into two rooms, one of which represents the damaged end of the house where the roof above the floor has been blown up. Now the first thing I noticed with the kit design was that you could look into both these areas. In itself this would not have been a problem except for the fact that the kit has no internal staircase. This bugged me and so the only way I could see to get around the problem was to put a ceiling above the undamaged room (if anyone asks the staircase is on that side of the house!).
The ceiling was made using wooden coffee stirrer’s stuck to a piece of MDF which was cut to size. The ceiling piece had to be inserted rather than simply laid on top as this would have thrown out the fit of the roof at the next stage. For support coffee stirrer battens were positioned at the top of each of the four wall sides. Having created a ceiling for one half of the first floor it was appropriate to make a damaged one for the other side too. The first floor was also wall papered and glazed in the same way as the ground floor.
The sharp eyed among you might notice that I have Peter Gabriel on in the back ground!
The next stage was to look more closely at the roof assembly. The only thing which really needed to be addressed was the tiling. I don’t like flat roofs and do not have the skill to produce 3D style painting so there was nothing to do but cut out several hundred cardboard tiles and glue them row after row to the MDF. I’ve done this several times in the past and my method is tried and tested. With suitable music or a DVD on it doesn’t take that long to achieve. To make the tiles I used my Greenstuff World tile punch and cardboard from a cornflake box. I find it is best to use cardboard where one side has a gloss finish. The gloss finished side should be facing out when the tile is stuck down. This is better for painting. The other way around and the cardboard turns to mush if you aren’t careful.
Finally the two wall ends of the roof were rendered on the inside using ground plaster board on PVA glue.
Following a little painting of areas which would prove difficult to paint if not done now the three components of the kit were ready for assembly. The assembly itself was very straight forward, testimony of the quality of the kit.
The next job was to glue the windows, which had now been painted, into place. This was then followed by adding some initial bits of debris to the first floor and then rendering the outside walls. The rendering was done over several days as each side was allowed to thoroughly dry before moving on to the next external wall. Diluted PVA was used on the outside walls before chinchilla dust (yes, chinchilla dust!) was applied to the outside.
The damaged wall kit pieces came with small MDF brick sections which could be stuck on. As with the roof tiles the brick looks very flat so I simply decided to go with ground plaster board to provide a rough cast finish to the top edges of the exposed MDF.
Once it was all dry I painted the render with some Dulux Emulsion paint and used Burn Umber oil paint heavily diluted with white spirit to provide some initial weathering to the walls.
The completed model to date is shown below. It is not finished. The render needs to be weathered further, the window shutters need to be fixed in place and so do the doors. At this stage I’ve yet to decide which windows will have open or closed shutters and the same goes for the doors. These are things I will look at more closely when I make further progress on the rest of the diorama. Scattered debris of brick, tiles, wood and broken glass will be added to the inside and outside at a future assembly stage but for now I have done as much as I can do on this one.
The next step is to order the remaining buildings for the diorama having decided I like Charlie Foxtrot’s kits. While I’m waiting for them to come I can divert my attention to the October challenge!
Images of the current state of play below. It doesn’t look very impressive at the moment but there is a long way to go!