How to Make a 28mm Palm Tree

How to Make a Palm Tree.

The follow up to last week’s post – “X” Marks The Spot”.


To make the palm tree I used the following items, you can of course use similar products:-

  • 3 lengths of Florist wire, approximately 35cm in length
  • Goose feathers, approximately 3 to 5cm in length and roughly 35 to 40 in number
  • Milliput
  • Superglue
  • General purpose filler
  • A very small length of course string
  • Paints (various)

For the build I used the following tools:-

  • Small hand vice
  • Wire cutters
  • A cocktail stick
  • Paint brushes


Step 1

Take two pieces of the 35cm Florist Wire, fold each in half and cut to make four equal lengths.


Step 2

Take the four equal lengths of Florist Wire and place all four ends into the hand vice so that they are all tightly clamped together.


Step 3

Using the 3rd piece of Florist wire start to wind it as tightly as you can around the four clamped pieces staring about 2cm up from the bottom.  Ideally you want to keep the wire wound round closely following each turn but if there are small gaps it really doesn’t matter.  Continue until you have run out of wire and then remove from the vice.  You now have the main basis of the tree trunk.


Step 4

Take the Milliput and make two largish balls and four small balls.  Use one of the larger balls for the bottom of the tree trunk and one for the top.  Push the four short lengths of wire which exist at the end of each end of the tree trunk through the Milliput as this will ensure it is all nicely fixed together.  Taper the top ball a little to blend with the trunk and make a smooth joint, same for the bottom ball but flatten it a little as well to help create a base for later.

If the four lengths of wire are too long then use the wire clippers to shorten.  You may wish to keep them long at the bottom anyway as this will help when it comes to fixing to a base.  Personally I didn’t bother as I knew I would be adding base work around the tree which would be sufficient to hold it in place.


Step 5

Before the Milliput dries use the point of the cocktail stick to make numerous holes in the top ball to allow for the feather palms to be inserted later.  If you find you haven’t made enough (which is what happened to me!) you can easily drill more into the Milliput later.

Step 6

Once the Milliput has dried mix some General purpose filler together with some water and PVA glue and coat the tree trunk.  Try to avoid it being to thick, you want to be able to keep the shape created by the wire you wrapped around.  Set aside to dry.

NOTE – If you want to shape the trunk, give it a slight bend for example, do this before applying the filler!


Step 7

While the filler on the tree trunk is drying it’s time to sort and paint the feathers.  You can of course do this at anytime.

I bought my feathers on Ebay, a pack of 50 which proved sufficient to make a single tree with some over.  I graded the feathers into three piles of similar length, small, medium, large.  The smallest would create the lower palms leaves, followed by the medium length ones with the longest feathers stuck on last as you work bottom up.

After a bit of experimenting I painted the leaves using Citadel Biel-Tan Green Shade.  I found the wash worked well.  I brushed the paint on starting at the center of the feather stroking outwards and painted both sides.  You should find that the paint will bind bits of the feather together to create natural fronds.  You could try airbrushing but as I don’t have one I cannot comment.  My only concern might be that an airbrush won’t create the fronds but if anyone gives it a go I would be interested to know how it went.


Step 8

When the tree trunk is dry take the four small Milliput balls and glue them around the top ball, these are coconuts!

Once the “coconuts” have dried it’s time to paint the entire trunk.  I used thinned oil paints starting with Burnt Umber as the base and then dry brushed highlights of Yellow Ocre and White.  You can of course use any paints you like.


Step 9

As a final touch to the coconuts I chopped up some very small pieces of string and stuck them on to create the effect of the husk.


Step 10

With everything painted and dry it’s now time to glue in the feather palms.  Start with the smallest feathers at the bottom and work round first and then work up.  I chose to stick the feathers in using superglue as it dries quickly, otherwise you will be there all day long!


Step 11

Your tree should now be complete.  Congratulations!


The final step is to base it which is of course down to the individual.  I chose to keep mine simple, the figures in my vignette were what I wanted people to look at.  A Milliput foundation held the completed tree in place.  This was topped with sand and then painted.  A sprinkling of chopped string was also added to the bottom of the tree.



Well that’s it folks.  Any questions please let me know.  I may well have left something out.  If you do give it a go please let me know how you get on.  This was my first tree but it won’t be my last.

In the meanwhile Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.






Operation Overlord – A 28mm WW2 Diorama (Part 6 – The Completed Diorama)

The Road To Carentan – US 101st Airbourne (02:00 D-Day 6th June 1944)

The various bits I needed to finish don’t really require an explanation.  They were either paint jobs or basic ground work, nothing I haven’t covered before in the previous posts on this diorama.  With this in mind and before I share with you the photo’s I have taken I thought I ought to give you the background to the diorama to set the scene so to speak.

The original interest in doing this period piece was driven by the Plymouth Model Club, of which I am a member, and their 2019 show which will have a D-Day display.  I fancied a diorama with a couple of buildings and decided in the end to go with what you have seen unfold during the previous 5 posts.

The 101st Airborne parachuted into Normandy France in the very early hours of D-Day, the 6th June 1944.  Their mission was to secure the eastern half of a town called Carentan from German reinforcements.  Doubtless they had other objectives along the way.  I figured their journey would have taken them through outlying villages en-route and this is essentially what this diorama sets out to portray.

The way I see the diorama is this.  France, although occupied was running as business as usual.  Street lights might or might not have been on in the small hours of the morning but a business such as a Baker would quite possibly have been baking at that time.  Noise and explosions would get people to put their bedroom lights on and of course some destruction would be inevitable.

An accurate portrayal?  Probably not, it’s a representation and intended to be nothing more.

Various images appear below, with and without lights on.  I hope you like the end result.

I wan’t able to submit anything mechanical for the November challenge, to committed to this project.  However, the December challenge set by Azazel lends itself to this model so with Christmas coming up and various time constraints with it this will be my submission.



Operation Overlord – A 28mm WW2 Diorama (Part 5 – Base & Figures)

Patchy progress this week due to being told domestic projects take president!

Hopefully next week will see me almost there and I would like to get the whole thing completed before Christmas if possible.  I’m anticipating (like all of us I’m sure) that Santa will be bringing me lots of goodies that I will want to get on with instead!

I mentioned in Part 4 that the positioning of the buildings would require more work than I had originally planned to do in respect of rear gardens.  I decided each of the three buildings would require as a minimum a patio and some grass so I laid down some Milliput and rolled it with one of my textured Greenstuff rollers.  My next task was to fix the building in place but before I could do that I needed to pre-drill the base with the holes for the street lighting which would be installed.

Both the two undamaged buildings have lights in them so holes were also made for those light wires too.  I checked to see that they were working OK and then fixed the buildings into place.  Work then began on the rear gardens.

A textured finish using ground up plaster board was used to cover all the ground work not covered by the Milliput patio area.  Once dried the patio and ground work was given its first coat of paint.  I figured the two buildings adjoining would need a dividing line so I went for a wire fence made using twisted 0.5mm wire and drilled match sticks.  To draw attention to the rear of the buildings I thought I would need a center piece, something tall and decided on the obvious, a tree.  A couple of walls were also needed to close the rear gardens off at the sides where applicable.  These were done using plaster board which I carved to provide a weathered effect.


You may have also noticed in the pictures above that the chip board base has also been given an edged finish which I will stain in due course.

The next task was to lay down some static grass and to put the smaller branches on the tree using Sea Foam.  Once the glued Sea Foam had dried the tree was covered in a mix of general filler and water/PVA and allowed to dry.  It was then painted and the leaves applied in various colours using a strong hold hair spray.

I also added a small flower trough to the patio area.  In my bitz box I had some old Tamiya 1/32nd scale sand bags.  Painted and used upside down they worked just fine as a trough.


Sea  Foam also works very well for making shrubs and climbing plants so I added a creeper to the outside wall of the Brasserie.


Next up was adding the street lighting.  Each light was tested to check that it worked but the proper wiring would be done later.

Finding lights on Ebay was easy enough but getting the right height and style was a little more difficult.  Getting English Victorian street lamps wasn’t a problem but I wanted something which I felt had a little more of a French feel and in the end I managed to find the ones you see in the photo’s below.  I reckon they look OK but just need to keep my fingers crossed that they all work once wired up.  They came from China and only costs a couple of pounds so I’m not getting carried away with the quality of them but as long as they look the part.


Next up was the fountain.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of the finish you get with MDF even when painted, owes more to my ability to paint it as much as anything else but I didn’t have many options in this instance.  For colour I added some red plants to break up the dull ground work.

Something still didn’t quite look right and I figured it was that the fountain wasn’t working.  In an effort to improve things I used some wire and water effects to try to simulate the fountain in use.  I’m not entirely sure that it looks that great but it might look a bit better once its fully dried and highlighted.  We will have to wait and see but for now its what it is.


The next job was to start adding the debris from the damaged building.  Now before I assembled the original building I made an outline of the damaged sections so I could get a feel for how much actual debris there would be.  It didn’t need to be precise but I didn’t want to go completely overboard either.  The debris needed to be added a reasonable amount at a time and allowed to dry.

It isn’t clear from the photo’s I’ve taken but some of the debris had wall paper added to it to match that inside the building to help keep the thing looking reasonably authentic.  Wood was also needed in the debris and of course a fare few roof tile as well!


During the piece meal process I got a couple more figures painted although the photo’s below leave a lot to be desired.  In too much of a hurry to get this post out, sorry!


Not entirely sure where I go from here, need to sit down and reflect fully on where I am.  Off the top of my head I need to complete the remaining couple of figures, wire up the lighting, finish off the rear gardens, get the figures in situ, stain the edge and take some decent photo’s if I can.  Doesn’t sound quite so bad now I come to think about it.  Never know I might even get it finished for next week!


Operation Overlord – A 28mm WW2 Diorama (Part 4 – Base & Figures)

With the three buildings almost complete it was time over the last week to start thinking and working on the base and to begin painting some of the figures.  To be honest it made a welcome change.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve enjoyed the buildings but it was nice to focus on something else for a while.

Let’s start with the base as there is a lot more to comment on.

Originally my plan was to have the three buildings positioned in a straight line, face on and square to the base.  However, when I positioned them and considered the figures it looked shit.  I then considered putting a road between the buildings whereby two were positioned either to the right or the left with one on the other side.  Although it looked much better it still just didn’t look right.  I then remembered one the of the rules of photography, the rule of thirds.  By splitting the buildings, two one side and one on the other, and placing them at right angles it was possible to position the buildings closer to the sweet spots.  You may not agree when looking at the images below but to my mind this looked much better and thus I made the decision to go with it.  The downside was that there was now much more space behind each building which meant I would have to make back gardens for all three buildings as well.

Another decision I made was to go with the two undamaged buildings on the left with the damaged building on the right.  Why?  You may well ask!

Now I’m no WW2 expert and don’t claim to be.  When completed this model is intended to be a representation and not an accurate depiction of a true scene or event so the way I see it is this.  France, despite being occupied, was for all intent and purposes operating as “business as usual”.  Putting the French Resistance to one side, the shops were open and the people generally went about their business.  All hell of course broke lose when out of the blue the Allies invaded on the 6th June 1944.  My idea therefore was to show business as usual with the two intact buildings on the left and the beginning of the end with the ruined building on the right.  Does it work?  Well I guess that’s for you to decide.

The next step was to draw around the buildings and glue a border of coffee stirrers lightly to the base.  This was to serve two purposes.  Firstly, it provided a clearer boundary line when it came to laying down ground work as pencil or ink would most likely get covered up.  Secondly, when removed the buildings would sit nicely into the recess leaving less ground work to be touched up later.

I mentioned in previous posts that my aim was to include some lighting.  It remains to be seen if this is going to work out but one of the things I needed to overcome was where and how to house the battery and the on off switch.  If I simply stuck it under the base then the base would have to be raised.  Not a problem if it only needed to be raised slightly but but as this was not going to be the case I thought it would look ridiculous.  I therefore decided to drill a FGH (Fucking Great Hole!) through the base so the two parts could be hidden away.  I also needed to make sure that the hole was central so that the wires from two buildings and from street lights which I planned to install would all reach.  All I had to do now was decided how best to cover up the FGH which neatly sat in the middle of the bloody board!

Fortunately I had a eureka moment.  The angles of the buildings gave me the impression of walking through the gap between the buildings and into a village square.  This being the case a lot of village squares have at there center either a statue, a fountain or both.  Fortunately I was able to find a 28mm MDF fountain which I could use, the outline of which was added to the base before starting on the ground work.

For the ground work I decided to go with a cobbled pathway in front of the buildings and a light gravel finish to the center and around the fountain and that’s where I am to date with the the base.  In the photo’s below the buildings have just been placed in situ to provide a first glimpse of how the layout will look.  There is still along way to go!

Now to the figures.

Currently I plan to have eight figures, seven US 101st Airborne and one German.  So far I’ve made good progress on four of the US figures.  Not a great deal to say.  The figures are all ironically from a German site I discovered called “Stoessis Heroes” and are excellent castings in my opinion.  Painted using a combination of Vallejo acrylics and Winton and Newton oils.

Photo’s of base progress and figures below.  The pictures of the figures are poor as I had little time to mess about with the focus which seemed hell bent on placing the focal emphasis on the clamp!








Operation Overlord – A 28mm WW2 Diorama (Part 3 – Building No: 3)

Finally managed to make enough progress to post an update!  OK so it’s not the most interesting one but it is as far as I’ve got for now.

If you have been following my progress you will be aware that this is the third building in my planned diorama.  If you haven’t the the title of this post is a bit of a give away too!  It’s also the last building as I’ve decided there will only be three.  As you can see from the images below this building represents a bakery.

The building itself differs in a few ways from the other two.  Firstly, being a shop it has a large front window which can easily been seen into.  Secondly, bakers are up very early so I figure if this diorama is to be set around the early hours of the morning then the lights would be on.  Thirdly, it has a balcony with french doors which means it may be possible to see inside.  With these three points in mind I felt I needed to do a proper interior in some places.

Externally and internally I set about doing things in same way that I built the first two buildings.  Chinchilla dust was used for the external render and a colour printer was used to produce floor and wall tile images which I literally cut and pasted to the MDF interior floor and walls.  The counter with bread loaves and rolls was a very basic scratch build from Milliput.  Far from perfect but hopefully sufficient given the final angle of view.

For consistency I once again went for individual roof tiles, about 1200 of them to be a little more precise!  An LED light was fixed into place to illuminate the shop.  It’s been tested and works and will hopefully continue to do so when the time comes to assemble the building on the base and configure the wiring!  These things are so delicate.

Most of the painting has been done but there are still a few things to be done before I can call it completed (weathering, chimney, balcony and external brick flooring judging from a quick glance).

The time has now arrived to start thinking about painting some figures and getting my head around the base.  The figures will hopefully be straight forward, there are eight in total if I decide to use them all.  The base on the other hand requires a lot of thought.  The positioning of the buildings will be key, there is a need to conceal wiring and I’m toying with the idea of a fountain and street lights.  Some walls will also need to be constructed and each of the three houses will need a back garden.  All in all a long way to go.  Still, everything in good time.

Various progress photo’s below beginning with the basic MDF shell tnrough to where the build is currently.



Operation Overlord – A 28mm WW2 Diorama (Part 2 – Building No: 2)

Work on the second building for this diorama is almost complete.  Some additional weathering to be done along with some base work once the building is in situ but that’s for later.  Overall an easier build than Building No: 1 – See link to previous post below – which I pretty much anticipated.

The theme going around in my head has the diorama set in the early hours of the morning which to my mind means a Brassiere would be closed.  This allowed me to put blinds at the windows making the place look shut up, so seeing inside wasn’t a significant issue.  However, I did decided to have one window which could be seen through as I’m now considering the idea of lighting.  We’ll see how that idea goes!

I wont describe the build process in great detail, mainly because it was done along the same lines as the previous post.  Instead I’ll simply highlight the bits which were different and show stage development photos of the build at the end.

A bed was made and wall paper added to the “room” that can be seen into just to be on the safe side.  Just how visible any of it will be if it is lit up remains to be seen.

The “Brassiere” lettering was outlined on the MDF but needed carefully painting.  It went well but was time consuming.

Azazel reminded me of a good tip for tiling the roof, specifically to do so using strips instead of individual tiles.  I had been made aware of this technique a while ago but had forgotten about it so I was grateful for the reminder.  However, having done the first build with individual tiles I decided to go the same way again, fearful that the outcome might look odd.  It probably wouldn’t have done but once again I chose not to leave things to chance.

Probably the stand out feature for me, and certainly the most problematic, was the addition of the “Dubonnet” wall advert.  Painted wall adverts are pretty common in France, well they were back in the 1940s,  so I was very keen to add a simple one.  I ruled out free hand without some guidelines because I didn’t feel confident of getting it right, so I thought I would trace the words on.  Unfortunately the textured finish using a sample I made simply didn’t want to know. The idea of making a stencil crossed my mind but when I looked at doing one it was evident straight away that this wouldn’t work either.  Far to intricate.  I was stumped.  I gave YouTube a go but my searches threw up nothing until by pure chance I discovered a craft tutorial.

In the tutorial the artist took a stone, covered it in PVA and then stuck a picture printed on ordinary paper to it face down.  It was then left to completely dry.  Once dried water was rubbed onto the back of the paper which removed the paper slowly and left the picture, albeit inverted, on the stone.  Presumably the PVA absorbed all the ink and retained a very, very thin layer of the existing paper.  Not a technique I had ever come across before.  Anyway, I thought I would give it a go.

The first thing I had to do was print the word.  I chose to go with “Dubonnet”, a drink which has been around since 1846 so would therefore have been relevant in the 1940s.  I typed it out in Word Art on the PC and played about with sizing.  I then flipped the wording so that it would read the correct way around when glued face down.  Applied the PVA to the chinchilla render and left it to dry.  The next day I rubbed water onto the paper and what you see is pretty much what I got.  A bit of weathering and a few minor touch ups and I ended up with something I was quite pleased with.  Doubtless someone will say “all you needed to do was …”.

So there you have it, an almost complete second building.  Work will now start on the third building and probably the last one for this diorama.  This build may prove to be the more time consuming as I think much more of the internal building will be visible but more on that in a future post.

Development pictures below.





Operation Overlord – A 28mm WW2 Diorama (Part 1 – Building No: 1)


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.

28mm 1:56 "Ruined House 2"

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!



Fantasy Island – “The Making Of”

Firstly, thank you to those of you who commented on the original post last week, I really appreciated what you had to say.

For those of you who may not have seen the initial post and the images of the completed model a photo reminder along with a link to the article.



One or two of you already have thoughts on how it was constructed so I suspect this may well confirm your thinking.  Let’s get started.

The inspiration for this model came from an image I saw online, a drawing to be precise, which got me thinking about how I could bring something like it to life.  My intention at this point was to insert a copy of the image but I never downloaded it at the time and now I cannot locate it.  I’m going to therefore lie instead and say that the inspiration was entirely mine, I’m simply that creative!

For a while I mulled over how to build it.  Much of what I wanted to do was straight forward but my big concern was the potential weight issue and how to keep it from toppling over.  I’m no engineer, mathematician or physicist so this was a big problem in my head.  In the end though it didn’t turn out to be the issue I thought it would be.

The key to the “floating island” is of course the waterfall.  I had done a waterfall before in a diorama I called “Rocky Mountain Deer Hunt” (see images below) but the backdrop was a solid one which wouldn’t be the case for this model.  I couldn’t be sure if it would be possible to see through the waterfall or not so I needed something strong enough to support the island but be transparent if necessary.  This naturally ruled out a number of options and pretty much left me with needing to get hold of some clear acrylic.


As is often the case EBay came to the rescue and for a small cost I bought an A5 sheet of 5mm thick acrylic.  Getting a wooden base was an easy purchase but now I was stumped by what to use for the island.  It needed to be light, solid and versatile enough to be able to shape it.  In the end I went for Styrofoam, not a product I’d ever used before but a few things I’d read gave it the thumbs up so I thought I would give it a go.  Once again EBay provided the solution and I managed to buy six small blocks which were an ideal size.  I only needed one so expect to see others appearing in models over time!  I now had all the things I needed so it was time to start the build.

Step 1

The first thing to do was cut off a suitable length of the acrylic sheet.  I read online that up to 5mm thick this stuff can be cut using a tile cutter and then applying a little pressure to snap it.  Like many theories it was great but turned out to be complete bollocks.  In the end I took a saw to it and some sand paper to smooth off the rough edges.  I also drilled a couple of holes which I counter sunk to ensure the screws would be flush once fixed to the Styrofoam.


Step 2

Now that I had cut the acrylic I could determine the location and size of the hole I needed to drill into the wooden base.  It needed to be a reasonable fit and a tight one but any rough finish would be covered eventually by ground work.


Step 3

Carving Styrofoam is pretty easy and a sharp knife is all that’s needed to cut away chunks of it.  The main thing I needed to do at this stage was get a rough outline and rebate the block in order to counter sink the acrylic.  Styrofoam can also be drilled so having lined things up I drilled two holes into the block and inserted a couple of raw plugs.


Step 4

The first moment of truth, making sure it all lined up!


Step 5

Before screwing and glueing I shaped the top of the block further.  I needed to make steps around the top to be able to fix rocks and stones to build it up.  Once glued I made sure it was level and left it to dry.  At this point I could still remove it from the wooden base if I needed too.


Step 6

Once dried the next on the to do list was building up the rocks on top and around the Styrofoam.  For this I used slate chippings from my front garden.  Initially I was concerned about the weight but the acrylic was thick enough not to bend and the positioning on the base ensured it wouldn’t fall over.


Step 7

The build up of the base was a slow process.  To ensure things didn’t fall a part it proved necessary to build and glue in layers allowing each layer to fully dry before moving onto the next one.  In between drying times I started building a wire based tree, a method I’ve used before.  Rather than repeat the various stages of the tree build a link appears below to the two part article I produced previously.

Part 1

Part 2



Step 8

Having advanced to this stage I then realised that I hadn’t fully thought through how to start the waterfall.  In some way I wanted it to be magical, coming out of thin air but using the materials I had (Woodland Scenics Water Effects) was proving difficult.  Getting it to stay upright in some way just wasn’t going to work, it needed some support.

The solution presented itself purely by chance when out walking with Buddy, my dog.  Someone had cut their hedge and lying on the ground was a piece of wood with a hole in it.  I figured I could use this in some way, the result of which can be seen in the photo’s below.

The basic tree was now fixed into place along with the first step of the waterfall.  Woodland Scenics have some great tutorials on how to use their products to I would suggest checking them out if you ever want to undertake a waterfall yourself.


Step 9

The next step was to add the main waterfall to the model and stick it to the acrylic stand at the front and around the sides and at the back.  Adding white paint to the Woodland Scenics Water Effects gives the effect of fast flowing water.

It was also time to start constructing the base at the bottom of the waterfall and disguising the drilled area.


Step 10

This step was all about painting the base, finishing the tree and adding suitable vegetation.  I like this stage on a model, the colour which gets added really starts to give things a lift and for the first time it starts to look a bit real.

I figured a decent sized waterfall would throw up a certain amount of spray and mist (well it does in my fantasy world even if it doesn’t in the real one!).  For this I used some stuffing used in soft toy making, I’m told by She Who Must Be Obeyed that this is called Kapok.  This was glued in place at the bottom and then just teased out.


Step 11

The final step was to paint the Reaper figure I’d bought specifically for the model, position it and blend in the base.

I got lucky with the figure.  Clearly it had to be a fantasy based figure give the nature of the model but ideally I wanted a figure which looked like it was at the edge of the waterfall having come to a reasonably dramatic stop.  As soon as I saw this figure I knew it was the one for me!


Step 12

The final model!



So there you have it, how I made “Fantasy Island”.  Hopefully I’ve covered it all but if there is anything anyone would like more details on please just let me know.






Oil Paints – Hit or Myth? – A News at TIM – Mid Week Musings Special!

Welcome to a Mid Week Musings Special!

The Pros and Pros of Oil Paints

The May Day Bank Holiday provided some glorious sunshine which resulted in me sitting in the garden rather than modelling.  Instead I sat warmly in the shade (I’m fair-skinned what can I say?) watching a series of videos on YouTube aimed at painting basics.  Before I go further let me be clear on something from the start.  I am not, and never will be an expert modeller or painter.  I can however improve particularly as I am essentially self-taught.  I mention this because even watching videos on the basics I still find myself learning things or at the very least reminding myself of things I no longer do but arguably ought to.

So, why is this relevant to the title of this post? Well, two-thirds of the way through the list of tutorials the narrator started talking about “Wet Blending and Layering” techniques which it turns out I am familiar with but not by those names (in truth I didn’t even know there were names for these things).  The principles behind these techniques if I understood correctly is to achieve an end result which provides a smooth transition from one colour to another as particularly relevant to shading and highlighting.  The narrator went on to say that these techniques were in his opinion amongst the hardest to learn due to the fact that acrylic paints simply dry too quickly.  He went on to explain how to achieve Wet Blending but to be honest I had already switched off a little having decided this wasn’t for me right now.  Why?  Because I’m happy to use my oil paints to achieve these results.

There are in my opinion a lot of myths surrounding the use of oil paints for modelling and so I thought I would produce an article to expel some of them and explain a little of what I do and why.  I also thought if there are people who struggle with Wet Blending because it’s as difficult as the guy said then perhaps trying oils as an alternative might work.  So, in no particular order …

Myth No: 1 – Oil Paints are Expensive

Wrong!  A Winsor & Newton 37ml tube in the Winton Oil Colour range will set you back about £2.75.  In contrast a 17ml pot of Vallejo Game Color will cost about £2.45.  Ah I hear you say, £2.75 is more expensive than £2.45 and you would be right but for one little thing.  Except for three colours, my oil paints have over two-thirds left in every tube and are as good as the day they were bought which was over 30 years ago!  Every model which appears in my Gallery, and that’s not everything I have ever done by any means, was either fully or mostly painted using these paints.

All in all I have 16 tubes of paint.  Two of these, Paynes Grey and Sap Green I never use.  The best Grey’s and Green’s are mixed, so really it’s 14 tubes.  From these 14 colours I can pretty much mix any colour I want using my colour wheel and because they are oils they stay mixed without drying out for as long as I need.  No need for a wet pallet.

The only three colours I have ever replaced, just once in each case was Burnt Umber, Titanium White and Ivory Black.  If I only painted figures I would not have needed to replace them but these colours, particularly the Burnt Umber, I have used a lot for base work.

Myth No: 2 – Oil Paints Only Produce a Gloss Finish

Wrong!  There are mediums wich can be added to produce a matt finish but the easiest option by far is to put out a small amount of paint onto a piece of paper and let the paper absorb some of the oil.  It is the oil that provides the sheen so once reduced it becomes more matt.  Matt varnish at the end of the painting process will also dull down any sheen.  Adding a little bit of white spirit or thinners keeps the oil paint extremely pliable if you remove a lot of the oil.

Myth No: 3 – Oil Paints Take A Long Time To Dry

Wrong!  OK, they can take longer but there are things you can do to speed the process up.  The first thing is not to put too much paint on in the first place.  It is easy to be heavy-handed with oils but the paint goes a long, long way and is best applied in thin coats in much the same way as acrylics.

The other thing you can do, and this is how I tend to paint, is to use the acrylics, particularly for the larger paint areas as an undercoat.  In this way the acrylic will absorb the oil and thus speed up the drying time.  Anything I paint these days only has to be left over night at the longest and to be fair that would probably apply too if you were batch painting so what’s the big deal?

The figure in the images below (apologies, not the best of photo, figure looks darker than it appears in the flesh!) was painted using a mixture of oil paints and acrylics which has become my preferred technique for 28mm and took a couple of hours in one sitting (yeah, yeah , yeah if I’d taken my time it would have looked better!).  It hasn’t had matt varnish applied.  I chose this figure and its colour scheme deliberately to show that you can paint a very light colour (white) up against a strong colour (blue) without merging the colours.  I’ll break the figure down in terms of how it was painted later in this article.


Myth No: 4 – Oil Paints Aren’t Very pliable

Wrong!  Oil paint goes where you put it.  It can be used for dry brushing, diluted to make effective washes for those very fine areas of detail but above all, and this brings me to where the idea for this article started, it can be easily blended!

The whole point of oils in modelling is that it can be blended easily.  Put two colours next to one another and they wont run into each other.  Take a brush and run it between the two colours and before you know it you will have created a smooth transition from one colour to another.  Yes I am over simplifying it, it’s a techniques like everything else of course and therefore needs practice but get it wrong and you just wipe the oil off and start again.  There is no danger of the paint drying out so you can add dark or light colours a little at a time to achieve the shade or highlight you are looking for.

The end of the Myths?  That’s something you will need to decide.

Meanwhile a closer look at the little chap above.  A 28mm Artizan Alamo figure, William Travis.

When I started to paint 28mm scale figures I soon leant that there was a need to adjust the way I painted, mainly due to some of the very fine detail.  Washes in particular became important.  I also started to try out acrylic paints which until then I had never used.  The idea of not using oil paints didn’t sit well with me as I had been using them for years so I started painting using both mediums.  The figure below is such an example.

After initially priming the figure with white primer the first task was to paint the face.  This was done entirely using acrylics.  The jacket and the trousers were initially painted using blue and white acrylics respectively.  The jacket was then painted with a blue/black oil paint mix and a dry brush was used to remove excess oil paint to ensure a thin layer of paint only remained.  Black was then blended into make the shadows and a little white to creat the highlights.

The trousers were given a very diluted wash of burnt umber oil paint and then white oil paint was added to the raised areas for highlights.

The hat was painted in acrylic and later overcoated with thin oils.  Everything else – boots, belt, sword, hands – were painted in acrylics.  A demonstration piece not a master piece!













How to Make a Model Fir Tree

Why fir trees?

I think it is fair to say that modelling in all its forms is a creative subject.  The problem with creativity is it can be expensive and it can also be frustrating.  The frustration coming from having an idea of what you want to create but having no idea of how to bring it to fruition.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had an idea but lacked a solution and sometimes had a solution – something you’ve wanted to try – but unable to think how best to do so.  In this instance fir trees and how to make them became the solution to a couple of dioramas I wanted to do build but couldn’t get my head around how to make the relevant trees – until now!

The dioramas I had in mind both feature 28mm figures from the Last of the Mohicans.  I had a clear idea of how I wanted them composed but was struggling with the scenic side of things.  The first of these models is now complete and the second is not far behind.  I will post details of the first one over the weekend but in the meanwhile I thought I would initially share with you the making of these trees.

I’m sure for many of you this is not something new.  Little things please little minds and in this instance my little mind was impressed by the fact that this technique, as well as being a simple one, doesn’t even involve any glue!

I guess the best place to start is with an image of the end result, that way you can switch off now if you don’t like it or continue if you do.  So, immediately below a couple of finished trees.  These were my first trees.  They’re not perfect but they were simple and affective and with a bit more practice I’m sure I can achieve better results.


So now onto how they are made.  To begin with you will require a few basic tools (pliers or small hand vice, a cocktail stick or similar, scissors a metal comb although you might get away with a plastic one depending the string used), some coarse string, the type that can be thinned out, some wire, hair spray and some static grass.

Step one

Cut off lengths of string about three inches in length.  The trees I made were for using with 28mm scale figures.  Depending the scale you use you may wish to cut shorter or longer lengths.  Having said that trees come in all sizes through their development so I guess you go with what you think looks best for you.  How many lengths you cut will be determined by how tall you want your tree to be.  I cut about 15 to 20 lengths in this instance.


Step Two

Using the metal comb separate the fibres of the string for each cut piece (see to the left of the image above).

Step Three

Cut a length of wire, I used wire with a thickness of 0.5mm cut to a length of approximately 14 inches.  Fold the wire in half and place the two ends into the vice, I used a small hand vice but you could use pliers or something similar.


Step Four

Take the combed lengths of string and spread them out between the looped wire.


Step Five

Take the cocktail stick or similar and place it at the looped end of the wire (see below).


Step Six

Holding the cocktail stick in one hand and the hand vice in the other start turning and rotating the hand vice and don’t stop until the wire loop where the cocktail stick is has become tight to the cocktail stick (see above).

Step Seven

Remove the cocktail stick and cut off the small looped bit of wire.

Step Eight

Using the scissors cut the string to shape the tree.  Fir trees are essentially triangular so you need to cut the string so that the top of the tree is narrow/pointed at the top and wider at the bottom.  If you want to thin out from top to bottom to get more of a Christmas tree shape between the branches you can.


Step Nine (Optional)

Depending on the colour string used you may wish to paint it.  The string I used was a great colour so I didn’t bother.

Step Ten

Spray the tree with hair spray, any cheap strong hold spray will do, you could use sprayed PVA too if you wanted to I suspect.  Then sprinkle the static grass on.  You may need to do a few applications until you are happy with what you have done.  I would also suggest that you turn the tree upside down and do the underside first.  I also used a darker static grass for the underneath and a lighter one on the up side.


Step Eleven (Optional)

If you want to have a lot of bark showing then strip back the string at the lower end of the tree and apply some filler or Milliput to create a tree trunk.  Alternatively you can just have the tree branches closer to the ground.


Hopefully this all made sense!

As I said earlier, these were my first trees so certainly room for improvement.