All about the base

All about the base

I recently promised you some background on my struggles with the base of my diorama My Worst Nightmare.

Therefore:  it’s all about the base

There is no higher purpose to this blog post other than that I hope that you can learn from my mistakes. It may save you some valuable bench time for your current or future projects.

Well, the title My Worst Nightmare is definitely applicable in many ways, but the base of this project has cost me some serious blood, sweat and tears, metaphorically anyway.

I have made various versions of the base and I would like to go through three of them in this blog. In the next three images you can see the version that was about to become the final one until something happened on the way to heaven. Actually the base was not the only part of this dio that went through various versions, the mast and the shark were also re-done several times. The only two elements to come out in one go were, surprisingly, the bicycle and the figure.  The devil is in the details and often not in the obvious. You can take my word for that.

Pic 1 shows the base with the shark  embedded. Pic 2 shows the freshly applied acrylic gel, still opaque, and on the third one the gel has turned translucent….and the remainder of the broken off mast. Bummer!
Can’t really remember what happened exactly, but I guess that a clumsy movement while painting or retouching details was the cause of that little unhappy accident

Perhaps equally important is that I didn’t like the final look of the base. The wave had become to dominantly present compared to the other elements and there were just too many small things that I didn’t like and last but not least,  the composition came out not exactly the way I wanted, mainly due to the position of the shark. The guy on the bike was looking way from the shark. FAIL!

So, all in all, it was back the drawing board.

I decided to make a less dominant wave this time. Less is more, as they say and it’s definitely true. The suggestion of something can be stronger than actually showing it in full. A new base was shaped from HD Styrodur (the yellow stuff!), and the main elements were added.

Next the base was covered with waterproof (water colour) paper. Besides the advantage that this does not dissolve in water, it also has a nice texture. In hindsight that particular property was of little use in this scale, roughly 1/35th. The texture more less disappeared under many layers of a lot of things, acrylic gel mainly.  The paper was shaped over the Styrodur with diluted white glue or wood adhesive:

and held in place at the edges with 6814891 pins until dry. 

Before the fun (read: painting) started I attached the main elements to the base and filled the edges with Magic Sculpt. 

Enter…the airbrush. I used my AB to paint the base with various blue and grey tones

Next, I applied a glossy coat with a product so secret that I don’t know what that was, actually. That’s a laborious way to say I forgot what I used. Best guess is that it was Johnsons Floor Polish, applied in 2-3 layers.  You can also still see the texture of the water colour paper here.

And then….the magic happened. Or perhaps I should say, was supposed to happen.

Entering stage right: Vallejo’s Water Texture Atlantico.

I applied this coloured acrylic gel as a start to colour the sea a bit brighter blue. As this gel becomes translucent once dry, the underlying airbrush job would still be visible.

But…..this stuff has a nasty side effect. I applied it with a brush, making sure to keep the direction of the strokes parallel and in one direction, in order to recreate the flow of the water. However, by doing this, the pigments (I suppose it has pigments to make it blue) are kind of squeezed by the bristles, basically leaving brush strokes. I checked with someone who has used this gel too, someone way more skilful than I am,  and he confirmed this is actually an issue with coloured acrylic gels.

This image:

shows the result after the acrylic had dried.
Needless to say that I was ready to pull my hair out, if I’d had any  😊

So, Water Texture Atlantico exits stage left….

After long and very confronting therapy, I decided to pick up this project again. Actually , and according to the dates on the images I took, this was next day.

All drama aside, I decided to be a man about it and started with base numero whatever. The original shark had disappeared into the same bin as the previous base(s), and Magic Sculpt,  Apoxy Sculpt, and a wee bit of Evergreen came to the rescue for another shark species. 

I also had to paint a new lifebuoy as the other one did not survive while being rescued from the other base. 

And again, a new base was made with HD Styrodur (the yellow stuff, remember?). Cut and sanded to shape. Gaps were filled with self-hardening clay and Magic Sculpt. The larger gaps were filled with clay as it’s a helluvalot cheaper than Magic Sculpt….. in case you wonder. 

I used the water colour paper again to create a smoother surface

 and did some happy airbrushing:

This time I covered the base with Acrylic Artists Gel Medium from the Rembrandt brand. Obviously the translucent drying type 

I repeated this process and added more local layers, alternating between the same gel and Vallejo Still Water. All of this to create depth in general and more volume to certain areas where I thought that this was needed. The final layer was created with brushed on and ever so carefully and slightly tainted Still Water (to add a bit more blue to the final look). After all these layers the original texture of the paper went AWOL. 

I tried to keep the blue tint of the water very moderate as I didn’t want to create a deep blue sea, because to me that would define the weather as very sunny, and if you look at the rest of the scene you will understand that a sunny atmosphere would be not very appropriate for this scene.  

So what else is left to say?  Well, I have no images to prove it, but trying to use two part epoxy resin for water on this kind of base is a bad idea too. Been there, done that.  I tried to add thin layers of the stuff, but of course this resin is supposed to level. Trust me….it does….always.

In hindsight I could have casted the wave from resin, but perhaps I was too lazy or even more likely, I just didn’t want to spend a lot of money on mould rubber and resin. Mind you, it would have become a serious block of resin. After I finished this project I did see some very interesting and stunning projects where the waves were cast indeed. But like I said…….that was after I finished this one.

I started this project January 2015, according to the data of my pictures. I finished it four years and one month after I started it, according to the same data. The wave being the part of the project that made me hesitate time and time again to finish it and just put it aside to work on otther projects.

The moral of this story? Stop whining and just do it! 😊

Happy modelling.




My Worst Nightmare…. revisited

My Worst Nightmare…. revisited


Revisited indeed. It never took me so long to complete a project. And honestly, it isn’t even finished now.
Not that I didn’t finish other stuff in the meantime, figures mainly, but still. This project has been on a stand still most of the time over a period of 3 (!) years. Life’s all about priorities, I guess .

Anyway, I am finally pretty close to finishing off this project. Nearly all elements are painted, and done.
Here’s the man-in –distress. Sort of completely sculpted.

And here’s the unpainted and temporarily assembled set up of the guy on his bike. Click on the images to enlarge!

And the man’s head in close up:

And here’s the painted version of it all. Still have to work a bit on the guys trousers and shoes and then start gluing the remaining parts together.

And then, the biggest challenge still to overcome…the wave. The water needs the most attention still: it needs more painting, mainly white foam and most of all, it needs more coats of acrylic gel. The top of the wave also needs additional work as it’s in a premature state right now.

Some of the accessories, painted and ready to go.

Obviously the shark needs to be properly embedded in the sea, and I am stil in doubt where the pelican will go.

To be continued……soon! (really)

My Worst Nightmare

My Worst Nightmare

I am sure that I am repeating myself here, but this is another project that I started early 2014, maybe even late 2013. Who will tell? It has been lying on the shelf for lack of confidence probably, as it involves some serious sculpting. You know, sometimes you started something and end up thinking: “what did get myself into now?” Well, this is one of those projects.

Here are some in progress images. The steampunk bicycle is from Smart Max, with some scratch built additions. For the figure I used a plastic miniature, to have the proportions right at least 🙂 All details and most of the plastic was scraped off with a scalpel and I added a mix of Magic Sculpt and Green Stuff, or only Magic Sculpt.

The plastic arms were completely left off, and used for measurement purposes again.  I replaced them with wire and putty and are not done yet, as you can see from the pics. The guy is going to hold an umbrella and has to hold on to his bike, and frankly it took me a while to figure out a way to get it all done. Not regarding the umbrella of course, but the way the right-hand/arm-to-the-bike connection could be done leaving space for painting after sculpting and construction is done and to sculpt in the first place and still have everything still fitting at the end. Pretty tricky really. The right foot will be firm on the pedal, but the left one will be positioned in such a way that it appears to have slipped off the pedal. Think about it: you have several attachement points between the two subjects: right hand-bike, his butt on the sadle, and one foot on the pedal. Perhaps I’d better stick to building little tankies.

Head and hands are from the Hornet range, and I used Green Stuff to add hair, beard and side-whiskers,
The coat has a lead foil base, and the cuffs are from lead foil too. Shoe laces are fashioned from thin lead wire.

And in case you are wondering where this is leading to: hang on, as it’s getting weirder as we go. Water, waves, driftwood and a shark. Don’t ask. I haven’t called it My Worst Nightmare for nothing.

Enough talk, he’re the images of the story so far:





To be continued

Snow Hunt diorama finished

Snow Hunt diorama finished

I actually managed to finish this project during the holiday season. For some obscure reason I was a bit frightened to get started with the groundwork. The Fieseler Storch was ready for a while, although I still had to attach a number of parts that were left off, or had broken off, during previous weathering and painting steps, and I didn´t want to attatch them until the aircraft was about to be fixed to the groundwork.
In hindsight I decided to use only a part of the Storch’s  left wing,. Seemed better to me that way. Here’s a peek at the completed diorama, and more pics are available in my  Gallery


The Aerosan went through some serious weathering. Looking at earlier pics I decided it was too boring and too clean, and that I should take it a few steps further.

So, here´s a shot of the almost finished Aerosan. Almost? Yes, indeed. When I was in the process of making the protective acrylic cover for my diorama I realized that the windscreen of the Aerosan was much too clean, so that was fixed after all the photo’s were taken. Well, you know what they say: I know it’s there 🙂


For those interested in making the groundwork, I have added some snapshots I made during the process.

I found a too large gap between the ground and the botton of the aircraft, so I filled up the space with some cork strips and covered that with more wall filler. Why not just wall filler and no cork strips? A thick layer takes too long to dry and will certainly crack.



The next step was making traces of where the aircraft hit the ground, disturbing the smooth top layer of the snow. I used cling film to prevent  the model being covered with wall filler.



I used a mix of various brands of artificial snow, as well as some extremely fine aquatic sand that was absolutely white. You can also use white wall filler instead of that sand, but white wall filler tends to turn yellow over time. Same goes for other natural products like baking soda, reason I never use it. Anyway, the white sand came in handy as I didn’t need to colour it. It also has substantial volume, something the artificial snow lacks. I added water and plenty of white glue to make a nice white paste and covered the base again, with a thin layer of the mix.


After the mixture was set, I sprayed white glue, thinned with water and a drop or two of dishwashing detergent over the whole base and sprinkled an even finer artificial snow with a sieve over the whole surface. The snow I used for this last step is by Techstar, a former VLS brand which is no longer available, I believe, and an extremely fine product from Scenery Workshop, which is in fact very fine glass. So, be careful when using such products, and wear a dust mask when applying it, as it is dusty a h#ll.



The aircraft, Aerosan, figures and the trees are all fixed to the base using two component epoxy glue, the rapid drying, 2-minutes, version.



The trees were the last elements to be attached to the base, in order to have better acces to everything that  was already attached. I always need to touch up things during the final process, so leaving the trees for last seemed logical. For the snow on the trees I sprayed them from the top with 3M Photomount and sprinkled the Techstar and Scenery Workshop powders over them, and repeated the process until I was happy with the results.

On to the next project that has been lying idle for too long as well.

SNOW CRASH additional figure and political correct decals

SNOW CRASH additional figure and political correct decals

Some time ago I considered that I needed an additional figure for my eternally-in-progress- diorama Snow Crash, and I found a suitable one from the Alpine range. I gave him an Ultracast head and sculpted the hat from Magic Sculp, and a piece of thin wire on top (including a nice knot in 1/35th scale)


This guy will be standing on top of the dio, next to the Aerosan. Just felt a bit more logical that there was a third figure present.

Anyway, here he is, painted in acrylics:



And now for something completely different I take you back to the fallen star of this dio, the Fieseler Storch. During a recent club meeting one of my fellow club members pointed out, in a very polite way, that was I about to make a major mistake using the tail decal the way I did. I followed the instructions 1:1, but fact is that the decal is not the Wolfsangel for which I, for some reason took it, but just half a Hakenkreuz and that the decal actually consists of two parts, making in into a proper and historical correct, yet politically incorrect, Hakenkreuz.

I was about to tear my few remaing hairs out, but in the end it worked out oké. I stashed the remainder of the decal sheet,  so I was able to fix it. I had to spray gloss varnish over the weathered parts again to make sure that the second decal would go on flawless, but I managed.

Now, I understand to some extend why they left out a full  and ready  Hakenkreuz,  although I completely disagree with this practice, but hey, it is what it is. But even in the instructions they don’t even mention this and happily depict the plane in the camo examples with that halfwit Wolfsangel.  And that is beyond me, really.  Rant mode off.

Here’s the story in pictures:



and after (still glossy)


Signing off for today folks.


The Ronin – The making of

The Ronin – The making of

Here are some in progress pics of the Ronin project.

The house was made of blue HD styrofoam and Evergreen.  I covered the walls with, how appropriate, wall filler and sanded it back to achieve a slightly smoother look.

The roof was fashioned from bristles from an old paint brush, and I raided my “green” box for the window covers; cutting of stems from dried “something”. No idea what, but it served the purpose.

My green box is a collection of stuff I use for my dioramas: natural and manufactured products, purchased stuff as well as all kinds of goodies I found in the garden or wherever you find useful things. Which could be everywhere you go, really.

The tree is a dried root and I sculpted new roots at the bottom. I covered the sculpted area  and lower part of the stem with Bark Paste from Anita Decor, a railroad brand. Kewl stuff!

The wooden base has an interesting colour pattern and has actual cracks that inspired me to fashion the base the way I did. I sculpted the “tree” leading  to the actual base from Magic Sculp, wrapped around a twisted wire armature, and let the roots drape over the edges and run into some of the crevices of the wooden base.

I wanted the blossoming tree to work as a sort of natural frame for the figure, as the figure is obviously what it’s about. The scenery is merely decoré, but effectively used to “box” the figure, so to speak. My wife and I, together with some friends, were recently invited  by our friends Goetz Siepmann and Nicole Siepmann-Eppinger for a weekend of figure painting, base making and to hang out.  Goetz and Nicole really inspired me by their approach of making bases for their figures. So I owe them a big thank you, as this project, simple as it may seem, has made me realize that thinking out of the box is the best thing to get you any further in this wonderful hobby.


Pin It on Pinterest