Category Archives: custom

Pier/Factory Diorama

The love of action figures goes beyond the collecting for me.   I am a hands-on kind of guy, and for me, that goes to the building of scenery to go along with my photo shoots.   Way back when I first started to blog and review toys, I spent a lot of time outside in the yard taking pictures, or using a very simple background.  Nothing special, and it showed in my photographs.  Move ahead 6 years, and I have a few dioramas under my belt.   The first was an alley that could be reversed to be some sort of concrete barracks.  It was very functional, and I still love to use it. It is timeless, and will probably be my go-to dio for a long time.   But, it was time for a change.  Not so much out of necessity for the photos, but for the necessity to get it out of my head.   I had an idea floating around in the ether of my mind for a LONG time.  It was going to be a pier for figures.  Finally it came to be.  It is 1:12 scale, though it can be used other close scales too.

My newly minted pier/factory diorama. It has been over 6 months in the making. A few do-overs with the water. Lots more detail than any other dio I have built. This one measures in at a 2 foot cube. I had to rebuild my lighting poles to be able to account for taller walls than ever before. I am already ready for my next build. I am sure I am not the only one that happens to.

The pier is made of 100% wood, nailed together and then weathered. The crane on top moves side to side as well as back and forth. There is a winch that works too. There are two doors that also slide. They are thick art board that were scored for wood texture and then weathered.

There is a secondary winch that comes out of the back door. The i-beam can move in and out as well as the pulley moving forward and back.

A close-up of the winch under the moving platform. This one was a labor of love. It was rebuilt a few times to get the right look as well as being sturdy enough to work and not break.

The water was a problem for me. I used a piece of pressboard. In my initial investigation on how to make the water, I saw someone use clear silicone. I painted the base and spread out the silicone. It looked nice, but it never dried well. It stayed sticky after a few weeks of drying. If I ever got anything on it, it stuck. So with lots of art supplies stuck in the caulk, I had to cut it off.

I ended up laying down a layer of plaster of paris and tapping it with a gloved hand. It ended up with a great texture. I added color including blues, green and black. After the paint dried, I coated it with a layer of gloss Mod Podge. That gave it a great shine and left a bit of clear residue in the waves to give even more of a definitive texture.

Diorama building – Old Dock (6 inch scale)

I am always looking to make better photographs, and set my figures in dynamic poses.  One way of doing that, I had discovered a few years back, was to make a scale model diorama to get the figures into a scene.  The first diorama I did was the back alley with a million and a half bricks.  It turned out so well in my mind, and I was hooked on dioramas.   My second diorama was more recent and a lot easier.  It consisted of a fake rock wall, and a sand base.  That one was really easy, and allowed me to utilize it by any scale from Marvel Legends up to Power Rangers Zords.

Now I have embarked on my biggest and best diorama yet.  Phase 1 is the dock that I had imagined and is now a reality.  I thought ahead enough to take pictures along the way so I could take you with me on the journey to completion.

Step 1: I used thin redwood strips used for latice work. I had them left over in my shed from an arbor I built. I hacked them off at around 8 inches across. Then I split them twice to get three thinner strips that were uneven.
I built a frame with the same wood. I used an air powered nail gun that had tiny little nails in it. This probably could have been done with glue as well, but this was way faster, way cleaner, and will probably hold together better.

Step 1a: Since I used a dull chisel, the wood broke unevenly to leave the ends ravaged by the sea.  Of course if you were going for a new dock look, you would want to cut them evenly.

Step 1b:  I nailed two pieces together to make a more dynamic dock that will give me more options for photo shoots.

Step 2:  I bought a long dowel rod that was about an inch across.  I cut it into two sizes.  Three I made longer, and the rest I left short.  To get the old texture with cracking wood, I smashed them with a hammer around the edges.  The closer to the top, the bigger the split.  If parts fell off, I let them fall off.  The wood has a great weathered look at this point.

Step 3:  I nailed the posts all around the dock.  This is a good time to make sure you are keeping them all level.  I managed to get them all flat except for one on the back side that is about 1/4 inch off the floor.  Oops!

Step 4: I painted the whole dock with a wash of watered down brown acrylic.  While the paint was still wet, I added some washes of black.   Overall there wasn’t a whole lot of need for more of a wash, since the redwood already had a lot of different colors.  I used the black wash mostly around the base of the piers where water would be eating away at the wood.

A closeup of the split pier.  A hammer is all you need.  Hit it all the way around, and it will start to split.  Make sure to get down in the cracks with the wash.  You want it to be as dark or darker than the exterior wood.

Spidey is checking out the dock for the first time.  Since this is Phase 1, I don’t have a base of background for the dock yet.   For now it is sitting on the sand display.  That works, but there is a WAY bigger display coming for this one.

Up next, I am working on the base of the display. We will see how it turns out.  My first time working on making water.  So far so good.  Pictures and instructions to follow.  For now, we will get back to some toy reviews.  I have a back log starting to pile up.

Custom Mystic Turtles – Day 1

Today was the first full day of customizing my Mystic Turtles, and things are going great.

First things first with my Mikey repaint.   Gotta get that bark painted.   I had a great color that matched so well.  He has big pieces on his feet that were easy to paint.  On his hands, he has smaller pieces that are wrapped with rope.  It was a bit trickier to paint around the rope pieces.

I am still going with the white on this one.  I am going to do a new layer of black wash to bring down the brightness.  I found a concrete color that i used with the rest of the guys for their light color wraps and pads.

First thing I noticed from the reference picture I took during the show was that he had extra straps to hold on his flame thrower tanks.  I used strips of styrene and then added the ‘x’s on the belt.  I later painted the first coat on all of his major outfit parts.  I am NOT looking forward to painting the mesh on his arms.

The axe Donnie came with was rather rubbery.  Mostly the handle.  I figured I would have to paint the handle anyway, so I might as well try my hand at making a duplicate axe that is a little taller, as it was in the show.  I used a wooden dowel that was the exact right thickness for his hand.

Down at the bottom of the pic is Donnie’s original axe. Above it is my remodeled version with wooden handle painted.

Above the axes are Raph’s new Tegakis. The one he came with was super soft and rubbery, and it is supposed to be a pair. It was easy enough to just make two, as it would have been to make one. The much more sturdy styrene was way easier to paint than the rubber would have been.


This was a fun Sunday.  It has been so long since I have used the creative side of my brain for something so small.  I cannot wait to get back out there and finish these guys up.  So far, so good.

Monster High DIY classroom and desk

About four months ago, my sister had a metal break.  It was sad, but my wife and I brought her across the country to get some help in a hospital.  She was in out patient care, and she would spend the nights and weekends at home with us.   In an effort to get her to be more creative, we went shopping.   I found she had a lot of toys she liked, but not many interested me.    She was looking at the Monster High dolls, and they looked pretty fun.  I knew I would be able to join in on the fun of these dolls.  I am not really proficient with sewing, so I went the other way.  It only seemed natural to me that Monster High dolls would need an actual desk.

The “metal” pats of the desk and chair are made from Evergreen plastic. I have tons of it around from my days of building car models. The metal color is Tamiya aluminum.  The wood top and seat are made from pieces of particle board. I cut and sanded them, and then coated them with a layer of Mod Podge to give them a gloss coat.

I started the building process by measuring and cutting pieces of cardstock. With the long legs of the MH dolls, the chair and table legs are extremely long. A bit out of proportion for a normal classroom desk, but it fit the girls just right.

This was a fun project to get my feet wet.   I really enjoy this scale of figure to work with.  The parts aren’t too small.  Up next, I am going to focus my attention on Robecca Steam and the world of Steampunk.

Hot Wheels Camaro


I have had a project bouncing Around in the empty spaces in my head for months now.
I wanted to do a project with one of my Camaros, but I love my Camaros, so I did not want to destroy one in the process, and they are hard to find.
Well, a few days back, I found a Camaro to replace the one pictured from 2011. It was a strange find since we have 2013 cars in the stores now, but it was a happy find.
The body has been removed from the chassis, and is currently taking a dip in Super Clean to see if I can get the paint off.
The project begins…

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