Tag Archives: diorama construction

Tree Diorama for 1/6 scale

The 1/6 scale is my favorite to build in. I love the 1/12 scale figures, like Marvel Legends and Star Wars The Black Series, but there is something about working in this larger scale that allows for some finer details, and the ability to play really big.

One of the biggest problems with this scale is of course the size of whatever it is you are building. In this case I had it in my mind to build a chair swing. And the only way I wanted to see that swing was hanging from a tree. Now that posed a few problems since trees are big. That is of course the first problem revisited. Second is that a tree has to be rather robust to hold a swing with someone swinging in it.

The answer came to me as an old piece of PVC sewer pipe I have had laying around for the last 12 years, after I finished remodeling my house and ended up with a bit of extra pipe.

So, now I had the width of the tree. To remedy the height, I figured I would have it broken like it had been struck by lightning. Then I have a display that has an interesting story, it is not too gigantic, and it will still be big enough for the larger 1/6 scale figures.

The material I used is Rigid Wrap. I ordered a 5 pound roll from Amazon made by Activia. The directions were printed on the box. Cut, wet, and stick. That was about it. From there I began to experiment and see what I could do for things like texture, roots and old branches that have been broken off.

I did have one setback when I was building the long branch. I had originally cut a hole in the trunk and stuck the smaller piece of PVC in the hole. I glued it with hot glue. It held well until I started to add the Rigid Wrap. The Rigid Wrap added a lot of extra weight, and started to pull the branch down. I added wire that went around the bottom of the branch and then attached back into the truck. I also added a wood brace under the branch. This was all covered with many layers of Rigid Wrap that covered up the stuff that didn’t belong as well as created a strong cast.

For the broken top, I cut the PVC with a cutting wheel. The triangular pieces that were cut off were added to the top and glued into place to add different heights to the top and gave it a more natural look.

For the leaves, I knew it was going to be tricky to find something that was going to be in scale. It turned out to be really easy. I was in Michael’s and they have a plastic plant display area in the store. A giant bunch of branches with the proper size leaves were $14.99. I happened in at the 50% off sale, so the price was much more reasonable at half. I was not sure I was going to need the whole bunch, but I ended up using it all. The smaller twigs came off with a pull, and I attached them to the tree with bamboo skewers I held in place with more Rigid Wrap cut much smaller. The twigs with leaves were glued in place with hot glue.

Once I got all of that done, it was on to the painting. I started dark and worked my way lighter, creating layers, more in some areas and less in others. I painted from the trunk out, making sure to cover all of the twigs most of the way out to the leaves.

This was a great project for me to tackle. It was something new. I had never worked with Rigid Wrap before, and I love it. I have a few more ideas in mind for other scenery pieces I want to make for some other scales. If I remove the swing, it can be a larger tree for smaller scale figures as well.

Up next, I am working on a car. Barbie’s cars are mostly bright pink, and not anything like what most people would chose to buy. I am working on a much darker but still quite flashy color that should make any of the drivers happy to take the little sports car for a spin.

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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.


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