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Sgt Humpty
This morning, I began work on my first diorama in about four years. It will depict the 41st Elite Legion (in their grey-marked Phase II armor), under the command of Luminara Unduli and Commander Gree, making a planetary assault in an urban environment. The diorama base is two feet long, six inches high and six inches deep (which allows it to fit perfectly into the shelving specifically installed in my SW workshop to hold dioramas). I want to portray an urban battlefield with lots of destruction that gives the impression of a ferocious battle (think along the lines of the final 30 minutes of the film Full Metal Jacket). My tentative plan is to use styrofoam for the damaged and destroyed buildings. Does anyone know of a better way to do this (keeping in mind that my budget is rather limited)? I am asking for input at this point because I have not yet begun the construction of the buildings, so it would be no problem to completely change my plans. I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions. Thanks!
darthschroeder
DnJ,

Sounds like a fun project. I would us a mix of parts.

If you find some interestingly shaped packing foam brackets (like those that come with appliances.) those can make wonderful Star Warsy-shaped building sections. If you are talking about the white styrofoam sheets, I'd avoid those. The bubbles/ beads always show.

A nice alternative to those is foam board: the pink or blue sheets used for home insulation. A 4' X 8'X 1/2" sheet used to be ~ $10, but that was before gas priced soared. ... You can often find ends of foam boards for free at construction sites.... Anywhoo, the stuff is very workable. I have made Ice caves, rocks, stone walls, and even a Wookie Tree with the stuff. ILM used essentially the same thing for Utapau miniature.. Weta used it for rocks. Very sculptable, and cracks beautifully for rocks. Will make nice "duracrete" walls in various states of disrepair.

If you are at a construction site looking for blue board, grab some ABS pipe ends. Light weight, sturdy, and make good SW parts. Different diameters are good for ducts, sewers, or lift shafts. Crunches nicely for that battle-scarred effect.

For faux metal buildings you can't beat found objects. An old TV or radio will provide a nice shell with straight lines and rounded corners, and more often than not will have a vented area that makes the gratings Uncle George likes to use so often. TV-grade styrene will snap and twist most excellently with a pair of pliers.

For glass on a budget, figure blisters are great.

pbarny
There are some building remenants from PTE/World Peace keepers that maybe of interest to you.

Broken up chuncks of concrete work good too. Take one large chunk, smash several more times, glue together and use some sort of form (be it bowl or glass), paint up...

And like doug said, (holy poo.gif doug posted), never can go wrong with PVC.

I don't know if this is exterior if 6" is high enough. For indoor stuff, I tend to cut plywood down to 6" for walls.

Sgt Humpty
Hah, funny that you should mention the white styorfoam sheets! I finished both buildings yesterday using something like that. The sheets have a really weird texture. They don't have the traditional bubbles like you'd see in a disposeable beer cooler. Instead, they look like they were made by air-forced injection of the material into the molds. Once the sheets were formed into the two structures, (I thought) they looked like they were pre-fabricated or some other types of expedient construction. The first coat of paint soaked in pretty good. The second coat has started to adhere they way I want it to. The texture is still very visible, but I think I like that (at least at this point). The foam packing brackets would definitely have been easier to work with, but I didn't have them readily available. I think that at this point, I will move ahead with the material I'm using and call it a trial run. It looks like it will turn out the way I want it, but who knows?

I had a ton of ideas scribbled down for this project, but you've added quite a few new ones! I was already collecting the tubes from the inside of spray bottles to make drink glasses for my Cantina patrons, but now some of them are going to end up as conduits and things like that. I have a large amount of clear plastic in varoius thicknesses (including figure blisters) to simulate broken "transparisteel".

It's been fun so far. I'll try to get some step-by-step photos up soon.

Pbarny, I chopped up some of the same material I used on the buildings for rubble. I was kind of "middle-of-the-road" satisfied with the way it looks, so I had actually planned to mix some real concrete with it.
Sgt Humpty
Okay, as promised, here is the progress so far...

The base is actually a piece of the shelving that I installed in my SW workshop specifically to hold dioramas. It measures two feet long and six inches deep. The background wall is a piece of masonite two feet long and about six inches high. It was attached to the base with small angle irons and some screws. The background wall was painted light grey and will be used to simulate a long duracrete wall. The two small structures were made from styrofoam sheets. The pieces were cut to the size I wanted and then assembled using glue and toothpicks. Additional glue was used to fill and strengthen the corner areas.

Once the glue had dried, I spray-painted the buildings and quickly found that the paint soaked in too much (you were right, Doug). They looked like dirty styrofoam houses! NOTE: the figure was only included in these two photos as a size reference.



I solved this problem with a couple scoops from a bucket of elastomeric patch (something I already had on hand due to a leak in the basement). Using a flat edge, I spread the stuff smoothly and evenly over all of the strofoam surfaces. When dry, I spray-painted it light grey. This time, I was very happy with the way they looked. Once again, the intent was to simulate industrial structures that had to be constructed rapidly and remain durable for an extended amount of time. I decided that the building on the left would be a small two-person living quarters for some of the workers assigned to the planet.

I attached a combination entertainment center & storage unit to the wall next to the doorway. I also added a chair (that originally came with an Episode One Yoda figure) and a small table (that was left over from the Shalo's Cantina diorama Jen and I did a few years ago). I am going to make a couple of small beds for that building, as well. The building on the right is so badly damaged that I don't think it really matters what the original purpose was! Both buildings have twisted conduits attached to the side of them. These were made by cutting and then twisting the straws from inside a Windex bottle. They were painted and attached with glue (the glue visible in the right-hand photo was still wet and cannot be seen now that it has dried).



If you look at the top two photos, you can see that the original plan of using styrofoam bits as rubble did not really look great. I am currently looking for chucnks of actual concrete so I can try out the method that Paul suggested in his post.

At the moment, I am kind of evaluating before I continue forward, so I'd love to hear any ideas or suggestions you guys might have!
pbarny
Well you do have the walls up and broken away. I've heard two ways to do this...One is obviously to go the way you are. Have your walls up, holes ready, apply damage to satisfaction. I do see what you mean about the styrofoam debris not working. It is too regular shaped. Its classic Star Trek though wink.gif

The other, and I have to credit LOTR DVD extras with this, is to build up a perfectly clean immaculate model, and than do the actual damage you want done. Nothing stimulates hitting something with stones, than hitting something with stones. Probably don't want to light styrofoam on fire (toxic, bad for you, worse than cutting finger and bleeding to death bad for you). Boring several holes with small drill bits to simulate laser or flechette type action...Course, this works when you're Weta Workshop or ILM and have professional model makers who work with real materials and can build it in proper 1:18 scale.

I have lots of ideas right now, unfortunately for me none of them are about why my capillary column hates this new DNA oligo... graduated.gif
Sgt Humpty
The building on the right actually did start out as a "complete" building. I then cut, trimmed and chopped away what I wanted to have "destroyed". The trimmed parts were actually kept so that they could be chopped up and used as rubble. How better to get the right amount of rubble than to actually chop up the piece of wall or ceiling that was supposed to be destroyed? I have not completely given up on the styrofoam rubble, but it obviously didn't work the way I originally tried it. I plan to try grinding it up a bit, maybe adding some real concrete to it, maybe painting it again after grinding it up, etc, etc.

Call me stubborn, but I'd really like to get the styrofoam to work. I bought enough to do both buildings for $5. If I can perfect a way to utilize it, then I can do more projects like this in the future while keeping my costs down...
pbarny
Maybe something like elmers glue could fill the holes make a more uniform surface? I'm no polymer or materials chemists (but I do know several)...This would obviously be an ideal situation to take a scrap piece and try it out first.
darthschroeder
Don,

I think the foam works well with the coating. Nice fix.

One upgrade for the walls and the rubble is to make your damage using a pliers rather than a knife. I may be mis-seeing the image, but it looks like you have cut blocks for rubble. I would snap the rubble off the building instead: hold the base nice and tight-and-close with your other hand and twist away with the pliers . Then coat all of the ends with the elastomeric doomahagoopey too.

If you have a steady hand and a good drill bit, sinking some pipes/struts INSIDE the walls would look good too. Have the pipes sticking up a bit from the crumble line. When you see rotted concrete on bridges or demolished buildings, there are always metal frames poking through.

I like the house furnishings.

Keep us updated.

d
Sgt Humpty
Doug, I'm glad that someone else likes the elastomeric coating fix. I was a bit concerned that I was "forcing" myself to see it the way I wanted it. As for the damage, I originally cut away large sections of it with a hobby knife and then started to "rough it up" a bit. Portions of the building on the left were broken or "chewed" with a Leatherman tool. I can certainly do more of it, but I was concerned with overdoing it and then not being able to un-do. Your eyes serve you well, I had actually cut up the larger sections of unused wall and they were a bit uniform and boxy. This morning, my son (5 years old) and I played squish the styrofoam. He had a blast! We basically crumpled a large amount of it up, broke up some previously unused sheets and threw them all into a large paper shopping bag. We then added in several small shovel-fuls of regular old garden dirt and shook the heck out of the bag. THEN, I alternated spray-panting the bag's contents a very light grey and shaking the bag up over and over again. The results were awesome! Most of the pieces are grey, with a really gritty texture. The bubbles in the styrofoam are no longer an issue because we squashed 'em! The really neat thing is that some of the broken and jagged edges did not hold the paint well. An unintentional side effect, but it looks pretty realistic. I liked your idea of adding pipes and conduits inside the walls and I plan to give it a shot. I had forgotten how much fun dioramas actually are!
Sgt Humpty
At long last, this diorama is finished! I have included a lot of photos for your viewing pleasure...













I know this last one is blurry, but I wanted to include it to give you an idea of the overall scale (remember, the base is two feet long)...



Anyone looking for more detail on how each part was completed should check the updates page at D & J Customs. As I stated at the beginning of this thread, this is the first diorama I have worked on in over four years. To be honest, I guess I had forgotten how much fun they are. As always, suggestions, critiques and comments are welcome. Happy customizing!
clonecommander972
very nice work, the buildings look like real concrete/plaster smile.gif
i'm working on something similar right now, and this has given me some very good ideas
darthschroeder
I like it, Don!
Sgt Humpty
Today, my kids and I started work on a diorama that I've wanted to do for about six or seven years (that's before they were even born). We started out by using foam board for the walls. The ceiling is not visible unless the viewer is really short or squats down, so there is not going to be a huge amount of detail there. Basically, we painted the ceiling black and affixed three rectangles of foam board to it. While it is still in the very early stages, here are a few photos:





Eventually, this will (hopefully) transform into a fully functional hangar bay featuring two of Rogue Squadron's X-Wings (Rogue Leader and Rogue Nine), a small lounge area for the pilots, droids, support personnel, mechanics and their tools. Of course all of our Rogue Squadron figures will be present, along with fellow pilots from Wraith Squadron and Defender Wing.



Adam couldn't resist getting into a photo!

The diorama is being constructed on one of four shelves that were built into a recess in the basement of our house when we bought it. The area quickly became my workshop and the shelves are all going to be transformed into large-scale dioramas!
Sgt Humpty
Today, Katie and I got the walls painted and we added flooring. The two X-wings are in the photo to show the overall size of the diorama.



Tomorrow, we hope to get a bit more done!
pbarny
QUOTE (DnJcustoms @ Jan 29 2009, 11:00 PM) *
Today, Katie and I got the walls painted and we added flooring. The two X-wings are in the photo to show the overall size of the diorama.
Tomorrow, we hope to get a bit more done!


How lazy are you? Only placed 2 X-Wings on a shelf? thumbup.gif J/K.

How is the shelf accepting paint? Sucking up the primer or going pretty good?
Sgt Humpty
The foamcore walls accepted the paint very well. I forgot to mention that the flooring was done with a self adhesive plastic sheeting (similar to what you'd line shelves or drawers with). I'm experimenting with printing labels for some of the details.

Once the hangar itself is done, then I'll be starting the really hard (and fun) part: filling it up with all the essential equipment for starfighter repair and maintenance. Obviously, since Hasbro hasn't seen fit to produce a starfighter mechanic's tool set, this will be entirely scratch-built. Some of it will be simple, like collecting up the various welders (POTJ Mechanic Chewbacca), grease guns (EP1 Anakin Skywalker) and other assorted pack-in tools we've seen over the years. Other parts are still in the brain-storming stage. For instance, how might I make a hoist for getting the astromechs in and out of the droid sockets? What is the best way to make the ladders needed for pilots to climb in and out of their ships? I have a lot of ideas on this stuff, but it's going to be a lot of trial and error.
pbarny
Well on Jedi fighter bases no need for hoists.

But yeah, have you considered looking at either the GI Joe Tactical Battleplatform, Mobile Command Center or USS Flagg for their crane parts? It it comes to it, start doing Ebay searches. Look again at Han's tool set in ESB. Lego has some interesting tools (and the racing sets are still available). I don't know if Tonka, the CORPS or Chap Mei make a decent scaled crane.
Sgt Humpty
QUOTE (pbarny @ Jan 30 2009, 09:40 AM) *
Well on Jedi fighter bases no need for hoists.

But yeah, have you considered looking at either the GI Joe Tactical Battleplatform, Mobile Command Center or USS Flagg for their crane parts? It it comes to it, start doing Ebay searches. Look again at Han's tool set in ESB. Lego has some interesting tools (and the racing sets are still available). I don't know if Tonka, the CORPS or Chap Mei make a decent scaled crane.


I keep thinking back to the suction tube-lookin' thing that they used on R2 in Ep 4. Looked like a long length of dryer vent hose, but I can't seem to find a good screen shot that shows much of it. Anyone know what the entire apparatus looked like?
pbarny
QUOTE (DnJcustoms @ Jan 31 2009, 08:47 AM) *
I keep thinking back to the suction tube-lookin' thing that they used on R2 in Ep 4. Looked like a long length of dryer vent hose, but I can't seem to find a good screen shot that shows much of it. Anyone know what the entire apparatus looked like?


I know what you're talking about, but the closets thing to that is the vintage Vehicle Maintenance Energizer. There probably is a way to do it with some colored tubing and a suction cup holder from a given novelty item.
Sgt Humpty

More progress today! We visited Niubniub's Universe and downloaded some decals to give some detail to the walls of our hangar bay. We added a couple of doors and miscellaneous access panels and control panels around the room. Thanks to Niubniub for providing the downloads for all to use!


We also added our turbolift (that's Star Wars-ese for elevator). It was made from a piece of PVC pipe left behind by some contractors a few years ago (I always say, use what ya got). The top and bottom pieces are actually rubber rimmed drink coasters. My wife shouldn't mind that loss because they were the hideous ones I bought before we were married. Wait, did I just admit to that? Anyway, the thing fits snugly in the diorama. We used a decal from Niubniub's Episode VI Rebel Briefing Room to make the door to the lift.

Finally, I started using my Dremel with a cutting disc to remove the starfighter maintenance lamps from the bases of four old Rebel Pilot Cinema Scenes. You can see two of them near each of the starfighters in the pictures. When I get all eight lamps cut out, I'll be addign the power cords that run between them.

And because Adam made it into a previous update, Katie wanted to appear in this one. She's been a great help!

darthschroeder
Don wrote:
"Finally, I started using my Dremel with a cutting disc to remove the starfighter maintenance lamps from the bases of four old Rebel Pilot Cinema Scenes. You can see two of them near each of the starfighters in the pictures. When I get all eight lamps cut out, I'll be adding the power cords that run between them."

Don, those lights/chock blocks are a great subject for push molding... because of course you need more!

Hangar looking good.

Like the lift.

Needs more clutter, though.

Thinner wires (like old mouse or speaker cords) make good power lines to recharge the fighters. The flared ends just look like they should plug in to a ship.

Some old pill bottles make good barrels, once you cut the threads off

Sgt Humpty
QUOTE (darthschroeder @ Feb 4 2009, 01:50 PM) *
Don wrote:
"Finally, I started using my Dremel with a cutting disc to remove the starfighter maintenance lamps from the bases of four old Rebel Pilot Cinema Scenes. You can see two of them near each of the starfighters in the pictures. When I get all eight lamps cut out, I'll be adding the power cords that run between them."

Don, those lights/chock blocks are a great subject for push molding... because of course you need more!

Hangar looking good.

Like the lift.

Needs more clutter, though.

Thinner wires (like old mouse or speaker cords) make good power lines to recharge the fighters. The flared ends just look like they should plug in to a ship.

Some old pill bottles make good barrels, once you cut the threads off


Doug,

Thanks for the feedback! I hadn't thought of push-molding more of the maintenance lights. That's a great idea! I agree, we still need way more stuff going on in there. The thing is, we are trying hard to avoid adding things just to fill up the space. We want each item to have a specific function, each person a specific role or task. The ships and figures have really only been inserted for photos, so far. We are still looking at ideas for various cords and cables. I really like the idea of using speaker wires. As for the barrels and such, I have a stash of pill bottles, Altoids tins, applesauce cups, yogurt containers, etc. We will be digging through there to see what we can find. I'm happy with the decals, but I think we need more of them on the walls. They have very subtle detail to them and they do a great job of impersonating various hatches and access ports.
Sgt Humpty
Today, we worked on some of the little details that end up making the diorama as realistic as possible. First, we managed to get pilot ladders painted, weathered and installed. We also cut out four more of the starfighter maintenance lamps and drilled the holes for the cables that will eventually run from one lamp to the next.



Our biggest accomplishment of the day was designing a hoist system that would be able to lift starfighter engines or laser cannon assemblies anywhere in the hangar. We cut two curtain hangar bars to the width of the hangar bay and then pre-drilled a couple of screw holes. After painting them metallic silver, they were screwed into the upper portion of the walls. Another curtain rod (this time the extendable type) was also painted metallic silver and then each end was inserted into one of the "tracks" formed by the rods already screwed into the walls. The result is a long bar that can move back and forth along the width of the hangar bay. The open side of the moving part is facing down, so that we could run our hoist cables from there. We used three of the zip lines that came with the RotS Clone Commander figure for these. To keep them in place, they were draped over a thin piece of dowel which was then inserted into the moving rod. Both of the clamps are dangling free from each zip line. The premise here is that when the deck crew needs to move a heavy item, they activate one or more of the cable sets, reel it out to the required length and clamp it to the item. The item can then be moved around the hangar bay easily.





When not in use, the cables retract so that they do not interfere with starfighters entering or leaving the hangar area.
darthschroeder
Don,

Like the cables.

Looked more closely at your earlier pix.
Cool raised arm on the treadwell. Had you shown that before? If so, missed it. My FX-6 will have to become an organ done too.
Like the dirty cleaner droid.
For my tastes: I think the Naboo R2 recharge socket looks out of place in a Rebel hangar. It's really cool to HAVE a recharge socket, but the Naboo style is too... elegant... and flowing. Dunno if there is a way to chop it up while keeping functionality (and I can't see enough detail to tell if it's repainted), but I think it needs at least some distended wires, pipes sticking out at odd angles, etc.

Keep us updated on progress.
Sgt Humpty
QUOTE (darthschroeder @ Feb 8 2009, 04:36 PM) *
Looked more closely at your earlier pix.
Cool raised arm on the treadwell. Had you shown that before? If so, missed it. My FX-6 will have to become an organ done too.
Like the dirty cleaner droid.
For my tastes: I think the Naboo R2 recharge socket looks out of place in a Rebel hangar. It's really cool to HAVE a recharge socket, but the Naboo style is too... elegant... and flowing. Dunno if there is a way to chop it up while keeping functionality (and I can't see enough detail to tell if it's repainted), but I think it needs at least some distended wires, pipes sticking out at odd angles, etc.



Doug, the recipe for the treadwell can be found here. It was the one that came with POTF2 Aunt Beru. The arms are the same ones that were molded to it. I just cut them off and reattached in different positions.

I had not considered what you said about the droid recharger being Naboo in design. It was kind of thrown in on a whim, anyway. I'll remove it and probably run cables to a couple of droids. I think someone was looking for those charging units (Spectre, maybe?).
Sgt Humpty
Work on this project has slowed down significantly, but it hasn't stopped. We've gotten to a point where the major work is done. The hangar is essentially finished. What still remains are the finishing details (droids, tools, mechanics, pilots, machinery, hoses, cables, etc, etc, etc). Anyone who has built something like this knows that it will likely change peirodically as I buy or make new figures or ships. Some of the things we've done recently are...

Fuel hoses! Doug suggested using old speaker wires or computer cables. We took his suggestion and found that the plugs from some of these wires worked nicely as fuel nozzles. A length of black rubber tubing was connected from each of the nozzles to the two GP-23 fuel droids we had. A tiny hole was then drilled in each X-wing's fuselage so that the fuel nozzle could be inserted. In the first picture, you can see a Rodian technician about to fuel Rogue One. The second picture shows Rogue Nine being fueled. When removed, the "fuel ports" are barely visible.



More decals! We printed off a bunch more and used them all over the walls to simulate hatches, panels and access ports.

There are astromechs running all over the hangar now. We also added a few mechanics and most of our pilots. Down the road, a lot of these will be getting a makeover (or in some cases, a complete re-build).
darthschroeder
Looks great, Don!
pbarny
Not sure on hooking the fuel up to the droid. Those were mostly industrial cleaning droids able to absorb/clean up after fuel and lubricants and not go blowupff.gif

Must read.

The RCA cable does work as a fuel hose though. How'd you take care of the end?
Sgt Humpty
QUOTE (pbarny @ Feb 26 2009, 04:04 PM) *
Not sure on hooking the fuel up to the droid. Those were mostly industrial cleaning droids able to absorb/clean up after fuel and lubricants and not go blowupff.gif

Must read.

The RCA cable does work as a fuel hose though. How'd you take care of the end?


Sure, now you tell me!!! Just kidding. I was not aware that the fuel droid was not actually involved in the fueling of the ships. I kinda like the concept, so I'm not sure if I'll change it. Now, if I were to get a better idea... Anyone? Anyone??

I'm not sure what you mean about the end of the cable. The flanges around the outside were trimmed away with the trusty ol' Dremel. The inner "post" is still there. It has been inserted into the fuel port, just like when you go to the gas station. I'm still thinking about painting the nozzle part. I like the yellow because it says "hazardous" to me. Maybe a yellow and black combination, with some silver or steel thrown in. Thoughts?
pbarny
QUOTE (DnJcustoms @ Feb 26 2009, 06:22 PM) *
Sure, now you tell me!!! Just kidding. I was not aware that the fuel droid was not actually involved in the fueling of the ships. I kinda like the concept, so I'm not sure if I'll change it. Now, if I were to get a better idea... Anyone? Anyone??

I'm not sure what you mean about the end of the cable. The flanges around the outside were trimmed away with the trusty ol' Dremel. The inner "post" is still there. It has been inserted into the fuel port, just like when you go to the gas station. I'm still thinking about painting the nozzle part. I like the yellow because it says "hazardous" to me. Maybe a yellow and black combination, with some silver or steel thrown in. Thoughts?


Yes, well try to ask me questions via the computer when I can't open my eyes...Having it hooked up makes sense. Eventually that little guy's storage comparment gets full and it has to be sent to the toxic waste dumps that are Commenor, inner Kuat, Duros, Graxol Prime, Raxus Prime etc. It works from a functional point of view.

I was specifically asking about the post, but that implies you drilled into the X-Wing to make a fuel port, am I correct? The yellow works. It's beige/grey the one time we see it on camera (ANH). I asked because well the Rodian looks like he's enjoying it a bit too much pinch.gif dry.gif
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