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 A Foam Diorama Base for BarMills Majestic Hardware
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Author Previous Topic: Ed Fulasz Tenement Topic Next Topic: Lime Company O Scale - Part 2
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Premium Member

Posted - 03/13/2004 :  4:17:07 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
When I was building Majestic Hardware (http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=5134), I never thought of it as a stand-alone diorama. I knew exactly where it would go on my layout - as soon as I got the benchwork erected and the rail down for that part of the layout. So when I finished the model about a month ago, it went up on the "Orphan's" shelf, and I moved on to another project.

But a few afternoons ago a couple of things converged and motivated me to start building a diorama base for Majestic. One was Tom's "Water Tank Diorama" thread. I have been following that from the start and had given some thought to trying something like it myself. The other thing was that I simply wanted a nice setting in which to take some additional photos of Majestic.

Because this project was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I had no preconceived notions of how the diorama base should appear scenically. So in a nutshell, I just started cutting and gluing 1/2" and 1/4" pink foam together. Except to measure the top layer to make sure the model and some track would fit on it, I pretty much made it all up as I went.

I used hot-melt glue to glue the foam pieces together. The cutting and shaping was mostly done with a retractable wallpaper knife and a "boxcutter" utility knife. I already had a pretty good start on it before I thought to get the camera out and take a few progress photos.

By the time this first photo was taken, I had decided to have the structure at the top of a rise or small hill with a country road (dirt?) leading up to it. I had also decided to use a rock casting I made several years ago but never used. So the road is in place, and the foam has been "notched" in front for the casting.

By the time the next two photos were taken, I had done quite a bit more carving and shaping. I decided to put a small stream on the right side of the base. To create the appearance of sand or gravel bars in the stream, I glued bits of foam scrap in place. I also decided to make a small spring fed pond full of weeds in front of the rock casting, so additional bits of foam were glued there also.

As can be seen in this next photo, the shaping and gluing of the foam was finished. I painted the entire base with my "ground cover" latex paint. The plan was to give the foam some "tooth" so that I could cover it with plaster cloth ("Rigid Wrap") and have the plaster stick.

But while waiting for the paint to dry, I decided to "experiment" and skip the plaster cloth. Since I was going to use Sculptamold as the top layer anyway, I thought I'd try applying it directly to the painted foam. If it didn't stick to the foam, no big deal...

So I mixed a cup of Sculptamold with 8 ounces of latex paint diluted 1:1 with water and applied it with a small kitchen spatula. I also used the Sculptamold mix to "glue" the plaster casting to the base and worked in additional Sculptamold around the edges. At the time these final photos were taken, I still had a little work to do around the casting, but the rest of the foam base was finished. Best of all, the Sculptamold adhered quite well to the foam, so I saved money and time by not having to use the plaster cloth afterall.

Obviously, I still have a long way to go before it's all finished. Lots of scenic details have yet to be added. And there are quite a few detail parts that came with the model and have to be added.

But all in all, this is about the quickest and easiest diorama base I have ever built. It's also the lightest. There's no wood, and - except for the one casting - there's no plaster.

I won't be able to work on this again until next week, but I'll take some additional photos and post them as I progress.

Country: USA | Posts: 21584


Premium Member

Posted - 03/13/2004 :  4:23:33 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You are an amazing artisan!


Country: USA | Posts: 4394 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 03/13/2004 :  5:03:49 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks Mike. I hope you take more progress pics along the way.

Excellent thread....and nice work too

In memory of Mike Chambers

Country: USA | Posts: 2972 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 03/13/2004 :  5:36:52 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Now that you whet our appetite, you have to keep us posted on your progress.


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Posted - 03/13/2004 :  6:02:26 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Nice work Mike. Interesting that the plaster cloth was not necessary. I think the steam and pond idea will look great.

Country: Australia | Posts: 3090 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 03/13/2004 :  6:05:26 PM  Show Profile  Visit TomPM's Homepage  Send TomPM a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Nice start Mike. Looks like you are well on your way to having something great there.

It is funny how a spur of the moment idea can grow. That is the way itw as with the water tower diorama. When Mike posted the future tower photo thread I figured I needed a tower and thus it started.

Looking forward to seeing your progress Mike.

Country: USA | Posts: 4650 Go to Top of Page

Tyson Rayles

Premium Member

Posted - 03/13/2004 :  9:13:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Looking most excellent sir!!!!

Country: USA | Posts: 13222 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 03/13/2004 :  10:19:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Leave it to Mike to bring excitement into a project. I thought the Majestic Hardware was done & here he brings a whole new perspective to it. We are now all excited to follow the progress of his diorama. Thanks Mike!

I am also surprised that the Sculptamold sticks to the foam board.

I think we are all anxious to see how this works out because this is info we can really use. Keep us posted.


Edited by - paulbrockatsf on 03/13/2004 10:21:38 PM

Country: USA | Posts: 3581 Go to Top of Page

Crew Chief

Posted - 03/13/2004 :  10:49:17 PM  Show Profile  Click to see ak-milw's MSN Messenger address  Reply with Quote
Mike, Does sculptamold stay somewhat flexable? I have never used it so I am not sure. I have used POP over bare foam before also with no problems with it sticking. The only problem I found was that if you pick it up and the foam flexs it will come off in chunks. Thats why I asked if sculpamold is flexable.

Andy Kramer -- Modeling the Milwaukee Road in Wisconsin

Country: USA | Posts: 748 Go to Top of Page

George D

Premium Member

Posted - 03/14/2004 :  09:23:19 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, it's going to be interesting to watch your progress. Did you use anything sexy to carve the foam?

The nice thing about building a diorama is that you can play with new ideas and if it doesn't work, it's no big problem to re-do it.


Country: USA | Posts: 16190 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 03/14/2004 :  09:43:54 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, I'll be following your progress on this one closely. Your off to a great start. I like the stream bed you have started.

Country: USA | Posts: 23847 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 03/14/2004 :  10:09:41 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks, guys.

Andy, I don't know how flexible the Sculptamold needs to be in your case, but I picked this up and moved it several times between a couple of different work areas and to photograph it. Nothing broke, cracked, or fell off, so I think it will be just fine. You may have noticed there is no wood base under the foam, which would have added some stability to the whole diorama.

George, you can see the tools I used in the first photo. I have hot wire and hot knife cutters for foam but I decided not to use them for this project. Just plain old utility knives....

Country: USA | Posts: 21584 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 03/14/2004 :  5:34:19 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great idea Mike I wish I thought of that!!!!!!!!!!!

Country: USA | Posts: 4503 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 03/14/2004 :  6:27:13 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I also am following this thread with a great deal of interest.
I have to construct a diorama base for the FOS kits and also for the new Challenge project.
Thanks Mike for the step by step procedure.

John Bagley
Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.

Country: USA | Posts: 13324 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 03/14/2004 :  7:45:46 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote


What size is your diorama base?


Country: USA | Posts: 3581 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 03/14/2004 :  9:21:52 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Paul, I honestly don't know. I never measured it with a ruler. I'll do that and get back to you with the answer when I get back home tomorrow or Tuesday.

Country: USA | Posts: 21584 Go to Top of Page
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