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clive_t

First ever diorama - Alam Halfa Ridge, 1st September 1942

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clive_t    530

Hi all, not sure if it's normal to have 3 separate threads on the go for one subject, but I'll give it a go anyway and worry about the fallout if any after :)

 

Indeed, this is the 3rd part of my project to show a 3RTR M3 Grant 'at leaguer' on the evening of 1st September 1942, during the Battle of Alam Halfa.

 

Having never made a diorama base ever at all, I have relied heavily on other threads shared here, as well as You-Tube clips to show me the way. This thread, then, is my own journey of discovery, with all its pitfalls and set-backs; hopefully someone will find it of interest.

 

For some background I am trying to build a diorama of this particular day during this battle, as in the course of my familiy history research some years ago I learned that my father had taken part in it as a driver with the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, and been wounded in action. The 1st September this year will mark the 75th anniversary of that event, something I felt I had to recognise, hence this diorama.

 

The tank and figures WIPs are described separately: tank WIP here and figures WIP here, should you be sufficiently curious to wish to take a look.

 

So, the diorama base - a photo frame 10 x 8 - not sure if it's too big for the whole thing, but I am going with it anyway. Glass removed and safely set aside for some future purpose yet to be determined :) . The edges were built up to the desired profile with thin fibre-board, some packaging remnant from something I've long-since forgotten. The basic topology was then built up with expanded polystyrene shaped with a sharp knife, and glued in with plenty of PVA. Cocktail sticks were used to persuade the more reluctant pieces to lie flat as requested:

 

34059957783_8491168f55_b.jpg

 

In the time-honoured way, I decided to use Das air-drying clay - mainly because I had it readily to hand:

 

34229026504_f213150787_b.jpg

 

I spread this over the polystyrene, with some water to get the Das to flow a bit more freely:

 

34908735942_e1185bd38f_b.jpg

 

Now for the sand. I read in another thread on here, that someone recommended 'Chinchilla dust' - no, I hadn't ever heard of it either. But I figured £3.50 for a big bag of the stuff from my local pet store was worth a punt, and indeed it has a very convincing sandy look. However, from my research of the geographical aspects of the battle told me that the area was rather stony as well as sandy, with some sparse vegetation. With that in mind, I mixed in a handful or so of fake coal - the kind beloved of railway modellers:

 

34908746012_4fb0a6ace3_b.jpg

 

With the Das still wet from being laid down, I liberally sprinkled this mixture over the top of it, from about 12 inches up, then gave it a bit of a press down. Tapping the framework to shift the loose material left me with this:

 

34229019664_64d677ac03_b.jpg

 

That's as far as I got with it today, but I have to say to my hopelessly inexperienced eye it looks pretty good.

 

Hope this is of interest to someone! :)

 

 

 

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Badder    2,895

Grinding up chincillas to make a sand for a diorama?????????? How utterly realistic the little bleeders look in smaller pieces. Good job so far. It looks realistic to me.

 

I've not used that clay stuff before, and to be honest I think I'll steer clear of all such products. I really don't see the point of them when polyfilla has never let me down. I prefer the quicker drying time and any modelling of tank tracks etc is easily done with a final skim and a length of old duplicate track while it's still wet.

And personally, I never fork out money on 'fake' rocks/boulders/grit etc. There's plenty of free ones laying around out there. Building sites are an obvious source, and fly tips!

 

Having said all that, I'm sure you want the 'very best[ materials and there's nothing wrong with that.  I'm sure your diorama is going to be a fitting tribute to your father and all those brave men.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

 

 

 

 

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clive_t    530
30 minutes ago, Badder said:

Grinding up chincillas to make a sand for a diorama?????????? How utterly realistic the little bleeders look in smaller pieces. Good job so far. It looks realistic to me.

 

I've not used that clay stuff before, and to be honest I think I'll steer clear of all such products. I really don't see the point of them when polyfilla has never let me down. I prefer the quicker drying time and any modelling of tank tracks etc is easily done with a final skim and a length of old duplicate track while it's still wet.

And personally, I never fork out money on 'fake' rocks/boulders/grit etc. There's plenty of free ones laying around out there. Building sites are an obvious source, and fly tips!

 

Having said all that, I'm sure you want the 'very best[ materials and there's nothing wrong with that.  I'm sure your diorama is going to be a fitting tribute to your father and all those brave men.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the reply Martin, I guess I am just learning as I go, and picking up hints and tips along the way. I can see how Polyfilla could do a job also, I have made a mental note to try that stuff when I get a chance. As it turned out, I already had the Das set aside for something else, but being of a certain age I am unable for the life of me to recall what it was! So, it was fair game in my view. Similarly for the fake coal, another item I have in plentiful supply owing to my other hobby - large scale model railways.

 

I did also press the tracks into the Das soon after I applied the ground-up chinchillas :D , but as is my habit I forgot to take a pic of it! It's me age, you know.:rolleyes:

 

 

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Ozzy    2,163

Nice start Clive, you do get a bit of shrinking with Das when it drys. When I've used it in the past I've had a bit spare to put in the gaps.

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Ozzy    2,163

Clive, I dug some pictures I took while in North Africa in 1999. There was a real difference in sand types from really hard and firm, then into really sort sand like you find on the beach. I had always wondered why the German aircraft cam was yellow with green blotches, there were tumble weed type bushes in various places in the desert.

fc60105224f7682050982d890c0be88b_zps05d1

 

a20c7bd1ed6407da412d10c867eb8266_zps497c

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clive_t    530
4 hours ago, Ozzy said:

Nice start Clive, you do get a bit of shrinking with Das when it drys. When I've used it in the past I've had a bit spare to put in the gaps.

Thanks for the tip Ozzy. I have about a quarter of the pack left, so if there is any shrinkage I will be able to sort that.

 

Thanks also for the photos, very interesting. I have managed to get some screen grabs from a TV programme about the role of Irishmen in the British Army, which discussed the North Africa campaign. The terrain of Alam Halfa Ridge is very rough, stony and sandy and with a proliferation of desert type vegetation - very much like that shown in your photos. Thanks for sharing those.

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cambridge    267

is Das sold outside italy too? wow i wasn't aware of that. i also love that is the good old light gray das, for some reason here i can only find a new one color terracotta

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clive_t    530
4 hours ago, cambridge said:

is Das sold outside italy too? wow i wasn't aware of that. i also love that is the good old light gray das, for some reason here i can only find a new one color terracotta

It is indeed, it's been around for years in the UK as far as I recall. Also I've tended to see more 'white' than terra-cotta, although I have recently seen both side-by-side at my local Hobbycraft store.

 

Interestingly, having had the base drying in the (south-facing) conservatory all week, I had a look at it this morning and no obvious signs of shrinkage :) . The bad news appears to be that it wasn't enough to just press the chinchilla dust into the wet Das and expect it to remain there once everything was dry :( No matter, I have plenty of my 'desert mix' (no, not that kind! :lol: ) left, so I will remove it all, and brush on some thinned PVA before re-coating. Ah well, every day is a school day!

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clive_t    530

It's been a while since I've posted anything on thread - there's a very compelling reason for that: it's been a while since I made any progress! Yes, the building of the tank that will be the main subject of this dio has been a long time in the making, however today I found myself at a loose end whilst waiting for its all-over primer coat to dry fully.

 

The first realisation, on examining the base which has been cooking nicely in a south-facing conservatory for the past couple of months, was that pressing chinchilla dust into wet Das and expecting it to magically be glued on permanently, was hopeful at best, and as it transpired, downright naive! In short, it all pretty much fell off when I tipped the base on its side :( . The vast majority of the remainder was removed with a casual sweep or two of my hand over the surface.

 

No matter, a liberal painting on of a goodly layer of Mod Podge Matte followed by a repeat application of the chincilla dust - then pressed down firmly with a paper towel and the flat of a hand - will hopefully see me back on track.

 

With that, I started to think of how I might represent the sort of vegetation that would be found in this inhospitable landscape. I decided that what there was would be spindly, very dark in colour and quite small clumps. I had an idea of making the spindly stuff from short lengths of multi-strand wire, soldered at one end to provide a 'root' to stick into the dio surface:

 

36431021925_d2c7db5d43_b.jpg

 

The unsoldered ends could then be splayed out to form branches:

 

35623220783_b40efcf44e_b.jpg

 

I made about 10 of each, I didn't want to overload the dio with scenery. I'll see how it looks once they're in situ, if it looks like I need any more it won't be a major issue to make some up.

 

A quick go with some primer and a dark brown acrylic - both rattlecans:

 

36671179245_253bf0eff9_b.jpg

 

They looked ok, if lacking a little in texture. A quick look in a kitchen cupboard yielded what I was looking for - tea dust; the brown powder you get in the bottom of your tea-bag receptacle!

 

So a quick slosh with some Mod Podge, followed by a dunk in some tea powder, gave me something nearer to what I was after:

 

36275155730_84f0fd0ea1_b.jpg

 

A little untidy, but hopefully I can sort that once the glue has gone off.

 

For the small, clumpy, bushy vegetation, I resorted to my other hobby of model railways. Specifically, this stuff:

 

35861871873_1a0dd9f3d8_b.jpg

 

Just the right amount of clumpiness, however way too green for my liking. So, once more with the dark brown rattle-can to darken it:

 

35861868533_1041923810_b.jpg

 

I think a combination of these things will give me the kind of ground cover I am looking for.

 

Hopefully more progress soon, thanks for watching! :)

 

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Ozzy    2,163

Those bushes look fantastic Clive, I had always wondered why German aircraft camouflage was mottled in the North Africa campaign. Until I was out there myself, in some areas there were little bushes everywhere. The bushes were mainly situated in soft sand areas, they were like tumble weeds until it rained and they went green.

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clive_t    530
2 minutes ago, Ozzy said:

Those bushes look fantastic Clive, I had always wondered why German aircraft camouflage was mottled in the North Africa campaign. Until I was out there myself, in some areas there were little bushes everywhere. The bushes were mainly situated in soft sand areas, they were like tumble weeds until it rained and they went green.

Thanks Ozzy :yes:

 

Regarding those photos you posted earlier, would you be able to repost them please as I'm getting the old Photo-Bucks 'give us money now' banner?

 

I think I saw a documentary, voiced-over by David Attenborough (who else!) that talked about 'resurrection plants'. I have the feeling that's what you saw.

 

I was given one for my birthday a few years back - I haven't planted it as it would probably go crazy in my garden!

 

 

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Ozzy    2,163
14 hours ago, clive_t said:

Thanks Ozzy :yes:

 

Regarding those photos you posted earlier, would you be able to repost them please as I'm getting the old Photo-Bucks 'give us money now' banner?

 

I think I saw a documentary, voiced-over by David Attenborough (who else!) that talked about 'resurrection plants'. I have the feeling that's what you saw.

 

I was given one for my birthday a few years back - I haven't planted it as it would probably go crazy in my garden!

 

 

Here you go Clive,

 

these were took while on exercise bright star in 1999, the exercise area was on the WW2 battle fields. I thought I had some pictures of the Great Depression but can't find them, anyway below is a picture of the bush weeds you can see in the background on the horizon that there are more of them.

 

image.jpg

 

 

The open desert, there were great areas of the desert like this some of the rocks were bits of fossilised wood.

 

image.jpg

 

 

My truck under a cam net.

 

image.jpg

 

and to finish off a desert sunset.

 

image.jpg

 

Hope they are of some use to you.

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Badder    2,895

Hi Clive,

Good to see a bit of progress with the dio. Shame about the ground-up Chinchilla's not sticking.... again this wouldn't have been an issue with Polyfila! Another thing a lot of 'us diorama builders' do, is to spray or brush dilute PVA over the base then sprinkle dust/grit/scatter over the top.  But it sounds like you have things under control.

 

As for your desert plants those look great to me now they've got the tea leaves on. You could have used cotton, or nylon fishing line to 'build' your plants.... the advantages being that both receive CA glue and paint well, are flexible and require only knotting rather than soldering, and are ultimately easier to produce quickly. Something to think about in the future perhaps?

 

And I'd like to thank Ozzy for reposting those photos if I may.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

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clive_t    530
1 hour ago, Badder said:

Hi Clive,

Good to see a bit of progress with the dio. Shame about the ground-up Chinchilla's not sticking.... again this wouldn't have been an issue with Polyfila! Another thing a lot of 'us diorama builders' do, is to spray or brush dilute PVA over the base then sprinkle dust/grit/scatter over the top.  But it sounds like you have things under control.

 

As for your desert plants those look great to me now they've got the tea leaves on. You could have used cotton, or nylon fishing line to 'build' your plants.... the advantages being that both receive CA glue and paint well, are flexible and require only knotting rather than soldering, and are ultimately easier to produce quickly. Something to think about in the future perhaps?

 

And I'd like to thank Ozzy for reposting those photos if I may.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

Hadn't given fishing line a thought, to be honest, so thanks for the tips :yes:

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Badder    2,895
37 minutes ago, clive_t said:

Hadn't given fishing line a thought, to be honest,

 I've just finished making a 10 inch tall tree in which I used 450m of the stuff! :frantic: 

 

 

Yes it sounds implausible, but then there's approx. 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

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clive_t    530

More progress today - I had the air brush out for the Grant, so whilst that was drying I gave the dio base a bit of work using various combinations of Tamiya sand/off-white/brown tones:

 

36800699435_dca294d53b_b.jpg

 

I wanted the dry gully to stand out a bit, so went at it with a toned down brown colour - I also highlighted the track marks:

 

36403545570_4da5ebf55c_b.jpg

 

I then set to work planting out my seedlings :) in and adjacent to the dry gully:

 

36753204526_15f7946675_b.jpg

 

I then dumped a load of stones of various sizes (aka cat litter material, the unused kind I hasten to add) in the gully:

 

36753199536_aa4f81bbba_b.jpg

 

These stones need to be coloured a bit, but I'll wait for the glue to go off first.

 

Finally, for now anyway, I planted a few straggly clumps of dark green/black foliage here and there:

 

36630117072_5906bd00e3_b.jpg

 

Getting there!

 

Thanks for watching :)

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Ozzy    2,163

Your ground work has turned out really well, the little wadi is a nice touch. It's all coming together nicely Clive.

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clive_t    530
3 minutes ago, Ozzy said:

Your ground work has turned out really well, the little wadi is a nice touch. It's all coming together nicely Clive.

Thanks Ozzy, if a guy who's actually been there is happy with it, that's good enough for me! :)

 

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Ozzy    2,163

I've got a desert Sherman in the stash, looking forward to building it got a picture in a book to use. It's the one with merry Christmas on the side, thought I would start building in November time. So I will be following in your footsteps, base, figures and a tank in the desert.

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clive_t    530
10 minutes ago, Ozzy said:

I've got a desert Sherman in the stash, looking forward to building it got a picture in a book to use. It's the one with merry Christmas on the side, thought I would start building in November time. So I will be following in your footsteps, base, figures and a tank in the desert.

I think I've seen the picture you mean in my many searches for ww2 desert pictures. Looking forward to seeing how that build develops :popcorn:

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Badder    2,895

Hi Clive,

That's all looking great to me.

The wadi is a nice feature and your desert plants look completely natural.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

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clive_t    530
On 27/08/2017 at 9:09 PM, Badder said:

Hi Clive,

That's all looking great to me.

The wadi is a nice feature and your desert plants look completely natural.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

Thanks Mr Badder, much appreciated.

 

Getting near the end of this particular stage - spraying the sides black to match up with the original frame colour:

 

36934998812_2f3db91ec5_b.jpg

 

Finally, off with the masking tape and a spray of some polyurethane sealer:

 

36917031526_0d14284c04_b.jpg

 

I'll let that dry and see where I am with it.

 

Cheers all ^_^

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Badder    2,895

Smart job. The desert seems to float above that black, defying gravity.

 

Rearguards,

Badder

 

 

 

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