Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back on base.

Time to lay some groundwork. I really need to get my M4A1 half track on the ground here and move on to the next in line. Groundwork has always been a favorite step in the process for me, as a kid my father and I had a train layout. While he enjoyed the trains and running them around the tracks, I loved planting trees and making mountains and such. It has carried over into my modeling in these later years, I don't always build dioramas but scenic basis at least. I guess 'dios' tell stories, I just want to put the kit into a natural setting for a bit of realism.

The first thing I do is make a wooden base. I usually use rich grained wood like mahogany or walnut but I have a bunch of oak cut offs that I need to use. Truth be told, I hate oak. Honestly. As a carpenter who has installed more oak floors, cabinets, staircases, custom built furniture etc. than I care to recall, I've grown to absolutely abhor the wood. I dislike it's look, it's smell, it's feel. So for this base, I have painted it black and then sanded it away to expose some of the wood grain, almost like an antiquing effect perhaps.

Anyway, here's the wooden base with a layer of wall plaster for the starting point. After I've gotten the basic shape I want, I sprinkle on some previously dried plaster chunks and pieces as well as the raw powder to give the ground a more realistic texture as opposed to the smooth surface initially shaped with my fingers.

The next step is adding some color to the plaster. I don't do anything too spectacular here, I spray some flat black followed by some primer 'red' lightly misted over the black allowing for the 'shadow' to show through.

Step three for me is the laying down of the ground litter. This is meant to represent years of fallen leaves and such. I use various seed pod casings such as those from Birch trees, and a few other plants and bushes. These are mixed together and simply sprinkled over some white glue and water mixture. Multiple applications may be needed in some areas to thicken things up, simply apply more glue/water mix the next day and sprinkle more of the ground litter on. I've also added a bit of Woodland Scenics fine turf for some added color and a few railroad ballast stones for, well... stones.

Once that is completely dry I start adding bushes. These can be time consuming as they are added not only one at a time but the previous 'plantings' must be allowed to dry before adding more to avoid bumping the first ones out of position. The trick (in my opinion) is to 'plant' these tightly, on top of one another intertwining the branches to give a natural appearance. If the bushes are to spaced too far apart they look fake, or like someones landscaping.

After I am satisfied with one style of bush, I begin planting another 'thicket' like bush for more realism. Just for the sake of it, take a look at the growth on the edge of the woods, or a country road. You may be surprised at just how many different types of plants you will see growing together. This is (again in my opinion) critical to looking realistic, the more various types of plants you see together, the more real it looks.

This is really only the beginning. I will continue to add different styles of plants within and on top of each other until I am satisfied with the results. Here is the half track placed on the base just for an idea of scale and appearance. I still have some details on the half track to address and then of course tying the pigment color into the roadwork but this will give a sort of 'first look' into where this is heading.

More to come!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Yep, I've gotten a bit sidetracked over these last few weeks. Life happens, focus gets lost, projects get stuck on the back burner and other things seem to take precedence. This update will show a bit of what I'm talking about and then end on a positive note as I've gotten myself back on track over the last few days. Even though this blog has been update free, I have been very busy at the bench as you will see.

Well enough talk, lets see some photos of what I've been up to.

First up is a small scene that has been an on and off topic that I have been toying with. I'm building a small scene showing a buttoned up M3A3 in British markings about to be ambushed by some German soldiers. The AFV kit as well as the base I've made is still in black primer and I have yet to assemble any figures but this is just a quick snap of what I have done so far. I've covered up some of the exposed white plaster where I've made holes for the tree and fence posts with some black circles so ignore those oddities in the photo. This scene will have very thick groundwork surrounding a narrow dirt road with maybe two or three soldiers hiding in wait for the ambush.

Another one of my on again off agian projects is another AFV Club kit, the M18 Hellcat. I've painted it, added markings and done an initial wash but I have yet to pick out any of the details or really go to town on the weathering. I'm not sure where this kit will end up, a stand alone model or a small base but I have been tinkering with this kit for a few weeks now and thought I might show where it stands at the moment. It looks like I'll need to dust this one before I go any further, perhaps I should put it in the box between working on it? I guess that would only make sense.

Another project I have been working on may come as a bit of a shock. Two, yes not one but two Tamiya Panthers with PE screens, metal barrels and the Tamiya individual link tracks. These two tanks are being built for a freind who loves these big cats. I think he's just doing it to mess with me though, I'm not about to admit that I've enjoyed building these. It is however, a nice change of pace throwing these Tamiya kits together. I know the accuracy police would most likely tear them apart but man these kits just fall together.

I've saved this last kit to cleanse the pallet. Not only is it olive drab but it's a half track. I will be building an XX Corps M2A1 in Belgium. It's just a few un-finished sub assemblies at this point but hey, I've gotta' get that Panther taste out of my mouth and this is just the thing to do it.

Ok, enough of my excuses. Time to get back to my M4A1 base so I can get that project wrapped up. Lets lay some groundwork!

Stay tuned.