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Tipps & Tricks: "Making Styrofoam Buildings in 1/35th scale"

Step one:

Research the buildings of the area and time period that you intend to model.

Step two:

Gather the items needed to make the buildings.  The following is what I use and you can modify this to your own needs. 

  1. Styrofoam or foam board (various sizes and thickness) depending on how big or what style building you intend to make.  You can get phomeboard from any arts and craft store (it is paper/styrofoam/paper) made for making posters and such.  I have also used “drywall” (this is the stuff builders put on the framing of your house) it has paper on both sides too, but if you peel/scrape the paper off one side you get an excellent plaster type building.

  2. Interior Spackling Paste (any brand) used to patch holes in your walls.

  3. Kitty Litter (don’t get the type that is scented, unless you want your diorama to smell nice – or use the stuff that soaks up oil spills in your garage or driveway (some people just don’t like cats).

  4. Number 2 pencil (actually I don’t care what kind of pencil, it’s just everyone likes you to use a NR. 2).

  5. "Elmers" white glue (or a reasonable substitute).

  6. "Exacto" Razor saw (or one like it).

  7. “Exacto” blade (or one like it).  I also use a single edge razor.

  8. Paint:  White or off-white.  (For the Mortar between the bricks).

  9. Paint:  Red brick. (Do I really have to say anything)? Sand color for Middle Eastern buildings.

  10. Paint: Clear coat flat (any brand).

  11. Paint or stain: Any wood color of your choice (for damaged or broken timbers or window frames). I also use wood stain in various colors (My wife gets them for her hobbies too) just don’t tell her that I use hers.  Make sure that you have different shades, as wood exposed to the elements is usually a lot darker than freshly broken timbers (again refer to photos, if you can).

  12. Paint: Thinned black (black wash) I like water colors for this.

  13. "Exacto" pin vice drill and small bits (or any similar small drill and bits).  Nice for making bullet holes.

  14. An old ballpoint pen with the guts taken out  (ink, spring etc…).

  15. "Fine" grit sandpaper.

  16. "Super-Glue" or another fast acting multi use glue.  (you never know when you will need it).

  17. Balsa wood (various sizes) for floors, window frames, 2 x 4’s, roofing sidewalks, etc.

  18. Wallpaper (small patterns) I get a few “free samples” from the local Wal-Mart, K-Mart or Hardware Store.

  19. Small Brass Hinges for door hinges (I find them at my local craft store or doll house supply store).

  20. Clear sheet plastic (for windows).

  21. Steel ruler (for scribing).

  22. Paint: Grey for sidewalks and such

  23. Small metal rods for hanging curtains.

  24. Tissue paper for cloth or curtains (paint as needed) remember that in war, black out curtains were used so the enemy didn’t see light from your windows.

  25. Streetlights and other accessories that you want to add to your street.

  26. Thread: Black, if you’re going to have telephone or electrical wires.

  27. Roads: I have many different items that I use for roads.  There are printed cardboard roads of cobble stone, brick etc (some are even 3D)… I also have plastic roads that I purchased years ago that show 3D brickwork.

  28. Wood bases (whatever size you intend to use for the size of your diorama).

Step three:

Building the basic frame of the walls, After checking the size of your diorama plan its layout before you cut the basic shape of the building that you intend to make… Don’t cut it damaged (if that is how you intend to build it) at first, cut it out as if it were a new undamaged building.  You can use the parts that you cut off  later as rubble (yes there really are big pieces of rubble when buildings are damaged by war).

Step four:

Scribe, then cut the outline of your windows and doors.   (Once again research the architecture of the era and area you are building).  I.E. do the buildings have a cellar, are the doors on the ground floor or do you have to go up a flight of stairs to get to it? 

Step five:

Cut the balsa wood to fit the window and door frames. Also cut the clear sheet plastic for windows.  Make damaged ones as needed.  Check reference photos for damaged windows in a war zone… Bullet holes can be put into the windows with the pin vice (make sure you check references to see the “spiders web” look a bullet makes in glass).  Also do framing work for the house, remember that floors don’t normally sit on the dirt, they are built on a frame too… I build them and scribe the boards onto a solid/single piece of balsa wood using the steel ruler and backside of a single edged razor blade.  Floors in World War II were not nailed together, they used dowels… I use the tip of an old ballpoint pen to scribe (twist in a circular motion) where the boards would meet on a floor Joyce (frame under the floor). Build the second floor ceiling/frame/floor, scribe the small slats of the ceiling and the boards for the floor and glue them together.

Step six:

Scribe brick work (if used) into the Styrofoam. (I use the backside of a single edge razor blade and the steel ruler) make sure that you don’t cut yourself on the sharp edge.

Step seven:

Cut the Styrofoam so it appears to be battle damage (if you choose to make it that way).  Glue the pieces of Styraphome together and let them dry, making sure that the balsa frame work that you put together fits into place (don’t glue them in yet).

Step eight:

Paint or Stain the wood frames, as you want them.  Broken edges should be lighter in color to show the new breakage.

Step nine:

Cover the exterior of the building (Styrofoam) with Spackle.  If you have a damaged building remember to not run the Spackle all the way up to the damaged area as it would be chipped up due to the damage. You can leave areas clear even on undamaged buildings as it can be seen chipped off in tact buildings too.  Make sure you put Spackle on the larger pieces of damaged buildings that you will be using as rubble.

Step ten:

Glue (sheet plastic) windows into the frames and glue smaller frames into the windows.  I use the backside of the single sided razor to scribe the placement of the glass/plastic into the window frames.

Step eleven:

Glue the window and doorframes into place when they are dried.  Using the brass hinges to mount the door set it into the doorframe. 

Step twelve:

Paint the brickwork that either shows through or is on the damaged edges. Make sure that you paint the mortar between the bricks white or off-white and if the building is damaged you will have a lot more exposed mortar.

Step thirteen:

Also paint the rubble and large pieces of broken buildings.

Step fourteen:

Using white glue, glue the wall paper or paint the interior whatever colors you want.

Step fifteen:

Next, take the black wash and paint over the entire building, if tree. If damaged, a light black wash can be used inside too.  When dry you can give it a coat of flat clear.  Use the pin vice to add bullet holes to the building.  Use the number 2 pencil to show any worn metal areas.

Step sixteen:

Check the framework, building, roads and design the sidewalk or and whatever else you plan to add to your diorama.  I scribe balsa wood for my sidewalks; it gives them a raised look from the street. I then paint them a light Grey, and scribe in cracks that show up after you black wash them.  

Step seventeen:

Glue down everything.

Step eighteen:

After everything is dry, I take a spray bottle with deluted white glue and water and spray the base prior to sprinkling the rubble around.  Let that dry then tip the diorama so that the excess rubble falls off, repeat as needed.

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