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Author Topic: As mad as an Englishman - The Locomotive Works Diorama  (Read 38488 times)
danpickard
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« on: May 13, 2013, 07:27:10 PM »

Hi all,
Thought I'd start a construction thread for the next little diorama I am making a start on, but first, some background on how, who and why...

So, at the completion of the recent Australian Narrow Gauge Convention (of which I was one of the organising committee), I had been sharing accommodation with a fellow Australian modeller, Phil Badger. As some may know, Phil, as well as being a fine modeller, is also one of the partners in Ixion Models http://www.ixionmodels.com/ . Now Phil had previously produced some other brass locomotive kits (pre-Ixion days), including one of the Garratt "G42", as found now restored and running at Puffing Billy. Phil very generously offered me a good portion of one of these kits from left over etches following efforts at the NGC, to which I was very grateful. As I sat at the table thinking about the donation of all these brass etches I had just received, I knew I couldn't just simply accept them, and a little light globe went off in my head for the returning favour.

One of the competition categories at the NGC was the "Mantelpiece Challenge" (basically a long skinny maximum footprint diorama category), of which I earned first place. So the returning idea was for a new mantelpiece style diorama for Phil to use, and to give myself a bit of a different modelling challenge, I thought it appropriate to do one in an English flavour, and build it as a potential display base (in 1:48, O Scale) for some of the Ixion Models locomotives (and just to clarify, I have no connection, apart from friendships, to Ixion, or any of the other companies mentioned after this). It was a restless night that last night after the NGC finished, when I thought I'd sleep really well after an exhausting weekend, I instead lay awake with fresh new ideas to ponder.

I think by around 3 am, I had the idea worked out, and the start of "Ixion Locomotive Works" was happening. I had pictured a small British Locomotive Workshop, and the yard leading out of the compound with newly built locomotives. Picture a decorative wrought iron factory gate, heavy brick walls, cobblestones, out sheds, junk etc etc. I'd also just recent had the pleasure of meeting Sir Nick Odgen as one of the guest at the NGC, and been lucky enough to check out some of his fine "brick by brick" construction (with the clinic he presented, and the diorama he brought from the UK), and also purchased a number of the brick moulds he carried with him (but we'll get to them later). Biggest dilemma I kept thinking about was the large front gate, but that's where some good friends come in!

Luckily for me, John Hunter and Laurie Green from Outback Model Company http://www.outbackmodels.com/ are both very good mates, so I was able to spend some time sketching out the idea I had for the gate, hand it on to Laurie to do some CAD work, and about 2 weeks later, have some freshly laser cut gates arrive on my doorstep (that happened this morning). I was rather happy with the resulting cuts...





Nice fine cuts, and far easier than scratching this up from either brass or styrene. The 0.6mm card this gate is cut on is also surprisingly stiff considering the width of the bars (the fine vertical bars are less than 1mm thick). To add some depth to the gate, I had Laurie cut some extra fine strips and curves so the could be laminated over the main gate section, to add some relief and weight to the design. Bit hard to see in these shots, but will probably show up better at a later stage when painting begins.





The bricks I'll be using are to be made using the moulds as sold by Diorama Debris http://www.dioramadebris.co.uk/ . The moulds are very affordable, especially considering the amount of modelling material you can keep getting from the. I'll try to do a bit of a SBS when I get to that part, but there are some good instructional sheets on their website.

The other part I'm looking forward to using, are some of the new concrete sheets by Jimmy Simmons at Monster Modelworks http://monstermodelworks.com/ . I had plans to run a concrete footpath along the front of the main fence, and was thinking of casting them myself in plaster, but then Jimmy, with some excellent timing, released these nice looking cracked concrete sheets a week or two ago, so a bundle of them are in the post for me to test out.

Cheers,
Dan

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danpickard
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2013, 07:31:54 PM »

A couple of shots of some progress..finished with laminating the three layers of card together on the gate and the overhead sign. Just used some of the scrap card to make the wall mounting plate for the sign, and added a few Grandtline NBW casting. The gates also got some hinges, made from a couple of short lengths of styrene tube, scrap card, and a few more NBW castings. The gates will be mounted in the open position, so the hinges have been mounted for attaching straight to the wall once its built.







So, made a start with the insanity pills, aka 1:48 bricks, using the moulds from Diorama Debris http://www.dioramadebris.co.uk/ . Have cast about 1000 thus far, any perhaps another 9000 to go. Casting them isn't too bad, where you just have to be careful and patient with working the plaster, giving it enough time to start to cure before screeding the top to get a flat finish (I'll set up a SBS at a later stage). Casting can be done easy enough, but its the laying part that will be "interesting".  I hold Sir Nick fully responsible for any mental illness issues that should occur to me during the construction of these brick sections Grin



Cheers,
Dan
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Mobilgas
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2013, 07:48:52 PM »

Dan,   I have 2 molds in 1/48 scale from them I kind of played around with a couple pours months ago....just to see how they would turn out??  I didn't do to bad on my first try....but I did get quite a few that were not fully formed? Very interested in seeing how you go about it.... Grin
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Craig
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« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2013, 08:29:29 PM »

Hi Craig,
Just poured another moulds worth this am (=480 bricks per casting session).  Just looking at them quickly as they are popped out of the mould, I'd say about 80% come out nice and clean.  The other imperfections are fairly minor, such as a small corner bubble, but the other corners are ok, so it's only a matter of using the good face in the construction stage.  I don't think I've really spotted too many which are completely dud casts, and if they were, they can go to the rubble pile as fillers, so nothing really lost.

Cheers,
Dan
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Mr Potato Head
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« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2013, 10:32:56 PM »

Dan Please show me the way on the bricks! I just got my box of moulds today! Don't tell Marc their 1/35 Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
I can't wait to start making bricks
MPH
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Gil Flores
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« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2013, 10:43:30 PM »

I picked up some of the 1:35 mould sets as well (will save them for perhaps some experimental dio work at a later stage...must resist temptation to leave 1:48), which in theory, should be easier to fill properly with the plaster, given they are a bigger hole to push the contents into.  I thought I'd start small at 1:48 and work my way up.  Working the plaster into the mould with a small brush first up definately makes all the difference, before screeding the bulk of the fill back and forth to get even castings.  I think the castings I tend to have the less success with are in the middle of the mould, under the first little puddle of plaster than gets poured on, and can't always see if there are any bricks that missed out on getting plaster brushed into them at the start of the casting session.

Cheers,
Dan
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finescalerr
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2013, 02:38:14 PM »

This looks like it will be a good project. -- Russ
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marc_reusser
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2013, 03:29:39 PM »

This looks like it will be a wonderful project...and really like your progress so far. thanks for all the detail and info. I do really like te addition of the xtra layer on the gate, as it really does add that look of realism and dimensionality (before I read your text about it, I was really wondering how the heck this was cut Smiley )

Keep calm & make bricks.....

Marc
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2013, 05:16:13 AM »

Ok, brick making SBS...

This is mostly just a repeat of the instructions as available on the Diorama Debris website. Use a hard plaster (regular plaster of paris, or hydrocal is just too soft for this, and will likely crumble when getting out of the mould).



Colouring is best done by making the plaster the colour you want the bricks, instead of just staining the plaster after casting. The colour is more solid this way, and can cut bricks with knowing the colour is good all the way through. I have coloured mine with the same colour oxides that would normally be added to concrete mixes, bought at the local hardware for about $8/tub (which will last a lifetime). Other colour variations done with some Bradgon powders.



The moulds need to be prepared with a quick bath in some "rinse aid", which helps break the surface tension for when the plaster goes in. This is just a mix of water:rinse aid (75:25), and then tap the moisture out on a rag.
 


To add some variation to the brick colour when I cast them, I give the moulds a small randon sprinkling of some different shades of Bradgon powders (soot, light rust etc).



Mixing the plaster is the next part, and it pays to be fairly precise with your measures, especially if doing multiple casts of the same thing, and want reasonable consistency with the results. Only making small quantities of plaster to fill two moulds, so for the plaster I'm using, 7ml of water, 20gm of plaster, and a pinch of colour.





A little of the oxide colour goes a long way. Mixed with the dry plaster, the colour isn't very evident, but once added to the water (always add dry plaster to the water it that order, and let the plaster absorb most of the water first before mixing, which avoids too many bubbles), the colour really pops out.







With the plaster mixed to the right consistency (I am going a fraction wetter with my mix, just to give a few more minutes working time), time to start pushing it into the mould. Use an old brush, and stipple it into the mould, which is meant to fill all the corners of each brick, and reduce the amount of bubbles.





Once the first fine coating has gone into the mould, a second volume can be poured on and screed back and forth to fill the holes. You want to leave the mould overfilled at this point, which will allow for some plaster shrinkage as it starts to go off (tend to see a slightly watery top layer start to evaporate away). Keep slowly screeding back and forth every few minutes till the plaster starts to firm (work time with the plaster I have is around 20 minutes, but becomes firm and workable after about 12-15 minutes).





You will see the plaster change from a moist glossy surface, to more of a satin finish as it starts to cure. It is just visible in the below photo, mainly around the edges of the mould.



Once the plaster changes to this satin/matte colour and the brick shapes are still slightly overfilled, its time to do the final screeding off of the top layer, using a hard flat edge (ruler, or flat scraper as seen here). Drag across the top of the mould slowly at a fairly flat angle. Should take the majority of the excess plaster off, and expose the surrounds of the mould again. A fine film left around the edges is ok, as this breaks away easily at the de-moulding stage. I leave the cast to dry for half a day (or normally pour a cast before work, and then they are ready to pop out of the mould by the time I get home). Safer to leave them to cure longer than required to avoid breaks when removing.







Once dry, the moulds can just be flexed to help the small bricks pop out. A slight roll of the finger across the edge of the brick is normally enough to release them (no release agent needed with the plaster in these silicone moulds). Give the mould a quick wash, and you are ready to go again.





That basically concludes brick casting 101. Its not really that difficult, but is important to take the time to fill the mould well. You can expect to get good results from just slapping some plaster of the top and letting it dry.

*Get the plaster mix ratio consistent.
*Work with the plaster at the time frame its meant to be worked with (the first time I did a pour, I tried to work the plaster while it was too wet).
*Allow time to cure properly.

The harder part will certainly be building with them  Grin

Cheers,
Dan
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lab-dad
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2013, 06:11:57 AM »

Just like I do it, except mine are bigger!  Wink

Actually I use the glass & plastic on top (weighted) as shown on the DD site.
I find this produces a more consistent thickness.

Thanks for the SBS, hopefully others will join the loony ranks!

-Mj
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Mr Potato Head
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2013, 06:23:05 AM »

That was an excellent SBS! Thanks, I can't wait to try it; I didn't know it would take that long to cure?
I would have screwed up and I wouldn't have known why
Thanks
Gil
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Gil Flores
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Chuck Doan
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2013, 10:17:44 AM »

Thanks Dan! Very good info.
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2013, 11:36:04 AM »

Very nice Step by Step. Thanks a lot!  Smiley
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Mobilgas
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2013, 11:38:26 AM »

Dan,  A big Thanks for posting your How-To Grin .... I was using Hydrocal when I did my pours.  Ill have to find some of the  stuff your using  on this side of the pond Wink I tried to down load the info they had on Diorama Debris site when I got my molds but I was not able to do it Angry
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Craig
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« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2013, 12:47:32 PM »

I want to add my thanks for your excellent SBS. -- Russ
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