Passing Through '42

Passing Through - Northern Europe '42

I have a penchant for doing large dioramas... not the modest, reasonable 9 inch x 12 inch that could be easily placed on a mantel or desk. No - I tend to think in terms of big. Kind of like TV vs. Movie Screen! My latest work, done in one long week of vacation, measures 4 feet by 2 feet... and was a joy to build. Several years ago, before I began scratch building, I purchased one of the nicest and most detailed of the Verlinden plaster kits Windmill Ruin. I didn't know when I was going to build it, or where I would use it, but it has been sitting on the shelf for many years, and with the long week of no kids nor family commitments, I sat down Monday morning and started working. I finished in the wee hours of Thursday night, and the result is shown below and throughout this article.

I began with a smooth laminated shelf board purchased at a local hardware store. I roughed-up the top surface to allow for better adhesion, and then used marine foam sheets to build a contoured surface. The concept I was going for was a stream road, a few days after a long rain. I like to use the marine foam because it is strong, and has a fine texture that is lightweight and easy to mold and shape with the pressure of a thumb or finger.

Textured Surfaces

Once everything was laid in place and the basic shape was complete, I used Spackle paste to smooth over the foam board. This provided not only a waterproof surface, but also allowed me the chance to create different textures for various areas. In the streambed, I wanted a smooth muddy bottom... on the main roadway and the turn off road, I wanted to create a rutted and lumpy surface with a lot of horse- tracks and boot impressions. In the higher ground and "grassy" areas, I waited until the spackle was almost dried, then used a stiff short bristle brush to "stipple" the surface. This created a wonderful surface to dry brush, creating a more realistic grass turf than I typically find when using static grass. Samples of all three surfaces are shown to the right:

Project Photos

About the Author

About Keith Magee (KFMagee)

After a hiatus of several years following the sale of my hobby shop (Hobby Annex in Dallas, TX), I am ready to build again... I love dioramas, with a focus on WW2 and tend to spend a lot of time documenting my work... any questions, just let me know! - Keith


An amazingly impressive piece of work, especially given that you worked on it for a week! Your concentration and execution is inspiring. Stephen
OCT 25, 2003 - 08:43 AM
Keith, That is a fantastic piece of work! Applause!!!
OCT 25, 2003 - 10:06 AM
Thanks one and all... actually, Slodder deserves much of the credit here for salvaging my poor photography with his software skills!
OCT 25, 2003 - 04:12 PM
Your work both inspires me and intimidates me. What was done in a week compared to what I've done over ten years is absolutely the difference between a master and a novice. What a great job! Sealhead (Kansas sunflower)
OCT 26, 2003 - 01:41 AM
OCT 26, 2003 - 01:48 PM
Thanks (I guess!) SealHead.... there was nothing really hard about this one... and with "dedicated time" (ie, no distractions) probably anyone who builds models regularly could do it. It was fun and if you think about it, I probably spent about 40-45 hours on this... in a normal situation, it would have taken me about 4 weeks to finish this, working two or three hours per night. So there should be no intimidation... I was just in the perfect situation!
NOV 05, 2003 - 06:00 AM
Hey Keith, nice job! I like seeing larger dioramas. It takes a quite a bit of knowledge to pull it off right.
NOV 05, 2003 - 08:34 AM
as a novice starting out I look at the talent skill and craftsmanship of model builders like yourself and it makes me want to strive for excellence like you have produced on this occassion. I am inspired Anzac #:-)
NOV 05, 2003 - 08:50 AM
great work! I love the big dioramas, and this is very nice!! congrats KFmagee!
NOV 05, 2003 - 11:15 AM
Marty - I'm like you...while a smaller diorama may actually be tougher in terms of delivering impact in a small area, the "large diorama" format has the challenge of tying many small vignettes into one larger encompassing story line... I find that challenging. Plus, it's just plain fun to walk into the shows with a monster-sized piece and have people gawk over it! And in my case, I find the REALLY BIG dioramas bring the best prices too!
NOV 05, 2003 - 07:22 PM