Die Pressung

Diorama part One
This is a step by step article on making a diorama. I will try to explain everything in as much detail as possible. Please remember though that if you have any questions after reading this feel free to contact me and I will answer your questions there or in the thread with this article.

The first thing when making a diorama is deciding what your scene will be and with this one I had previously came across a photo taken in the Mid Carpathian mountains in Poland circa 1930 or so (see the image) It had interesting features with a wooden bridge, houses and unique terrain. I thought it was a scene just aching to have a diorama made out of it. The idea I was after was that I wanted to portray a German column rolling through a small Polish village in the summer of 1943 on their way to the Kursk Offensive. This idea of a single column passing through soon changed when I saw different pictures of traffic jams at bridgeheads during WWII. So I decided to put different elements of the German Army coming together from two roads converging at the same bridgehead. Thus adding the sense of a traffic jam to the scene. I also wanted to grasp the chaos of the Germans rolling through while also showing the carefree life of the children along the river.
First I had to decide on how big to make the diorama, as you can see from the pictures making the "whole picture" would have taken a very large base to do so I went about downsizing it until I had a base that was more manageable but still had the elements I was after from the photo. After arriving at the size I wanted I found a suitable picture frame (hobbylobby) and put a back in it and varnished the wood well.
Next balsa wood sheets were used to build up a wall around inside of the frame just a little wider than what I expected the tallest ground work to be.
The next step was laying down the groundwork. For this I built up the different layers of ground with sheet foam. Cutting and gluing it into place until it resembled the scene I was portraying. I then went to work on the bridge and its retaining wall. These needed to be built so the groundwork would butt right up to the retainer and the retainer needed to be set in its final location. The retaining wall is made of logs of 3/8" square balsa stock that I rounded two surfaces to give it a rounded front side but still flat surfaces to stack against. It is a very simple build as you can see from the pictures.
After researching the bridge I went about building it as well. Again the pictures give a better understanding of how this went together than I can with words.

Now that the bridge elements are built I could go back to shaping the foam to fit the bridge foundation. After gluing all the foam and the foundation in place it was time for the celluclay. With this I spread over the entire groundwork except where the water would be going. Also when applying the celluclay be sure to sprinkle fine sand or fine dirt over your groundwork and lightly press it into place as this will give you your "earth" textures. It was now time to set the base aside to dry for a few days so its on to the models.
  • 1_1_basswoodsides
  • 1_2_bridgeBuild1
  • 1_3_bridgeBuild2
  • 1_4_bridgeBuild3
  • 1_5_bridgeBuild4
  • 1_6_bridgehead
  • 1_7_layersoffoam1

About the Author

About Kevin Gardner (jackhammer81)

When I was a kid I built my first tank at around 10 years old it was a 1/48 scale tamiya m60 motorized. I did a few 1/48 bandai kits as well. then I jumped to model cars for the next few years, around the age of 15 I started back into armor and mostly did the 1/32 monogram stuff. I quit modeling whe...


Again thanks for the wonderful words everyone. I am very glad you seem to find it informative. Costas, bro I am glad you have been there every step helping me out, thanks!!! Arvin, the next project is for the Ardennes campaign. So far I have about fifteen figures, tamiya sherman 105, DML hetzer, and a Tamiya schwimmwagen. Its going to be a scene with a knocked out sherman and the germans are taking the fuel from it. I am going to try my hand at another river or stream with it being half covered with ice this time and a stone bridge for the dio. Again thanks for the comments. Cheers Kevin
FEB 08, 2005 - 02:34 AM
Sorry to chime in so late here, but, having followed this diorama from the beginning, what a wonderful way to finish off a fantastic project: with a very informative article. Also, thanks to Slodder for making all the extra photos available for viewing. Keith
FEB 08, 2005 - 03:26 AM
Kevin, that diorama is superb. I love the composition and the details just like everyone else here. Best of all, I love the "contrasting" atmosphere....war machines going through a peaceful village. It's fantastic. I wish I can make something like yours. It's simply one of the best dioramas I have ever seen. Congratulations. Angela
FEB 08, 2005 - 01:53 PM
wow. This is a beautiful piece of work Kevin
FEB 08, 2005 - 03:08 PM
Kevin, that is one heckuva dio guy! Something little and normal going on everywhere you look on it.The contrast is perfect for alot of the affected countries,war material passing through serene and peacefull villages.I especially like the tanker peeking out the turret side hatch and the way you made what I think are Italeri and ESCI figures look very good.Very ironic since Italeri figs got a pretty good bashing here the other day! :-) Really great job and outstanding write-up. Cheers lad!
FEB 08, 2005 - 05:14 PM
The deeper I get into this fine past time we call modelling, the more I appreciate this calibre of workmanship. This dio makes the viewer search out all the details and all the little stories, which are done so well.You have both alot of patience & talent. You've done a great job with this one Kevin, and somehow it looks like it was a blast to build. I'm not sure if it's a inspiration or if I want to throw away my brush and sit back and enjoy............Nah it's an inspiration! Cheers to a job well done Bruce
FEB 08, 2005 - 06:51 PM
Hi everyone, I am glad everyone is liking this dio and finding it interesting. It warms my heart that something I have created has this kind of impact on people. I had a blast making it and documenting the build, and am glad it has given inspiration. Cheers Kevin
FEB 09, 2005 - 12:53 AM
Graywolf: Graywolf, I couldn't disagree more....this diorama could BE an entire book! He has everything: models, scratch building, scenicing that would bring praise from model railroaders, composition, a story... To redundantly mix superlatives, this diorama is absolutely extraordinary! This is work I strive for.
FEB 17, 2005 - 02:55 PM
Kevin, All I can say is....SWEET! Everything about this work of art is superb, my friend.
FEB 20, 2005 - 06:44 AM
Hi Guys, thank you for the kind words. I am really glad that you like this dio Thanks again. Kevin
FEB 20, 2005 - 01:13 PM