Book Review
Let's Build a Diorama # 2
Let's Build a Diorama # 2: Terrain & Vegetation
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by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]


I have to admit that I hate vegetation in Dioramas. Not that I don't admire the work of others, just that it scares me. So, a book like this is (no pun intended) like manna from heaven. Another reason for my antipathy towards vegetation is that unless I mortgage the house and move under a bridge, I can't afford to buy all the beautifully packaged packs of materials which are available (and the postage costs these entail), so being a cowardly cheapskate, I'm looking for an approach which is low-cost and low-pain. This is another reason why this series of books has struck such a chord with me.

In Detail

Let's Build a Diorama # 2: Terrain & Vegetation is written by László Adóba and is published in a slightly-bigger than A5 format. The book contains 80 pages and has more than 300 color photos. The book is divided into 4 sub-sections which are:

I) Surface
II) Surface
III) Vegetation
IV) Use of Real Plants

Serving as an introduction to the above concepts is the first section which deals with the structure of the base.

The foreword, by László Adóba, certainly gives food for thought. I'm loath to use the hated term 'mission-statement' but that, (in its most positive sense) is what the author gives. He brings up a number of areas - such as the cost of the specialized materials and the difficulty in doing 'Urban' Vs. 'Rural' diorama settings. Once again, following the theme established in the first volume, great emphasis is placed on using readily available materials and tools. Welcome news for ALL levels of modelers.

With this review I'll go into one specific section of the book to try and give the 'flavor' of what one can expect.

Case Study: Chapter 3, Vegetation

This section has two sub-chapters: Grass and Trees. The former in 3 sub-divisions (Made of Brush, Made of Oakum and Artificial Grass). The section on trees looks at the trunk, the foliage and three different species (Birch, Pine and Palm).

Using step-by-step photos, the author presents a variety of techniques -some may be familiar, others not so well-known. Most notable for me, personally, was the technique to make the surface of a model tree look like bark. The techniques are simple but very, very convincing. This is a true multi-media approach. The author discounts no material (until proved otherwise) and the results are extraordinarily professional. The use of glues, the application of pigments and areas such as 'weathering' a tree to give the impression of age or damage are all covered within this section. Ovbiously the techniques involved in the Birch and Pine can be applied to other (similar) species, that of the Palm, is pretty unique to this type of tree.

The various grass effects are explained in an excellent, non-complex manner. Some space is (correctly) given over to considering the various types of grass and in the ensuing chapter - how best to recreate them. Once again, the materials are readily available and low-cost.

Other Sections

Although the Vegetation section was chosen as a 'Case-Study' it is a typical section but is only one part of the complete process. The book in its 80 pages covers a huge amount of terrain (again, no pun intended!) and a huge variety of terrain types - Ice, Desert, Tundra etc. all find a place in the book. Preservarion of 'natural' items such as foliage are heavily emphasized with some excellent tips including the use of glycerine. Some superb notes on the simulation of moss can also be found - an item which occurs in forests and buildings in equal amounts. Another interesting approach is the use of charcoal to simulate rock. Obvious when it's presented in the book - not so when you're looking for an alternative to cork!


There is no shortage of good books about diorama construction, it's a fairly crowded market. So, any author or publisher has to come up with something pretty special to 'compete' with the well-known authors and publishing houses. So, does this publisher have the magic touch? In my opinion, a resounding yes.

Once of the weak areas in the first volume was the English. It was easy enough to understand but could be confusing. In this volume, the English is excellent. A couple of minor translation errors but nothing which had me reaching for the red pen.

Quality of the book is first-rate. Good clear photos, good captioning and clear unambivalent text is the nature of this volume. It's a highly professional work which looks as if it came out of a publisher with 40 years of experience in this material and it's only their second book!

Any doubts I had are laid to rest by the fact that although 80 pages is generous, there's a limit to what you CAN include. There are no 'finished' dioramas - there are plenty of books of that type on the market, the important areas are the techniques. So, I can easily live without those.

If I had been editing the book, I'd perhaps have reconsidered the sections on Snow, Ice and Water. Not that they're badly done, but they are, in my opinion, areas which should be given more coverage - perhaps in the NEXT volume?

All in all, a very satisfying book which is crammed with great tips and techniques. Above all, (and this is much less easy to achieve), it's 100% practical!
Highs: The two P's, Practicality and Presentation. Nothing in the book is beyond the skills of the average modeler and all the materials are easily obtainable. Logical and clear presentation throughout the book makes it easy to find what you're looking for.
Lows: Perhaps the sections on Snow, Ice and Water should have been reserved for the NEXT book?
Verdict: Excellent.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: Volume 2
  Related Link: Item on Publisher's Website
  PUBLISHED: Dec 16, 2010

Our Thanks to HarVar-d Design Studio!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


Got my book today. Easily one of the best books for diorama building. Thank you
JAN 26, 2011 - 03:23 PM
My copies of volume 1 & 2 were waiting the mailbox when i got home today! Just under a month, which isn't bad at all. They are excellent resources and a wise investment!
JAN 28, 2011 - 02:57 PM
Received both volumes yesterday, just under a month from ordering, which I consider quick, being that I'm in the middle of the Pacific. (quicker than when I order from Squadron.) The books are beautiful and nicely done. I've already read most of volume one and I look forward to trying some of the techniques. Happy Modelling, -zon
FEB 01, 2011 - 10:40 AM
I have to inform everybody that the author of the first two volumes of "Let's build a diorama", László Adóba informed me that he would like to publish the third volume on his own and after a long discussion we agreed to part peacefully. As far as I know most of the content is finished but as this decision was made only a few days ago I can't tell any further details on the publishing date and whether or not there will be an English edition in the near future. Not the happiest news to me, but I wish him all the success with his coming works. In the meantime we are working on two other titles, as soon as there will be materials to update, I will post it.
JAN 15, 2012 - 07:25 PM
Are these books available at any online stores (Other than the publisher's) that take straight credit card transactions (Not through PayPal)? Hisham
JAN 15, 2012 - 11:06 PM
Hisham, Just ordered my copies through this lot in the UK. I went the Paypal option but they also do the CC thing. http://www.ianallanpublishing.com/let-s-build-diorama-1-urban-scenes.html Cheers, John
JAN 16, 2012 - 12:52 AM
Thanks a lot, John... I'll go ahead and order it from them. Hisham
JAN 16, 2012 - 01:12 AM
I'd be interested to hear about other great diorama books. I've ordered these two columu
APR 06, 2013 - 03:21 AM
I'd be interested to hear about other great diorama books. I've ordered these two volumes, but the author references a "crowded marketplace"... Suggestions?
APR 06, 2013 - 03:23 AM

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