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Operation Tractable

Diorama Base
The base was made from scratch using conventional, traditional materials and techniques.

The foundation was a pre-milled walnut decoupage plaque. I gave it a bit of stain and used "rattle can" gloss lacquer for its finish. I buffed it with 0000 steel wool between coats of lacquer, and added a piece of black felt to the bottom.

The terrain started out as " thick sheets of polystyrene foam board. I cut a rectangle the same size as the upper edges of the foundation plaque. I placed the model and figures on this and arranged them into my final composition. Once I was satisfied with the composition, I used a permanent marker to mark the locations of the key elements.

To achieve the various elevations, I used additional pieces of the " foam board stacked "layer cake" fashion with the edges beveled appropriately. These layers were hot glued to each other.

The cobble stone roadway is made of two layers of.40 styrene sheet. The top layer was curved to get the crowned effect (the center of the roadway is higher than the edges for drainage). I used rectangular styrene rod spacers between these two pieces to retain the crown. On top of this, I glued down a single layer of Woodland Scenics Large Scree stones using thick PVA. I left the portions of the cobbles which would be torn up by the tank's pivot steer empty. Once the glue dried, I hot glued the roadway to the foam boards. This created a terrain "module" which could be finished apart from the foundation plaque.

This module was coated with ordinary plaster of Paris to achieve the near final contours in the elevations and smooth tidy looking sides (instead of the raw foam). I did not put any plaster in the cobble stones. Those were grouted later with Celluclay. After the plaster set, I used a sanding block to level the sides. The sides took about three thin coats of plaster, sanding after each, before they were nice and flat.

Next I brush painted the sides Poly Scale Engine Black and airbrushed the entire top (roadway included) with Tamiya Flat Earth. At this time, I did not worry about over sprayed earth on the black sides. These paint coats seal the plaster and PVA glue, through, from subsequent wet layers.

I mixed up a bit of Celluclay, pre-coloring the mix with tube acrylic burnt umber paint. This Celluclay mix also got a good dollop of thick PVA. It was spread thinly over the top of the entire base to include grouting the cobble stone road way. I used a wetted finger to rub it off of the tops of the stones, and I contoured the tank tracks while it was still pliable. I used bits of brown construction paper to create the overhanging turf edges on top of the eroded bank. Celluclay was then added to the top edges of this overhang. Small bits of real plant roots were used for the roots hanging from the turf edge.

As it was drying, the Celluclay received different colors of acrylic paints either brushed or sprayed on. I also added different colors of pigments directly onto the damp surface. In particular, I used several green colors along the bottoms of the drainages on either side of the roadway.

Noch and Woodland Scenics static grass was next applied and fixed with Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement from an eye dropper. The loose cobbles, torn up by the tank, were added and glued down in the same manner. Once these materials dried, additional layers of ground cover were added from mixed Woodland Scenics ground foam products, more static grass, and Noch leaves. The grass clumps are MiniNature / Silfor products.

The road sign is scratch built from Evergreen styrene sheet and strip. The lettering is made from Woodland Scenics Dry Transfers on clear water-slide decal film. Once I had the place names laid down, I used their dimensions to determine how large the sign would be. The concrete texture on the sign post is artists' acrylic texture medium, and the bolts securing the sign to the post are from Grant Line.

Once the terrain module was completed, I touched up the sides with black and hot glued it down to the foundation plaque. I then attached the figures and the tank with PVA.

Next was removing the masks from the clear faces of the periscopes. Finally, I added the cut foliage camouflage to the tank. It was made from Silfor Sea Foam and Noch leaves. The sea foam branches were first airbrushed a light gray color, and 3M Spray Cement was used to fix the leaves. After drying, I followed up with a light coat of hair spray to further fix the leaves. These branches were attached to the model without any glue, just like the prototype, and in places that would not interfere with the crew's vision or the fighting ability of the tank.

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