Dirt, Details & Dioramas... Karl. A



  • Thanks for your response Karl and I am anxious to see how the 'non-sanded' grout works out for you - Although, I will probably pursue/attempt this route as well.

  • Karl,
    This is some of your finest work and honestly since your work is some of the best I've seen that is saying something. I plan on studying these pictures at length when I start "planting" my next building. Amazing modeling, simply stunning.
  • Very kind words Joel, and very appreciated.

  • You forgot "very deserved"!!!
  • Well, l am trying Karls grout method for simulating dirt. It only took me about four trips to the orange box since I couldn't find the polyblend sanded summerwheat grout. The linen color was readily available. First time there was no assistance to be found. The second time I found assistance ans was told that the summer wheat grout was special order, so I ordered it. Big surprise here - two weeks delivery. So a lot of waiting. The third time I showd up the grout did show yet. Finally today I got both grout colors and can now start experimenting. How crazy is this? Buying a little grout took me almost three weeks. But heh, Karl recommended it. So thats what we wil get. And now....back to making some dirt. Later....
  • edited April 2013
    Hey! don't blame me for your inadequate local sales team at the store.. ha

    In seriousness, the colours I specified are not essential, just a blend that give me a tone I personally like.

    The shades certainly are not written in stone. Play around

    A medium tan colour and an off white mixed should give you a blend you like. Keep notes on your ratios so that it is easily repeatable.

    I look forward to seeing your experiments and ultimately the results on a diorama/layout.

  • Always dreamed of this level of modeling. Paid money for books , videos but never had much luck. Now I have found Sierra West website and am pumped to see work like this. I have ordered Main Street from Bret and can't wait to try some of the techniques I am learning from you guys. Karl makes it look easy, if I can get half the results he gets I will be a very happy man. This post has made my day, thank you. Bret don't forget I have that kit ordered as I already received the chalk you recommend. Wow, great and fun. Oh and thank everyone for all the post this is life changing for me.
  • Awesome to hear someone with your enthusiasm, I thought I was the only one! Karl's skills and eye for details is for sure one to aspire to and all the advise I have received has been exceptional. Brett has a well deserved "cult following" with his kits, which are world class for sure, and the forum is just the best. You did well finding SierraWest. -K
  • Thanks for info on poly blend dirt - I had missed the "formula" first time around. I have a question now on an unrelated matter - does anyone know if prototypically power lines were ever buried during the early 20th century period- perhaps in heavy snow fall areas? I was thinking of "powering" a couple buildings to allow for lighting but bringing in power overhead as everyone knows is fussy work and saggy lines never look good. I also have a Crow River electric winch looking for something to do. One option is to do like blue sky in the on line model and just leave off the lines and let one,s imagination fill in the lines. Another is to have a small generator (or a dynamo in a large factory) but I don't know of any generator kits (o scale). Another is just to create a small enclosed "generator room" addition and just say its a generator room. There are a couple old factories locally where I live which have power come up underground but these are likely later alterations.
  • James.

    I have heard that human hair makes good power lines as it sags just right.

  • You know I googled that and you are right! I don't know though... Human hair .... Hmmmm

    Seems like people began burying lines as early as the 1870s but I can't imagine why anyone would bother in a backwoods kind of operation or rural mill etc
  • Thanks Karl for the awesome how-to! The finished result is so real looking I can't tell it's even a model. However I have a question for you... Do you add these dios to a layout eventually or do you keep them as dioramas? I have been try to figure out the layout process; like to you add the structure to the layout and build the scenery up on the layout or do you work in the completed diorama to the layout.... Once again, thank you!

  • Thanks for the kind comments Bryan.
    At some point in the future I hope to add some of the better dios to an already planned layout.

    I visualize a rough placement for the structure in a layout and keep the base as small as possible.
    most structures lend themselves to a certain topography.
    Also I am now (very recently) trying to build scenes instead of just structures.

    The scene is what it is and will have to be shoehorned into layout space, this is a reason I have started building dios just up to the track edge and not having track on the dio, it makes things easy to "adjust" later ... a temporary track section can be included but with the realization it will probably be removed at the time of layout placement.

    Also, I actually need to build a layout room before I can build a layout, so that may be some time away, till then I can enjoy this side of the hobby which is what I love to do.

  • Yes thanks Karl - this is a very helpful thread
  • Karl

    Excellent how to. Really like the way your doing the ground work. I'll be needing that very soon. Keep teaching us.

  • Karl

    Great pictures and a very excellent how to. Beautiful job. Sorry it took so long to get back to see it all done.

  • Unbelievable results. I'm already making a punch list for things to pick up from the store.
  • Karl,

    I have the pleasure of keeping this thread alive by adding my thanks . . . . I have not done any of this previously and am reading everyone's threads throughout the forum for knowledge. Relative to what I have seen so far, you have covered uncovered areas. Bret is packaging up the Shipyard for me to exercise your lessons on.

    My sincerest thanks & warmest regards.

    John Maguire
  • Absolutely awesome job and such well documented techniques. It will be real nice to see all your works on a layout one day.
  • Thanks so much for the kind comments everyone, really appreciated. I'm glad people got something from the thread.

  • Karl,
    excellent job explaining your techniques, one question if I may.....the stacks of split firewood how do you do it......I gave up splitting and stacking firewood years ago....I know there is an easier way in miniature just can't figure out how. Any help would be greatly appreciated


  • edited November 2013
    Thanks for the kind words Scott.
    The stacks of fire wood are from sticks from the yard. I find that bush prunings are better than tree twigs because the bark is much thinner, more like a skin really, and the rings are much tighter. Azaelia, privet, boxwood to name a few. After pruning bushes I keep a select few branches in an open container in the garage to dry out, this way I always have some ready to use on hand.

    I take a 1" diameter branch and cut it into scale 18" or 24" sections, this length would fit well in a fireplace, small stove or a boiler.
    The 'rounds' are then split with a single edge razor blade the same way you would a real log. Using the 'chopper' can aid this step.
    I like to keep the chopped wood small, oversized split firewood can spoil a great scene really quickly.
    As with many modeling tasks I keep a scale figure close by to compare proportions and make sure things look 'right'.

    The process of splitting goes a lot faster and easier than you would imagine, I was very pleasantly surprised the first time I did it.

    Incidentally the split wood stack is held together with very dilute white glue. I built the stack and then dripped on the glue with a pipette and let it wick and soak through the crevices..


  • Thanks Karl..........was hoping that maybe a miniature log splitter was out there somewhere-lol-razor blades it is............hope my fingers survive....
  • Karl
    ,I answered the above to quickly....I sincerely appreciate the detail you provided ie. Plants used,how to glue and split the wood,as a newbie the amount of detail provided by you and many others really helps..I just hope that someday soon I can put this all in a diorama that's worth posting.

    My sincerest appreciation

  • Hello Karl and all,
    This is my first post on the forum and I would like to say thanks to everyone for providing such great inspiration. The bar has been set pretty high but how cool it would be if I could model half as good as I have seen here. That's my goal. Karl, I'm really interested in how you did that brick cobblestone. If you have a chance, I would love a quick guide. Thank you.
    Charlie in Maryland
  • edited January 2014
    Hello Charlie and welcome to the forum, you have found a great place to post and enjoy looking at some great modeling.
    Remember, we are all here to learn, so, post any questions you have and/or work to share with us all.

    The cobblestones were simply carved directly into the Styrofoam base with an exacto and a metal straight edge. Mostly eyeballed and not measured which is why it will pass a cursory glance but closer inspection reveals that the stones are not all exactly the same sizes. <<shrug>> oh well.

    Colouring was... a couple coats of thinned black to get into all the joints. Then once dry tangerine orange and burgundy wine were splotched on and blended randomly to give a varying brick colour. Once dry all was dry-brushed with sandstone for highlights. All paints were cheap craft paints.
    Maybe a little chalk after that, I cant remember, it was just a quick temporary thing and never got finished.

  • Thanks for the quick response Karl. I'm off to find some foam at H.D.
  • Karl, that photo up above is a 1:1 right? It has to be . . .
  • I've always loved this build and this thread. Karl - a quick question in going over it again. Are the windows / doors on the building wood or laser board? I'm having some issues trying to colour laser board windows etc. and these window sashes and mullions etc seem to perfectly match the trims and siding (I know this is a topic on another recent thread).
  • edited February 2014
    Hi James, thanks for the kind words.
    The windows and doors are all scratched from basswood/plywood which is why they match the structure so well, same material.

    What are you having trouble doing exactly?

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