Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Arcadia Quest Diorama, Part 2

This is part two of my assembly journal for the Arcadia Quest diorama I'm building for Cool Mini Or Not. Last time I was just finishing up the fortress for the District of Hammers. Here it is with the roof shingles and hammer icon over the main gate. After a coat of primer, it's ready for painting.



Part 2: The University Plaza

To construct the clock tower for the university, I use insulation foam for the main structure of the building, and foam core for the tower itself. The front of the building needs a breezeway with arched openings below the balcony on the second tier. The surface of the foam is textured with a smaller natural brick pattern to differentiate it from the hammer fortress. Over the foam core, a thin layer of pink insulation foam is affixed. This thin layer is similarly textured with the brick pattern.



Details like the stone frame for the clock face and windows are added using a combination of foam, basswood, and resin parts. Here you can see the breezeway taking shape. The columns are wooden candle holders trimmed down to size.



The foam is coated with a mix of wood glue and black latex paint to protect it. Once dry, parts like the cardboard framing for the railings and spires can be super glued to the protective shell without dissolving the foam.

On the back of the building, I added a large staircase going up to the overlook level. You can also see the flagstone street and the moat for the hammer fortress.



Here's a look at the right side of the structure and the arch leading into the breezeway. the ground is textured with sand and gravel.



To make the stone path, I the paper is peeled off one side of a sheet of foam core which is then glued to the table. a stone pattern is drawn on the foam and then the individual stones are cut out with a hobby knife, using a series of V-cuts to remove the gaps between the stones. A wire brush is used to press a pock-marked rocky texture into the foam, and then it's coated with wood glue and, once dry, a thinner layer of wood glue is painted into the recesses and sand is sprinkled over top.



The roof is added using using foam core covered with card shingles. 



The clock tower is finished, save for some of the smaller details like the railings and this telescope which I scratch built using styrene tubing. And, of course, I'll add a clock face in there somewhere.



Coming up, a tutorial on how I make my flagstone streets!


'Til next time!


  1. Jaw dropping. Would love a few step by step pics and hints about how you do the brickwork. Looking forward to the flagstone tutorial and seeing the whole thing finished.

  2. Lovely, looks great.
    Reminds me a tiny bit of Hogwarts :).

  3. Stunning as always! You seem to use thin pink insulation foam (like in the clock tower). Is it sold somewhere or do you cut it by yourself from thicker sheet? If you do cut it, how do you manage to cut it in evenly thickness?

    1. Thanks for all the kind words everyone! JCoo, I get the pink foam at Home Depot. It comes in 2' x 8' sheets in thicknesses of either 1 or 2 inches. To cut it you can either use a hot wire cutter (have adequate ventilation because melting foam fumes are toxic) or with a knife. I use an extendable snap-off knife and a steel ruler to cut it. With a new, sharp blade I can get some pretty precise cuts. When layering the foam over another surface, I'll slice off pieces about 1/4" thick, then "tile" them onto the surface and make the cuts for the stone or brick pattern.

  4. Thanks for your reply. I hoped that you would have some kind of miracle technique but no, just the same-old-same-old hard work, precision and patience like I guess in at everything that you do =)

    Keep it up!