Monday, December 30, 2013

Diorama for Dinosaurs Part 1

Christmas was last week, and while I had hoped to finish building a modular dinosaur diorama, a virus kept me from my deadline.

I've been wanting to build a diorama for years, but have always found more pressing projects. This project may be as much for me as anyone else.

I knew I wanted something big with lots of features, but at the same time it needs to be portable. That transitioned to a tiled diorama. I considered squares, but that did not provide enough customization. A hexagon was it. I decided magnets would be used to hold it together. I didn't want the tiles slipping apart.

This is where we will end today's post.

Did I mention this is for a two year old? I'm not sure how well construction will hold up to the rigors of a two year old, but I will found out in a week!



 The Materials:
-1/2" MDF
-2" pink polystyrene insulation (found at home improvement stores)
-foam core board (optional)
-cardboard (optional)
-hot glue
-Plasti-Dip
-plaster of paris (optional)
-paper towels (optional)
-acrylic paints
-water
-white Elmer's glue
-sawdust
-clear caulk
-3/4" ceramic magnets (12 per tile)


Pink polystyrene 2" insulation and 1/2" mdf.
 Tools:
-pencil
-protractor
-ruler
-right angle
-circular saw
-clamps
-4' level
-3/4" Forstner drill bit
-sander
Tools of the trade.


The Pattern:
A pattern was made with paper to form a 12" point to point hexagon. Mark you center and use a protractor to measure consecutive 60* angles. Make each line 12" long total. Once you connect the dots, you should have a hexagon with roughly 6" long sides.

  
 
I clamped the level to the MDF to provide a guide for the circular saw.


The Base:
The pattern was transferred to the 1/2" MDF and five tiles were cut. I also kept the half panels created.

I then cut 1" stripes of 1/2" MDF. This will form the border of the tiles and create a common elevation point between neighboring tiles. You need to cut the ends of the 1" strips at 30*, as these are interior angles. I cut the strips on a table saw using the guide set to 30*.

The 1" strips before being glued down.
Sand down any rough edges. Test fit the strips and cut/sand as necessary. Glue five of the sides down. Leave the sixth for now. You want to give the five sides time to set up so that they don't slip and slide as you get the sixth side in place.

I then took 3/4" magnets, drilled two equally spaced holes the depth of the magnet into each edge using a 3/4" Forstner drill bit. Make sure your holes are consistent for each tile. They will need to meet. When you glue the magnets, make sure they face the same way so they'll 'stick'. Test fit often. You won't regret it.
Two magnets on each face.

A magnet in place.
This will hold the tiles together if the magnets are aligned. If they aren't aligned, it will create a problem. I used sawdust and glue to shim the holes as needed so the magnets were flush with the side of the tile.

At this point I stained the wood, for a finished appearance. Before staining, I used a router to route the bottom edge at a 45* angle. This was a purely aesthetic choice.

I had planned to paint the wood frames,
but liked the stained look.
Then, I glued the magnets in place.


The Terrain:
Cut the insulation to fit the tiles. Hot glue was used to attach insulation to wood and insulation to insulation.

This is how all tiles started, then
I added and subtracted to get the desired shapes.
The different terrains I plan to create are: a pond, a mountain, a cave, a grassy area with muddy dino foot prints, tree stumps with grassy area, and a stream. The two half tiles will be sandy shores and an ocean. I'm not using trees. This is for a child and trees will get ripped off within seconds.
A muddy ditch and dino footprints.

A cave. The wood engraver melted the foam to give a nice stony texture
that a serrated blade could not achieve.
I used a serrated saw for rough shaping and wood engraving tool for smaller details like dino footprints and stone facades. (Note: Wear safety glasses and a respirator. You don't want to breathe in tiny foam particles, and if you burn it you don't want to breathe the fumes. Any auto parts store should have a respirator.)

The conclusion to this tutorial will be following soon.



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