This time it’s a fantasy scene.Its creation took more in consideration the artistic aspect than the absolute realism.The storyline is nothing too complicated, the patrol found the wreck of a downed Huey helicopter and radios its position back to command.What happened to the two surviving crew members, judging from the abandoned helmets? Although a lot has been said about this work, the most controversial aspects are focused on the pilot’s skeleton and the position of the helicopter itself.
Strangely, this time and after giving it some thought initially, I did not deviate too much from the initial project,creating more or less what I had planned…
Following are some photos of the 3D high technology instruments I use to create my dioramas As usual, the construction of the diorama, the figures, ruins and the helicopter, progressed simultaneously, but for an easier comprehension, everything will be described separately.
• UH-1C model, 1/35 scale by Academy
• UH-1C Eduard Zoom Photo etched set (internal, external, and weapons)
• Archer Rivets & Surface Details
• Several sets of paper leaves by Kamizukuri, (I hope I spelled it right, I speak the Japanese dialect of the north province perfect, but the Southern dialect is difficult to me…)
• JoeFix Studio’s 3D printed aftermarket parts
• One figure from Hobby Fan (gunner)
• Bravo 6 figure set (officer and radio opera tor)
• Buddha from Verlinden
think this is one of the most challenging projects I have ever made as far as modifications and scratch-building details are concerned.
Initially, I didn’t anticipate changes of this magnitude, but various photos of models and the real subject, found on the net, led me to extensive scratch-building. The lack of space in my display cabinet, forced me to sever the tail boom and the propeller blades off in order to reduce the overall dimensions. And I was lucky; otherwise I should have made more plants and trees.
Construction started in May 2012 and as always from the interior which was totally unsatisfactory. The kits’ rear seat was rebuilt using copper wires glued with super glue, paper towels and a lot of scratch-building. I should reconstruct the gunner’s seat as well, but laziness prevailed…
Bending the photoeteched lateral frame were the fire extinguisher and the first aid kit are located, was not a easy task and I should have gone the extra mile to reproduce the damage suffered by a helicopter that rolled on the ground. The entire interior was painted by brush with Vallejo colors, except for the instrument panel and the cabin floor which were airbrushed with Tamiya acrylics.
During this phase I had the idea of a dead crew member in the cabin. I started working on the pilot figure that came with the kit, drilling the face and body with a mini-drill to reduce the body mass. I’m not a sculptor, but I’m happy the way the skull looks. Later I realized that I should have reduced the legs a little bit more.My wife was a little worried by seeing so many human skull pictures on my desk but my kids on the other hand were much more interested in my activities!
Before closing the fuselage halves, I scratch-build the inverter bay on the rear left side and the front avionics bay. I used mainly styrene sheets, copper and brass wires. Everything was painted by brush with Vallejo colors. I worked on the broken fuselage rear at this phase with a mini-drill. When the styrene became very thin, it broke off easily, perfectly simulating the torn aluminum skin. The bulkheads are made by thin copper sheets.
Using a round blade, I scribed the fuselage to simulate the twisted panels, as a consequence of the fuselage deformation. I was lucky and a friend of mine, a former Augusta Bell employee, gave me the original Bell UH-1C training and maintenance manual. This gave me the possibility to reproduce almost all the accessories, piping and wiring of the engine. I have to say that I didn’t care too much to represent all the details and dimensions perfectly, but more to give the impression of an intricate and complicated item. To rebuild the engine, engine bay and transmission, I worked for a whole summer and stopped counting when I reached 200 parts. I used mainly styrene rods and hexagons, different kinds of wire, scratch materials, old Photo Etched frames etc. The antiskid area on the engine deck was just painted. First the entire area was airbrushed with Tamiya aluminum, followed by NATO black sprayed through a veiling.
The biggest challenge at this part was to build the engine, transmission and filter separately, in order to be able to paint them easily and assemble everything on the deck more or less like in a real helicopter, i.e. connecting wires and tubing after positioning the main units. The entire cover of the rear rotor transmission shaft was removed and rebuild with thin copper sheet, the transmission shaft was rebuild with styrene rod as was the tail gear box and vertical stabilizer. During work on the top fuselage panels, in order to simulate damage caused by the impact on the ground, most of the kits’ rivets were gone. I replaced them with the fine transfer Rivets set from Archer. At the end of the process, the helicopter looked like it got some kind of a tropical sickness. To place the rivets, I brushed two layers of Glanzer, a German floor wax similar to Future, directly on the model.
The rivet lines have to be applied like ordinary decals, using Microscale decal softener. When everything was completely dry I brushed an additional layer of Glanzer, in order to fix them better in position. Not a difficult job, but loooooong!
Next step was to scratch-build the left side mini-gun barrel where I used a syringe needle, some copper tube and styrene sheets. The right side mini-gun is not much visible since it’s half sunk in the mud, so it was build almost OOB. The 70 mm rocket launcher had to be modified as well, so I drilling the part from the kit to make the tubes look empty, except for one, a misfire…
Undamaged rotor blades, weren’t compatible with the crash consept and with the figure positioning they would have cut the scene in half in a way I did not like it. Therefore, I decided to “break” them off. The blades were worked from the inside like I did with the rear fuselage, leaving only their thin skin. some insulating foam covered with veiling was used to simulate the “ bee nest” filling materials inside the blades. I painted them with Vallejo Black dry brushed with Humbrol Alluminum.
Initially I assembled the rotor head OOB, but it was too “symmetric” and I decided to separate the blades from the head, repositioning them to a more realistic incidence angle.
Also, some of the rotor control rods were absent and had to be build from scratch. Please note the broken balancing rods on the rotor head. During assembly and painting I must have broken them at least 10 times. I decided to replace them with needles as they are very robust and never broke again, even penetrating deep in my skin…
The pilots’ door was also heavy modified to add some thickness and I rebuild its interior as it was completely absent from the kit part. The glass was cut to reproduce a partially open side window. Archers rivets were also added where appropriate. To mask a machine with all these openings was a tedious task, further complicated by the rivet decals as they come off with masking tape.
I was lucky and only 3 or 4 came off and had to be replaced. Painting started from the shark mouth which was airbrushed with Tamiya Acrylics, my preferite colour for this kind of job due to its rapid drying time. After hours and hours spend to study photos of wrecks and gate-guards, I wasn’t able to create a satisfactory mix to reproduce the faded olive drab of the helicopter. I sat on my work bench, loaded my air brush with the most improbable greens and browns and started spraying, using a lamp to shed its light vertical on the model to create the natural shadows, which I tried to reproduce with a darker mix. On a dark green surface, it’s better not to exceed with bright aluminum scratches which are too prominent.
I prefer to reproduce the yellow primer to transpire under the green. Therefore, Tamiya Zinc chromate was applied with a thin brush here and there on the entire surface.
All numbers, tactical and unit signs on the tail boom were painted, I didn’t use any decals at all. Please note that the first coat of green made all the detail to disappear.
The white is also reflecting light too much. But dont worry, some lightening and shading with an airbrush and dry brushing on the rivets will make everithing reappear again.
The Grim Reaper on the bay doors on the real helicopter was painted by hand, slightly different on the two sides, by an improvised artist. Thank God, Bill Horan was not a crew member, therefore my limited capabilities as a painter where enough to paint a decent nose art.. And finally, the “blender” machine is almost completed. A little more water, the figures and the diorama is finished.
Lost in Viet Nam: The Diorama
Essential to the realization of each diorama, are the advanced technologic al tools at our disposal, which allow us a realistic three-dimensional view of the project. You can see below a photo that illustrates such instruments.
Equaly important is to study several photograph of the aspect of the landscape. We do not necessarily have to represent what we see in one of these, as it is difficult to find a corner of nature that fits exactly to our idea of the diorama. Better to combine different details, all plausible. It’s good to remember that we must also be willing to make some compromises, in order to reduce the size, or make a harmonious whole.
As already written, the Buddha is a Verlinden product and includs the small base step. The crypt and the rest of the building work, were instead self-built with bricks made by pouring ceramic plaster in sophisticated wooden molds, styrene and other precious materials .
The construction of these molds was one of the hardest parts of the entire project, as it was necessary to go out and eat a whole pound of ice cream ,in order to obtain what is necessary. It was a hard work and only modelers with large liver and a stomach os steel, could have win the challenge ! The ceramic clay is great to do this kind of work, because when it is still wet we can carve it easily, representing very well the ancient stones and, when it hardens it is really rockhard. In the photo below, it has already undergone a preliminary wash with very thinned acrylic, just to understand, approximately, the aspect that they will have when painted.
The land was made of DAS, small natural roots and woods, have been pressed in, before it dries up. A very light wash of white glue well diluted, preceded the laying of the “cappuccino”, a mixture of used coffee from my coffee machine,water and again white glue. Small stone of different grain,have been laid over before it dried. Italo was responsible for the coloring of the ancient wall, the crypt and statue, I airbrushed the ground, using Tamiya acrylics of earthy tones, followed by a dark brown oil wash and a Dry-brush with Humbrol enamel, brick color.
Initially I was planning to plant a bonsai, but realizing that it would be a problem to require the organizers of any model contest to regularly water the diorama, I decided to scratch build the biggest tree with inert materials: pieces of sprue, covered with green Milliput. The upper part of the tree have been madein in Zekum. Very well thinned white glue wassprayed with an old airbrush and then Noch leaves of two different colors, were let fall on the tree, air spray have been also used to better fix the leaves (please don’t say to my wife!). The lianas climb along the trunk and fall from the higher branches have been made with a natural product Joe-Fix Studio and covered with the same Noch Leaves used for the tree.
Even the palm has been scratch build: leaves cut from printer paper with a core of steel wire, bonded with Superglue, trunk made by a strip of balsa wood, section strictly square (pure masochism), cover with DAS. A little plumbing hemp, to simulate “fluff” between the leaves. Important: watch photos of real palm trees, in order to give a convincing posture to the leaves, without falling into the typical symmetry of aircraft modeller, who see everything perfectly square!!
All colored with Gunze and Tamiya acrylic. To create most of the other vegetables, I used Kamizukuri laser cut papers leaves, plant and grass. The water, about 1 cm deep, have been made with Prochimaresin, mixed with a bit of Slate Gray (which is a greenish gray) and Natural Wood Humbrol, casted in three layers at a distance of a few days. To reach every smaller space between water grass, I used a plastic siring, more than adequate for this task. Unfortunately I could not yet tell if there is a method to prevent the resin being drawn up, by capillary action, between the aquatic herbs.
September 2012, 14 month after the start, finally finished.
I would like to thanks,first of all, my wife Jana, after this experience she will never get a house with a garden. I had enough gardening!
ItaloFeregotto for his advice about colors, lights and shades, and figure painting. All the modeler had the patient to read this article, up to this point, without falling asleep. Myself, that with the excuse of the crypt arc, I had the opportunity to eat ½ kilogram of ice cream alone.
Cheers from Udine, Italy,
Construction, text, photogr aphs : Roberto Colaianni
( figure painting) Italo Feregotto
Translated by Kostantinos Kokkinooplitis – George Roumbos