Building a Race Course!

I am really excited to be getting so close to finished on my race horse diorama. I am also excited that I haven’t gotten too terribly distracted during the process (at least, not by other pony-projects). This post is a review of how I did the base, complete with tote board, finish line, rail fence, and footing.

First step was to find a suitable base. I was lucky to have one handy in my box of supplies. I got this secondhand, probably at a garage sale or thrift store. I always snag super-useful things like nice wood bases if I can find them on the cheap. These are often available in craft stores, but the cheap skate in me balks at paying $6-$10 for a piece of wood, however nicely shaped.

I used a dremel to make these holes. I don’t have a drill, and a dremel makes a decent substitute for small scale projects. You can see I had to get a little creative for my finish line hole the correct size.

I first planned the base out and drew guidelines with pencils. Planning the size of the rail fence and spacing between posts was crucial, since I needed to drill holes to “plant” the posts. Similarly, I measured out where I wanted each horse. Their acrylic rod supports will be similarly planted.

I decided to build the rail fence right onto the base instead of building it and then attaching it. I hope this will make it sturdier and my measurements will remain more accurate with less option for error. For each post I inserted my square wood dowel firmly into the hole and then measured to the correct height (see the pen mark). Then I pulled it out, cut it, and stuck it back in. Voila, posts!

Mini safety pins are invaluable for model tack and props. I only wish I had more of them.

To make the top of the rail fence I simply cut a piece of the correct length (and double checked the length). Then I carefully glued it to the posts, trying to keep them as straight as possible. Then I clipped them to keep them in position while the glue sets.

Making the finish line pole was a careful balance between creativity and realism. Most poles have some decoration on top, but some of the examples I found were too elaborate for the scale or simply unattractive or impractical. I looked a a bunch and then designed my own, while is simply a wooden pyramid that will be painted red and gold. I made it by using ever-smaller pieces of balsa wood stacked and sanded. That top piece was very pesky- it’s about 3 mm long and easy to drop or loose. Or inhale.

Along the bottom are marks to remind me how much of the pole will be buried in the base (bottom), and where the rail fence comes to. In between the two I mounted a flat piece of foot that mimics a finish line’s camera.

The rail fence has been glued into the base with wood glue. The tote board and finish line are propped there, and all three are painted white as a base.

Before gluing the finish line in, I painted on the itty bitty details. Meanwhile, the fence and base get more paint.

Tote board and finish line are attached, painting continues. It starting to look like a race track!

As with the finish line, I didn’t want to have to do tricksy detail on the tote board while it was glued vertically into the base. Once I made sure everything was the right size, I used that every-useful modge podge to attach the printed tote board picture to the wooden base.

Planting grass seed

Over the painted base I’m gluing footing. The “grass” I’m using is Woodland Scenics dark green turf (fine, not coarse). It’s messy and sort of annoying to work with, but has a lovely effect. I hadn’t used it since my last diorama and didn’t remember the technique. I tried laying down glue and then scattering the turf, which is pretty ineffectual. What worked for me was laying down more glue with more turf, and then pressing it down with my finger. It looked kind of bad at first, but remember that glue dries clear! In the picture at right, the bottom right corner is where I used my improved technique, and the other areas are where I tried to simply scatter the grass.

For added detail (and because I have a TON of faux shrubbery) I planted bushes along the edge of the track. I simply lay down tacky glue and pressed my formed bushes down firmly on top.

Voila! Bushes.

I need to wait a bit before I can put down the track footing, because I used apoxie to fit each horse’s acrylic rod to the dremeled hole and it needs to dry. The track will be done in much the same manner as the grass, only I’ll use sand or another “dirt” base. I still need to decide if I’ll be permanently attaching the horses to the base or not. That would mean finishing up jockeys and bridles. Coming right up!

2 responses to “Building a Race Course!

  1. That’s looking really super so far!

    I don’t know what track condition you have in mind, but if you have a fast/dry track, I have a tip for you: to make dust clouds, get some cotton wool and dye it dirt colored (some watery acrylic paint will probably do it), then tease it apart a bit to make it look wispy and glue it down at the right place for where it got kicked up by the horses. Voila! Dust clouds :)

    • Great idea! My tote board specifies that the track is fast, so I’d better make some dust. I will definitely try with the cotton. I’ve heard that dog hair works too…

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