Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Smuggler On Ice

Next to his throne, possibly one of the most important elements of a Jabba’s palace diorama would have to be the carbonite chamber environment. This was the place were Jabba hung one of his most prized trophies for all to see, the frozen body of the smuggler who had been a constant thorn in his side, Han Solo.

Anyway If you look online you will find that there seems to be no one definitive design for the carbonite environment. Every diorama is different. So I decided to pick a peg that would fit my display space best and decided to go with this one from Sideshow collectibles.

For the main construction material of the carbonite chamber environment I could’ve gone with my usual go to material, styrofoam. But this time around I decided to use something a little more sturdier in insulation foam boards. I’d never worked with them since they’re not readily available in our local hardware shops. I had to order them online. Still I wanted to try something new and they did seem to be the material of choice for most of the diorama tutorials I found online.

So the first step was to properly sketch out a plan and then plot it out on my foam board. Graphing paper is really useful for getting the right measurements.

The next step was to cut out the desired pieces and give them some texture. One cool trick I learned online was to use a rolled up ball of tinfoil to press against the foam surface. This basically broke up the smooth surfaces and sharp corners of the board to give it a more distressed textured look.

Once that was done, I proceeded with the actual construction which entailed cutting up the appropriate pieces and assembling them with the use of a glue gun and some toothpicks for some added stability.

I had to do some minor alterations on the fly to make it fit better in my display space. Since the display piece would be placed to the side of the throne facing it. I decided to tweak the design by removing the right wall making it more of an asymmetrical design. I figured I could always add on the missing side should I decide to in the future. The end result came out just a little different from my peg, but it worked better with my display space.

Next I used some joint compound which I sloppily slathered onto the surfaces with a putty knife (and an old cut up plastic card for the smaller spaces) to give it a stony look. Once it was slightly dry, I lightly dabbed the surface with a sponge to give it a more textured look. And this would’ve been enough honestly but I decided to do a little extra.

I wanted to give the surfaces an even sandier texture so I used...well sand. Fortunately, my friends who lived nearby gave me some sand from their kids’ sandbox. First I got some Elmers glue which I mixed with a little water to make it easier to brush onto the foam boards. Then I sprinkled sand onto the sticky surface, shaking off all the excess. In retrospect, I should have applied the glue sparingly and not completely coated the surface since the sandy layer basically covered up all the dried up joint compound. Oh well….

Once everything dried up, I used an old toothbrush to brush off more loose sand from the surface which revealed a little more of the uneven texture created by the joint compound beneath.

Next came the paint. While I originally wanted to use some white spray paint for the base color, I was worried that the paint would eat into the foam (which in retrospect seemed like an unwarranted worry since the foam was pretty much completely covered by a now solid layer of joint compound, glue and sand). In any case I went with an old fashioned brush. I had to work with paint heavily diluted in water in order for it to completely cover the uneven sandy surface.

Initially I went with my go to Tamiya flat white acrylic paint, but I quickly ran out using up all 3 bottles with still a lot of painting unfinished. Luckily I had a can of regular acrylic paint that we used for painting the walls in our house which also worked out fine. It was a little off white which worked perfectly.

Once the base coat was done, a proceeded with the actual coloring of the pieces. First a yellowish color, then a little brown...well you get the idea. It was really all trial and error for me until I got the shade/color I wanted.

And finally I finished it off with some darker details on the corners and edges that I softened with a dry brush.

The next element to work on was the control panel on the side. I already placed a provision for the lower portion of the panel, but the actual panel with the buttons presented more of a challenge.

I ended up using my air drying clay which I placed in a square mold that I constructed out of Lego pieces. For the buttons, I cut up little squares from an eraser.

For the wiring of the control panel, I just used some plastic coffee stirring sticks.

With everything ready, all I needed to do was paint everything (including the protruding details on the top) and then assemble and glue everything together. The painting was pretty basic. A black base coat and some silver dry brushing did the trick nicely.

And finally, my last challenge was to figure out how to attach the actual Han in carbonite onto the wall. The piece I got (nicely painted by Mr. Marvin del Cruz) was a reproduction cast in some very solid and weighty resin material. Unfortunately it had no holes drilled onto the back for mounting. And I wanted to mount it in a way that wasn’t permanent, so glue was out.

Luckily I had some velcro strips that I had lying around from a previous aborted project and they worked perfectly.

And with that I got the second element of my diorama done. One more element to go.