Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gang Hang Style

With Jabba’s throne and carbonite chamber environment done, I set off to do the final elements of my Hutt palace diorama which were comprised of the main arched back wall, the steps on both sides of the throne and a main background piece to add a little more depth and cohesion to all the separate elements of the display.

Anyway the construction process of these elements wasn’t really that much different from the carbonite chamber environment. The base material for the majority of the parts would still be my foam boards, with the exception of the main background which was a thinner sheet of styrofoam, with everything coated with joint compound, watered down glue and sand.

In fact, the actual construction would be a lot less involved than the carbonite chamber. The biggest challenge for me would be how to create the etchings that lined the actual arch.

Just like the carbonite chamber, there are many variations of these etchings that can be found online. I decided to use the design that came with the Black Series SDCC version of Jabba as my peg. But whereas the SDCC version made it look like the etchings were painted on the wall, I wanted mine to look like it was carved out of the stone wall.

So first thing’s first, I uses a marker to draw out the etchings on my board. And then I used a soldering pen to actually carve out the design.

Now when fully heated, the soldering pen will easily melt through the board like it were soft butter. So I only had to keep the pen plugged for a few minutes. And even unplugged, it remained hot enough to easily carve out the foam for a considerable amount of time.

Even with some practice sessions on a discarded piece of foam under my belt, it was still a chore to keep the pen from burning off too much foam. But I eventually managed.

Still it wasn’t perfect since the soldering pen tip was pointed, it was very difficult to keep the etchings level and shallow. So I resorted to using some more air drying clay to fill in the etchings a little bit.

Once that was done, all that was left to do was to lay down the joint compound paying very careful attention to not fill in the etchings. I had to use cotton buds to continually wipe off any stray compound, just to make sure the etchings weren’t covered up.

I also applied the watered down glue and sand onto the arch and around the etchings separately.

With the etchings somewhat preserved, the application rest of the glue/sand layer was easy enough.

After that came the paint, same process as the carbon chamber environment, watered down light base coat followed by the rest of the colors and detailing and highlights. To make them stand out more, I applied some reddish brown paint onto the etchings, and that was it.

The steps were even more straightforward. The main challenge here was making them big enough to serve a functional purpose as a tiered display for figures but still fit in my limited display space. 

For the main background piece, I wanted to add some ventilation portholes that can be found in some shots of the palace. For the portholes I used two plastic bottle covers, a few more stirring sticks for the horizontal bars and some masking tape to hold everything in place.

Once the portholes were painted up, I just placed them in the styrofoam board and proceeded to slather the joint compound, sand and paint around them.

Finally, one last element I wanted to add to my diorama was the large leaf that was being used by a jawa to fan Jabba from behind.

I wanted to keep the leaf’s construction simple but sturdy. I decided to use some thin bendable wire for the “skeleton” of the leaf. But when I went to the hardware store, I found an even better alternative in some garden ties. Essentially they were thin bendy wire but coated with some plastic.

So basically what I did was cut out 7 pieces of the wire and twisted them together to form the stem of the leaf and have them break out at the top to form the 7 branches.

I then covered the stem and 7 branches with paper tape (similar to masking tape). With that done all I had to do was cut out the actual leaf.

Finally, I used a dry pen tip to to bring out more details by firmly pressing the tape against the wire to make the wiring show as well scratch out more “veins”.

With all that done all the was left to do was give it some paint and it was good to go.

And so there you go. With all the elements done, all that was left to do was put everything together. Admittedly, it’s not 100% screen accurate (yes I know the carbonite chamber was actually to the right of Jabba’s throne), but it’s close enough given the space limitations I was working with.

I know that there are still a couple of key characters that are still missing. But I'll deal with them at another time.

As for now I finally have a proper place for my intergalactic crime lord and his gang to hang in style.