easy display bases title
Easy Display Bases Part 1

How to create a display base from a piece of MDF, a pen, some acrylic paint and scenic scatter.

When I built my Antonov AN-124, it needed a display base for it to sit on, but I could not any that were big enough for it. So at one club night, Dave Scott brought in some 10mm MDF sheets of various sizes with the edges routered. One of these sheets was large enough to put my Antonov on, but it needed to be brought to life. Since that first one, I have been asked when I'm at shows how I created them . So this "How To" will give a step by step guide to creating an airfield display base that can be used in any scale.


I am afraid the photograph need to be done for this "How To". Sorry about this and I plan to have them up soon.

This method of display bases is easy, but you will need an airbrush for the detailing at the end. First take your sheet of MDF, it can be routered or not, and give it a rub over with some sandpaper. I then give it a quick coat Halfords car primer for a key base for the acrylic paint bite too. As most airfields have concrete aprons, I will recreate this style in this "How To". Firstly, I get some buff colour paint and brush paint this over the whole base and leave it to dry. If required, give it a second coat, but it does not matter if it is slightly patchy.
After leaving the buff paint to dry for a few hours, I next mix up some medium to light grey paint for airbrushing. Now airbrush the grey over the buff colour lightly until you get a concrete look to the base. Vary the amount of grey used in different areas over the buff, so that the buff shows through more in patches. If it is required, you could use a slightly darker shade of grey to add some more depth. When you are happy with this stage, leave the base to dry over night.
Now we start on the detailing of the base. What scale is your model and what do you want on your base? If you are having a grass verge, then decide on where it is going to be and draw a pencil line to denote where the grass meets the apron. I base my concrete sections on being 20 feet wide by 30 feet long. So from the verge line, I measure out the scale length for one of these sides across the base and pencil in the lines. Then with a square, draw a line at a right angle from the verge line and measure out the other scale length from this line and pencil them in. When you are happy with these, use an appropriate thick nibbed black drawing pen (must be waterproof ink) and go over these pencil lines with it. This is to represent the bitumen fill between the concrete sections.
If you are having them, paint the taxi lines on the apron. Masking tape can help with this to get the line straight and a constant width. But not all airfields will have these. Now it is time to weather the concrete sections using an airbrush with some dirt washes. My washes are usually made up from a mixture of Tamiya colours like black, browns and greys mixed with plenty of thinners/iso-alcohol. First I start with a brownish wash and airbrush randomly over each section to create a general weathered look. Once I am happy with this, I then start with a blackish brown wash and airbrush lightly around the edge of each section by the lines. You can also airbrush this colour in a few random areas on the concrete sections too. Once you are satisfied with what you have done, stop, you do not go over the top and spoilt it.
We are almost there now. If you are doing a grass area on the base, then give a coat of earth colour brown paint for an undercoat colour for the scatter. The scatter itself will be stuck down using white PVA glue and you could mix in some of the earth colour paint with this too. When creating the grass, use various grades and shades of grass scatter. The edge of the grass will normally be a lighter green and cut more regularly, so use a light to medium green finer grade scatter for this area first. As you move away from the edge, the grass gets more coarse and darker in colour. So the scatter to use in this area will be darker and a coarser grade. You can also use tree foliage scatter for areas of weeds and brambles, etc. Secure that scatter by giving it a light spraying of hairspray. Yes, I said hairspray!
For some final little details, other little touches can make a difference too. These include putting some cracks across the concrete sections using a narrow tip pen, similar to the one used for the bitumen lines earlier. Another thing is to add some grass growing through the bitumen and cracks. Do this by taking a cocktail stick with some PVA on it and run it along the line where required, then sprinkle some scatter over it.
If you are working in a larger scale, then before painting, you can carve out a patch or two to represent concrete that has started to break up with age and use. Then paint and weather as normal but make the bottom of these parts a little darker then the surrounding areas. Dirt will settle in these craters after it has rained and you could use some clear varnish to look like a puddle has formed.
Now go and enjoy yourself and create your own private bit of airfield.


© Copyright Michael Lomax
All images © Copyright H M Lomax
Page created 22/01/2012