A complete in depth guide into building an underground gold mine in miniature! 1:87th scale to be precise.
Building this diorama took quite a while but I enjoyed every minute of the build, all up I filmed 22 hours of footage over the course of 4 weeks and I managed to edit all of the raw footage into a 30 minute detailed tutorial.
The model measures 58cm tall by 73cm deep and has 40 extremely tiny 0.1mm warm white LED's and over 80 support beams throughout the mine tunnels. Details that have been added are various products from Woodland Scenics and Prieser which are two popular model railroad suppliers.
The main set of tools I used to build this diorama as easily as shown throughout the video was due to the use of the hot wire foam factory tools, they were sent to me to try out and my absolute honest review of these tools is a resounding thumbs up! I will be using these tools for heaps of future projects.
The foam I used is extruded polystyrene, it’s a fantastic material for model builders due to its versatility and strength, my model railroad layout that is currently being constructed is made using this foam.
The buildings on this model were cut using a cheap….ish… laser cutter from China, the model is called the GY-430 and you can find out more information on the laser cutting section of this website, if you want a more detailed look at how it works my previous video on building Moe’s Tavern shows how it’s used and the type of results you can expect.
I’m in the process of fine tuning the drawings I made for the laser cut buildings on this diorama and once I finish I’ll be posting them up on the laser cutting page so you can download the files for free.
I’d like to thank all of the Patron supporters of this website and YouTube channel for helping fund my projects, it makes a huge difference in my ability to be able to film and post videos so once again thank you. If you too would like to help support and fund the channel be sure to check out my Patreon page, there are some addition perks like early access to videos and a box of grass tufts depending the level of support you choose.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the tutorial :-)
As part of the mine shaft tutorial video I’ll be designing and building a whole bunch of mining structures and equipment to populate the mine. For most of these structures I’ll be using Corel DRAW x8 to design the buildings and I’ll then be using the GY430 Laser Cutter to create the necessary parts for assembly.
So far, I haven’t designed a whole lot however I have managed to design and cut the mine elevator structure, it was basically a test as a proof of concept and now I know it works and looks quite good I’ll be refining the design and adding the finer details to make it look even better.
The structure is about 99% laser cut with only a very small amount of styrene rod used to hold the large wheel atop the structure.
A variety of material was used, 3mm MDF makes up the main frame, 1.5mm pine plywood makes up the supports and cross beams, 1.0mm birch plywood makes up the decking on top of the structure and 0.5mm birch plywood makes the wheel at the top.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the wheel turned out, when I received the 0.5mm plywood I was amazed at how thin it actually was and was concerned about how much structural integrity it would have. It’s so thin that you can cut it with a pair of good scissors! Being able to cut it with scissors actually makes it very easy to work with especially when cutting sections to be placed in the laser cutter. The 0.5mm plywood even though it is very thin it has a good amount of structural integrity and not only that it is very flexible which will make it ideal for curved structures (something I’ll be experimenting with in the near future).
To give you an idea of scale, here is the elevator structure with a HO scale vehicle and a 2cm tall HO scale man standing next to the building.
Those two sheave wheels sitting in the back of the truck were also made on the laser cutter using 0.5mm birch plywood.
I will eventually be making the plans for this building and the smaller sheave wheels available to be downloaded on the laser cutting section of my website, I still plan to make some miner adjustments to the finished design so once they have been made and I’m happy with the final product I’ll make them available.
However, for those interested below are the current drawings so far for the structure:
Building Moe's Tavern from scratch using a $2200 laser cutter! Believe it or not but that is considered cheap compared to some that cost well over $10,000.
Building Moe's Tavern was a lot of fun, the hardest part of the entire process was actually designing the building on the computer.
I used a vector drawing program called CorelDRAW x8, it's very similar to another program I'm much more familiar with called Adobe Illustrator however there are just enough differences between the two programs that I had to watch an online learning course in order to understand the different functions.
Moe's Tavern is not the only design I've cut so far using the laser, I also recently cut and engraved a paint rack to hold all of my Vallejo paints. Laser cut paint racks are very popular in hobby shops so it's pretty cool to be able to design and cut my very own version to exactly suit my needs.
The possibilities are nearly endless with whats possible using a laser cutter, I have heaps of ideas and projects that I'll be working on in 2018 using this awesome laser cutter!
If you too are planning on buying your own laser cutter I strongly recommend doing your research before buying one from China, if you can afford it the brand name laser cutters are a much better first start however if budget is the limiting factor and you don't mind fixing small problems like mirror alignment or loose leveling beds then a cheap laser might just be a good fit.
Be sure to check the laser cutting section of this website if you want to find out more about laser cutting and if you want to download the free plans for cutting Moe's Tavern and the Paint Rack you'll find those plans HERE: LASER CUTTING PLANS
Buying the laser cutter:
Laser cutting has been around since the mid 60’s but it has only been in recent times that laser cutters for hobbyists have been accessible and affordable.
At the moment you can buy a cheap CO2 laser cutter from China for about $300 however for that price you’ll often be spending more time trying to get the thing to work rather than actually cutting stuff! That said… if you have the time and patience you can often take one of those cheap laser cutters and get them working quite well.
I have recently purchased a relatively cheap Chinese laser cutter from a local tool center here in Australia, it’s basically a cheap laser cutter from China however the store that had it imported completely set up the laser cutter and tuned it to make sure nothing was broken and that it’s working as best as it can.
The above images show early experiments in CO2 laser cutting research and one of the first 2 axis moving optics laser cutter.
In total I spent $2200 for a laser cutter that costs about $1600 direct from China.
What to cut:
The first building on the drawing board will be a familiar one to a lot of you, ‘Moe’s Tavern’ from the Simpsons. I’ve decided to build this building in HO scale because the Simpsons brings back some nostalgia and secondly it’s a nice simple structure with some points of interest that will be a good test for the laser cutter.
All of the initial structures I design will be made available on my website for you to freely download should you wish to have a go at doing some laser cutting once the tutorial video has been completed.
Another product I’ve recently discovered is a wood based material called ‘Task Board’ again it is sold through many hobby stores and it is also sold through Micro-Mark, it is sold in a wide variety of thicknesses and is described as
Very easy to cut and perfect for laser cutters
The big test will be with how well the task board handles the hot and humid conditions here in tropical far north Queensland! I guess only time will tell, I have a large batch of task board in a variety of thicknesses on its way also from Micro-Mark.
Below is an architectural model build using Taskboard and a laser cutter.
If you'd like to indirectly support what I do and you'd like to save some money be sure to have a look at Micro-Mark and when at the checkout use the promo code
'Boulder' to save 10%.
I shop at Micro-Mark for a lot of my tools and I also purchase many of my supplies there as well, the plywood and taskboard that I'll be using for this laser cutting tutorial has been purchased from Micro-Mark.
It's not too late to find the perfect Christmas gift and save some money at the same time :)