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:
Making a mine shaft at first seemed pretty easy.... "Famous last words!" It's actually quite a process and I've had to do a lot of brainstorming and experimenting to get everything to work.
My first problem was carving out the mine shaft itself, my initial thoughts were to simply use a sharp hobby knife and rasp to slowly hack away until I had the depth and shape I needed! This is what has held me back from actually starting the project when I first envisioned this diorama over 12 months ago. The people over at the foam factory got in touch with me and asked me to have a look at their range of tools, I immediately fell in love with the foam router tool and knew this mine video would be the perfect fit and there isn't a more perfect tool for the job!
I also got the foam sled tool as well which makes getting the perfect angle and depth a breeze, these tools were sent to me for use in my scenery videos but to give you my honest review of the tools I've used so far I can say they are awesome! I'll definitely be personally buying additional add-ons from them in the future and you'll see in the next upcoming video just how useful and versatile the tools actually are.
Another problem I ran into whilst planning the video was how to line the interior of the mine shaft? I did some testing by simply pasting plaster onto the internal walls and adding texture however after looking at prototype photos I discovered the interior of most mines is very rocky. So I decided to attempt to do a similar process of pasting plaster over the interior walls and with a sculpting tool I then attempted to carve the rocks... Needless to say my results were average at best!
The rocks were perfect, they had large flat sides with just enough detail to make for a good mine interior wall.
After applying 6 thick coats of latex rubber and allowing the latex to dry between coats (Which took ages given that I'm living in a very humid climate!) the molds were then peeled off and some test molds were done using plaster of paris. These rocks are perfect because they are flat and I can carve them to shape so they fit perfectly inside the mine shaft.
As for people to populate the mine, I've picked up a couple of different types, I have some Woodland Scenics Masonry Workmen as well as some Preiser figures as well. The Preiser figures are unpainted so I'll need to sit down and give them a bit of color.
For the most part I have everything I need to complete the video however whilst I was doing some testing on painting the rocks I decided to use the leopard spotting technique using the Woodland Scenics Liquid Pigments... The only problem is I do not have any pigments so they are currently enroute to my house! I expect to have them in about 4 days so it looks like I won't be able to get this video done for a least another week!
It should be a pretty exciting video and I think it will be worth the wait.
I've recently started working on the next video, basically it is going to be an old gold mine diorama. I know what you're thinking... That's pretty boring because all we'll see is a hole in the side of a mountain...
However! It's going to be built as a cross section diorama so you'll be able to see all the tunnels and interior of the mine as if the earth has been sliced away revealing the internal structure.
As you can see from the image above, I've been doing a few test on creating the dirt/rock structure inside the mine shaft. I've decided to line the interior walls with rock castings using some of the Woodland Scenics rock molds and then blend the joins with some plaster of paris or a similar product.
The foam I'm using is foam insulation board (Extruded Polystyrene) most commonly used for as the name suggests 'insulation' but it makes for great diorama bases and I've used it as the main base for my model railway layout. It's very versatile and strong yet lightweight which is perfect for portable train layouts.
As for lighting I'll be adding small LED lights along the malls to illuminate the inside of the mine, I'm not sure what LED's I'll be using just yet? I may use the Woodland Scenics Just Plug lights or depending on price I might just order some micro LED's and wire them up myself... I do plan on using quite a lot of LED's so I'll more than likely wire them myself and power them with a portable battery mounted in the back of the model.
Filming has commenced and I'm just waiting on some extra rock molds to arrive and a few small HO scale mining figures that will be working in the mine once it's finished.
Stay tuned :)
If you're planning on adding a water scene to your layout or diorama then you'll certainly be interested in watching this tutorial. It's full of tips, tricks and techniques that will help you get the best result you can when it comes time to modeling your own water scene.
It's quite a long tutorial... It's the longest tutorial I've filmed so far but when it comes to modeling rivers it's something I don't want to just breeze over, rivers can be easy to mess up so I've made sure to give you all you need to know in order to successfully model your very own river scene.
Getting a good rippling effect can also take some practice when using the airbrush technique, so that is another reason to do a small test piece first. The good news about the ripple effect when using Mod Podge is that if you aren't happy with result the Mod Podge will easily peel away from the resin once it has dried.
Hope you enjoy the video and if you too have some tips or techniques feel free to share them in the comments.
P.S. Just to remind those who are new here, if you shop at Micro-Mark to buy hobby supplies, tools and materials you can use the promo code 'boulder' and that will take 10% of the price of your cart when you check out.