What has it got in its pocketses?” The sound came hissing louder and sharper, and as he looked towards it, to his alarm Bilbo now saw two small points of light peering at him. As suspicion grew in Gollum’s mind, the light of his eyes burnt with a pale flame.
-The Hobbit, Second Edition (1951), John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
This is, an unabashedly Tolkien loving household. We have art, Lego, toys, tattoos, all manner of things Tolkien. When we were in Oxford at the end of 2017, we were the first in line for lunch at the Eagle and Child pub and sat beneath the famed letter written by Tolkien and CS Lewis among others in the “Inklings” who used to gather there. This is a bit of a different “That’s no Train” post, as this mini-diorama using gaming miniatures was a Christmas Present for my wife, instead of something more to clutter my office and layout room. You can read about past “That’s No Train” projects here.
This is my second Lord of the Rings diorama made using gaming miniatures. I previously did the Bridge of Khazad-dum with Gandalf and the Balrog. For this, I was in Meeplemart last summer, a board gaming store on Spadina Avenue here in Toronto. I was in picking up some paints and supplies, and I started looking at the LOTR gaming miniatures. I saw the Games Workshop Middle-Earth set of Bilbo and Gollum and the “Riddles in the Dark” scene where Bilbo, having found the ring, has to outwit its previous owner Gollum to save himself and escape and find the company of dwarves escaping from the Great Goblin beneath the Misty Mountains. The figures are very simple, basically they need cleaning up from the sprues, and painting. I tried something new to me, as I am learning more about painting figures. The black helps to pre-shadow them so that when detailed colour is added, they naturally have shadows and shading. The final thing I tried, was to apply a light reactive luminescent paint to Bilbos sword Sting. We bought this for a 3D printed light switch plate for the Doors of Durin from Moria a couple of years ago. I figured a little bit on the blade and it might just glimmer in the dark at the end of the day.
Painting figures. Trying something new with black primer. Helps pre shade the figures. Also used a luminescent paint that glows in the dark for Sting. We have it for a Doors of Durin light switch cover we have never gotten installed!
With the figures done, that meant I could focus on how to build a diorama to display them. Thanks to sites like Etsy, people sell all kinds of things. I was able to find a 3D printed bowl, in gold that was the One Ring. This would be the perfect base, Bilbo and Gollum having their meeting inside the ring they traded riddles over. Once the ring arrived, it was clearly too deep. Using the leftover insulating foam I used on the layout, I cut out a circle and filled it. Using off cuts, I made a base for the figures and a depression for the dark lake beneath the mountain. I had rock casting molds from doing my previous LOTR diorama, so once I cast a bunch up, I worked them into a look I liked, and glued them in place, I filled the lake area with plaster sheet to ensure it was water tight for pouring, and painted. I again used the black primer, so I could tone and tint the stone with a variety of thinned grey and brown paints until I was happy with the look. The last challenge was pouring water. I have tried this precisely once before in my life, and it was a disaster. Back in University for a design studio model, I tried to pour water. I was using the old Woodland Scenic pellets that you melted on the stove and poured. I swore to never do water again after that experience. 20+ years on, it seemed an unreasonable phobia to continue to hold. I spent a fair amount of time looking for something that was the right balance of cost effective, and seemingly easy to use. I settled on the Vallejo “Still Water”. It can be tinted with paint, and is poured in thin layers that take 24 hours to cure. After I bought it, I made a mini box, and painted it black like the diorama, and started messing around with tinting and pouring layers. My test pours worked well, so I moved on to pouring in the diorama. First layers tinted black, then murky greys, and the final pour was clear. I think to build up the depth I needed I did four pours before installing Gollum’s raft, then one final clear pour to sink it into the water.
Building a base inside a 3D print of the one ring. Using leftover insulation from the layout for a base, then resin rock castings, and finally after paint, pouring water.
With everything painted, I determined where Bilbo and Gollum would be standing, and proceeded to drill holes in their base to go into holes drilled in the rock, and glued them in. I decided since this was going to be a Christmas Present, it needed a display case. I found a round base and globe just big enough, and the box provided a convenient way to wrap the present too. Yes, I broke our house rules on presents for each other in that it didn’t fit inside our Christmas stockings, but oh well, I think it was worth it! We managed to find the perfect lamp as well for it after Christmas, and now its going to live in the corner of our living room!
All done but putting it in a globe, wrapped and under the tree (its the biggest one at the back), and beneath the new display lamp we got for it in out living room.
With that, another non-train project is checked off my list. Getting the number of these in the house down perilously close to zero , and thus far, inspiration on others is not striking, which is good, keep me focused on the layout!