How to Build Your Own Submarine-in-a-Bottle Diorama

Like dioramas? Then you'll love this submarine-in-a-bottle.
Christopher McFadden

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Who doesn't like a good diorama? We here at IE certainly do, and this example is an absolute beauty.

This submarine-in-a-bottle is a great project to attempt if you are new to the field of DIY-dioramas. So, why not have a go at making your own version? 

This particular example comes courtesy of 4THECRAFT

Of course, as you'd expect, you'll need some stuff in order to make a similar diorama for yourself.

diy dub diorama finished
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

We have included links to some of the products in case you need to buy them: 

With all your materials in hand, it is time to crack on with the build. 

The first stage, and also the most fun, is to prepare your model. It is advised that you remove it from the sprue in this case. 

You could paint the model on the sprue, but your delicate paintwork might get damaged with some of the later steps. The choice is yours.

With the model off the sprue, fill the model's cavity with ball bearings and fix in place with a UV resin and sand mixture. Do this for both halves of the model (if applicable).

diy sub model ballast
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

This is to add ballast to the model so that it doesn't float when placed inside the resin later. Use your UV resin curing lamp to fix the resin.

Be sure to not overfill either half as the model will need to be assembled as normal afterwards. 

diy sub diorama ballast 1
Complete for both sides. Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Now assemble the main body and other details, of the model as normal. Leave the periscope off, for now, we will be adding that later. 

Use either polystyrene cement, or other adhesive to glue the pieces together and hold the model in place using modeling clamps. You could also use rubber bands.

diy sub diorama clamps
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Once the glue has cured, it is time to paint your model submarine. You can do this by hand, but it is highly recommended you use, and learn use, an airbrush

That being said, the pros and cons of either technique can be a matter of opinion. 

This will provide a nice clean, and uniform, paint cover for the model. Go into as much detail as you feel necessary for the model. 

diy sub diorama airbrush
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Handpaint any fine details (like the propellers, etc),  and add any transfers as required (or hand paint decals). 

diy sub diorama fine detail
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Now to make the torpedoes. Grab some toothpicks, a file down the sharp ends to shape then cut to size. You will need two of these. 

Watch the video if you need more guidance on this part. 

Once complete, paint them black. You can add other fine detail if desired. Now grab the clear and white UV resin.

Create a strip of clear UV resin on a non-adhesive surface like a glass plate. Using another toothpick, dip, and add spots of white resin into the clear resin to replicate wakes for the torpedoes. 

diy sub diorama torpedo turbulence
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Again you will need to do this for both torpedoes. Once complete, add the toothpick torpedoes and cure the resin using your UV lamp.

Glue them to the torpedo tubes at the front of the submarine model. You might also want to make some shorter wakes for the submarine's propellers too. 

diy sub diorama torps
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

With the submarine model complete. It is time to turn out attention to the main diorama.

For this model, the creator decided to add a sandy bottom. To do this, rather than using natural sand (which is hard to lathe), they opted for semolina. 

Mix this with resin and pour it into the base of a bottle mold, as shown in the video. 

diy sub diorama sandy bottom
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Add some other details like pebbles, or seaweed, etc as desired. You can let your imagination run riot on this stage, but don't go OTT -- the main focal point of the diorama is the submarine after all. 

Once complete, use your UV light to cure the resin once again. 

diy sub diorama sub bottom
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Once cured, pour a layer of clear UV resin on top of the sandy bottom to about halfway up the bottle base. 

Place the submarine model in the location desired and hold in place using some form of a clamp (so that it doesn't move). Then add more clear resin to "submerge" the sub-model, and let cure for 72 hours

sub diorama in place
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Once cured, use a belt sander to texturize the top layer. You are attempting to replicate waves at this stage.  

Make sure you were appropriate RPE when doing this! Watch the video for more details on this phase.

diy sub diomama waves
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Now take the gloss gel medium and stipple all over the surface of the "sea". Once cured, this will make the water surface look choppy. 

diy sub sea surface
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Now grab some blue acrylic paint, and highlight the sea ripples. Use a dry brushing technique to do this more effectively. You will want to transition from dark blue to light to give the sea surface the appearance of depth. 

Then using a fine detail brush and white paint, highlight the wave crests and any other details as shown in the video. 

diy sub diorama waves
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Once complete, unless you have already done so, add the periscope so that it is poking out of the sea's surface. You can use some UV resin and the UV lamp to do this. 

Once complete, now remove the bottle mold, and place the entire resin block into a larger box mold ready to receive the final layer of clear resin. You may want to add a wooden block to the ends of the bottle to make it easier for the entire piece to be placed in a lathe later on. 

Submerge the entire piece in clear resin and wait 72 hours for it to cure completely. 

diy sub diorama final resin layer
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Next, break the diorama out of its mold, and sketch out a rough bottle shape on the outside.  Place into your lathe, and cut the resin block into your bottle shape.

This may take some trial and error, but don't be afraid to make some mistakes. 

diy sub diorama lathe
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

 With your bottle shape finished, grab some sandpaper and polish the entire surface of your resin "bottle". Take your time with this stage, and enjoy the process. 

diy sub diorama form bottle
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

You may want to backlight the bottle at this stage to check the degree of polishing that is needed. Once complete, cut off the wooden top and bottom using something like a table saw.

Sand down the top and bottom using wet sandpaper. 

diy sub diorama sand down
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Now, grab your graph paper, place the base of the bottle onto it, and mark out the bottle's perimeter. This will form the basis of your diorama's base supports. 

 Sketch out the design of the bottle supports, cut them out, and mark out onto some chipboard. Then cut them out using a jigsaw or table saw. 

diy sub diorama support struts
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Next, grab your model base and glue the struts into place. Then paint the entire base and support struts once the glue is dry. 

Varnish, if required.

diy sub diorama base
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

When the paint and varnish are dry, cut out thin strips of adhesive-backed felt and adhere to the tops of the support struts. 

These will help protect you carefully-crafted sub-in-a-bottle. The last stage is to glue a used bottle cap to the top of your resin bottle's neck, wait for it to dry, and place it on top of your beautiful base. 

diy sub diorama cap
Source: 4THECRAFT/YouTube

Now, simply place the diorama somewhere prominent in your house and take pride in your work!

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