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Jonas Dahlberg’s dramatic dioramas

Builds that tell a story
In the September 2018 FineScale Modeler Jonas Dahlberg explains, step-by-step, how he built his 1/35 scale vignette Luftangriff! (Air Raid!)
Great skill results in great scale models — but an effective diorama heightens realism in a way the model alone cannot achieve. Displaying a figure with the model helps define scale; a diorama showing it in a real (or even imagined) world gives a model a greater reason to exist.

The best dioramas tell a story, making us marvel or want to know more about them. Composition is key; positioning the elements of a diorama is crucial to conveying a story to the viewer.

One of the best ways to elevate models and figures above the static — in other words, to bring them to life — is to slip the surly bonds of gravity and break the horizontal plane of a display base. This is also one of the greatest challenges to the builder.

In the September 2018 FineScale Modeler, Jonas Dahlberg’s 1/35 scale Luftangriff! (Air Raid!) certainly breaks the plane (although you could say it’s the other way around, with a plane breaking the three-story building). As the following examples show, it’s something at which Jonas excels.

Watch for more of his amazing works in future issues of FSM.

“Time” — Present-day Europe

Stratus symbols? Jonas’s multilevel diorama represents “a fictitious archeological dig,” he says.

“I hope you ask yourself the question I asked myself: What will you leave behind?”

A layer by layer description, from the bottom:
  • Layer 1 features a dinosaur skeleton embedded in rock.
  • Layer 2 shows the remains of a Roman city.
  • Layer 3, the remains of a 17th-century battle.
  • Between layers 3 and 4, remains of a World War I trench are visible. 
  • Layer 4 is present-day garbage. 
Among the artifacts are resin bits from Verlinden (including the bathtub). The VW is a Type 87 from Italeri, and the dinosaur a velociraptor from Lindberg which, Jonas says, “I was more than happy to bury.”

Painting begins with various pre-shades of gray …
… followed by earth tones.
End of the line for this blue Beetle.
You could say this archeologist really digs his work. The figure come’s from Preiser’s “People Working” line.
“Wo bist du volk?” Somewhere in Germany, 1945

Where are you people? shows a mother, sister, and boy taking a postwar dip. The female figures are from Verlinden; the boy is from a forgotten past. Jonas added interior detail to a Dragon Panther so he could leave the hatch open.
The water enclosure is polycarbonate plastic (Lexan, or acrylic sheet).
Thinking ahead, Jonas accounted for the water level as he painted the tank.
The “water” surface is transparent “Calm Water” styrene sheet from Plastruct. Jonas used Woodland Water Effects as an adhesive and to fill gaps. “It was a straightforward build except getting the water inside the tank at the right level,” he says.
Finders, Keepers: PzKpfw 38(t), Ukraine, 1961

“Modeling an abandoned German PzKpfw 38(t) left to rot in a Ukrainian forest was a fun build, although quite simple,” Jonas says. He built the pine tree by gluing arborvitae branches to a tapered wooden dowel.

Parts of various kits, photo-etch, and styrene stock are built up to show a knocked-out vestige of yesteryear. Jonas installed an interior from a Dragon Wespe in Tristar’s PzKpfw 38(t) and added aluminum-foil fenders and PE bits from various kits.
“It is a superdetailed wreck painted in various acrylic rust colors, pigments, and oils,” Jonas says.
Under the ice, Finland, February 1940

Jonas writes: “The “Winter War” started when the Soviet Union attacked Finland on November 30, 1939, three months after the start of World War II. Soviet leader Josef Stalin had expected to conquer the whole country by the end of 1939, but Finnish resistance frustrated the Soviet forces, which outnumbered the Finns 4:1 in men, 100:1 in tanks, and 30:1 in aircraft. The Finns fought with great courage and determination, but after a couple of months their army was worn out by the sheer mass of Soviet forces attacking them.

“This diorama shows Russian soldiers (figures from Evolution) attacking across the ice of an unknown lake in Finland, unaware that the same lake was fought over a couple of months earlier.”

“The water is plastic card,” Jonas says, “and the ice is a 1:2 mix of candle wax and paraffin. Snow is Noch Schnee.”
“BA-3 (Russian: Broneavtomobil 3) was a heavy armored car developed in the Soviet Union in 1933, followed by a slightly changed model BA-6 in 1936. The BA-3 is from Zvezda with a lot of scratchbuilt details.”
Enduring Freedom

Urban living is not a convenience in Baghdad.

Central to the 1/35 scale vignette are MiniArt’s T-55 (with a scratchbuilt interior) and Diopark’s Mercedes-Benz. Resin and plastic figures were deployed from Jonas’ spares.
Jonas says, “The bridge was cast in plaster with homemade molds. Wire was inserted before the plaster set. When it was dry, I smashed it with a hammer and chisel. A mess, but it looked good.”
(Re)discovery of Kronan, south of Öland, August 1980

Jonas writes: “Designed by English shipwright Francis Sheldon, Kronan was one of the largest ships of its time — 53 meters long and 14 meters wide, with 126 cannons on three gun decks. On July 1, 1676, she was south of Öland, Sweden, in a ferocious battle against a Danish-Dutch fleet under Adm. Niels Juel. In the heat of battle, Lorents Creutz, commander of the Swedish navy, hastily ordered Kronan to turn without the usual preparations of lowering sails and closing cannon ports. During the turn, the ship took on water and started to list, then suddenly exploded and sank, taking more than 800 hands with her, including Creutz. Only 42 of the crew survived.”
The base is scratchbuilt from foam board, wood, and Celluclay. The gun barrel comes from a 1/32 scale “English Civil War Cannon” by A Call to Arms. The wreckage, as well as the cannon’s wooden carriage, are scratchbuilt from balsa and pine. Rivets are from Calibre 35. Accessories such as the chain, bottle, and skull, are from different Historex and Hornet 1/35 scale accessory sets.
The figure is derived from Italeri’s 1/35 scale S.L.C. 200 “Maiale” torpedo kit with scratchbuilt fins, mask, oxygen tanks, and hoses.

Jonas supplies the following notes:
  1. “A cannon standing upright on the bottom, like this one, would have been salvaged within a couple of years after the sinking. However, in a diorama such as this, it’s more fun to show the cannon than having it obscured by mud.
  2. “The depth in the diorama is only 13 scale meters compared to the actual depth of 26 meters. 
  3. “Topside, there is a scratchbuilt seagull (not shown). His name is Stellan.”

Meet Jonas Dahlberg

Jonas, 43, of Stockholm, Sweden, returned to scale modeling 14 years ago and found a new world of aftermarket accessories, multimedia kits, photo-etch, and figures. He says, ”I read a lot of military history and have a certain respect for it. I´m not a rivet counter, but I do think it is important to make my scenes as historically accurate as possible. Everything I build starts as a model and ends as a diorama. I just can´t help it; I can´t resist telling a good story.”


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