Sunday, April 22, 2018

Aircraft Runway Shelf Display

I like being able to display or photograph toys in a cool way but it's been quite a while since I've done any kind of display or diorama. An airfield type setting has always been high on my 'really wanna do' list but...

Okay, so this year I said to myself, "Self!" I said, "Get off your behind and get sumthin' done!" Well, that was a lot easier said than done, with what little time I have being devoted to either getting stuff ready to list on eBay (seller: marxtoynut) or just takin' pics for the blog, but with a little creative schedule re-arranging I managed to get a heckuva good start on a display shelf.

Most shelving systems which use standards (the vertical pieces which mount to the wall) and brackets (the arms upon which the shelves rest) only accommodate 12" (30.48cm) deep shelves - not good enough. The solution lie with closet shelving utilizing brackets which accommodate at least 20" (50.8cm) deep shelves. Starting in January the old shelves were pulled down, the holes filled with spackling, and white touch-up paint applied to the wall and new standards and brackets installed. Next, a 20" (30.48cm) x  96" (2.44m) wooden shelf was painted with custom mixed paints from Lowe's. I opted for a dark gray runway with a concrete colored tarmac. The 'concrete' closely resembles Woodland Scenics concrete scenery paint which is more of a tan than it is a gray. To be sure these are not realistic scale colors for a runway diorama. A scale runway diorama would feature a series of light--to-medium gray tones with weathering done in a variety of white/gray/black tones. The reasoning behind this color choice is simple: I'll be displaying and photographing toy planes in a variety of bright, cheerful colors, and the dark gray/tan scheme serves as a nice contrast to the toys.

I knew there wouldn't be much room for a full-blown runway so it is only minimally represented with the tarmac taking up most of the shelf depth. That also allows for hangars to be positioned with airplanes posed in front of them. The runway is 6" (15.24cm) deep with a black border drawn in using a Sharpie felt-tipped marker. The expansion lines are in a 4" (10.16cm) square pattern drawn in using a very fine tipped Sharpie marker.

The new standards and brackets in place and the 20" x 96" shelf painted and installed

The 4" square grid is evident in this photo

The backdrop consists of four pieces of sky blue foamcore cut to fit under the shelf above. The board rests behind the shelf and sits atop the brackets. It is also notched to allow it to clear the brackets above. The segments are joined using foamcore splice plates glued behind

The backdrop in place behind the shelf

Some initial photos of hangars and planes already featured here on Toys and Stuff

Detailing the backdrop is going to take a lot of work. Simply gluing on hangars and other buildings and/or details won't allow for flexibility. What if I want to do a civilian airport theme and I have military hangars permanently glued to the back? or vice versa

Right now I'm leaning towards using a modular concept for the details. The next few photos show a 'proof' of concept' attempt. The photo of the hangar was taken during one of the Aviation Nation Air Show events at Nellis AFB. 

I did some Photoshopping to remove most unwanted details but I need to do more. The pic was printed out on  Legal size cardstock (8.5" x 14"), glued to a piece of matching blue foamcore, and a scrap piece of cardstock glued to the backside to serve as means to hold the picture up while it rests behind the shelf. 

A quick treatment in Photoshop will take away the lines visible on the foamcore

The following photos have all been Photoshopped to remove the lines in the foamcore

Well, that's it for now. I hope you liked this little project and I'm anxious to get more done. Airfields can be busy places and there's a lot more details that can potentially be added all of which I am 
s-l-o-w-l-y  working on. Again - Enjoy!


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    1. Thanx Greg! I can do some things in Photoshop - others give me no end of grief :-) I use the 'Clone Stamp' tool religiously and call it my 'dusting tool', because it gets used a lot to take out dust flecks on dark colored toys. With a little practice and a lot of patience, it's good at 'erasing' unwanted details, like the halogen lights I need to get rid of in the hangar photo above.

  2. Brilliant idea . . .and working well! Clever.