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Diorama: Tattoo Parlor 1944

Diorama: Tattoo Parlor 1944

Forum member RED recently shared his newest Diorama with us and once again he has set the bar high.  RED is known for his incredible story telling and creative outdoor Diorama’s,  however his newest Dio showcases a Tattoo Parlor set in 1944.  The Tattoo Parlor is a rare indoor Diorama and features a couple of Marines who are on leave.  The Fighting118th were in awe of RED’s latest work and a photo from the Tattoo Parlor recently won the August Banner Contest.   RED graciously took the time to answer a few questions about his latest award winning Diorama.

Question #1:  What was your inspiration for the Dio Set?

RED:  My Uncle ED.  He was in the Navy in the late 50s-early 60s.  He had a old school tattoo of a half naked sailor girl he got while on leave in Honolulu, HI.  I wanted to do a tattoo parlor dio and started looking on the Internet for some ideas.  While looking I came across some Sailor Jerry flash art.  I thought it would be cool to set up a troops on leave type diorama.  With all the great city/town dios by Med, Rick, and Fled, I just wanted to give it a try.  I have built a few buildings for dios in the past but nothing on the scale or talent that these gentlemen have been doing.  I also thought that a tattoo parlor dio would be new and different from the same old dios that I have done in the past.  As the dio started taken shape I started adding a little more of a personal touch to it.  The tattered U.S. flag came off the U.S.S. Tennessee (my home state) and the whiskey bottles are of my favorite brands. So I have to say that my inspiration on this dio would be my Uncle Eds tattoo and to build a really detailed diorama.

Question #2:  The Dio is loaded with individual pieces.  How many pieces are in the set and which one’s are your favorites?

RED: I’d say that there is around a 100 or more pieces in this dio. That’s counting everything, figures, trash, framed prints—everything.  My favorites would have to be the framed prints, pencil, custom Marines & Sailor, and the homemade whiskey bottles.

The framed prints were pretty easy to make.  They are nothing more than Sailor Jerry flash art printed out to what I thought looked right for 1:18 scale and glued to the plastic from blister packs for glass.  I then painted craft sticks black and glued them to the plastic for the frame.  This is pretty easy but time consuming.  The pencil is just a nail with the head cut off and painted to look like a pencil.  This was the first time I tried this and I think that it came out better than I thought it would.  I also think that it looks perfect just laying on the desk.

The custom Marines & Sailor were very time consuming as well.  The Marines are Men in Black figures with 21st Century Marine heads.  I custom made the neckties, tie clips, ribbons, shirt pockets, rank & division patches and painted.  The sailor is a G.I.Joe Shipwreck that has some modeling clay work and painted to look like a sailor in Navy winter blues.  I also added the uniform bow and patches.  It wasn’t that much custom work but I think it turned out to be a very sharp looking figure.  The whiskey bottles where home made using a power drill, wooden dow rods, files, and sandpaper.  I put the power drill into a vice and used it as a poor man’s lathe.  I turned and shaped the dow rods with the files and sandpaper to look like my favorite whiskey bottles. This technique worked great and I’m sure to use it more in the future. Sometimes the simplest of ideas work the best.

Question #3:  You said in the original thread that you spent about a month making the Dio.  How many hours did you spend on the Dio?

RED: That’s hard to say.  Maybe somewhere between 20 and 30 hours.  Dioramas don’t ever take me this long to do but I did this one a little at a time.  Usually I can set up a dio in a hour or two.  The problem now is I don’t have the time that I used to.  I started a new job on 3rd shift about a year ago and a month later my Daughter was born so that cut out all my dio making time.  I talked with forum member Rick about this and he gave me some advice on how he juggles work, family, and making dios.  He explained that he’ll set up a dio in his basement and work on it a little at a time.  15 minutes here 20 minutes there, just whenever you can have time and come back to it later.  It was hard for me at first because when I start something I like to finish it but it worked out pretty good for me in the long run.  So thanks Rick if your reading this.

There was a few times I went out to work on the dio but didn’t.  I would just look the dio over and think of anything that would look or work better.  I would have finished it sooner but I wanted to make sure it looked as good as I could get it.  This dio also took more time because I had to build and paint a lot that went into it.  I think that a lot of folks don’t realize how much time and effort that goes into some of the dios that Med, Rick, Fled, and others make.  Believe me when I say I do now and my hats off to these gentlemen.

Question #4:  Did you ever feel frustrated and wanted to quit working on the Dio and What was the most challenging part of the Dio?

RED: I felt more frustrated with this dio than I have with any other I have done but I never wanted to quit.  When setting up most dios outside you want it to look like a war zone.  So any and all mistakes/imperfections can be hidden and covered up easily. You can make the imperfection look like it had been hit during the fighting.  This technique doesn’t work at all when your dio is of a business that open to the public.  Any and all imperfections have to be fixed or covered up to make the dio look good and realistic.  I feel that if your going to put in the time and effort to make a dio, you should do it right.  I learned a lot from this dio, through trial & error and luck, mostly luck. The thing that frustrated me the most was the lack of real looking 1:18 scale diorama accessories out on the market.  Alot of stuff Id like to have used either doesnt exist, I couldn’t find it, or looks to toyish.  This by far has always frustrated me the most with any diorama.  I can honestly say that I have not made dios because of this.

The most challenging part of the dio was making alot of the accessories from scratch and making them look real.  This is also a very time consuming process and was about 75% of my time making this dio.  If not for the Indiana Jones freebies and the Pirates of the Caribbean weapons I wouldn’t have made this dio.  I just don’t feel I could have pulled it off without those accessories and that would have left to many to make.  I like to use whatever I can use in a dio that I don’t have to build.  So I keep everything odd because you don’t know when it might come in handy.

Question #5: You are most known for your epic outside Dios featuring WWII themes.  Is this indoor Dio a one time set or do you plan on making future Dios like this one.

RED: I plan on making more.  I used to go outside and set up these big dios but I just don’t have the time anymore.  Ill do the outside dios when I get a chance.  I also like how this dio came out and I plan on doing a series of dios of the two Marines on leave.  I have been working on a dio-story for a few years now with my 21st Century Marines.  Mostly staring Sgt.Digger McHugh.  I plan to make a few dios of him joining the Marines after hearing the news about Pearl Harbor and some others of this nature. I also have plans and building material for a troopship that I plan to make and do a series of out to sea/around the ship dioramas.  I need the troopship to fill in the gaps in my story because I have jumped around so much in my story that it just needs to be done.  So maybe one day Ill have this dio-story finished, but for now I have a lot of dios to make until then.

You can view and discuss the Diorama Here and Thank You RED for taking the time to complete this Q and A and for sharing your Diorama.

Below is one final quote from RED:

“Id like to give a big Thank You to Monkeywrench for his time with the Q&A and to the gang at the FIGHTING 1:18th. Yall have made me feel welcome and appreciated with my WW2 customs and dioramas. Thank yall so much.”

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About Tim Kraemer

Tim is a mook who likes to drink, play video games, and other stuff. He's Monkeywrench on our forums! Buy him a drink, friend for life!


  1. awesome work red…i look forward to your future dios

  2. Congrats RED!
    I’ve always aspired to have my work be as good as yours, and for my contest entry to rate highly alongside yours is a real honor for me.

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