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Modeling & Historical Notes Modeling Water Header Image

Modeling Water

By Rolf Mitchel, Las Cruces, NM

Many collectors like to display their models in the realistic setting of water. Below are some suggestions on how to do this.

Construction of a Water Diaorama Base For Waterline Models

Materials needed:

  • 3/8″ plywood
  • 5/8″ wide molding
  • 1/8″ or 1/4″ think “Blue Flemish” or “Blue” DP32″ acrylic
  • plastic sheeting
  • Household grade aluminum foil
  • Single of double strength glass for cover (optional)


  • Cut 3/8″ plywood to appropriate size to accommodate diorama.
  • Cut molding at 45 degree mitre to appropriate length to surround plywood base.
  • Attach molding to plywood with carpenter’s glue and/or finishing nails.
  • Apply appropriate finish to molding if desired.
  • Cut aluminum foil to size to fit onto plywood base.
  • If relatively calm seas are to be depicted, leave aluminum foil smooth.
  • If seas with whitecaps are to be depicted, wrinkle aluminum foil.
  • Cut acrylic sheeting 1/2″ shorter and narrower than the plywood base.
  • Place aluminum foil dull side up onto plastic bases inside molding.
  • Cut acrylic sheeting over aluminum foil on plywood base so as to leave 1/4″ groove all the way around the edge of the diorama. This will accommodate the glass cover if desired.
  • If a cover is desired, make it out of the single or double strength glass and place into groves around diorama.
  • Note: Use of “Blue Flemish” or “Blue DO-32 acrylic plastic sheeting is recommended Because it is not transparent, has a wavy surface and most closely resembles a Surface of water. 1/4” think plastic gives the appearance of deeper water. Photos of Dioramas can be seen in the Alnavco catalog.


If you have some artistic ability, try using oil paints for simulating water. They are viscous enough to achieve a three dimensional effect. They are available at art stores.