Making the Buildings For the 1941 Movie Diorama

Updated: Apr 29

I took many screen grabs of scenes from a DVD of the movie 1941.

I used known measurements like a door height to make calculations to scale and create CAD files to then laser cut the buildings.


As the saying goes, every successful project begins with a solid foundation.

I cut out all the windows, doors, porch railing and gas pump island parts.

The laser cut mock up shack building sides.

Tip of the day: If you get granite countertops and they cut out for a sink or cooktop, ask the granite installer for the drop-off or if you don’t get countertops, buy a remnant from them. The granite remnant slab makes a great surface to use for gluing flat, straight, and perpendicular parts.

I start by making laser cut chip board mock ups. The chip board is inexpensive and modifications can be done cheaply, before laser cutting the basswood clapboard siding. This building is the shack where you pay for gas.

The laser cut basswood clapboard siding and window frames for the shack are glued together. For the weathered wood effect, I thinned Grumbacher Raw Umber Oil Color with 90% Isopropyl Alcohol. The IPA evaporates quickly and won’t warp the wood. It doesn’t stink as much as Mineral Spirits either.

When dry, I dry-brushed latex paint in a downward stroke and left the recesses and underside of the clapboard unpainted. I made some spots look like peeling paint. I will fine tune the effect as I go.

Experimenting with simulated green shed roofing felt for the roofs of the buildings on the diorama. It consists of green construction paper, irregularly over-sprayed with Rustoleum green spray paint, misting some un-thinned Vallejo black acrylic paint and a wash of thinned white acrylic paint. The edges sanded with course grit sandpaper on the backside of the paper to thin and tear it, before gluing to roof.


The Al's Gro & Mkt building gets the same treatment.



The building has a first dry-brushed coat of white latex paint. It is a little harsh, but will get toned down. The metal porch roof is corrugated styrene sheet with metal HVAC tape applied. It will get dulled down and rusted.


I first thought the roof of the grocery was corrugated from screen shots of the movie Duel (Steven Spielberg used the same location for the movies Duel and 1941), which had a light color. I realized after looking at a 1941 movie wide shot that the roof has the same green shed roof felt of the shack and gas pump island. The roof was hidden behind trees. Luckily, I hadn’t progressed too far with the metal tape.


I changed the porch roof and put “rusted” metal corrugation, which matched the scale of the model better. Some window frames were painted brown. I laser cut the 2 clear acrylic sidewalk pieces, which are sitting on the brown chipboard. I discovered, I should have made the Ice Box shed wider (chip board mock up).

The screen is white wedding netting. The netting was used to wrap the soft mint candies that were given out as favors to guests at the reception. It was shiny white, so I sprayed a light coat of Duplicolor Black Primer on it. The netting was perfect for the scale. I also used it for the screen on the cages.


I have also been learning Adobe Illustrator for the artwork for the signs needed for the scene. I had started with Photoshop Elements 11 to do some graphics. The "COLD SODA" letters on the blue fridge are dry transfer lettering.

The 1941 diorama is coming together, the signage looks good and I'm starting to place other elements in the scene. The tires need to be weathered.

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