Tuesday, May 5

Review:“Capturing Clervaux “The Final hour” By Claude Joachim

Claude Joachim has been building the town of Clervaux in 35th scale for the last few years – this lifelike diorama is a massive construction is already the subject of one book. Now Claude’s second book describes the building of Castle Clervaux, and it’s called “Capturing Clervaux- the Final hour”. 

Review: “Capturing Clervaux “The Final hour”
By Claude Joachim
144 pages, English, soft cover
570 color photos, 40 B&W
ISBN 978-99959-0-036-6
This book is now available from http://www.diorama-clervaux.com
Price: 30€ plus shipping (PayPal accepted) Also a very interesting Combo Offer with the first book €50 Worldwide shipping included

When I was a little boy, (once upon a time) I always wanted to set my army men up in a believable surrounding. This included guns, tanks and buildings that were all in the same scale of about 1/35th. The roads, the camo on the soldiers and their environments had to look “just so” for me to get any enjoyment out of it all. Flip to many (many) years in the future from then and I get the chance to make small vignettes with models. My ideas though are often bigger than my space or talent allows. So when I heard that a fellow in Luxemburg is creating something similar to my childhood dream – a whole village in 35th scale – well who couldn’t be interested in that?
When we first heard that there was a book that captured the town of Clervaux in Luxemburg I thought it would be a small piece, but no – it certainly wasn’t. The creator of this scene and author is Mr. Claude Joachim, and he is not even completely finished the scene and already it is big enough to (only just) fit only just inside a large room. The time period is December 17th 1944 – it is a stressful time for the village with the Germans advancing in a surprise attack and the Americans and the Villagers of the town taking shelter before the onslaught. Smartly the book is called “Capturing Clervaux – the final hour” and although it was published a while ago we had no qualms about showing it off to you in our review today.
Where the first book on this dio focused on the Castle that dominates the village (“Capturing Clervaux- a Modeler’s Tale”) - this book shows us how Claude has filled in the rest of the town around it up until this point. I say up until this point because it looks like there (might) even be a third part of the book to come. Like its predecessor this book is a softcover A4 portrait format.  Although it seems short at 145 pages there is a HEAP of knowledge stuffed into these pages. The book is broken down into chapters of about 20 pages each that show you just how Claude put the parts of his village together to make it whole.
“Capturing Clervaux- the Final hour” details exhaustively at times how Claude has combined all of his skills to build the “Diorama Clervaux”. One thing you notice is that it is a little bit of a “train of thought” book modelling guide. The diorama was not built to be subject of a book, but the book is the direct result of the build. And as the scene is put together, each module and then each building, park, tree, bridge and river is discussed and shown in a wealth of pictures.

For most part the captions describe the action shown in the closely placed photograph and you only tend to get lost every now and then but soon find your way to what you are reading about again. Each of the steps that Claude needed to take are presented in very good English and the pictures themselves are clear, in focus and well lit. Each part of the village that is made has a chapter and I’ll take you through them now in turn.

A table of contents in the shape of a period photo helps us better understand what is to come and what page in the book it is on.
After a prologue which tells you how Claude’s thought process was at the time of the commencement of the village construction we also look at the physical changes he had to make to the modules to get them to fit better with the castle. We also look at what was happening in the time this diorama was captured and the positions of the scattered villagers, Americans and the oncoming Germans. 

We next look logically at the joining module to the castle. The upper village and section that joins onto the castle is talked about and then built. Claude showing us not just the construction of the buildings that adjoin onto the castle but the cobblestone roads as well which were made from finely cut cork.
Next we look at the castle extensions. Several pictures of the building right on the chateau walls in wartime kick us off and show us what to expect. We look at how to recreate the shattered and broken roof with all of the debris which falls onto the broken remains on the inside. A few diversions into window and bed frame making are talked through before we see a gallery of the building in some nice detail. We also look at using white glue to make the surface of the rounded facades of the tower that is with the building and the roofs of these in several different shapes and types.
Next we keep on going down the hillside with the green park with a deciduous tree that dominates the space. There is a great tutorial as to how to make such a big tree realistic through the use of other available flora. We also look at the slope and how it was engineered to fit into the buildings within the modules. A tricky problem solved nicely here.
The main street with its lively shops, hotel central and things like barbers and a makeshift cinema are shown. How the lettering and detailed facades are made make for some interesting learning/reading. Pictures of the street and shops at the time help you understand quite a lot what has been done here in this diorama. It gives you a great appreciation for Claude’s work and ambition.
A river runs through this valley town and it is called the “Klierf”. The bridge and it’s now removed towers, the river banks, people around the rippling water and the vegetation and rocks clinging on to the rushing water are the subject of some very skilled dio building in this chapter. Again we several different techniques to do the same thing. This never leaves the reader bored even though it is a lot to sometimes take in. Scratchbuilding of some of these parts, figures and scenic items serves as a testament to the skill on show here even though the author is very humble about his own talents.
The large mansion sized houses near the river were also used as a German spotter’s nest on the night of the 17th 
Especially impressive to me was the study and the realization of how Claude made the water. He studied just the right movement of the water near his home to properly replicate it in most an unusual but really effective way. I learnt a lot from this tutorial in this chapter. 
The sixth chapter sees Claude on the final part of his village diorama. The Villa Prum in all its conical roofed glory is built here in the book. Again we see period pictures and even the testament of a GI who was placed into the diorama. This building has just about every type of shape included into it. Conical, hexagonal, square and arched surfaces, windows and doors I bet he was glad he made this last! Impressive it is to look at but very helpful are the building notes that are included here.
Lastly we have a gallery for you oogle at all of the creation…
Well there it is - Over the course of eight years and 10,000 hours, two books – of which this one has 144 pages and over 600 pictures the author has slaved over this massive recreation of his town in late 1944. Although he describes his sacrifices and compromises he made to get the kit done in the space and time he needed to he also includes the joy and relief that it gave him in this time. The meandering storytelling makes more sense the further you go through the book and the more familiar you become with the village. Hopefully we will see the adjoining forest sections sometime in the future.

Well this book covers more of a diorama than most if not any man could achieve. The size and the care Claude has gone to to detail even the most unseen elements are carefully described in this book which is a great companion for anyone wanting to make a village in a slightly smaller scale of gross size maybe?

A book that takes modelling a large area to a new level. Well written and shot with ever changing methods. I can only take my hat off to it’s author – a diorama and now two books that are both amazing and an inspiration to all of us.

Adam Norenberg

This book is now available from http://www.diorama-clervaux.com

The price of this book is 30€ plus shipping (PayPal accepted) Also a very interesting Combo Offer with the first book €50 Worldwide shipping included