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David and Goliath: Creating 3D model of the Battlefield by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

I am often asked, “Where can I purchase the props shown on your website?” The short answer is, I generally do not sell my props. I can share with you what inspired me to craft a prop and the steps that were taken to design and build the prop. If you read my post, "When a Stoner Becomes a Hero," you know the building of Goliath came about as the result of facing a five-million-dollar lawsuit. A few years later I decided to build a three-dimensional landscape model of the Valley of Elah where this famous battle took place.

The basic materials used for this project was a 6' x 4.5' rectangular shaped piece of architectural Styrofoam. I had to have a piece that was approximately 4" thick. You might want something thinner. So here's what you need to gather:


Industrial or architectural Styrofoam is best. There's more density to work with and it does not easily crumble.

Propane blow torch

I used a basic propane torch to melt indentations in the base

Drywall mud

The premix mud is easier to use in my opinion.

Elmer's Glue

Since this was a large project I purchased 1 gallon of glue to mix with drywall mud.

Rocks and Shrubs

You can find this at any hobby store that carries products for crafters who build scenery for model trains.

Scenery glue and sealer

You can use Elmer's glue to adhere the rocks and the bushes. The pump spray sealant really helps to hold everything in place once you have completed the project.

Paint - 3 Shades

You will need three shades. Base coat for the main color of groundwork. Darker shade for low places and a lighter shade for the highlights.

Foam crack sealer

Use the spray can type. The expandable type works well. Purchased at any hardware store.

Pictures of the topography

Look at old maps, books, Atlas, and the internet for pictures of your landscape to replicate in your model.

Step 1 - Research

Any project requires background research. This particular build started with a question at the beginning of the story of David and Goliath. In the building of the Goliath prop and spent hours reading about Philistine warriors and the five cities they controlled. For the battle scene model, I noticed I would need to locate where this battle took place.

1 Samuel 17 lists Socoh, Azekah, and the valley of Elah. Whenever I run across the name of a person or town I generally consult a Bible encyclopedia. For this particular model I referenced the Jewish Encyclopedia. You can find it online. It is a wonder resource.

I needed to understand where each army was positioned and anything important about this particular valley. That's when I learned militarily it was a strategic place. Whoever controlled this valley and its entrances also control the trade routes and the route to the five cities of the Philistines and the Temple at Jerusalem. Verse three mentions each army encamped on opposite hills with a creek bed running below.

I was inspired to create the battle scene after viewing a particular article written by Pastor Ralph F. Wilson> I contacted him asking him if I could include his graphic in an article I was writing. He was kind enough to allow me to use his graphic. In order to give credit unto whom credit is due I always try to give credit references for original works others create. Please consider reading his article on this important Bible passage. The study can be found at:

I used Google Earth and photos of the area to gain an idea of the topography of the valley. This gives me a basic look at the type of foliage, colors, and ground cover that exists. Naturally, this is what the area looks like today with modern roads and towns. However, this view still provides insight into what the area may have looked like in David's time.

A closer look gives a clue to the low-lying shrubs that may have been present at the time of the battle as well as how thick the ground cover may have been.

Step 2 - Build the base structure.

As stated above, the first step is to decide what your base material will be. You can order this material online or purchase it from most building supply companies. I use Styrofoam as a base because it is lightweight and can be easily carved.

Step 3 - Carve the valleys and build up the ridges.

Mark the valleys and creek bed area with a magic marker. I took one of the pictures and turned it into a PowerPoint. Then I laid the base on its side and projected the image onto the base. Using a magic marker I traced the outline of the major landmarks and the basic shape of the valley.

I tried a different technique this time. In the past I would have used an exacto knife and carved out the valley and creek bed as deep as I could without compromising the integrity of the base. Since this was a large project I tried to save time by using a propane torch to shape the depth of the valley of Elah. Be careful! This stuff melts quickly! The heat actually provides a harder base for the application of the dry wall mud.

Top View of Valley

As you can see I started using spray crack filler to build the ridges of the hills. You could cut out thin sheets of regular foam installation. Using the crack filler was much quicker and easier to apply.

Top View of Initial Valley

Step 4 - Apply the drywall mud.

I've learned that premixed drywall mud can be used in many ways for crafting projects. It tends to harden well on its own but I add full strength Elmer's glue to the batter. Please don't ask me what the ratio of glue to mud. I have experimented over the years and I tend to go by the texture more than exact measurements. You want the mixture to feel stiff but still workable. You can always add more if you need to build the hill higher. It is harder to carve away when you apply too much once it dries. Experiment and continue to look at your pictures to determine which hill is higher and where the slopes are. Keep in mind it's a model to illustrate your message! Don't sweat it. No one else has one so your's will be a big hit! People love to learn by seeing props that help them to understand the Bible.

Step 5 - Apply base sealer.

The above picture illustrates the white surface of mud and glue does not reveal many dimensions. I find that spraying a coat of black paint makes it much easier to determine if the hills are high enough and the valleys low enough. You can add more of the drywall mud to better define the hills. The spray coat it with black again. It is important to let this dry before going to the next step. I allowed this to dry for one week in my workshop.

Top View of the Black Base Coat. Let Dry.

Step 6 - Apply Base White Coat of Paint. Let Dry.

Step 7 - Apply Base Medium Tan Coat of Paint. Let Dry and then Apply First Dark Wash.

Take the dark brown paint and put approximately 5 ounces in a large spray bottle. You can purchase the spray bottle at a hobby store. Fill the remainder of the bottle with water and place the cap or spray attachment. Shake this mixture until the water is a dark brown color. Make sure it is watery and not the thickness of the paint. Once you have the color you want spray the entire project with a liberal amount of the mixture.

Dark Wash Coat #1 Dark Wash #2

Step 8 - Dry Brush Highlights

This next step brings out the dimension of the landscape. Take your light tan paint and tone it down with a little white base coat. Then with a dry brush dip the end of the brush into the paint pan just enough to get the brush wet. Using back and forth strokes wipe the brush on paper to remove the majority of the pain. Then look for any high areas that should not be shaded and just swipe the brush back and forth on the area. If you apply too much highlight you can always go back and touch up the spot with your dark wash. In fact, you may dark wash some of the valleys with an extra wash to create shadows of the valley where the sun is not shining.

Step 9 Continue to add foliage and rocks and water.

I hope this type of blog creates a stir within your spirit that causes you to take your Bible teaching and illustrations to a new level. If you feel a prompting in your heart to help me continue this type of ministry please consider giving on my website on the donations tab or follow the instructions below. All help is appreciated.

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