Build Bocage, Buddy! (Part I)

Prompted by the acknowledgement that I have an alarming tendency to forget how I did things, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a quick photo tutorial on how I make bocage for 1/72 scale gaming.

A sample of the finished product...

A sample of the finished product…

Closeup

Closeup

What I’m doing here is largely built on methods from Ad Machina Wargaming and Tim’s Toys. Both sites are well worth perusing!

Stuff You’ll Need

  1. Dense extruded polystyrene rigid insulation, 3/4″ thickness minimum (other sizes are available and suitable for other scales). They’ll have this stuff at the local DIY shop in 4×8 sheets. Bring a box cutter when you go shopping, so you can get it into the car.
  2. Sheet plastic for bases. Cut into 2″x6″ strips, if you want to follow along faithfully. Get plastic of a decent thickness. This stuff is available from multiple sources-you can even resort to Amazon, if you wish.
  3. A sharp blade. I use an X-acto knife. A scalpel would work well, too.
  4. A cheapo plastic sculpting tool. Or something similar. A tongue depressor or piece of plastic might work.
  5. Toothpicks. Round. Sharp. Cheap.
  6. Sandpaper. Some sort of medium-light grit, although it’s not really critical.
  7. White glue (other glues may interact with the insulation in extremely unhealthy ways)
  8. Wood Filler. Get it at the DIY shop, and try to find some with a tan or brown tint.
  9. Cheap craft paints (available at craft stores and Wal-mart) of the following flavors:
    1. Burnt Umber
    2. Burnt Sienna
    3. Yellow Ochre
    4. Coffee latte
    5. Linen

 

Here's the basic construction of the earthen bank. A shaped piece of 3/4" extruded polystyrene insulation by DOW. I make the shape with an X-acto knife, and then do a quick sanding to get rid of the angular edges left by carving with the knife. The foam is mounted to polystyrene card, and glued with white glue. Let dry overnight.

Here’s the basic construction of the earthen bank. The bank is a hand-formed piece of 3/4″ extruded polystyrene insulation by DOW. I make the shape with an X-acto knife, and then do a quick sanding (caution-breathing foam insulation probably isn’t good for you) to get rid of the angular edges left by carving with the knife. The foam is mounted to a 6″x2″ bit of polystyrene card. You could, and probably should, use other sizes and shapes, too, but 6×2 makes a nice basic straight section. I like to round and sand the edges of the plastic card, but it’s not necessary. Attach the foam to plastic with white glue.

These wooden sticks are toothpicks that have been cut in half, and inserted into the foam. They will serve as the structure for the foilage that goes on top of the earthen bank. I glop on some white glue to hold them in place. Vary the height of the toothpicks, either by cutting them to different lengths, or controlling the depth to which they are stuck into the foam.

These wooden sticks are toothpicks that have been cut in half, and inserted into the foam. You can see some of their impaling-ready brethren in the background.  The toothpicks will serve as the structure for the foilage that goes on top of the earthen bank. I glop on some white glue to hold them in place. Vary the height of the toothpicks, either by cutting them to different lengths, or controlling the depth to which they are stuck into the foam. Three toothpicks are enough for a piece this size, two are not enough, four is a little crazy, and five is nothing less than negligently wasteful! Let the whole concoction dry overnight.

I somehow completely forgot to take photos of the next part of the process, which is to slather tan colored wood filler onto the foam/plastic card construction, feathering it to create a slope from the piece of foam down onto the base. Wood filler has a nice texture all on its own, and is fairly easy to work. This is the filler I use-you can get a big tub of it fairly cheap and with a tan tint. If you let it dry for 24 hours it will cure to a very hard and durable finish.

This is the wood filler I use

I’ll take process pictures and update this post when I do my next batch of shrubberies.

The base coat consists of cheapo craft acrylic paint ($1 at Walmart) mixed with white glue at a ration of 70/30, or thereabouts. This gives a nice tough base layer. Paint the toothpicks, too, so that they're nice and dark. This way they'll be nigh-invisible when the foliage is added.

The base coat consists of cheapo burnt-umber craft acrylic paint ($1 at Walmart) mixed with white glue at a ration of 70/30, or thereabouts. This gives a nice tough base layer. Paint the toothpicks, too, so that they’re nice and dark. This way they’ll be nigh-invisible when the foliage is added. The glue/paint mixture will take some hours to dry-leaving it overnight would be a good idea.

Next is a fairly heavy coat of cheapo burnt sienna., because there's a lot of red in dirt! I put this on in  a dry-brushy kind of way, but I don't take anywhere near as much paint of the brush as you should when doing traditional drybrushing.

Next is a fairly heavy coat of cheapo burnt sienna, because there’s a lot of red in dirt! I think this bottle was $0.67. The burnt sienna is applied in a dry-brushy kind of way, but I don’t take anywhere near as much paint off the brush as I would for traditional drybrushing.

You could probably skip the yellow ochre, but it does give a nice tint to the end product. This paint is applied with a mediumish amount of drybrushing. It will look super bright, at first, but don't worry-it tones down as it dries. The paint in the picture isn't cheap, but you should be able to find craft paints of the same color.

You could probably skip the yellow ochre, but it does give a nice tint to the end product. This paint is applied with a mediumish amount of drybrushing. It will look super bright, at first, but don’t worry-it tones down as it dries. The paint in the picture isn’t particularly cheap, but you should be able to find craft paints of the same color that do just as well for this application.

Now I use this deliciously named color (coffee-latte), and apply another heavy drybrush over the previous coats. You could probably end your investment in the dirt painting business here, if you're pressed for time. Coffee-latte is a dark tan, just this side of medium brown. That should help.

Now I use the deliciously named color, coffee latte, and apply another heavy drybrush over the previous coats. You could probably end your investment in the dirt painting business here, if you’re pressed for time. If you can’t find this particular color, Coffee-latte is a dark tan, just this side of medium brown. Anything similar should work. In fact, if you find a better shade, let me know!

Finally, do a light drybrush of a light tan color. This one is called "Linen," and it's somewhat close to Vallejo's Iraqi Sand. When I say 'light" drybrush, remember we're painting terrain here, not some twelve dollar 32mm miniature. Do it quick and don't sweat if it's a little heavy (or light).

Finally, do a light drybrush of a light tan color. The one I’ve selected is called “Linen,” and it’s somewhat close to Vallejo’s Iraqi Sand. When I say ‘light” drybrush, remember we’re painting terrain here, not some twelve dollar 32mm miniature. Do it quick and don’t sweat if it’s a little heavy (or light). This particular piece of bocage is supposed to represent a penetration by a tank outfitted with Cullen Cutters, or maybe a bulldozer blade. The idea is that the tank busting through has revealed the rubble core that exists at the center of bocage. I probably need to make it more gnarly looking. The track marks were made with a piece of 1/72 halftrack track-the wood filler material washes off easily, before it’s cured, so no worries about messing up a model kit. The stones are kitty litter painted with a mixture of grey and some of the same colors I used in painting the earthen banks. Mixing the grey with the various browns, reds, tans, and whatever makes the stones fit with the general tones of the dirt. If you paint them straight grey they’re going to look crazy out of place. Mixing greys with browns is also the key to getting good ‘campaign’ greys on Confederates, but that’s a digression I won’t pursue further.

Ok, that’s it for the dirt painting. I’m going to do some experiments, but I think one could totally eliminate the burnt sienna and yellow ochre from this mix, and still have good looking dirt. It would save a bit of time and money, too.

———————————

Update!

 

Three different color combinations....

Three different color combinations….

Here are the results of my painting experiments.

The nearest bank contains the whole panoply of colors

  • Burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • yellow ochre
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

The middle bank eliminates the yellow ochre step.

  • Burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

The far bank is a simple three color process.

  • Burnt umber
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

I think the full range of colors looks the most naturalistic, but it does add significant time and effort to the process. The three color process looks the worst (but still looks pretty good!), and truth is, most of the bank is going to be covered by flocking and/or foliage, anyway. The full color process could be considered as wasted effort. One strategy would be to use the simple three color process for the majority of your bocage, and reserve the full process for areas where lots of ground is revealed, such as gates, trails, cullen penetrations, and other ‘cuts’ through the bocage.

—————————————–

Flocking Together

I was going to handle flocking the bases in another post, but then I thought it made sense to cover all the ground work together, so here it is.

List of materials needed:

  1. Cookie tin
  2. A good mixture of various colors of flock. I use Woodland Scenics fine turf for this. DON’T USE A SINGLE COLOR OF FLOCKING. Please.
  3. White glue
  4. Water. I prefer Fiji bottled water.
  5. Just kidding.
  6. A big old brush.
  7. Spray can of matte varnish.
This is messy. Get theeself a cookie tin, piece of tupperware, or other suitable container, and fill it with a goodly amount of your flock mixture. Mix up some white glue with water (I like a 70/30 mix) and dob it in an artistic-like manner all over your bocage. The top should have less flock on it, because it would be shaded by foliage above, but don't stress about it too much. Drop, scatter, smush, and otherwise apply the flock mixture to the bank, until you're satisfied with how it looks. Then repeat!

This is messy. Get theeself a cookie tin, piece of tupperware, or other suitable container, and fill it with a goodly amount of your flock mixture. Mix up some white glue with water (I like a 70/30 mix) and dob it in an artistic-like manner all over your bocage. The top should have less flock on it, because it would be shaded by foliage above, but don’t stress about it too much. Drop, scatter, smush, and otherwise apply the flock mixture to the bank, until you’re satisfied with how it looks. Then repeat!

Here are several feet of bocage all flocked and drying. Leave your work to dry overnight, and the next day turn your pieces upside down over your cookie tin of flock, and tap to knock off the excess material and preserve it for another day. Put your banks in a box, or other container, take it outside, and give the whole mess a good spraying with matte finish. Please don't waste good Dullcote on this. The big (relatively) cheap spray cans from the local DIY shop will do just fine. The matte spray will help fix the flocking to the banks and reduce shedding.

Here are several feet of bocage all flocked and drying. Leave your work to dry overnight, and the next day turn your pieces upside down over your cookie tin of flock, and tap to knock off the excess material and preserve it for another day. Put your banks in a box, or other container, take it outside, and give the whole mess a good spraying with matte finish. Please don’t waste good Dullcote on this. The big (relatively) cheap spray cans from the local DIY shop will do just fine. The matte spray will help fix the flocking to the banks and reduce shedding.

Foliage coming up!

Foliage coming up!

You can take the bocage banks to another level by adding static grass, clump foliage, flowers, leaf scatter, and other goodies to your heart’s content. I’m trying to get ready for a Normandy anniversary game of Chain of Command, and only have a few days left, so this is as far as I’m taking the banks for the moment. Also, I’m lazy.

I’ll cover the brush, shrubs, trees (maybe) and other foliage on top of the bocage banks in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • grantdyck  On 05/29/2014 at 7:20 pm

    Excellent start to your bocage! This would work at any scale I think. Hmmm…

    • arkiegamer  On 05/29/2014 at 7:33 pm

      Yes, I think it could. They sell this insulation in different thicknesses, all the way up to 3″. 1.5″ insulation would be easy to use for 28mm bocage. The 3/4″ stuff would probably work ok for 15mm.

      Of course, you could carve it down for use with micro-armor, as well.

  • daggerandbrush  On 05/30/2014 at 1:30 am

    Vry nice start to your tutorial. I could see this technique also being useful for vinyards. Never occured to me to mix woodglue and acrylic paint, but surely this will make the base colour chip resistant.

    • arkiegamer  On 05/30/2014 at 8:47 am

      Aww, man. I had a link to a tutorial on making fantastic looking vineyards that I was going to share, but it’s gone dead. I should have snagged it with Evernote.

      You could definitely make vineyards using this method, but you would have to do a lot of carving and sanding of insulation to get a scale effect. It might be easier to build up the earth swells at the rows with wood filler over strips of cardboard or plasticard? The toothpicks would be right in scale for 28mm, but maybe a little thick for 20mm or 15mm.

      Yes, the glue/paint mixture does help protect the finish. Even so, you do have to be careful to not create thin and brittle ridges with the wood filler material, or they will break and require touch-up paint.

    • arkiegamer  On 06/01/2014 at 9:54 am

      I found the vineyard tutorial I was talking about. It’s reposted over at The Guild, which you may have to join in order to take a look at the thread.

      http://www.guildwargamers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=83&t=25591

      • daggerandbrush  On 06/02/2014 at 12:05 am

        Thank you for the link. I registered and look forward to the tutorial. I still need to make a vinyard for my Carthaginians.

      • arkiegamer  On 06/02/2014 at 11:55 am

        Excellent. There is lots of great terrain, figure, and vehicle painting to look at on that site. Most of it’s in 1/72nd scale, though.

  • Brokenbayonet  On 05/30/2014 at 3:03 am

    Look good already. Looking forward to the finished bocage sections. This has inspired me to make some of these myself :0)
    (this is in addition to the endless scenery I’ve been making over the past couple of months)…
    BB

    • arkiegamer  On 05/30/2014 at 8:38 am

      Glad it’s proving useful!

      I must warn you, the problem with bocage is that you need SO much of it. I plan on making around 20′ of the stuff, and I suspect that even that amount might be a little light for a 6’x4′ table.

      Nice stuff over on your blogs, by the way. That lava field looks great!

  • tinpotrevolutionary  On 05/30/2014 at 9:16 am

    Great post Mr Arkie! I find taking photos is a great way to remember how I do rank and file painting too, that way I remember all the mixes! I can’t wait to see it all finished ready for battle! :)

    • arkiegamer  On 05/30/2014 at 9:41 am

      Thanks!

      Yes, indeed-that’s the way to do it! I’ve got a page on my blog where I record that sort of stuff. Or at least I do, when I’m organized enough to remember.

  • Phil  On 06/03/2014 at 1:24 am

    Great tuto!

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