Category Archives: Tutorial

Tabletop Workshop

A NICE RESOURCE

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Don’t bother clicking this image. I don’t have WordPress premium, so can’t embed video.

 

I think I might have found the best terrain building tutorial channel on YouTube. Unfortunately (for me), all the narration is in German, which means I need to pay close attention to the visuals. That said, the tutorials are very easy to follow even for a non-understander.

Here’s the link to Tabletop Workshop YouTube Channel. You’re more than welcome (nay, encouraged!!) to pass on your favorite terrain tutorial video links in the comments.

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Build Bocage, Buddy (Part II)

Part one of this bocage making tutorial is located here. In this part, we’re going to be working on foliage.

Here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Your banks from Part I.
  • Generic air filter material. I got mine at Lowe’s. It won’t have a cardboard border, or anything fancy like that, on it.
  • Scissors
  • Fingers
  • Big piece of cardboard or posterboard
  • Brown spraypaint.
  • Tan spraypaint.
  • A garage.
  • Hot glue gun (and hot glue). Other glues may work, but I like the hot stuff because it’s super quick.
  • Spray bottle. I have a Woodland Scenics one, but an old window cleaner bottle would probably work just as well.
  • Warm water/white glue (70/30)
  • Coarse flock. At least two colors.
  • Fine flock (only for the discriminating terrain maker)
  • Box-o-flock
  • A back porch.
Ye olde generic air filter material. Notice the blobby little bits on the face of the material? I think this stuff is cut with heat, somehow (laser? heated saw?), and this melts/cauterizes the faces. This makes the faces a bit more structurally rigid, which you can use to your advantage.

Ye olde generic air filter material. Notice the blobby little bits on the face of the material? I think this stuff is cut with heat, somehow (laser? heated saw?), and this melts/cauterizes the faces. This makes the faces a bit more structurally rigid, which you can use to your advantage. I think this cost me +/- $6 at Lowe’s.

Cut a strip roughly the same size as the base the foilage will belong to.

Cut a strip roughly the same size as the base the foilage will belong to.

Give it some shape with your scissors. Eliminate all right angle edges.

Give it some shape with your scissors. Eliminate all right angle edges.

I think the air filter material works best with the cauterized nodules at the top and bottom of the filter mass. It withstands the weight of glue and flock better than the alternate orientation, which tends to lead to a 'scooped out' look to the top. In any case, it's time to use your hands. Tear, tease, rip, and otherwise cajole the air filter material into a vaguely hedge shaped 'cloud'. Test fit, and trim, tease, rip, and cajole until you're happy.

Time to use your hands. Tear, tease, rip, and otherwise cajole the air filter material into a vaguely hedge shaped ‘cloud’. Test fit, and trim, tease, rip, and cajole until you’re happy.

More foliage clouds.

More foliage cloud test fits. DON’T GLUE THEM DOWN YET.

Get some paint. The brown will be the primary color. The tan will be used for highlighting. This stuff doesn't need to be very high quality. It's more about quantity, really.

Get some paint. The brown will be the primary color. The tan will be used for highlighting. This stuff doesn’t need to be very high quality. It’s more about quantity, really.

This lovely photo is of a bunch of foilage pieces painted brown. You'll need to do this somewhere protected from the wind, as the filter material is extremely light. Which means a garage, most likely. Get a big piece of cardboard and a tarp to protect the floor.

This lovely photo is of a bunch of foilage pieces painted brown. You’ll need to do this somewhere protected from the wind, as the filter material is extremely light. Which means a garage, most likely. Get a big piece of cardboard and a tarp to protect the floor. Air filter material will take a LOT of spray paint to get good coverage. Expect to do multiple coats. Yes, I hate it too. Suck it up, buttercup.

Brown, oh brown. This is after three coats and an overnight drying. You can still see a bit of blue. Not a biggie. Proceed. Get your hot glue gun, and, working quickly apply it to the toothpicks. pull the foliage down on the toothpicks, snug with the tops of the dirt banks. If you're having trouble getting everything done on time, you can go one toothpick at a time with your hot glue gun, and sort of 'roll' the foliage on, until you're up to speed. Clean up the inevitable glue spiderwebs, then go back to the garage, this time with your tan paint.

Brown, oh brown. This is after three coats and an overnight drying. You can still see a bit of blue. Not a biggie. Proceed. Get your hot glue gun, and, working quickly apply it to the toothpicks. pull the foliage down on the toothpicks, snug with the tops of the dirt banks. If you’re having trouble getting everything done in good time, you can go one toothpick at a time with your hot glue gun, and sort of ‘roll’ the foliage on, until you’re up to speed. Clean up the inevitable glue spiderwebs, then go back to the garage, this time with your tan paint.

Lightly dust the tops of your bocage with the tan paint. This is just to give it some volume and light effects. Don't worry about your banks, it won't hurt them a bit. The figures are just for scale reference-don't paint them tan!

Lightly dust the tops of your bocage with the tan paint. This is just to give it some volume and light effects. Don’t worry about your banks, it won’t hurt them a bit. The figures are just for scale reference-don’t paint them tan!

Now on to the fun part. Mix together various colors of coarse turf together in a good sized box. I like burnt grass and medium green. Maybe add in some fine turf, too. Maybe a little yellow grass color. You get the point-mix up flock until you have a nice complicated mix of colors. DON’T USE A SINGLE COLOR. Please.

Grab your big piece of cardboard you used to paint on, your bocage-to-be, your box-o-flock, your spray bottle of water and glue (I like 70/30 using warm water. Seems to mix better), and go somewhere somewhat protected from the wind and where you won’t get in trouble making a mess. I like the back porch, myself.

Hold the bocage upside down over your big piece of cardboard and spray the heck out of it with your glue mix. You’ll probably get some drops on the bank. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe shake the bocage piece a couple of times, and then transfer it over to your box of flock. Guess what’s next? Yes, apply flock to the foliage. I tend to scoop it up and ‘pat’ it on to the filter material, in an effort to control how much drops onto the banks, but it’s not a big deal if some does get on the banks. You can scrape it off later, or leave it (which actually looks pretty good).

Let it dry, and then do any cleanup to banks, gates, ground, or whatever. Spray it again to help lock down the flock. Dry. Spray it a third time. Maybe spray it with a nice smelling hairspray after the glue fully dries for a third time. Realize that the bocage is STILL going to shed a bit of flock, and learn to accept it.

What? You expected me to get my camera out when a bunch of liquid glue and flock is flying through the air?! Phhhttt.

Kidding. Sorry about the lack of pictures of the flock step. If it’s confusing, please let me know and I’ll try to clarify.

Anyway, looks like this:

photo 1 photo 2 takingposition onthemove moveit leader combatphotography thefarmPlease excuse the ugly house and 15mm scaled rock walls. I need MANY more feet of bocage. I’m thinking around 30′ for a 6×4 table. I need to make corner pieces, as well. And more gates.

The pictures are from a test game of Chain of Command I played with a friend yesterday. Lots of moving parts to keep track of. But fun!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Tree Grows in Normandy

I didn’t spend much time on wargaming stuff this week, but was somehow very productive. That’s a good equation, in my book!

I think it's pretty nice that this AB squad conveniently breaks down into a fire element and a maneuver element.

I think it’s pretty nice that this AB squad conveniently breaks down into a fire element and a maneuver element. (ignore the bridge-it’s only accidentally in the photo)

I’ve completed my third and final US infantry squad for playing Chain of Command. Now I can field a platoon of US infantry, and a platoon of Panzergrenadiers, with a few choice support elements on each side. I do have some vehicles to paint up, plus a ton of terrain yet to be done (accursed bocage!).

Trees, meet Bocage, Bocage, meet Trees.

Trees, meet Bocage, Bocage, meet Trees.

I have made some progress on the terrain front-I’ve taken Thomas’s suggestion and made trees out of found twigs and the air filter material I used to make my bocage. They’ve turned out nicely, I think. Which just goes to show, you should always take Thomas’s advice; I mean, just look at his blog!

These particular twigs are from the shrubs in front of the house. Conveniently, we were trimming off the dead stuff from the shrubs because it’s spring and time to work in the yard, and I very quickly had a ready supply of 20mm scale tree trunks and branches. And they were already dry!

Here’s the process:

  1. Gather twigs with multiple ‘branches,’ hopefully going in multiple directions so that the end product has lots of volume.
  2. Cut squares of air filter material for each tree, then shape, tease, tug, shear, and otherwise deform into a ragged mass.
  3. Test fit your ragged clumps of air filter material to the branches, adjust until you have a vaguely tree-looking mass.
  4. Take your clumps of air filter material out to the garage, or other place where you can spray paint without being disturbed by the wind (air filter material is VERY light).
  5. Spray the air filter clumps with a dark brown paint. This will take some doing, as the filter material is very porous. Just take your time and do multiple coats over a few days. You’ll need at least two coats, but three or four would be better.
  6. I mounted my trees on needles. This lets me use them freely with my foam play-mat backed gaming mats, and they also fit nicely into my bocage, which is constructed of polystyrene insulation. I used a 1/16″ drill bit to hollow out a place in the “tree trunks”, filled it with superglue, and shoved in a needle, pointy side sticking out. You can easily cut down the needles with a pair of wire snips, but shield your eyes when you do. Give the super glue time to fully cure before trying to stick the tree into anything.
  7. Now you can take your trees and stick them into a scrap piece of polystyrene insulation (or other stickable surface). Get a hot glue gun and glue your brown filter clumps to the branches. Let it dry (which will take about 2.5 seconds) and clean up the inevitable hot-glue spiderwebs.
  8. Go back out to the garage with your trees and mounted filter foilage. Lightly ‘dust’ the foilage with a light tan spray paint. This is just to give the filter mass a little volumetric definition (I just coined that term). It’s a subtle thing, but it does help.
  9. The next step is easy, but messy. Spray down your trees with watered-down white glue. I sugges holding the trees upside down by their trunks, and spraying them one at a time. You want to avoid wetting the trunks with the glue for reasons which should be obvious. Holding them upside down will let the glue pass through the filter material and give more surface for the flocking to adhere to.
  10. Speaking of flocking, hopefully you have some coarse flock in various colors, because now you’re going to sprinkle your soaking wet filter material with flock. I never use a single color of flock by itself. I always mix up at least two colors. I will vary the amount of each color I use to give individual trees their own character.  For instance, I might use 60% dark green, 40% burnt grass on one tree, and then reverse the proportions on the next. In any case, make them look like trees. Sprinkle, carefully place, dip, and smush the flock onto the filter material to suit your tastes.
  11. Spray the tree tops with watered down glue again.
  12. Let everything dry, then clean up the trunks, as you’ll have some random pieces of flock stuck to them. At this point the trees will still be shedding flock like crazy. Continue to spray with glue, and let dry, until you’re satisfied with the amount of shedding (I’m not sure it’s possible to get the things 100% stable).

The process sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually very quick, and uses materials that are either cheap or (probably) already in your arsenal of wargaming terrain making materials. Hopefully the narrative explains the process sufficiently, but if anyone wants me to, I could put together a photo tutorial without too much trouble.

Depending on how you plan to use your trees, there is one potential downside to this method-your trees won’t have roots. Of course, there are a multitude of ways to make tree roots, especially if you’re doing a more conventional type of basing that doesn’t involve poking things with inch long needles.

 

Scratch-made Cloth and Caulk Gaming Mat

As much as I like the idea of custom making modular terrain boards with actual sunken features, like roads and streams, I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to go with something a bit more flexible. That way I might actually get a game ready, for once.

The typical model railroad grass mats haven’t impressed me much, but I have seen some really cool fabric mats that people have made by hand.

Mr. Luther, for example, does these incredible 1/285th scale mats using spray painted cloth, scatter terrain and pastels. Pastels! They’re works of art, and if you spend much time on his Flickr page, you’ll find yourself inexorably being drawn to gaming WW2 in 6mm. Ahem. Here’s a link to a tutorial on setting up a board for Normandy. I suspect (but could be COMPLETELY wrong) that the pastel chalk colored roads, creeks, and rivers might not work too well for larger scales, and based on my suspicion, I’ve pursued other methods.

Which leads us to the caulk-impregnated cloth style of mat.

Tobi’s Paint Pot has a nice tutorial on doing a 28mm dark ages board for Dux Britanniarum. His approach is pretty serious and relatively involved (to be honest, none of these methods could be described as ‘quick and simple’), but the results speak for themselves. I find his integration of scatter terrain into his mat to be particularly impressive.

War Artisan uses a base of rubber athletic flooring, teddy bear stuffing, and a caulk-impregnated cloth, all held together with straight pins, to do his beautifuly 10mm games. From some reading I’ve done on the internet, I suspect he may be the inventor of these styles of gaming mats, but I could be wrong. In any case, they’re completely drool-worthy. Be sure to check out the scratch-built ships, while you’re on his Flickr page. Also drool-worthy.

The Lion of the South does yet another variation on the caulk-impregnated cloth, also to great effect. Gorgeous games! His tutorial is quite easy to follow, too.

The method I ultimately followed is from the cleverly named Big on Miniatures blog. As a brief aside, I’ve been painting old west miniatures as a sort of filler between my myriad of (incomplete) projects. Somehow I managed to find myself with a dozen gunfighters painted, a free set of rules, and some players who are potentially interested in some wild west gaming. I have a rough plan for a three-way shootout at an abandoned stagecoach station somewhere in the arid southwest. So, that helps explain why I was so drawn to the BoM desert mat. Plus, his tutorial is super detailed. Check it out.

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So, what could I possibly add to this bevy of really excellent tutorials and gorgeous examples of finished terrain? Not much.

I didn’t get my colors right on my mat-I used far too little of my mid-tone, and it doesn’t really look like any desert I’ve ever seen. I also could have used an intermediate size of ‘grit’ between the playground sand (on the small end) and the kitty litter (on the large end) that I did use.

What I can add are some shots of various scales of figures on the board. Lord knows I’m completely ADD about my miniatures gaming, and have been all over the place on that front. So, without further to do, here are some shots ranging from 1/285 to 28mm. Hope they prove useful!

Hombres

Hombres

Like I said, I set out on Caulk-quest 2013 to do an Old West game (more on this in the future) and here are a few of the figures deployed in the desert. These are Knuckleduster 28mm miniatures with some of the very cool Pegasus cacti. Those cacti are the first thing I’ve ever painted that seemed bright enough to me. Which is a breathrough, of sorts. I think the kitty litter and sand work very well at this scale, but the intermediate level of ‘grit’ really needs to be there. Maybe next time.

WW2 on the surface of a moon of IO.

WW2 on the surface of Mars.

This is a rather surreal shot, for obvious reasons. I don’t think the kitty litter would work for  Normandy, or other verdant areas, but I could see using it for parts of Italy or North Africa. When I do a temperate climate mat, I won’t add the litter in.  Sorry about the hovering farmhouse. The figures are Warmodelling via Scalecreep.com.

Looks pretty good, other than the incongruous figure basing...

Looks pretty good, other than the incongruous figure basing…

I dig it.

I dig it.

These are 15mm sci-fi figures by Khurasan Miniatures.  I think the mat, with its screwed up color palette, works GREAT for sci-fi gaming. I should re-base my figures to suit, or something.

1/285 Micro-armor in effect

1/285 Micro-armor in effect

The mat also works really well with the microarmour. For totally different reasons.  Here the kitty litter starts to take on tactical significance. I joke. A little. I think the mat could work great for North Africa, especially if I adopt some of Luther’s methods of creating topography (and if the mat proves flexible enough).  Again, the kitty litter wouldn’t be suitable for civilized farming and urban areas, like Normandy.

Okay, enough of caulk and kitty litter vs. various scales. I learned some valuable lessons. You can knock one of these mats out in 2-3 days, and I’m going to start working on one for 1/72 WW2 in Normandy soon, so look for a follow-up in the next few weeks.

Wire Trees in 1/285-an Incomplete Exploration

The terrain board I’m preparing is for the historical scenario ‘Action at Galmanche’ from the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum 3 rulebook. The terrain includes a bit of row crops, some roads, and farm buildings, but the primary components are several orchards and a copse of ‘forest,’ which the little farming hamlet of Galmanche is arranged around.

I don’t have any trees of suitable size for 1/285 gaming. I’ve given some though to purchasing Chinese Z scale model railroad trees from ebay. They’re dirt cheap and look fairly decent when doctored up a bit (note: I haven’t had any personal experience with the ebay trees-this is all just internet hearsay). Unfortunately, as little free time as I currently have, I have even less discretionary income. With that weighty fact looming over my head, I’ve decided to make my own trees.

My girlfriend and I have been building some raised garden beds this week in preparation for spring planting. Part of the raised beds is a metal screen to prevent moles, voles, and other creatures with ‘oles’ in their name from digging up from the natural ground and eating the sweet succulent roots of our vegetablish progeny. This screen is rolled up and secured with malleable thin gauge wire, which is absolutely perfect for making small scale model trees. I’m sure this baling wire is available at any hardware store.

What you'll need

What you’ll need

You’ll need a pair of pliers, a pair of wire cutters, and (obviously) some of the aforementioned wire in order to make these tree armatures.

A variety of scales

A variety of scales

Making these trees has been an experimental process for me. Above are some of my early efforts, which used a simple two sections of wire twisted together. This works fine for small scale trees, but as you can see from the tall tree in the center, they can begin to look a bit bizarre. At least for Europe. Tall trees with no lower foilage make perfect sense in the context of the Serengeti plain. Maybe. In any case, the super simple method of only using two pieces of wire works great for my orchards (similar in scale to the tree with dark foliage to the right). More investigation was needed to arrive at a decent European or American oak/walnut/maple/whatever.

Components for a multi-branched tree

Components for a multi-branched tree

At 1/285, you can get away with depicting even the mightiest of oaks in an impressionistic way. I decided having two tiers of branches would do a fine job of depicting a tree with full foliage. A practical constraint on adding more branches is that doing so also adds to the caliper of the tree trunk, and the trunk can quickly get out of scale when working with such diminutive dimensions.

The initial twist

The initial twist

The operation for twisting your wire together is this: Cluster your wires together and grab the ‘root’ end (the end with the loops) with your wire cutters. DON’T CUT. Grab the roots maybe an 1/8th of an inch above the ends if you plan on having visible roots. If you’re going to be jabbing your tree into a base or foamcore or something of that nature, just grab the base of the trunk as low as possible and snip off the loops when the armature is constructed.

On the top end of the tree, grab the branches with your pliers. The end of your pliers should be placed at the point at which you want the lower tier of branches to begin. With this accomplished, begin to slowly twist. You should at least twist enough to get a tight ‘weave’ of the wires. I like to ‘overtwist’ the trunk a bit, because the excess twisting begins to introduce deformations into the overall shape of the trunk, and these deformations, if you don’t overdo it, look very naturalistic.

The photograph above shows the initial trunk twisting, which stops at the lower tier of branches. This lower tier of branches has been spread out and angled upwards about 60 degrees from zenith.

The basic armature complete

Now you grab the cluster of wires where you’d like the upper branches to begin. The wires will mesh together and won’t affect the lower trunk unless you begin to ‘overtwist.’ Again, overtwisting might be desirable. Once you have the trunk constructed, it’s time to bend and place the branches. This is easily done by hand. I just try to achieve some sort of naturalistic spread of branches that is going to also give me a full spread of foliage.

Next you need to make the root decision. If you’re going to be pushing the trees into some sort of soft medium, and aren’t concerned with the fiddly detail of visible roots, you should just cleanly snip off the end of the trunk. I’d cup my non-tool wielding hand around the tree armature to prevent injury from wire shrapnel.

If you want visible articulated roots, just snip the bends in the pieces of wire and spread them out in a manner similar to the branches. Obviously you’ll want a flatter zenith angle relationship to the trunk.

What to do about bark

I think this wire tree armature thing works quite well for 1/285 scale trees. A bit of googling will show some extremely complicated (but awesome) ways of doing wire trees for larger scales, but this is about as far as I’d want to go at my scale.

I had hoped that I’d be able to push these wire trees into my blue foam rigid insulation and pull them out later. Unfortunately, the foam tends to compress under the pressure from the wire instead of parting and gripping it. You might get better results with other, less dense, types of foam, or by grinding the trunk to a sharp point. I think I’m going to work out some sort of basing system for my trees, and go with the articulated root system.

I’ll show you how to clad these things in bark and paint them just as soon as I’ve figured it out. I’m thinking fimo, greenstuff, or drywall spackle and a shot of black primer with some quick drybrushing. Maybe I’ll try all three. Or maybe I’ll just paint the bare metal. I’m just after an impression, after all.

Real Miniature Painting

Preamble

As you may know from earlier posts, I have been using the quick-dip method of painting my miniature figures. I’ve been working on my 28mm vikings, and I thought I’d give legitimate three-tone mini painting a try. It’s been a mixed bag, so far, and I’m not sure the effort (and time) is worth it, but I thought I’d put up a quick post with the method I’m using for the faces and other skin areas. This method has totally been cribbed from the Victrix Miniatures website.

Step-one: the base coat

Of course, you’ve primed your figure beforehand, and most guides seem to suggest black primer for 28mm figures. I find it difficult to pick out detail with black primer, which causes no end of the repainting, touching up, and “Oh, so that’s what that is!” moments. I may go back to tried and true white primer on the next batch.

In any case, I’ve selected Burnt Sienna as a nice ruddy dark color for shadows on skin, and applied it in two or three coats of thinned acrylic paint.

Step two – Mid Tones

With the dark base coat applied, the Victrix guide suggests using Dwarf Flesh (Citadel) as the next layer. I suppose this serves as a mid-tone for those surfaces receiving diffuse or reflected light. I think it’s a good idea to consider the direction of the light at this stage. For my minis I tend to select up and to the left for the location of the sun, which means highlights are going to be in that location. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I think you could probably stop at this point for quick and dirty projects. You get some nice definition with only two tones, particularly at these small scales. 28mm is still a small scale, right?

Step three – Highlites

Good ‘ol Victrix guide suggests using Elf Flesh to do your final highlights, though adding a bit of white to your Dwarf Flesh (or mid-skin-tone of choice) would do the trick. I had a pot of Elf Flesh, so on it went.

I may have over-highlighted on this figure, but with that caveat out of the way, it’s helpful to consider the shape of the face. Brows and temples are generally going to be highlighted (though not the center of the brow!). The ridge of the nose will also be lighter in color-not the entire honking blob like I’ve done here. I lack the motor skills and rods and cones necessary to do eyes correctly, but doing eyes properly certainly brings a lot of personality to the figure. I may invest in a jeweler’s loupe visor to see (ha!) if I can do something about the situation.

Anyway, there are several hundred rambling words describing how to do three color layered Caucasian flesh. The whole article could easily have consisted of three pictures and words, (burnt sienna, dwarf flesh, elf flesh) but that’s just not the way I roll. I do roll with half-a-decade-old slang, though.

0.10 Flocking Together: Terrain Boards the 3rd

We’re Going to Need Paint, Lots of Paint.

Burnt Sienna in Action

After the base coat of Burnt Umber, sand, and gravel has thoroughly dry it’s time to do some fun stuff. For these first boards I’ve constructed I’ve decided to paint in three stages. The second stage is a very heavy drybrush of Burnt Sienna. That sort of rich dark red is a very earthy color and mixes well with the Burnt Umber. Obviously. They both have Burnt in their name.

Loamy!

And this is what my coat of B.S. looks like. You’ll note the dishrag I’ve been using to dry my (cheap and practically disposable!) brush on. You’ll want to dedicate a rag or three to painting, otherwise you’ll go through paper towels at a prodigious rate, and that’s just not cool on many levels.

The third and final stage of painting the boards is to apply a lighter drybrush of Yellow Ochre to pick up some highlights. Honestly, I’m not 100% happy with this color. It contrasts a bit much with the darker brown and red of the Burnt Brothers. I’ll probably try another shade, next time.

I like ochre. Yellow ochre.

Then again, it really does bring out the gravel/sand texture. I didn’t get a good shot of it, but I laid on the Yellow Ochre on the road fairly thick, to simulate dried mud and dust (I followed up with a drybrush of Iraqi Sand, as well).

Dry, but not too dry.

Terrain Boards: The Flocking

Flocking can be made from sawdust and paint. If I had ever used the stuff before a few days ago, and had had any idea what it actually looked like, I would have tried to make my own right off the bat. As it was, I ordered some fairly healthy-sized canisters of Woodland Scenics flock. It’s not cheap, especially for what it is. In any case, I’ll be trying out the method detailed here next time I need flock. Which will be fairly soon, at this rate.

You’re going to need a good-sized brush, a small tub of some sort, some water, a drop cloth (or newspaper) of some sort, and a good amount of glue for this next step.

This could get messy...

Flocking involves spreading PVA glue all over your board(s). I water the glue down to a milky consistency with simple tap water. Apply the glue everywhere you want grass.

Here comes Santa Claus...

Shake flock all over your board. Do it up thick, as we’re going to harvest the excess later. Try to use a couple of shades of flock, so your battlefield doesn’t look like a manicured golf course.

The Flock Monster

I wanted to show that there was a little less wear in the center of the road and driveway. This may not be accurate in a time and place where horse drawn carts and wagons were still commonplace. Certainly, if you plan on using your boards for earlier periods, you shouldn’t have grass in the center of a road. In any case, I used a bit too much glue, and thus have a bit too much grass in the road.

Keep your excess.

So, there it is, a flocked terrain board. Note the excess flock, ready to be returned to its container? This particular board turned out quite well. But there are problems. Behold the next photograph:

The Ignominy of Defeat

Ok, so the problem. As a final step on my terrain boards, I’ve been going over them with another coat of watered down PVA glue. This makes them quite tough, and keeps them from shedding flock everywhere. I got this tip from a used Games Workshop book that I found.

Getting on to the problem, you’ll note that the board in the lower left-hand corner (the one we’ve followed through this little tutorial) looks quite a bit more…verdant than the other two boards. I have no idea why. I used the same methodology for all three boards. I can only guess that the milkiness of the other two boards is due to a) temperature during the curing time, b) humidity during the curing time, or c) a pva/water mix of thicker consistency than the one used on the final board. I really think it’s a mixture of a&b, as I used a space heater in the room where the final board cured, and a space heater makes for a very arid environment.

So, to recap, three things I want to experiment with next time:

  • Something a little less bright than Yellow Ochre for my highlights.
  • A thinner mixture of water & pva for the final protective coating.
  • Forgoing the protective coating altogether, in favor of some sort of spray lacquer.

As an aside, this last photograph shows the level of completion that I’m at as of 11/22/11.  I’m getting closer to being ready for that first game! I need to finish the little house, create a bunch of trees, some hedges, and a rock wall or two.

 

 

0.09 Modular Terrain Boards-Part 2

The next step on the path to modular terrain board domination is to give the board form and texture. Most old country roads in Normandy (or Arkansas, for that matter) are somewhat sunken, as they’ve been worn down or graded thousands of times over the past. I thought 4-6 feet, at scale would be a good depth to give to the road. It’s an arbitrary decision, but I wield supreme executive power over my terrain boards, thank you very much.

After carefully marking centerline, widths, and depths, I began to excavate through the foam insulation (easy, if tedious) and the 1×2 boards (difficult, and tedious). I made the mistake of trying to cut into the foam, which just made an uneven mess, as the material is almost uncontrollable for this application. It does respond to sanding very well, and my other board went smoothly (har har har) once I switched techniques.

A note about carving through the 1x2s: I marked the depth and width I wanted to achieve directly onto the 1×2. Then I took my coping saw (and it works well for this) and semi-carefully cut to those marks in multiple places. Now, there’s no way to complete the cut, if you’re not going to completely sever your 1×2 (and I’d suggest that you don’t, as you’ll completely lose any structural benefit, which is 70% of the reason for putting them on there in the first place). After making the multiple coping saw cuts, I took a 1/2″ chisel and went to work. The earlier cuts by the coping saw make the chiseling controllable. I also used the chisel to rough in a 45 degree bevel at the edges of the cut, in order to simulate a bank. Yes, a picture would have saved us all a thousand befuddled words.

I’d highly recommend sanding everything and getting it somewhat smooth, otherwise you’re going to end up with unwanted textures on your board. Afterwards, a damp cloth is a good way to clean up.

I primed this board with some grey Kilz primer, but I don’t think that step is necessary, at least when using my procedure. I forgot (this illustrates something about the brain power of the writer) to prime one of my three boards, and there’s no discernible difference in the final finishes.

Cut, sanded, and primed.

I’ve used brown ACRYLIC caulking to do my roadbed. That acrylic part is very important, as silicon caulking cannot be painted. Caulking is excellent for simulating a rutted dirt/mud road. I picked up the tip from the always entertaining Lloydian Aspects. I used a cheap plastic sculpting tool to push the stuff around, but an old credit card and a toothpick or piece of sprue would get the job done. Give the caulk at least 24 hours to dry, or you’ll have a sticky mess. Add your roadway texturing sand/gravel into the caulk itself, before it sets up.

It's not handsome. Yet.

The next step is to lay down a base coat of paint mixed with sand and gravel. I’m going to be gaming in Normandy, so something rich and brown seemed right. I went with the always-loamy burnt umber. You’ll end up with a thick (but not too thick!) slurry. You’ll want to use a large cheap paintbrush to spread it about the board. Don’t be shy, put it on there thick and get 100% coverage.

Get dirty

Shake your container to mix your gravel and sand up before adding the paint.

Playground sand and some Woodland Scenics ballast

You’ll end up with this lovely cake-like finish. Resist the temptation, and don’t eat it. Let it dry thoroughly. The foam portions will take longer, which makes me thing the 1x2s are soaking up moisture from the burnt umber paint. Even though they’ve already been primed. No adverse effect so far, though.

Base color and texture applied.

0.08 Modular Terrain Boards-Basic Construction

The Ground for which We Fight

I’m going to break down my ideas and notes on building terrain boards over several posts. Otherwise, they’ll be unreadable. I won’t be doing a tutorial, per se, but I will try to give some insights, observations, and warnings along the way.

I really like the idea of custom scratch-built terrain boards, as opposed to draping a cloth over some books. I enjoy the act of making, so it suits me to a tee. However, if you can stand NOT to have custom-built terrain boards and are more interested in playing than building, I’d highly recommend avoiding them. Building terrain boards is expensive, time-consuming, messy, and takes up a tremendous amount of space.

That's a lot of wood...

My first foray into a modular terrain board system. I hate sanding.

Mr. Modular

One thing that can lead to a larger return on your terrain board investments is to build them in a modular fashion, so that each board can be used in multiple configurations and will be of use to you for future scenarios and campaigns. As a bonus, modular terrain boards can be made into sizes suitable for transport.

Above you can see my first (and only, at this point) attempts at modular terrain. There isn’t anything particularly innovative or useful about this layout. In fact, the only thing modular about it is that the boards are 12″x24″ in size and the sunken roads enter and leave from the same points on each edge. The first thing that I learned during modular terrain board building? Build them in squares. The square is a more flexible shape for a modular system, and the square’s just as easy to build as rectangles.

Materials Used in Basic Construction

  • 3/8″ Masonite Board, or some other thin, but reasonably strong sheet of wood-like substance.
  • 1×2 lumber
  • 3/4″ wood screws
  • 3/4″ rigid foam insulation (duPont, in this case)
  • Drywall spackle, for smoothing out transitions.
  • A can of primer. I’d suggest grey or black.

Tools Needed for Basic Construction

  • A saw, of some sort.
  • A drill, or a real talent at screwing.
  • PVA glue
  • A good sharp chisel, for any sunken features crossing the borders (rivers, roads, ponds, ravines, etc.)
  • A few grades of sandpaper. A sanding block is nice, too.
  • Some sculpting tools or small trowels.
  • 2″ or larger paint brush.
  • A cheap breathing mask, unless you’re a manly man.

My boards are made of a masonite backing, with 1×2 lumber cut to fit and placed around the edges to provide structural rigidity and protect the foam. The foam fills in the center. The construction should be pretty obvious, even from the not very useful photo I’ve posted above.

A few notes:

  • Have the hardware store cut your masonite down to size, unless you have a large truck to carry it.
  • ‘1×2’ is a nominal dimension. 1×2 lumber is actually more like 3/4″ x 1.5″. This is a good thing, because the 3/4″ insulation is actually 3/4″ deep. The lesson is to physically verify dimensions before purchasing any materials.
  • Carefully select your lumber. It’s likely to be at least slightly warped, and any warping really shows up at the scales we are working in.
  • Don’t use a coping saw for any step in this process. I did, and my 1x2s are not very precise. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but if you’re going to cut something, why not do it in a way that’s going to look good. The sad thing is I have a perfectly good table saw out in the storage shed, but I was too lazy to go and dig it out.
  • Cutting and sanding foam insulation is extremely messy. Wear a mask, and do it somewhere you don’t mind have fine blue particulates all over everything.
  • Screw things from behind. You’ll want to screw through the masonite backing into the 1x2s so you don’t have to deal with filling in screw heads on your finished surfaces. Also note that if you have a sunken terrain feature crossing a border, you can’t put a screw there.
  • Buy paint for terrain boards in larger quantities. You can take a sample of your model paints down to any respectable hardware store and they’ll be able to mix you something very close to the same color. I get the paint in quart cans, and it’s a little expensive up front, but those cans will last a long time and cover many terrain boards.
  • As much as sanding rigid foam insulation sucks, it’s the best way to ‘carve’ into the stuff, unless you have access to one of those fancy hot wire foam cutters. If you try to carve out with a knife, you’re going to have a bad day.
  • DON’T FORGET TO REMOVE THE CLEAR PLASTIC FILM FROM THE FOAM INSULATION please.

Ok, there are some notes on basic construction. As with any sort of construction, measure twice, cut once. Be patient and think things through-you’ll waste less material and save yourself some frustration.