Tag Archives: scratch build

A Place to Call Home

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Apples and ale

Not too much progress on the hobby front over the past couple of weeks, but I did make up this deployment point vignette for Sharp Practice II. It’s carved out of polyiso rigid insulation, which is something of a new material for me to work with. This was a practice piece. I think my texture work needs some…work, and the paint job got away from me a bit. I wanted it to look like a weathered ruin, but it’s kind of a muddy mess.

I thought about adding some stacked muskets to the vignette for extra ambience, but left them out for the moment, leaving the piece is period-neutral.

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Rubble filled stone wall.

The only figure I’ve painted since the last post is the colonel of the 1/52nd that you see in the pictures. It’s a Perry figure. He’s quite dashing, with his pelisse thrown carelessly over his shoulder, and bright orange mutton chops. I’ll call him Opie.

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You’ll never fit through that door, Opie.

 

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On the Workbench

So, I’ve been ‘working’ fairly hard on my WW2 skirmish stuff. I have a baker’s dozen of Panzergrenadiers completed, and have been scratchbuilding a 2 story farmhouse.

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

Construction of the house is foamcore (1/4″), basswood (for the floors), embossed plasticard for the stone wainscot, tile adhesive for the stucco, and scribed plasticard for the shutters and other details.

It's impossible to tell, but the basswood floor was scribed and stained. Not particularly effective.

It’s impossible to tell, but the basswood floor was scribed and stained. Not particularly effective.

I spent some time scribing the basswood floor with an X-acto knife and then did an ink wash, hoping it would pick up the detail. It looked great when wet, but there’s hardly a hint of the planks after everything dried.

Watch out for that MG-42...

Watch out for that MG-42…

I lament my inability to get my germans to look anything other than dull dull dull.

The little farmhouse design is from a building I found in Trimble Sketchup’s 3d warehouse, which is a repository of 3d models. I exported elevation views of the computer model, scaled them, printed them out, and used them as templates for cutting the foamcore. I’ve built it up from there.

I know a typical Normandy farmhouse would most likely be 100% native stone, but I was really in no mood for scribing that much foamcore, and the model railroad stonework I was able to find locally was not of the right scale. In fact, the stone wainscot that IS there is HO scale brick that I’ve scuffed up in hopes that it will look like stone when painted.

The building still needs another coat of stucco to conceal the foamcore edge lines, a couple of interior partition walls to help hold up the roof. And a roof. Which will be the most labor intensive part.

We’ll see how she paints up in a few days. Well, maybe weeks.

0.11 Further Adventures in Housing

Another Step

If you missed the first of this exciting series on scratchbuilding a simple house, you can find it here.

Having finished the house and terrain boards, I’m getting dangerously close to being ready for my first game (at which point my post numbers will cleverly move to the 1.* series). All that stands between me and commencement of Operation: Honeypot  is a few trees, a stone wall, and some practical understanding of the NUTS! rules.

Gathering of the Materials

These things, you will need them.

I’m building a heavy timber & stucco house. Ironically, the campaign that I’m eventually hoping to do is completely set in Normandy, where everything is apparently constructed of stone, but that’s beside the point for the purposes of this post.

These materials should be fairly self-explanatory, but here are a few notes, anyway:

  • The blue-green thing is an ultra-cheap sculpting tool, available at any art supply shop.
  • There in the back is a 1/32″ sheet of basswood. Basswood is slightly more expensive than balsa wood, but is a far superior material in strength and grade of finish. You’ll never see a decent architectural model made of balsa for this reason. Save yourself some grief and pony up the extra money.
  • The white tub contains tile adhesive, which was recommended on other sites. It works fine, but takes quite a while to dry and has the smell of something horribly toxic. I’ve used it to simulate stucco on this project, but I think I might stick to drywall spackle in the future and save my few remaining brain cells for more important things.
An Inelegant Portal and other Mistakes

A not so clever solution for a removable door.

I’m playing a 1:1 skirmish set of rules, so I need to be able to get access to the interior of the house. This necessitates the presence of a removable roof and door. Above you can see my solution to a removable door. The large plank holds the sheet of basswood that is the double door to the house in place. I spent about 5 seconds thinking this up, and it shows. It’s especially hideous when the door is removed and you can see the log of wood behind it through the open doorway. In retrospect, I should have built some sort of ‘header’ that I could slide the door down through. It wouldn’t have been any more realistic, but at least it wouldn’t have been visible!

Moisture, meet cardboard. Cardboard, moisture.

Oh, boy. More screw ups. Here you can see that the tile adhesive has totally warped my cardboard walls. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to live with this in the future. It’s not very noticeable on the gaming table for this house, but this sort of warping certainly wouldn’t be acceptable on a multi-story building. Foam core may be the answer, though I find that stuff to be near impossible to cut with any accuracy.

0.07" polystyrene, thou art not easy to cut

Here you can see the house has been textured with tile adhesive and mounted to a sheet of 0.07″ styrene. The styrene was cut from a larger sheet with an x-acto knife. For a neat finish, beveling the edges with sandpaper is a good idea.

A Slight Rant
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m a nontraditional architecture student (nontraditional means old). As someone who is somewhat informed about building practices and structural engineering, let me just say that there is some weird shit out there in the miniatures wargaming world when it comes to buildings. Here’s a few notes about this project from that perspective:

  • Heavy Timber beams span no more than 10′-12′. This means you need a column every 10′-12′.
  • Structure in traditional building types will be regular and symmetrical 9.9 times out of 10.
  • Columns do not need to be (and hardly ever are) massive to hold up a one or two-story house. A great many scratch-built  heavy timber houses I see on the internet have the structural members grossly over-sized, which leads to a cartoonish look. Which is cool, if that’s what you’re going for.
  • Columns are never interrupted by a window or door. NEVER.
  • Windows and doors have structure around them. In a heavy timber building, it’s likely to be visible.
  • Door and window headers are typically at a uniform height. In recent modern times this height tends to be 6’8″-7′-0″. That said, it’s no set rule, especially before the advent of building codes.

I realize this is the equivalent of being dismayed that the muffler is mounted the wrong way on some obscure armored car, but there it is.

Moving On

The texture is all out of scale. Ask me if I care.

In spite of all my grousing about structural accuracy, I’m willing to let things like out of scale stucco texture slide. This makes me a hypocrite, but I can live with that.

The blue-green sculpting tool you saw earlier is too large for this sort of work. I need to find something else. You can see that I’ve added material to the base to create some sort of ground. I used the tile adhesive again. One benefit of building up the base is that it lets you hide little problems along the bottom of the model.

Painting

Base coat the various elements, then prepare to drybrush

The tile adhesive will take some time to dry. I let mine cure for 24 hours, and it was dry to the touch by then. The model still reeked of adhesive chemicals for another few days, but the finish has done just fine.

I’ve painted the wooden members black as a sort of primer. The stucco portions of the house have been painted in yellow ochre. I’ll be sticking close to my palette for the terrain boards, as stucco on vernacular architecture is typically made from local materials. The base of the model is done using the exact process that I’ve used on my terrain boards, so that it will fit in reasonably well.

End Result

The finished product...

And there it is. The stucco has been heavily drybrushed with Vallejo Iraqi Sand. The roof is black with a drybrush of burnt sienna from the craft store. The roof looks pretty good on the table, but it’s depressing me to look at it in this close-up photograph. I’ve added in some Woodland Scenics bushes on the house’s base, along with a few sisal string weeds.

This building is a bit frustrating to me. I made some stupid mistakes along the way, and I’m not completely buying the paint job. That said, it looks believable on the table, and having it completed gets me closer to that crucial first game.

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.

0.02 This Old House

My next few posts are going to cover some recent history. Back-story, if you will, getting my millions of readers up to date with current events on my odyssey into mini wargaming.

After I started getting into Wings of War, it didn’t take long for the internet to lead me astray and into the realm of historical miniature wargaming. I started frequenting nefarious locations like TMP, looking for information about rules, time frames, and scales.

I began to research rules, scales, periods of history, and manufacturers of miniatures (the search for which I’ll cover in other posts). I quickly settled on 20mm (1/72) as my scale, because my research showed that plastics were going to be the most affordable way to go, and there are an abundance of options at that scale. Though I continued obsessing over my choices in that realm, I really wanted to get started with something tangible.

The Kamloopian has a great website full of tips, tricks, and tutorials on creating wargaming terrain. I encountered some of his tutorials whilst stumbling about on YouTube, and his very detailed (and long, oh so long) series of videos on creating a little country house inspired me.

All of that is a very long-winded way of saying, “Here’s the first project I undertook: a country house.”

Everything you need to get started on a little house, and then some.

Here’s my farm house in its current state. Yes, it’s unfinished. Yes, it’s sad, seeing as how this is the first project I started. That said, I tend to work a number of projects in parallel, instead of in sequence. Theoretically, they all tie together at the end, and I have everything I need to play a game.

Materials
This building is made largely of cardboard I had laying around the house. Not that my house is full of old cardboard, or anything. The walls are of pretty high quality corrugated cardboard from a laser printer toner cartridge that I had recently bought. The roof is completely made of bits of a Cheerios box.

Tools
Assembled are all the tools that I used to get the house into its current state. The gridded black mat is a self-healing cutting mat that you can find at any drafting supply store. Most university bookstores will carry them, as well. I highly recommend that you pick one up. They’re not very expensive in this size (you can get larger), and they will save your tables from nasty nicks and cuts. I’ve had this one for about five years, so they’re pretty sturdy.

I use a #2 X-acto blade (and holder) to do my cutting. They are very sharp and you can cut quite precisely, if you get a metal ruler. The blades will wear out. If you throw them in the trash as-is you may cut yourself when taking your garbage to the curb. Even worse, you garbageman may cut himself. Put your discards in some sort of rigid container. I’m using a large (empty) box of Tic Tacs.

A note on my metal ruler. It’s not from down at the local hardware store, for a good reason. Your blade can easily jump up onto a thin metal ruler while you’re cutting, and you’ll soon find yourself pumping blood all over your cardboard. Get a ruler that has a cork backing that’s about 3/32″ thick. This backing lifts the ruler up off of the medium you’re cutting, and gives a little ledge to protect your hand. As with the self-healing mat, you can find these rulers at drafting supply stores and quite probably art supply stores. You could make your fairly inexpensively, as well.

Cheap glue that dries clear will work fine for this project. I used Elmers, because I had some in the bottom of my kitchen junk drawer.

Butt, no

This joint, she is weak.

I’m showing you the above image because I used a butt joint to join up the walls of my house. I cut fairly precisely with my fancy ruler, but this is not an ideal connection. I suspect it won’t stand up to repeated use on the gaming table, and I’ll need to develop another method. Probably some sort of thin cardboard folder to 90 degrees and put against the interior corner would do the trick.

I’ve masked the joints at the outside corner with Squadron Putty. I wouldn’t recommend that product for anything involving very much surface area, because it kills brain cells and smells like it too. Eventually this house will be stucco-covered stone. I’ll be simulating the stucco with either drywall spackle or tile adhesive, so the putty is superfluous, anyway. That’s not to say that Squadron Putty doesn’t have its uses, because it certainly does.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

This method looks really good. I wouldn't recommend it for anything less than a show piece.

Here’s a detail of the roof. These shingles are all cut from the Cheerios box and pasted individually to a backing of said Cheerios box cardboard. I chose to put the non-glossy side of the box face up. I’m not 100% sure if it was the right choice or not. I’m afraid it will warp when I begin painting it. I’ll be sure to share the carnage, when it happens.

Since starting this building project I’ve encountered another method of doing shingles that seems much faster than what I’ve done (effectively shingling the roof in miniature). I’ll definitely be trying the alternate way out on my next building, because laying down each individual shingle is a real pain in the ass. Cutting them out isn’t much fun, either.

For those that like to buy things, you can get pre-textured polystyrene sheets with shingles and bricks already cast into them. I’m not going to put up a link and encourage such cheap and easy methods, though!

I’ll be finishing this build up in the next week or so. I’ll try to do a step-by-step on applying finishes, when the time comes.