Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!

Please take a moment, in the midst of all the gifts, the food, and your family and friends, to give thanks to God Almighty for the first (and greatest) Christmas gift of them all: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Regarding this blog, well... I'll be posting something soonish. Really.
Yours very truly,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Newest Bit of Terrain!

All I asked my wife to get me for Father's Day was a paint rack.

This is what I got instead.

I. Love. My. Wife.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Photos of Martian Rocks and Hills

Three different finishes on these rock formations. I'll create a poll over them, but I would like your input as to which looks best. All three rocks have essentially the same paint job and foundation: 1/2" pink foam, with black flat latex brushed on, then three colors of spray. The rock on bottom right shows this. The second rock, at the top of the triangle, got a spray of textured paint before the three-color spray, and also has a bit of iron oxide gravel on it. The third rock was painted and then I added a pretty solid coating of iron oxide gravel and fine ballast to the top.
Here's a long, ridge-like outcropping. The sloped edges are considered passable, the rugged nearly vertical edges are not. This rock, like all the others, has the three-tone spray paint on 1/2" pink foam. In the background you can see another hill, with another small rise added to it. In the scenario I am creating, the British must pass between this outcrop and the hill to reach their destination off board.

This formation is one of the most complex ones I have done so far, up to four layers thick, but I really like it. It makes for a pretty good high ground to hold, though there isn't much cover. It does provide a good vantage over most battlefields, so if you have a long-range weapon, this would be a good site for it. It's also difficult to scale, as most of the faces are cliffside.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Hills of Mars...

I am doing a little bit of terrain work these last few days. I have finally come up with a method that I like for using pink 1/2" thick foam insulation board.

I have a hot-wire foam cutter, a cheapie I got at Hobby Lobby a couple of years back for $10, I think. That's what I am using to shape the pieces, cut smooth bevels for the hillsides, rough faces for cliff sides, that sort of thing.

I'm using spray adhesive. Sounds a little crazy, I admit, but it seems to hold like cement and doesn't eat the foam. This way I can stack multiple layers for more impressive rock outcrops and hills.

So I cut the foam to the shape I want using the hotwire. Then I glue the layers together. So far so good.

The next step is painting. I found some black latex wall paint I had leftover from a DIY project, so I used that. Painted it on the foam, let it dry. Now when I spray paint the colors on the foam, the foam doesn't dissolve away!

Finally, once the black is dry, I hit the foam with three colors of spray in at least two layers of each color. You don't have to wait for each layer to dry - I like the mixed look, it seems mroe natural.

I'll post pictures once I get some decent lighting. I tried to take a few shots tonight, but... too dark.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Martian Insulae

Like many pieces of terrain these days, my Martian insulae (old style apartment buildings) start off life as packaging material. In this case, I got hold of several of these pieces from the IT guy at my school - maybe five or six of them total. Each will eventually become a block of row-houses.
Same packaging, spray painted. I used three colors in successive layers, then went back and lightly 'dusted' with the lower colors to keep the sort of mottled look I was going for. I like the texture of the packaging as well - actually, it was as important as the interesting shape when I saw it laying there, discarded, looking for a way to be recycled. Man, I feel the urge to hug a tree or something...

One of the nooks and crannies between the humps looked (to me at least) just like a walkway between upper levels. So I put in two doors and a railing. Of course, they need painting still, but you get the idea.
In this last shot (again, not a great picture), you can see the ground level entries for two homes, plus chimneys (the mushroom-looking things) and windows for upper stories. The windows need painting, of course, and the doors are waiting on a trip to the store to purchase framing pieces for around them.

So far, I think they look pretty good. Thanks to a brief discussion with my friend Eli, I have some ideas for rooftop patios or gardens as well, with lattice gratings, maybe awnings. Let me know what you think, and I will keep you posted as I continue work on this little project.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Terrain Blog I Found...

It's called "Take the High Ground," and it's done by a fellow out of the UK.

Quite good stuff, actually, and he explains what he's done fairly well, if not exactly step-by-step. But you can easily see how he did things.

I just wish I could duplicate them!

As far as my projects go... real life has intruded pretty heavily in the modeling/terrain making realm, and I've done very little. In fact, nothing at all in weeks.

Maybe I'll put a little time aside this weekend to work on a project or two, inspired by our friend here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Not Dead Yet!

Really... the blog isn't dead.
It's just that I haven't done a darned thing terrain wise in a month, unless you count buying one piece on eBay and picking up a few interesting bits of plastic that were laying around.
I have found a possible source for one piece of terrain I have been wanting to buy: the Cryx Necrotite Mining Rig for Warmachine. Now, I don't actually play Warmachine, but the piece looks just about perfect for my VSF gaming universe. Necrotite is a glowing green substance, and I have this stuff I call handwavium, which is used to create a chemically induced heat source for steam power, without needing oxygen. Perfect for long space flights - pardon me, aether flights - don't you agree?
Anyway, this rig looks just right for a large experimental handwavium reactor, or maybe a power supply for a small town, fort, secret laboratory, or what have you. I'm leaning towards secret lab, myself, waht with Herr Doctor Maton running about on Mars and all.
The other development is that I have begun looking into a supplier for a custom made Martian terrain gaming mat. looks rather promising, and I have been in email contact with him. He thinks he can match up to my hill coloration rather closely, which would be great. He's also a nice guy and a fellow Texan, so there you go.
More later this month, I promise.

Friday, March 6, 2009

New Tools

I read about some new tools available for working with foamboard on TMP (The Miniatures Page, an absolute treasure trove for miniatures gaming of all kinds:

The company is called Foamwerks [] and their product is supposed to be available at Hobby Lobby stores. I am planning a check this weekend if I can get to a store.

The most interesting tools to me are the clips the have for butt joints on the foamcore. Both end to end and T-junction joints can be made, and it holds the foam perfectly while your adhesive dries. I'll probably be buying a pack of these if they are in stock. If not, I may even special order them.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Photo of the Parrotman Hut

This small birdhouse made a great hut. All I did to it was to stain the raw wood, cut off the original perch and add a wooden step. Finally, I cut a conical piece of the material from underside of a pot-topper and glued it to the roof of the birdhouse.
Presto! Instant primitive hut.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting Stuff...

I have been searching for bits and pieces here and there for an aerial flier project, and while doing so, ran across some interesting things. I thought I'd share, in case anyone else is interested in the same sort of oddities.

These fellows make Cthulu-esque terrain pieces. Go to the bottom of the page, but check out the rest of their stuff, too. Its pretty neat. I wonder who carries them in the US?

If you are in a hurry, and want nice looking stuff that's reasonably cheap and super quick, check these fellows out: They sell paper terrain that you download, print on cardstock, fold and place. I don't have any, but the pictures are nice. And if it gets crushed, chuck it and print a new one - nice!
Anyway, check it out!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some VSF Work

First, the parrotmen hut. This could be any primitive hut, really. The base is a $1.00 miniature birdhouse I purchased at a local craft store (Michael's) in their bargain aisle. First I cut the rope loop off the top. Then I cut off the perch in the front and stained the whole thing with a dark walnut stain.
Finally, I used the earth-y looking underside of the pot-toppers I was telling you about in another posting to do the roof. Just make a cone shape by making a circle and then cutting out a quarter of it. Glue to the roof using some PVA (Elmer's) glue painted on pretty thickly. I used superglue to join the edges of the roofing material together. I think it looks like a peat or thatched roof of some sort.
All that is left to do on this one is the small porch/step I am using to replace the perch dowel.

This second piece is an older piece that is getting a facelift. It's gotten a touchup of my now-standard Martian sand, plus a few layers of the water effects stuff I have been using. Finally, I added a lot of reed bundles. These are about an inch tall, so very high reeds/grasses for 15mm, or tall grass for 25/28mm gaming.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Scum in the pond it is...

Okay, I am going to give it a shot, as urged by the poll...

Which, by the way, got a disappointing response level.

I'll let you know how it goes in a day or two.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Archiving Labels

Hi guys (and gals).

It just dawned on me that I really need some sort of systematic method of labeling posts so that I (or you!) can find them agian later, or check out older posts of interest if you are just reading the blog for the first time. Its not an issue now, with so few posts, but it could become one if I keep this up as I hope to do so. With that in mind, I am going to try to establish a system. So far, here's what I have:

Articles that I post that are essentially step-by-step instructions on how to make some piece of terrain or scenic item. A post type label.

Anything specifically of interest to 15mm games. A scale label.

Anything specifically of interest to 25mm games. A scale label.

Article relates specifically to some sort of permanent structure: house, barn, office building, school, outhouse, etc.

Post deals with some feature of the blog.

Posts dealing with some sort of field, for crops, ranching, or whatever. Includes orchards. A terrain label.

This label indicates that the post is probably nto gaming related, but that it does homage to something I felt was important enough to be mentioned. Ex: Veteran's Day.

Article discusses the usage of varying materials in terrain making. Generally, these are not specifically designed for wargaming terrain (example: using PVC pipe for pipelines)

Indicates post has either a lot of photos or exists only to showcase something.

Post discusses a poll topic. A post type label.

As opposed to materials, these are ready-made items, specifically for use as terrain or for the making of terrain. This would include such things as resin buildings from any of the various manufacturers.

Either a listing of projects or an update on the progress of same. A post type label.

Sometimes completely off-topic, but something I needed to get off of my chest anyway. I avoid politics, and these aren't frequent, thank God. Another post type label. You have been warned.

Post dealing with either resin casting, or resin-based materials or products. A material label.

Post dealing with rivers, streams, waterfalls, etc. A terrain type label.

Another terrain type label. Sometimes these are just scenic additions to larger terrain pieces.

As opposed to terrain, scenics are man-made objects. This includes buildings, but also such things as signposts, billboards, fences, telegraph poles, etc.

Post deals with construction of terrain from odds and ends leftover from other projects or just laying about the house. Not to be confused with scratch-building, which is mostly what I do here anyway.

Post describes or discusses tools useful for making terrain.

Post describes or discusses where one can locate various tools, terrain pieces, materials, products, etc.

VSF (Victorian Science Fiction)
The gaming genre I am most involved with right now. Also often described as 'steampunk.' I could probably generate more hits by making steampunk the label, come to think of it. I will add other genre labels as needed (medieval, modern, sci-fi all come to mind). A genre-type label indicates, naturally, that the post deals primarily with something useful to that genre.

Yet another terrain-type label, for any kind of liquid surface. Rivers, ponds, asphalt pools - you nmae it, it falls under this one.

Somewhere in the post I am indicating a good place to go check something out. It may also be a vendor, or some kind of notice about a product, or just some really cool terrain. You should go and check it out.

That's it for now. My OCD need to neatly pigeonhole things has been satiated temporarily.

Feels good, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Project Listing

Thought I would go ahead and list all my current projects and recently finished ones.

You can check it out in the sidebar.

Great New Product

Okay, I check out Litko's "Jim's Product Lab" from time to time, just to see what all that madman has gotten up to lately. Some of the things he creates are just too cool.

This time, I think he's outdone himself. They have a modular building line for sci-fi/modern gaming. While I don't need that kind of thing very much on the projects I am working on these days, he just did up (well, I just noticed for the first time, at any rate) a couple of different sets of stairs to be attached to the outside of some modular towers. I absolutely hate making staircases. Despise it. I make a lot of goofus ladders instead. These may change that.

Naturally, they could be attached to the outside of pretty much anything. or the inside if you were detailing the interior.

Anyway, check here to see it. Scroll down the page a little bit. You'll find them.

Bookmark it - you're going to want to go back again later. I know that I do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Just a quick shot of the telegraph poles in use! This is a VSF setting, with a column of her Britannic Majesty's troops patrolling the line.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Jungle and Martian Pools

I've been re-working an old piece of VSF (Victorian Science Fiction) terrain I made over a year ago. I was never really happy with it, but it looks much better now.

Essentially, it's a piece of thin plywood, on which I smeared a fair amount of wood putty, forming some slighty uneven terrain and a depression in the center, for the pool. Sprayed the whole thing in various reddish-browns, then hand painted the center in the blues you see.

Sorry about the blurry shot. Some days I just can't take a decent picture.

What I had to re-work most was the sand/flocking around the pool. Originally, the ground looked more like a hard baked but way too smooth mud plain, not the desert-like surface I envision on a dying Mars' surface. I also added about three additional thin layers of the water to the pond for greater depth. Finally, I had glued in the small cluster of holly berries as some sort of alien reed plant in fruit. I have some more work to do on it, like reed bundles at the edges and some sort of game trail leading to the edge of the pool (maybe scraping away the sand and going back to that mud pack look), but I am much happier with it so far.

The second piece here is one I mentioned a few weeks ago. Its going to use a pot-topper for the grass around the pool. I have a few shots showing how I built up the pool, then primed and painted the interior of the pool and the rest of the base.

So, you can see the progression through the process. I poured water (first layer) into it late yesterday evening, so I have to wait until tonight to add more. It will also get three or four layers of the water. I have even thought of painting in a little green on one of the middle layers, after it dries, to get a little of a scummy water effect. What do you think? I'll poll it, I suppose, since I like to keep polls up anyway. Let me know, and make comments on what you think I should do.

Rivers Project, Part 3

So, I have finally gotten around to pouring some of the realistic water effect stuff into some of the river sections.

The stuff is pretty easy to work with, you just use it in thin layers. As you can see, I used some modelling clay to block the ends of the pieces so the liquid would not simply run all over the place. Then I set it aside to dry for a day.
After 24 hours, I poured a second layer. Again, let it sit for 24 hours.

It was actually more like 3 days before I got back around to these sections. I scored the ends along the modelling clay with a craft knife. Always use a fresh sharp blade - I probably keep the guys at X-Acto in business. Sorry about the blurry picture.

Now all you have to do is flock the banks, which I am going to try to get to this afternoon. Which means you may finally get to see some finished pieces in the next week or so. Note that I highly recommend you finish all of your pours and let it dry all the way before even thinking about flocking. The reason is simple: little bits of flock always get trapped in the hardening water. It isn't the end of the world, but it looks better without.
I have some custom pieces I need to work on to finish the project, and of course all that flocking and sanding and such. I hope to have a decent shot or two of some finished pieces by the end of the week. Until then, check out some of my other projects that I am updating.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Telegraph / Telephone Poles, Construction

Welcome to my latest "How-To" article. This time around, I am going to go through the steps I am taking to build a set of telegraph poles. These could also be used, obviously, for telephone lines or even electrical lines if you wished.


1/4" diameter hardwood dowel
1" steel washer (provides weight to help stand upright and allows for magnetized storage)
1/16" x 1/16" basswood strip
1/8 x 1/16" basswood strip
Epoxy putty (I used "Miracle Putty" - you know, the stuff Billy Mays hawks on TV)


Craft knife (always use a nice, sharp blade - safety first!)
Cutting mat (mine is marked in inches and centimeters, with a 1/2" grid)
Glue (I used both superglue and Alene's Tacky Glue)

Step One: Cut the poles.

Very simple. Cut the 1/4" dowel into a suitable length. I did mine at about 3" (75 mm) in length, for mainly 15mm gaming. They should still work for 25mm, though a bit squat.

Step Two: Prepare the base.

Take a small lump of the epoxy putty and work the two parts together to activate it. Once activated, it will begin to set, so don't waste time here.

Apply the putty to a washer, forming a mound. Then simply press the base of your pole (which we cut in Step One) into the center of the mound to create a hole for the pole to be glued into later. Gently remove the pole so you don't mess up the hole you just made.

Step Three: Cut and assemble the crossbar and struts.

This is the part that will support the wires (which we are going to leave to the imagination for now, though I have a neat idea for adding them that I may work on later). Take a length of 1/8" x 1/16" basswood strip and cut it to 2" (5 cm).

Then cut two pieces of 1/8" x 1/8" basswood into approximately 1" (25 mm) long, with opposing 45° miter cuts. I didn't bother with a miter box for the cuts, but used the lines on my cutting mat to help align everything.

Make sure it all aligns nicely, forming an isosceles right triangle with the crossbar as the hypotenuse. Then glue the struts to the crossbar and each other.

Step Four: Attaching the crossbar to the pole.

Make a small perpendicular cut in the pole, about 3/8" from the top. Make a second small cut, parallel to the first, 1/8" further down the pole. (Sorry, the photo is blurry.)

Using a sharp craft knife, carve a shallow notch out of the pole between the two lines. The lines will act as stops for the carving and help to keep it neat.

The notch will be where you attach the center of the crossbar. It provides a nice, flat surface to improve glue adhesion. I have not been notching for the struts where they meet the pole, although you certainly could do that as well.

Put a drop of glue on the center of the crossbar and another on the point where the struts meet. Glue the crossbar into the notch and hold the struts against the pole until the glue begins to set.

Step Five: Attaching the base. [No photo]

Once you have the pole and crossbrace assembled, its time to attach the pole to the base. Check to see if the epoxy putty has set. It usually will be ready by the time you have finished all of the other steps. If not, wait a bit longer until it is good and hard.

Simply apply glue to the base end of the pole and insert it into the hole you made earlier. I put glue up the sides of the pole's base as well, to give additional strength, bonding to the bottom and sides instead of just the bottom.

Step Six: Painting. [No photo]

You have some options here. I chose option 1.
  1. Paint the entire pole and base. I used a dark brown spray paint.
  2. Leave the pole its natural color, and paint the base a nice earth tone.
  3. Stain the pole and paint the base afterwards.

Step Seven: Flock the base.

Once the base is dry, paint some thinned down PVA glue onto it. I use cheap throw away brushes for this. I got 150 for $3 at a craft store. Then dip into your favorite flocking blend. I used my generic "sandy/rocky" terrain blend. This makes it useful for both Mars and many places on Earth. Once that dried, I dabbed a little more thinned down PVA on and then applied some static grass (burnt grass, Woodland Scenics, IIRC).


One completed telegraph/telephone pole. (Well, it still needs its shot of matte finish to protect it, but you get the idea). Singly, it looks a bit like a cross awaiting its victim (not theologically speaking, just as a rather nasty form of execution that was pretty common in the bad old days), but when placed in a line across your table, it leaves no doubt. Protecting the line is going to be a common scenario goal in the near future, I think.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A site I came across...

Its called Chicago Terrain Factory. Its quite impressive, and the jungle temple terrain piece pictured below is featured there. Run - do not walk - to check them out. The link above goes to information about the jungle piece, but it is easy to navigate around their site to see all they have to offer.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Current Projects Jan 09


Okay, so I am finally getting back to thinking about doing something.

I know I need to finish the Rivers project how-to. I'll get on that soon, I promise. Really.

The other two projects that are percolating in my head are telegraph lines and a pond project.

The telegraph/telephone lines are really just the poles. I have four ready to spraypaint. I'm making about ten of them, total. The idea is to give the impression of a line of telegraph poles, not create a massive network of them. Protecting them may become the point of a scenario.

The pond is going to be based around the pot-toppers I just bought at Michael's Craft Store the other day (mentioned in a previous post). I have a basic plan for the project thought out, but no actual work has been accomplished. I hope to do something on it this week or perhaps the weekend.