Sunday, February 14, 2016

adventures in terrain building, part 1

Even though the Gauls aren't yet finished, I've been wanting to build some terrain, been wanting to do that for a very long time.  I had watched a lot of youtube videos on terrain building, especially how to make trees, which are probably the most important terrain feature, after the ground itself, of course.

One page really stuck out, and stuck out even more than the videos I had seen, and I had seen many of them.  It was on the Beasts Of War website.  There, a modeller built a lot of trees, using dowels, covered with wood filler to simulate bark and the features of tree trunks, and furnace/air conditioner filter material.

Brilliant!! I thought, so off I went to the local store belonging to a chain that sports a lot of orange, you can guess which.  They didn't have any such material!  All the filters were folded paper packed inside cardboard frames! Went to a big box superstore. No luck there either! I was starting to get frustrated, and at the same time, impatient.  I felt I absolutely had to come back with some materials with which to build my project. I went to a local fabric/craft store. A forlorn hope.

They had dowels, well, these can be found at any craft store, even in the craft departments of bigbox stores. But what to use for foliage?  They had a lot of moss, lichen.

I don't like using lichen, or moss, they're not permanent, not like synthetic materials, which will stay and stay for thousands of years, though not necessary in usable condition perhaps.  Lichen is something I had used for terrain long, long ago, when I had built terrain and two complete NATO and Soviet armies, a brigade of NATO troops and a Soviet Motor Rifle regiment, having crafted all the tanks, MICV's even AAA and SAM tracks.  I still have the little balsa vehicles, but all that's another story...

So I used lichen for bushes, trees... bushes and such were small clumps, trees were represented by taller mounds of lichen. Then to preserve them, I gave the lichen a generous spraying with hair spray.  A couple of years later, gathering all that to pack to leave Chicago and move to the one time exoburbs, now suburbs, I found these stands, and on picking them up, they disintegrated in my hands, leaving cardboard and dried carpenters' glue behind.  It was almost like that scene in The Time Machine, where Rod Taylor was introduced to a collection of antique books from tens of thousands of years before, then tried to pick one up and it simply turned to dust in his hands!  Yeah, just like that!

So no, I don't use lichen.

And because I'm such a cheapskate, I didn't want to buy ready made trees.

Next aisle over, I saw foam, styrofoam, and florists foam.  I didn't want to use styrofoam, because all those tiny plastic balls I knew would take years to exorcize from the house and they get onto everything!  What about the florist foam?

Well, I was desperate, I had to being SOMETHING back home!  So I bought two sheets of that, nice thick sheets, dowels, a can of green green spray paint, and other things, went to another store and picked up two tubes of white wood filler, the same kind I used to base my figures with.  Went home, took a few moments, and despaired.  This is NOT going to work.  Slept over it too.

The next morning, it came to me, why not cut off chunks of it, chop it into a rough tree form, gouge it out to simulate clumps of foliage and see how it looks.  So I did.

this was made from two pieces of foam, I was thinking that the method demonstrated on the other page might just work, it did not, trying to cut a chunk of florist foam into a star shape does not work very well

so I tried to make it look round, nice, but not quite what I had in mind, unless I wanted to model an Orange orchard...

I was about to give up, again.  Then it hit me, why not go for a vertically oriented shape to the trees?

Okay, so armed with a cheap knock off "survival knife" that can't keep an edge, which was all I had, I started cutting more chunks from the board, then gently hacking, scraping at each piece, ruthlessly gouging each piece until I got something like this...

the chunk on the right is a piece before shaping it into a more of less passable simulation of tree foliage

Not too shabby... not too shabby at all.  I started cutting, chipping, hacking, gouging, making a frightful mess with all these bits and chunks, and dust, but I was happy with the overall result.

Fifteen clumps of green foam later, I needed more dowels, those I had bought were too thick.  I cut them down, sharpened an end of each and jammed them in.

Not too bad at all, not as pretty as the store bought trees, but good enough for the wargame table!

I cut out some stands from paper covered foam board, two each big enough for five trees each, one for three trees, one for two...

I'm ready for the next phase of the operation.

The plan is to super glue the trees to these, work on the trunks with wood filler, spray the foliage in green green, then hand paint the trunks. After that, some dry brushing a lighter green for highlighting.  Then to seal them all with poly finish.

So far so good...