Friday, December 23, 2011

Cornfields: WIP

"This place far excels in beauty any in the western country, and believed equalled by none in the Atlantic States.  Here are vegetables of every kind in abundance, and we have marched four or five miles in cornfields down the Oglaize, and there is not less than one thousand acres of corn around the town.(sic) "

 Lt. John Bowyer described these conditions at the Miami town of Auglaize on the march to Fallen Timbers in 1794.  The luxuriant cornfields he observed were typical of most large woodland Indian settlements encountered during campaigns on the frontier in the late 18th century. Maize in the fields were resource targets for Americans fighting those Indians.  General John Sullivan devastated the Iroquois in his summer campaign of 1779, burning thousands of acres of corn and forcing elements of the Six Nations across the Niagara and upon the kindnesses of the British for sustenance.

I decided that if I was going to do a hypothetical campaign on the Western frontier in the 1790's, I needed a big bunch of cornfields.  I didn't want to build just a big ol' cornfield to just plop down on the table and then store with difficulty.  Rather I wanted something I could morph into different shapes or scatter around, and remove bits of as it was destroyed.  I'd seen the very cool cornfields from BTC and reasoned I could make something like that for myself  at a more affordable price.

 I started with Litko bases.  I ordered fifty  40mm square bases.  These are heavy enough to hold the "corn" and not move around on the table top. $6.99, plus the ridiculous Litko shipping fee.  I also ordered ten packs of 12mm pine stems from This and That 4 Crafts.  Those are holiday craft items that look sort of cornish if you fiddle with them.  Ten packs of 15 pine stems was just over ten bucks with shipping. 

12mm pine stems from This and That 4 Crafts.  They were cheap, and the size was about right.  Also available in 20mm (refers to circumference) which seemed too large.  There would be lots of trimming. 
Litko bases and trimmed pine stem ready to go.  40mm worked for me.  That's the width of two individually mounted figures or one Regimental Fire and Fury base.
 Step one was to coat the bases with something that looked as a ground cover.  For the most part, the bases are going to be covered by the corn, so I'm mostly just after a quick cover with something that could be mistaken for earth.  I used Liquitex modeling paste because it's acrylic, dries fast, and can actually be mixed with paint in my little water cup, and easily applied to the base with a paint knife.  Because it's acrylic, I also believed it wouldn't shatter when I drilled holes in it, and I was afraid that wood putty would just disintegrate in chunks.  Can't have that. Liquitex products are available at Michaels and JoAnn fabrics.  Use their weekly coupons to cut the $12.99 bucket of modeling goo to a more reasonable cost.

I've used Liquitex modeling paste as basing material in the past.  It's easy to work with, dries fast, but isn't particularly cheap. However, I thought it was the best material for this project.
  Step two-I waited for the modeling paste to dry completely, and while I was doing so I began cutting the pine stems into lengths.  The stems have wound metal wire cores, but cut easily with hobby sized diagonal cutters.  I cut mine into 1 1/2 inch lengths.  It's best to remove some of the "corn" at the very base of your plant so the wire is completely exposed.  The stems get pressed pretty flat in storage and shipping, so it's best to twirl them in your fingers a bit and ruffle the corn, or your corn stalks will look pretty two dimensional. When you finally get around to gluing them in, you'll find some lengths are longer than other.  That's okay, not all corn stalks are equal in nature's plan. 
My first base ready to receive corn stalks. 
Step three, drill holes in your Litko bases.  I use a Dremel tool for drilling, with wee small bits, though finding the right size hole for the fairly significant sized stem wires was a trial.  I drilled nine holes in three rows and hoped the corn would literally fill the base. You might be able to do twelve stems to a base, but it would be awfully crowded.

Voila, a close up of corn fields.  There's more I could do if I wanted.  Paint some of the leaves yellow to look like corn ears, or finish the base edges with Woodland Scenics material.  I haven't decided. 

Step four, finally, glue your pine stems into the holes.  I make sure to remove some of the very bottom leaves to expose the wire and put a tiny drop of CA glue in the hole.  It usually sets up right away and you can move along.

I finished six squares of corn in a couple of hours of not very intense work.  I hope to have about forty squares or so which takes up a LOT of space on the board. This is the first of my terrain projects for Chickasaw Bluffs.


DeanM said...

Nice work, Kevin. BTW, I saw some nice plywood squares & rectangles (approx. 3mm thick) at either Michael's or Joann's recently. I was looking for small round bases - which they have too. Best, Dean

Kevin said...

Dean, I really wanted bases that were the same height as my figures, and because I usually use Litko bases, went with them. I like the exactitude of Litko-the corners are square and the lines are straight unlike many of my efforts.

Have a fabulous holiday Dean

David said...

I'm in process now of doing my own corn fields with the same technique. I was thinking of going the extra mile and adding corn cobbs to the stalks. (Green painted grains of rice, glued to the stalks.) What do you think?

Kevin said...

That's pretty ambitious. I think rice grains would be pretty large and gluing them could be pretty frustrating. Love to see them though.

David said...

I'm thinking the small grain rice will work for the ears. A little bit of glue and just a few ears here and there will be fine. I want it more for the efffect for when someone looks at it closer during a game and says, "You didn't really add ears of corn, did you? Yep!" hehe

I've got a new blog if oyu want to see some of my terrain projects, however, I don't have all of my pics, eras, and games on it just yet.