Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Terrain making the Mark Waddington way, Pt. 1

I'm tired of my terrain bits.  I have some trees, use felt for the shapes of woods/forests/rough ground.  Bleah.  It's easy to schlep around and doesn't take much space, but it also looks blah.  Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty proud of the pieces I made for Chickasaw Bluffs, but it also primed me for doing something more.
I moved the show out to the garage.  This is just a quick photo of all my gear.  Mark's gear is far more impressive.
I was really impressed by the pieces Mark Waddington used in his Vietnam game.  I figured I could also do something for the wars in the American woods.  However, I confess to a general feeling I have making stuff, whether it's projects around the house or building wargame scenery, and that's ineptitude.  I lack self confidence, which leads to lack of motivation, which means no follow-through, which leads to a collection of crappy terrain.

When I inquired about Mark's method, he quite generously invited me to his home in Duvall to try my own hand at making stuff. He walked me through his process, and I'm going to share that with you as I try to do it on my own. 

It starts with some mdf, or medium density fiberboard.  It's available at Home Depot and Lowes.  I have some 2 X 2 sheets that are usually available, and I know they are willing to cut larger sheets for you at no cost, if, like me, you are truck-impaired.  It's recommended you use 1/8", or 1/4" mdf.  I bought some 1/4" stuff to make DBA boards with, and got some of the thinner stuff as packing that came in a large box of whatever-we-don't-need Lorri ordered.
A couple of mdf shapes I'll use to make terrain.  This is the 1/4" mdf that's been cut with a jigsaw and sanded out with an orbital sander.
The next step is to lay out your mdf and draw the shapes you'd like your terrain to be.  I like bigger pieces, but remember they also take up space on the game board.  You just want them to be representational of woods or rough terrain, and will move them around as troops move into or through the terrain, so big may not be practical.  When you're finished, cut them out using a jigsaw, or whatever else.  My handy jigsaw hasn't seen much use in the many years I've owned it, but it was perfect for this task.

After cutting, smooth out your shapes using some kind of sander, preferably some kind of power sander.  Mark uses a portable belt sander.  I didn't have one of these, but I do have an orbital sander, a veteran Ryobi fellow used many times for stripping my deck.  Try to but a sloped edge on your shapes and smooth out all the jagged edges you may have left on your shapes during the cutting.
A couple of shapes with the shaped pieces of pink foam on them.  They're larger pieces with smaller bits of pink foam.  Maybe I should have gone bigger.  Hmmm.
 Next step is to make some choices.  Do you want to have some elevated areas in your terrain.  Hey it's your terrain.  Make it as busy as you want.  Lots of elevation, no elevation, it's all up to you.  I used pink foam left over from another project. I made my chunks fairly small, you may want something different.  I cut a chunk of it out with an X-acto knife, though I'm sure another tool would be lots better.  No matter.  I glued it down with some white glue and let it dry.  When I was ready to work with it I used a combination file I bought at Fred Meyer for two shape it into the relative shape I wanted.  I had eight mdf shapes and put pink foam bits on four of them.  Why?  No particular reason
Four pieces slathered in lightweight spackle awaiting sandpaper.  I'll probably spackle all eight pieces before I begin sanding.
Last, for this entry, I slathered my shapes with spackle.  I used the lightweight spackle Mark recommended.  You can get a nice sized tub of the stuff for six bucks. I applied mine with a metal putty knife.  My chief complaint is the spackle tends to stick to the knife, and I wonder if it would do the same with a plastic implement.  Oh well, I tried to use what I have.  In any case, be sure to get a good coat of that on to the mdf and the pink foam. 

In my next entry I'll show you my experience sanding, priming and painting (and hopefully my pink foam won't melt (??!!)

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