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Friday, March 25, 2011

Minature woodworking made easy.

I have always found wood structures to fiddly.  You end up gluing your fingers to the wood, and even when complete, the parts usually are pretty weak.  This technique should help you quickly and easily build wood structures.
First draw the structure to scale on graph paper.  
  Then take a clip board and put a sheet of wax paper over the graph paper and clip it in place
Next you mark your first piece of wood to be cut directly off the sketch.
 Cut the wood, and glue it with wood glue to the wax paper.  Let this piece dry since it will anchor all other parts of the construction. 
 Build from one corner out and complete the structure in the direction shown on the image.  Glue each part to the other parts and the wax paper.
 When the whole piece is completed, reinforce all joints with a spot of glue.  Give this a few minutes and then dab off the excess with a damp paper towel. 
 Let the glue set for about an hour.  Then carefully peal off the wax paper.
 Sand rear of the part and use a hobby knife to trim any dry puddles of glue that might have attached to the wood. 
  There you have it.  My way of building quick and easy wood structures.
Hope you like.
Snitchy sends.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wattle and Daub

Wattle and Daub was a staple building technique for many centuries.  A lattice of wicker work was built in between a wood frame, and a mixture of mud, hair, lye and manure was spread on the surface to create the exterior surface of the house.  To recreate this technique, use my Wattle technique to create the wicker insert. I am building out of a piece of foam core and have pre-made the wattle.  
You cut out a window in the foam core that will accept your wattle, remove the foam, and glue the wattle in place.  Do not remove the paper from the backing.
 Add your wood structural supports.  Here mind are done with wood coffee stirrers.
Then I added my surface texture for the wattle and daub.  I used Celluclay (a commercial Paper Mache).  

The completed piece.

Hope that helps.
Snitchy sends.  

How to make wattle.

Here is a quick toot on how to make wattle.  Wattle can be used for fencing, fortifications and was historically used as a building material. 

Drill an odd number of holes into a wood block and glue posts into it.

Start weaving your wire around the posts.  (I used fabric covered floral wire for this one)

Continue to weave the wire through the posts.  Be sure to end a strand at the end of the row.

Once you finish, clip the extra wire from the ends and superglue all points where wire contacts wire and posts. 

Use a saw to cut the piece of wattle from the base.  
Hope you like.
Snitchy sends.

FIrst car done

I just finished making a rusty old VW Bug for my Zombie game.

The new car.

The rusted rear. 

Rusted using the salt method to let the rust come out and the Rustall system. 

The rusted front.

Hope you like.
Snitchy sends.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Snitchy's diatribe on terrain.

Or: How I learned from my mistakes and now have a soap-box to stand on and point them out.

These are some guidelines that I have created to help everyone make not only better terrain, but also terrain that is more durable. And begin rant.

First: Make no terrain that removes excessive space from the tabletop. For buildings you have two options. Option one is for buildings that do not have an interior. Build them at a slightly reduced scale so they do not occupy too much table space. Option two is to build the building with an interior. This will make the whole building usable instead of just part of the building. Adding a second stories will expand the play area.
For other terrain features make sure that any ridges (such as the banks of rivers) are flat on top and have enough space to stabilize a large base. The sides of stepped hills also need to be able to stabilize a large base. You never know where someone will end their movement.
Rivers make it hard to avoid eating up space on the board. Try to make sure that they do not have any large lakes or features that cannot be used as tabletop.

Second: If the building or terrain feature can be entered, make multiple entrances and exits. If there is only one entrance no one will use it and this becomes a waist of space. The same goes for rivers. Make sure that there are multiple crossing points. If there is only one, this will be the focal point of the game and it limits game play.

Third: When making modular terrain, try to make sure that edges of rivers and features match up. Also try to hide the seams between different sections so they cannot be used as an improvised ruler. Felt painted to match the board will work for this.

Four: This is not strictly necessary but it is one of my pet peeves. Try to use forced perspective when doing interiors. This means do not do a full interior. You cannot play a game, with the interior of the objective building, cluttered full of nice furniture. The way that you make interiors look like they are occupied is to build features within a ½ inch of the wall. Wood paneling, clocks, pictures, fireplaces and the works. This will give the interior of the building features that will put the building in context just as much as the exterior.

Five: Reinforce the terrain piece as much as possible. When I am gluing a piece together, I make sure that I have multiple materials overlapping each other with layers of glue in between. Another way to reinforce terrain is to glaze your piece with superglue. This will not work with foam, but with other items, it will harden your surface, and make sure that your basing materials and scratch built parts will not fall apart. The way you do this is to put a dab of liquid superglue on the part to be glazed. Then either blow the superglue or used a can of compressed air to blow the superglue into a thin film. This is another way to layer glues and materials. Use spray sealers on your terrain so they do not chip.

Six: Make sure that your terrain will not chip another piece of terrain that it is set on. Do this by adding felt to the base of your terrain features. You can do this with the underside of a roof so it does not damage the rest of the building.

Seven: If your terrain travels, try to have a dedicated box to carry it in, and use foam or bubble wrap to protect it. I have seen several people who have done wonderful terrain that once it is completed they just throw it back into the box with everything else. If you are going to spend the time to do these works of art, please protect them.

Eight: Make the terrain visual interesting. Make it look lived in.  One way you can do this is to hide "Easter eggs" on the piece. Add little details that people might not see initially. Add animals to the bases of your trees. Add a cat sitting on the roof. Add a cup of coffee sitting on a shelf or stove. Any little detail will increase the overall effect.

Nine: Be consistent. Use the same color paints, the same basing materials, the same color ground cover etc. etc. This makes your terrain uniform. Nothing is worse than having a beautiful desert board with a building with a snowy base sat in the middle.

Ten: Most linear obstacles should be of average height. This means to the waist of a man-sized model. Larger obstacles block line of sight. A whole wall that is too tall will limit game play. If you are making linear obstacles either make them random lengths, or make them an odd size (4 or 5 inches). Either way they are not used as a ruler.

Eleven: If you have a terrain feature that does not allow models to move over the entire feature (like a train engine), try to make up the space with a multi-story building, or scaffolding that can be accessed.

Twelve: Continue with a concept. If you have a chimney or vent on a building exterior, make it lead to something if you can (some things cannot be properly represented on the interior like wind or water mills).

Thirteen: Make something that at least appears to have a purpose. If you have a steam engine, what is it for? What is it attached to? If you have scaffolding what is its purpose?

Fourteen: Allow no ambiguity in your terrain. Is it rough terrain or clear? Is it deep or shallow water? If necessary write the terrain condition on the bottom of the piece to stop any arguments.

Fifteen: Base everything on something hard. How many hills have you seen at your LGS that have been chipped to the foam on the edges? Basing the bottom of terrain gives you two advantages. First it makes it sturdier and second it will stop most dings from other terrain or rough handling.

Sixteen: Try to make terrain that is not specific to only one scenario. If you make Cryx mining rigs, great but find other uses for them too. How many times are you going to play that one scenario?

Seventeen: Paint everything. Unpainted or untreated materials will show through no mater what you do.

Eighteen: Use durable materials. If you find something that you like (say trees). Is there a company that makes them harder? Is there a way to make them stand up to more abuse? Always think durable. This is not a diorama where you can use dry flowers and they will not be touched. This is a war game! Treat it as such.

Nineteen: When kit bashing (again I will use a toy train) make sure that the original model is not readily identifiable. If you have to do major modifications to make it your own, go ahead. Tinker with it.

Twenty: Horde things. My wife hates me for this. Almost anything can and will be useful for terrain at some point. Horde as much as you are allowed or can.

Twenty-one: Keep a scrapbook. Try to sketch all angles of your piece. If a building with an interior, try to sketch the whole thing, every wall, inside and out. It does not have to be fancy. It does not have to be original art (that is what we are making here). It only has to keep you focused on the task at hand.

Twenty-two: Try to work on only one project at a time. It will help you from getting overwhelmed, and keep you going on the task at hand. If you get burned out by all means do a quick smaller project but get back to the big one as soon as possible.

Just some suggestions. Hope I am not being too preachy here. But I have been doing this for about twenty-five years now and I think that it will help others.
Snitchy sends.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tutorial for Gabions

Gabion fortifications fit into many historical periods.  An army could procure the materials in most areas, and once they were built, they could be emptied and transported easily. 
There are many commercial manufactures out there, but I initially intended to use a whole bunch of them so the cost would have been prohibitive.  I tried sculpting several with poor results.  So I researched how they were originally made and tried my hand at it.  Here is what I came up with.

1.) Start out with a small piece of flat wood (I used door skin but a thin sheet of MDF will do)
2.) Cut a wood dowel to the height that you are looking to build the gabion up to.  The diameter of the wood dowel should be slightly smaller than the gabion you are making because the wire will bulk the rest out later.
3.)  Glue the dowel to the base.
4.)  Once dry, drill the holes for your uprights around the base of the dowel.  It has to be an odd number of holes so space them accordingly.  Generally I drill four holes across from each other in the shape of a cross.  Then on three sides I drill two holes in between each of the initial quarter of the circle.  On the last quarter, I drill three holes.  This makes a total of 13 holes drilled in a circle around the base.

 5.)  Turn the dowel upside down so you see the holes.  Take some 16 gauge wire (thicker wire) thread it through two opposite holes.  This will make the first two uprights next to the dowel.  Repeat for all twelve paired holes.  Under the base, it should now look like a star with the paired wires crisscrossing the center.  

For the thirteenth hole, wrap some of your 16 gauge wire around the center of your mass of wires and thread it through the last hole.  This will help secure the whole mass.  The arrows in this image show the last wire securing the mass. 

6.)  Starting on the bottom, use superglue around each hole to help set the wires in place.  Then turn it over and do the top.
7.)  Drill a small pilot hole in between any two uprights.  Insert your thin gauge wire (I used 20 gauge) into the hole and superglue it in place.  Do not cut the wire from the spool, you will need quite a bit.
8.)  From where you glued the thin wire in place, start wrapping around the outside.  First around the outside of the first upright then inside of the next one.  After you go around two or three times, use a tool to press the wire down so it is uniformly woven around the dowel.  You might have to pull it tight every so often to get it in place. Wrap the whole way up to the top of the dowel.

9.)  When you get to the top, cut the thin wire a little long and tuck it into the weave.  

10.) Cut and file flat your uprights, and give the whole gabion some super glue to tack it down.  These images shows the gabion without the wood dowel for support.  I removed the base and dowel to make it easier to see the whole gabion.  Bases are added for scale.

11.)  Apply your sand to the top.
12.)  Cut the base off the gabion, and then sand the bottom flat.
13.)  If you intend to cast it you need to fill all the holes in the weave.  Smear wood glue over the surface and then wipe it off so it sets into the weave.  Let it dry and then touch up again.  Then you can make your mold.

Hope this helps.   
Snitchy sends.