Sunday 27 March 2011

Dungeon Extras

Not had much time this week to work on the many projects I have on the go at the moment, just had time to add a few extra accessory pieces for the dungeon set.

Having left the inside archways clear of wall filler, so that initially I could add back in the original cut out arch shapes also disguised with wall filler to block them up as either solid walls or secret doors, I took advantage of the easy to cut exposed polystyrene.

I cut a channel up both sides of the arch way using a sharp craft knife, making the channel thick enough to slide a piece of card into the slot.

Having cut the card to size I then covered the card with strips of thin wood – back to using the coffee stirring sticks. Once the first layer was dry, I attached a few additional pieces along the top, and sides, and down the middle to give the effect of double doors. These were given a black under coat with acrylic paint and then painted up with a brown colour layer and a quick white dry brushing to add aging.

I repeated the channel cuts in one of the other archways and again cut a piece of card to fit. This time I stuck two thin strips of card down the middle of the base card then covered the card with a piece of foil paper.

I stuck this down, allowing the strips of card to bulge through to look like iron work. Along the top and bottom I glued additional pieces of silver foil, this time with a pitted effect already in the material to look like huge hinges.

Once this was dry, I painted the whole thing with black paint then dabbed it off using a piece of kitchen towel – this gave the whole mottled effect. 

* Can you guess where the two pieces of foil came from?

Finally I made a rock fall piece to fit into one of the archways. This was made from one old wine cork – the old cork kind not the new modern plastic corks.

I broke the cork into pieces and glued it together in a heap shape using a piece of card as the base.  Make sure that any flat sides are on the inside and that the rough broken parts are facing outward.

As you can see this still need to be finished off with a touch of paint to blend it in.

Full set of pieces for the dungeon archways

* The iron door covering came from the top seal of a Pringle’s tube – silver side out
The pitied foil was from the edge of a dissolvable aspirin strip.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Scenic Terrain – Rocks

Ok, a quick post tonight. I recall saying recently not to throw away that tub of dried up wall filler you found at the back of the shed when you went looking for something to build the castle ruins with.

When I went to start these building projects I did just that, went to find some previously bought filler only to find it had dried out and formed a solid lump in the bottom of the tub.

Just before I threw it out a thought struck me and I turned the tub upside down and struck it with a hammer, knocking the solid lump out. It fell out and broken into three large pieces and several smaller fragments. I collected up the larger lumps and the best of the other pieces.

Having come from the bottom of the tub, the pieces all had nice flat bases to them.  This meant they sat nicely on the table, and from the front had great rock structure.

The backs were smooth from the tub walls, but never the less; they formed great free-standing corner rock pieces for quick distribution onto the game table as rocky terrain.

I gave the pieces an undercoat with black acrylic paint then later once that had dried I used a black/white mix in various shades of gray to colour and highlight and a hint of brown in flashes across the rocks to appear like seams of other rock (or maybe even fool’s gold) in the structure.

One of the smaller pieces had a nice round dip in it, this I filled with a bright blue paint to look like a small rock pool. This took a bit longer to dry.   

I might even go back and use some of the water effect material on them later to really bring up the effect. (If I do I’ll let you know how it works out.)   

All in all, rather than throwing away what was going to be wasted wall filler, I ended up with extra rocky terrain for use in our underground cavern adventure.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Castle Ruins - The Dungeons

A trip down into the dungeons today.

These two pieces have four archways cut out of the polystyrene, the first piece came with an arch already in the original piece, and it was this which gave me the initial idea of cutting further arches.

Using the hot wire cutter I cut out the additional arches in single pieces, and retained these pieces whole. I then covered the polystyrene with wall filler and sculpted the stone effects as previously described. The only difference was inside the arches; here I left the polystyrene free from the wall filler.

Once finished I painted the inside to match.  The naked polystyrene took the acrylic paint just as well as the wall filler.

The extra cut out pieces were then covered front and back with wall filler and had the same stone effects shaped into them. Again the sides were left clear of wall filler and just painted.

This allows me to slide the cut-outs back in, this can then be used to either block up the arches as plain walls, or have them represent secret doorways, the pieces being angled to show as if wall panels have moved revealing secret passages beyond.
Leaving the polystyrene bare also allows for further adaption. Using cocktail sticks or tooth picks, painted a metallic colour I’ve created iron bar fixtures. I’ve glued the cut down sticks together using two thin strips of card.

Then the pointed ends can be poked up into the bare polystyrene archway to hold them in place, and removed again after the game.  This makes for barred gate ways and prison cells.

By turning the bar fixture pieces over and securing them up the other way the bar panels can then be used as metal spikes in the archways ready to come down and trap the adventurers.                         

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Castle Ruins - Part Two

In the second part of my blog on building the castle ruins I’ll talk through the technique I used to get from a piece of polystyrene packaging to a castle ruin. In later blogs I’ll show specific pieces from this collection and talk about the different features of each piece.

The materials used are very basic, a piece of polystyrene packaging, some ready mix wall filler and acrylic paint. (Both the ready mixed wall filler and the acrylic paint were both bought from the local ‘pound store’ or equivalent shop.) Making this a very cheap construction.

When I first get a piece of packaging I twist and turn it in all directions, looking for interesting angles and shapes. Unless you’ve bulk purchased a large number of the same item every piece is going to be different. You’re looking for interesting corner pieces, angles and shapes. Sometimes the best shapes are not always the most obvious.

Once you’ve decided where you want to make your cuts you can either:-

• Use a very sharp knife (depending on how thick the packaging is),

• Break it by hand – this creates a better roughed up edge more like the final effect you’re trying to create but can create a lot more mess especially with some types of packaging,

• Use a hot wire cutter – makes for cleanest cuts, maybe a bit too clinical in some cases – and should be done in a ventilated room.

I use a hot wire cutter bought from the local hobby shop made by Woodland Scenics when I want specific cuts, but I have used all three methods during this build.

Once I’ve cut my shapes out, broken a few edges or with a drop of PVA glue put a couple of pieces together and allowed to dry I’m ready to start covering with the ready mix wall filler. You can use the self made up filler just as well provided you get the mix correct – follow on packet instructions carefully - I just find the ready mixed stuff more convenient, especially when I don’t have a lot of time going spare to work on my modelling.

If you already have a tub of ready mix to hand and you’ve found it’s gone hard – don’t throw it out, wait for my next blog.

New ready mix freshly opened will spread over the polystyrene easily without any effort, you should spread it over about  2 or 3 millimetres thick. You’ll get the feel for what is right as you work. If the mix is a little dry and does not spread so smoothly you can coat the polystyrene with a very thin layer of PVA glue first, when this goes tacky then spread the wall filler on. Do not use too much glue as this will result in a gooey mess and the wall filler will then slide off and could take hours to be useable.

For stone work smooth off the wall, sometimes I find patting it down with my thumb the easiest method – always wash your hands after. Leave the wall filler to set for a few minutes, again this will vary depending on room temperature and age and make of the ready mix you’re using. You’re looking for a fine skin to form before it goes hard.

Taking a small .5 to 1cm modelling chisel or even a plastic coffee stirrer (that’s actually what I used) you poke into the ready mix covering. For stone blocks use about the width of the chisel or stirrer blade as a guide, poking both horizontally and vertically with your cutting tool. Stagger the blocks like brick work. For the stacked rock effect that is more like the Tintagel ruins in my last blog just make very close repeated stabs into the filler, so that it puckers up into smaller thinner bulges. In this wall I’ve used the block style at the base and the stab random pattern further up. Work on one side at a time and allow to fully dry before working on the other, otherwise thumb prints will replace brick work. When using the block style always make sure you follow your pattern round the corner when working on your second side or edge otherwise the stone block won’t look correct.

Once the whole piece is covered and dry you can then paint.

First I under coated in slightly watered down black acrylic paint, the watered down paint allowed it to better get into the grooves. Beware; holding any painted piece before the paint is dry will result on you lifting the paint off on your fingers. Like the wall filler, work around the model in sections allowing half to dry before doing the second part. In some cases small white flecking may come through – you can either touch these up with black paint and allow to dry before colouring or just paint over when you colour the wall.

When the base coat is dry you can paint over the wall with either a black/white mix or blend and dry brush the wall with the neat white acrylic paint, smearing it over the wall to give a lighter grey rock effect. Obviously don’t use your best brushes for any of this work.

That was basically it how I created the majority of these pieces, some have distinguishing features which I’ll talk about next time. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions and I’ll try to answer them next time.

Happy ruins!

Sunday 13 March 2011

Castle Ruins - Part One

Along with the coffee stick Ghost Town which I’m working on, I have also got several large pieces of castle ruins scattered around the house. 

These have come about as a result of another project, one for the GM of our current campaign – so I’m not going to give the game away by talking about that at the moment – but watch this space.

Part of that build included some ruins, but I’ve taken the build on a lot further, inspired by a couple of trips made last year.

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. June 2010

Last year I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and The Bishop's Palace in Lincoln. Some parts of the Bishop's Palace have been preserved better as actual structures, other parts are ruins.

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. June 2010

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall. June 2010

Both are owned and run by English Heritage. Walking around these structures felt quite incredible - these old constructions had been witness to so much history and legend. These are perfect places to go just for the atmosphere and inspiration you can gain from them.

Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln Sept 2010

Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln Sept 2010

These are a few of the photos I took at these places. I decided to build some game table pieces inspired by these photos – not to copy them but to get pieces that reflect the style of these old historic landmarks. I’ve kept them for the moment without bases or any grass or other foliage so that any of these pieces could be used in our current campaign – which is a world with little greenery in it. (For more details on the world in question flick over to Big Lee’s Miniature Adventures.) Very much a world underground.

All of the pieces you’ll see in this project have been made in the same way. They are all pieces of polystyrene packaging cut up, covered in cheap ready mix wall filler and painted with just black and white acrylic paint. Getting the polystyrene from friends and family when they get deliveries makes this a very cheap project to fund, and quite often you’ll find they will be only be too glad for someone else to take their rubbish away for them.

The first two pieces I made were from packaging that came with my brother’s washing machine. One of them had two perfect round circular holes already cut into it. The moment I looked at this piece I was reminded of the wells I saw in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace.

I also had a flash back to the 1980’s TV series ‘Robin of Sherwood’ where often our heroes ended up thrown into a dungeon via a pit. These holes would be very useful in the final piece.

Quite a number of these pieces have a small tale to tell of their own, over the next couple of blogs I'll be talking about these pieces and their unique features.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Coffee Stick Houses – Part Three

First of all I would like to start by thanking all those who have posted encouraging comments on these blogs so far, and a special thanks to Alfrik and GReg’s links posted on the comments on part one of this series of posts – I’ll certainly be giving those techniques a try.

Ok, onwards, upwards and sideways with the town building.

Step 3 – Marking out

The next stage is to give myself a rough guide as to the exterior design. This is to mark out where supporting beams are going to go and where I’m going to have door and window frames.
Remember, this is a rough and ready town, nothing is perfectly symmetrical, so I’m not going to measure exactly where the sections are going to be – I’m just going to mark the beams on by judgement. If I decide that I don’t like how it has come out I mark over the top in a different colour pen – this is all going to be covered in the end so nobody else is going to see this preparation.

For scale when marking out doors and windows – the very quick rule of thumb I use is stand in your own doorway and see how much space is around you. Then using an average size figure mark out the door frame with the same gap. Window  frames should be at about waste height (ish) to the figures.
Once I’m relatively happy with the marking up then out comes the sticks, cutters and PVA glue. Time to get sticking.

Step 4 – Sticking on the frame work
The first sticks to be stuck on, are the main frame work – first of all the horizontal beams along the bottom and top around the whole of the building. Then inside these I stick the vertical support beams on the corners of the building and at the main support midway sections. All these pieces are stuck on double thickness to give the thicker beam shape.

Next go on the door and window frame pieces, again these are double thickness.  Then I start to fill in the horizontal wall panel pieces. These can be stuck on either flat edged or slightly over lapping to give either a tongue and groove, overlap or shiplap effect.

I noticed after the glue had dried that one of the panel pieces had been cut too short, no panic – I stuck a small piece of off cut wood over the gap, at an angle – and when finished off this will look like the original owner has patched up damage to the exterior. Again, this town has to have a used / lived in, and now abandoned feel and small areas of boarding up help give that impression.

I had some left over off cuts of foam board after this model was made and after some fiddling about with them I came up with this smaller building to go into the town. The key feature of this one is the hinged doors to the cellar. You’ll see more of this one later.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Foam Board on Offer

March 6th
After my last post Big Lee asked where I get the foam board from:-
"Where did you get your foamboard? I've seen it in various high street stationers but its expensive stuff."

Just wanted to say - I've just got home from Romford where Hobbycraft are currently doing A1 sheets of foam board for £5.99 with a "Buy One, Get One Free" offer. I think it's time to stock up a bit.

April 23rd
Ok that offer has now finished - but they are running a £1 discount on-line at the moment £4.99 instead of £5.99, for an A1 sheet of foam board. I don't know how long this offer will last.
Further details here:-

Thursday 3 March 2011

Coffee Stick Houses – Part Two

Previously, in the first posting I made about using wooden coffee sticks (Coffee Stick Houses – Part One)  I talked about the inspiration behind these models, now I’m going to start talking about how I put these models together from preparing the sticks and getting the model framework together in this post right through to the finished models in my later posts.

Stage one. Preparing the sticks.

I always try to use as much recycled material as possible in the models, it's a way of being environmentally friendly, but it is also a lot cheaper.

When I get the wooden sticks they have been used by people to stir their lattes, cappuccinos, Americano, hot chocolate or whatever else they might drink, sometimes even tea. They can be stained or coated in residue. Stains are not a bad thing, this helps give the sticks character.

However, sticky residue is not so good. It’s also best to clean them in case of nasty germs as well. The first thing I do with a batch of newly acquired old sticks is to soak them for a short while in boiling water.

Once the water has turned a nice shade of brown I rinse them off and leave them out to dry.

I advise laying them out as widely spread as possible - this helps with the drying, and turn them to ensure they are dry throughout. If you plan to store them NEVER put them away whilst any of them are still damp, THEY WILL GO MOULDY - I know, I made that mistake ONCE.

Stage Two. Building design.

I've started to doodle a lot more, and often these doodles turn into very rough design plans. I don't set out with detailed plans of what I intend to build, quite often I have an idea for the type of building I want or a feature I want to include and then see what happens.

Here I decided that for the next coffee stick building I wanted a porch area and a balcony. I did this rough sketch and from there worked out approximate dimensions and transferred these to the sheet of white foam board. I cut out the basic pieces. This is mainly how I’ve made the frame work to most of my models. I then glued the pieces together with PVA glue and used dressmaker pins to help hold the frame work together as it dried. I originally borrowed some of these pins from mum's work basket before buying some of my own. They do help hold the frame work together whilst the glue dries. Most of them can then be pulled out - sometimes you need to use a pair of pliers to help you. If they really don't want to come out then they can be pushed deep into the frame work - once the whole thing is covered they will be buried.

I use cardboard to form the base of the roof – this can be cut from cereal packet or other similar card with the picture side stuck down on the inside of the model.

Even if the edges and sides are not perfect don’t panic, small gaps in the framework can be covered over with the stick layer, don’t be put off if something does not go quite right. Unless you’re making a detailed scaled replica of a specific building then anything can be incorporated into the final design feature. Don’t be too rigid with yourself.

You can see in this last picture that the roof on the side extension was made by patching two pieces of card together, this was either because I could have mistakenly cut the original too short, or there was not a large enough piece of card left to cut the full length out.

Once the wooden sticks have covered the roof this will not show on the final model seen on the game table.

Next time to get sticking with the wooden sticks...