Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Building Terrain

I am fortunate to live in a country where real bridges (rather than yucky concrete imitations) are available for inspection. Not far away from me is a bridge over the river Stare. Its unusual because it's a late 15th century bridge that's never been rebuilt to carry modern traffic, being some distance away from the main road. In case anyone has never seen such a thing, here's a few photos of it. Two things stand out: its not very wide, and it is asymmetric, having passing places on one side only.

Stare Bridge, near Stoneleigh

The photos are chosen for their value in showing the geometry of the bridge, rather than their beauty: I hope this might make good reference material for wargamers who want to build their own terrain. If I progress so far, I think a model based on Stare Bridge will do admirably for that at Sittangbad.

The entire territory of the two Hesses is constructed out of MDA, foamcore board, and PVA: a circumstance that has undoubtedly affected property values. My terrain will be based on 100mm hexes. There are excellent commercial ranges available that use this size of hex, but all my terrain will be homemade. There are no particular reasons for my doing this, other than the enjoyment of modelling everything myself, and that I can make everything to suit my own tastes.

My terrain hexes are composed of a 4mm bottom layer of MDF with a 5mm layer of foamcore board on top. The MDF gives some rigidity, the foamcore allows me to cut 5mm down to create identations for things such as rivers. I've chosen this to give a reasonable compromise between stiffness, weight and ease of cutting. The big problem with terrain boards of this construction is that the MDF is not thick enough to prevent warping, which seems to happen most when PVA glue shrinks as it dries out.

For example, I am using sand sprinkled onto PVA to give me a grass texture. If this was applied directly onto the foamcore then the resulting terrain board would probably warp. My solution is to apply the sand to a sheet of paper. The paper is thin so it shrinks along with the PVA rather than warping, as long as I keep it on a flat surface and compressed under a few books while it dries. Once fully dried out, the paper is glued (using sparse amounts of PVA) onto the foamcore. It would probably be more sensible to use grass paper from a model railway shop, but this way is more fun: even my sand is 'homemade', being taken from where a river piles it up on a sandbank within a short bike ride of my house.

Yet another Blasthof Bridge.

A refight of Sittangbad is at best some distance away. My first landmark is going to be a refight of Blasthof Bridge: the jpeg shows my version of the bridge under construction. It's not an accurate model of any particular bridge: but then small bridges like this are pretty generic and fairly simple to make. The bridge walls were cut out and directly attached to the MDF hex base first. The 5mm foamcore top of the base was then added around it. Doing things in this order should give the base added rigidity. The road surface was build up by gluing Foamcore cross beams between the walls and then gluing a thin cardboard sheet on top of them. The flagstone surface is just squares of thin card glued onto a piece of paper. This was only glued onto the card surface of the bridge once it had dried (and therefore shrunk as much as it wanted to). Stonework om the bridge walls is again rectangles of thin card, this time glued directly onto the MDF. Next, I have to finish the grass texturing and then decide how best to simulate water.


abdul666 said...

A fascinating lesson in modelling!
Your blog is inspirational in many ways.

Best regards,

Stokes Schwartz said...

Good Morning Andy,

Yes, a very interesting piece. And the photos are great. Like you, I get terrific enjoyment from building as much of my terrain and building models as possible. It's a fascinating sidebar of the wargaming hobby.

Best Regards,

Stokes Schwartz

tidders said...

What an ingenious method of constructing terrain, I sure you'll have many happy hours of modelling ahead of you.