Building Woods

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GrinnialVex
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Building Woods

Post by GrinnialVex » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:01 pm

In the last few 40k games I've played, woods have been on the table and in the last one they turned into a pretty crucial element (a relic game, with a wood right in the middle). I only own one piece of wooded terrain at the moment, a Citadel wood kit, but after that last game I got to thinking about my 2nd edition-era table, which had enough woods to cover a whole table quarter. They were simply made from Woodland Scenics trees glued to hardboard bases, and weren't anything really spectacular, but they got the job done and were lots of fun to play with.

After lots of nostalgia-ing, I decided that I want more trees on my table, dammit! I don't want more of the Citadel woods either, because as much as I like the look of the kit, all of the trees tend to look the same, and pulling the mold lines off those branches is a whole world of painful frustration that I really don't care to experience again. I also want something way cooler than just Woodland Scenics, as I know I'm capable of way more than that (nothing against using those, of course).

I found myself deciding to scratchbuild some woods. Much like most of my projects though, I had to go straight to 120MPH with it, and decided that if I was going to build any woods at all, I might as well just build a whole table's worth of them. I figured that I'd ultimately want them all fairly consistent, and since I have a 12'x6' table (which still needs a proper playing surface...) and like to play Apoc games occasionally, I don't want to find myself in a situation where I'm short on wooded terrain, once I have it. Yeah, I'm pretty dumb sometimes. :mrgreen:

To begin this whole deal, I grabbed up a bunch of hardboard bases that I had spare from an older project and toyed with arrangements on my table space to figure out just how many bases I'd need to use. Here they are:

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As the pic shows, the bases cover a whole table half very densely, but they spread out over the whole table area pretty nicely and produce what looks like would be a playable setup. From there, I needed to figure out how I would affix trees to the bases and I wanted them to be swappable, much like how the Citadel kit works. Since I didn't want to bother with drilling board or involving any more real wood in the project, I went with some 1/2" insulation foam, sculpted down to very low, thin hill-ish shapes, making sure that my models would be able to actually stand on sloped bits.

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From there, I used an appropriately (I guess...) sized paint can lid to mark out a bunch of discs for tree bases and cut them out using a hot knife foam cutter (sure handy for this sort of stuff!).

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I still only had a half-conceived plan for making the actual trees though, which revolved around an article from a WD of ages past that I kind of vaguely remember, and which I'm sure I have tucked away in a bin somewhere but don't really want to bother to try to dig up. The gist of it all, I think, was to make wire armatures for your trees, then cover them in a sort of paper mache/guaze mixture to texture them up. So, that's the plan that I'm running with, whether it ends up working or not (I'll make it work one way or another though, lol).

I want some large, gnarly, grim-darky trees though, and I want them to be all barren and dead looking (screw foliage!). I decided that I'd design the bodies kind of like twisted teepees, with the wire acting sort of like tent poles and the paper mache draped over them like the tent skin, which, in theory, should allow me to make some bulky tree trunks with a minimal amount of wire innards. I also keep the arms to a minimum so as to get the point across that they're trees without becoming way too much work to deal with. I have to do 41 of these things to fill out all of the bases, so If things got way too complicated I'm likely lose momentum at some point and that's not good at all.

In fashioning the armatures, I went with a simple three-wire (I'm using cheap steel wire here) design to start them all off with, and just went about doing half of them in that manner. I had to play with a few different ideas to figure out how to get it all to work right, but I think that the best way to go now is to cut three different lengths of a heavy gauge wire, 16 seems to work well, and tie them together about mid-way through with a very light gauge wire, like a 22 or so.

From there, I flare out and bend the bottom half into what I want the trunk to look like and stick it into the foam base, securing with beads of hot glue. The top ends of the wire get twisted out into branchy shapes. Once done with the basic shape, I go back in with more wire of varying thickness and flesh things out more. In the pic below, I have the basic trees on the right, and the finished ones on the left.

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Looks like a giant, eye-poking mess! At this point, I have a full twenty of the armatures done though, and putting them all onto their bases, they make a bit more sense.

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Now that I have half of the armatures done, I'm debating whether I should stop and do the paper mache on those, or just do the rest of the armatures. I haven't done paper mache since grade school, and that was eons ago, so I'm pretty anxious to just jump into that and give it a go. However, I think I have the hang of the whole wire-bending business at this point so just finishing all of that should be pretty easy, so maybe I'll do that first.

Anyway, I still have plenty of work to do here, and I still have my HPC commitment to do for the month (maybe these woods can be my painting commitment for next month...). This is kind of one of those spiraling-out-of-control-hobby-ADD things though, and I'm hoping to ride it to the end quickly, so I can get back on track with everything I have going on.

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GrinnialVex
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Re: Building Woods

Post by GrinnialVex » Fri Apr 10, 2015 8:07 pm

So, I've decided to try to finish all of the armatures before doing the paper mâché as I think I can get all of these knocked out quickly, and I'll be able to adjust the beach arms if I need to once they're all set up on the bases.

I also wanted to toss up a few pictures of individual armatures to provide a bit more detail, should anyone want that. Here are the first two of the back half then:

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Back to work then! :mrgreen:

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Loopy
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Re: Building Woods

Post by Loopy » Sat Apr 11, 2015 7:38 am

Good to see you're going nice and dense with your woods here. Sometimes folks don't realize just how gnarled and tangled a woods can really be. The removable trees will make it very usable on the tabletop, too. Great work so far.
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cicero
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Re: Building Woods

Post by cicero » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:01 am

Beautiful. I am always tempted to get candy eyeballs and stick them on this type of terrain as a warning :)
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GrinnialVex
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Re: Building Woods

Post by GrinnialVex » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:30 pm

Thanks!

Speaking of eyes, my wife wants me to put faces on all of them now as she says they look like agents from LotR. As tempting as that thought is though, that's waaaay more work than I want to put in here! :mrgreen:

Anyway, I have all of the armatures done. Yay!

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I'm hoping to get stuck into the paper mâché nastiness tomorrow morning, so fingers crossed that it all goes well...

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the_Armyman
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Re: Building Woods

Post by the_Armyman » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:04 pm

Nice work! I love making terrain. It's just a shame that I never get to use any of it. You see, I have no friends... :cry: Enough about me, tho!

Are the foam plugs just staying by friction? Just be careful that as you add weight to the armatures you don't start to create a situation where they might lean and fall over. I started making some jungle bases with those old, 3rd Edition plastic jungle trees about 10 years ago. Now I have an urge to pull them out and finish them :lol:

Incarnet
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Re: Building Woods

Post by Incarnet » Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:47 pm

Looks like a good start to some great terrain!
the_Armyman wrote:Are the foam plugs just staying by friction? Just be careful that as you add weight to the armatures you don't start to create a situation where they might lean and fall over.
It looks like the foam is deep enough to mostly Prevent that. But, if that starts to happen you can insert pegs or magnets to assist them in standing up and not being displaced to easily. I am fond of magnets as it will prevent the foam from tearing on the peg.

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GrinnialVex
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Re: Building Woods

Post by GrinnialVex » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:15 am

Thanks!

Yup, just friction holding them in, although I did take care to balance them as I built them, so they all do a good job of standing up on their own. I'll do the same when I start putting onstage paper mâché, and I figure I'll have to go heavier with that on the trunks anyway to get them to look right, so I'm hoping to have plenty of weight towards the bottom when they're all done.

I did try to hit glue nuts and washers to the little foam bases though, and those all popped off easily so I scrapped all that. I imagine magnets would just rip right off as well.

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Inquisitor Valeria
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Re: Building Woods

Post by Inquisitor Valeria » Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:35 pm

Oooohhh. I like it. I particularly like the little line-code to tell which trees go with which base. And the fact that you can remove them in the first place. :D
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GrinnialVex
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Re: Building Woods

Post by GrinnialVex » Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:46 am

Wow, I just realized how long it's been since I last worked on this stuff. They've been shelved away in the basement for a while now, but I've finally found a bit of time to jump into the messy business of applying the paper mache:

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Not much to look at just yet, and things are still fairly moist and yucky in those pics. You can see these starting to take shape though, and that's heartening. :mrgreen:

I've found that I can't really apply the paper to the whole of the armatures in one go as I end needing to hold onto the limbs at some point, and if they have paper on them already then I end up pulling that all off as it gets stuck to my fingers. So, I'm going to have to tackle these things in stages to get them done properly.

Also, I'm just using a simple mix of flour, water, and a bit of salt, and am only using newspaper strips in it at the moment. I might try using paper towel or some such at a later stage for finishing, but won't know for sure until I get there. I've also found that the paper strips work best if they're wide and super moist, and that it's a REALLY bad idea to just smash a big handful of them into the flour/water mix at the start, then try to make sense of it all when it's mush later >_>

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