The Device [Terrain-making]

Basically, I got tired of dealing with simulating all of my corrugated tin/steel with cardboard. It looks.. okay. But it’s not very sturdy, and it’s all fuzzy and shit. So, a while ago I realized I could use all the pop cans I had lying around the house if I could find a way of corrugating them. What did I have? Popsicle sticks. So I tried an alternating arrangement, which worked.. sort of. With a lot of work.

Version one

Version one

This one was, of course, hilariously unsafe. Something about rubbing small sticks right together vigorously next to a sharp-ass metal edge. I did use the test pieces to make that shack a couple weeks ago, though. In the ensuing weeks I’ve gone through a couple iterations, and finally put together something that requires about the same amount of work but far less filing. Or risk of severe finger injury.
Directions below the cut.
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Making 28mm Asphalt Roads [Modern/Post-Apoc]

Following on from a post over at Tabletop-Terrain about making roads with self-adhesive floor-tiles, I swung by the Home Depot (gotta love that 10% veteran’s discount) and picked up a sample of this shit – TrafficMaster “light brown travertine” SA vinyl. Given that it’s running less than $1/square foot, and each square foot makes two 12″x6″ road sections, this is going to be a about half the price of my previous favorite option – Ikea “Avskild” cork placemats.

Before I break down the advantages of each, I figured I’d put up a quick shot to show you the texture of the vinyl tiles versus the cork.
• Ikea Cork sheeting, painted as concrete (from the Airbase Toblerone project).
IMG_20160605_213622_431
As you can see, it’s got a pretty fine texture, even on the smaller bunker. Good for concrete, but it’s not really my favorite on the asphalt front. The surface tearing is nice and chunky, and the edges wear pretty well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the commissioned road set I did a few years ago, but we’ll go over my experience with them below.

•Trafficmaster tile, inked and uncut (I just slapped some India ink on with a wet rag and took a photo here without cleaning the tile first: the pale spots appear to be greasy areas from previous handling..).

img_20161030_151202_887Here we’ve got a much more irregular surface, and it’s already very reminiscent of weathered asphalt even with the pale spots and brown undertone. It is, however, a thin sheet of plastic – less than .25mm – laid over a ~1.5mm rubber sheet. That may make larger areas of surface damage look less realistic unless I cut out the undersurface and hammer the surface plastic down into the “damage” pattern, or fill them with basing ballast.

So, what’s my take so far?

Cork sheeting

Advantages –
Realistic surface damage (for both asphalt and concrete). It’s easy to sink in some paper clip wire to simulate rebar on a broken section, or a small piece of low-gauge copper cable/plastic pipe for other conduits, which dresses up the edges nicely.

Multi-purpose. Crumbled scrap bits make great rubble. You can face a chunk of foamcore or stiff card with the cork and get a plastered concrete surface in minutes – one that’s also easy to trash and make look good.

Super-easy to work. Cutting, fitting, and weathering the cork bits for both of the pieces in the pic above took me about two minutes.

Cheap. Granted, both of the materials have that going for them, but it bears repeating; this stuff costs about 75c/ft^2.  In other formats, unfortunately, that’s not so true – a straight-up roll of cork from a craft or art store can be more along the lines of $5/ft^2.  And there’s a certain amount of wasted material because of the rounded edges of the Ikea stuff and the weird size.

Disadvantages –
Poor surface sealing coupled with moisture sensitivity. You have to paint PVA or another sealant onto cork, or it has a nasty tendency to swell. That flakes off paint. It also behaves oddly when painted unless you seal it – soaking in some colors, repelling others, and generally being a pain in the ass. Plus, again, it can swell or crumble without sealant while you’re painting it, screwing up your effects or damaging the piece.

Fragility – the same thing that makes it easy to work makes it hard to store. Cork works best as a facing on top of another material, like heavy card or styrofoam. In storage, dropping or bumping the container can shatter off a large chunk of cork, and the pieces frotting against each other in the box will not just wear the paint but tear chunks out. That means you need padded storage and rigid containment, which reduces the amount of stuff you can store in a given space. With roads it’s less of a problem – you can wrap them in cheap felt and glue a sheet of craft foam to the edges of the box – but storing a large building is a >massive< pain in the ass

It just doesn’t look like asphalt at larger scales. With a good paintjob, you can pass it off pretty well at 6-10mm, and I’ve seen some guys make 15mm look decent, but at 28+ it looks like shit unless you work it as concrete. How many cities or highways do you know of that use concrete for the roads? Yeah. It’s fine for sidewalks and warehouse floors, but not roads.

Vinyl Tile

Advantages –
Tough as hell. I did a few experiments with a painted chunk, slapping it edge-on against a desk and flapping the piece back and forth. Paint held well, and even the section I stripped the vinyl from seemed to be doing okay. Unfortunately, rubbing the painted sides together did do some paint damage, so I’ll still need surface protection, but rubbing gently with stiff, sealed card didn’t do too much damage. I think I may be able to get away with just peeling and sticking the flooring sheets onto posterboard and using that as layer protection; for more on that, see “conclusions” below.

Great surface texture. I mean, look at that pic again. That’s literally a thirty-second swipe of india ink – not a damn lick of paint – and it already looks like a road.

The sheets are a better shape and size than the Ikea mats I’ve been using, which means there’s less waste. Basically with cork I got two 6″x16″ chunks of straight road, or two 12″x8″ sections. Lots of room for a shoulder, but the roads also wound up looking unrealistically wide compared to 1:43 or 1:48 cars (let alone the figs). Of course, I could trim off that extra couple inches on each side and use to make sidewalks and curbs or building parts, which was pretty cool. With the vinyl I get four 6″x12″ straights, nearly quadrupling the yield per dollar spent.

On that note, the sheets are even cheaper than cork, especially in bulk; I can get ten 1’x2′ sheets for under twenty bucks. So for the same $20 I can get either ten sections of road with sidewalks/shoulders, plus 2 intersections per road section I drop, or forty sections without sidewalks. Sections that require less reinforcement and storage area.

Properly painted, it also looks like facing stones. With a little work, it’d be great for adding a “sandstone” texture to the lower floors of Foamcore ruins, which means I still have an outlet for scraps. Cork does have an advantage, though, in that crumbled bits of cork will look great just tossed on a rubble pile, where this will require trimmed and (roughly) squared sections of the scrap rather than “whatever’s left”

Disadvantages –
Heavier, by a substantial margin. Each sheet weighs about half again as much as one of the placemats, making it harder to transport on foot/bus.

Harder to weather and simulate surface damage – as I mentioned above, just picking the surface off reveals a chunk of rubber, which has a terrible texture. So you have to backfill the holes with basing ballast, or find some other way of getting an interesting texture instead of smooth cuts. That adds working time as well, which seems to be compensating for not needing to seal each individual piece.

Harder to work – This shit is dulling the HELL out of my boxcutter, and straight-up snapped a #11 Exacto blade within 5 cuts. It’s also tearing the shit out of my leatherworking swivel knife, which is why the boxcutter is getting an outing. I also can’t slap it up on the deck of my paper-cutter to just slice off straight sections, which means breaking out the rulers, square, and compass.

Floppy – A disadvantage both share, but the higher weight of the sheeting makes it more noticeable. I’m gonna need to give these a stiffer backing to keep the paint on, even if it held reasonably well in the basic tests.

Surprise contestant:
EVA (Craft) Foam
Advantages:
Easy to work, soft, multi-purpose.

Disadvantages:
Poor surface texture, floppy, fragile, and more expensive than either. Worse, it’s sensitive to heat and to spraypaint, so it’ll need sealing.

ConclusionsI’ll definitely keep using cork for my own street/postapoc projects, but I’m about to add a lot more vinyl to my toolbox. Given the properties of both, I’m thinking of using an 8″ wide strip of black posterboard, with the vinyl laid on top (using its own adhesive) as a road bed and either cork sidewalks or ballast to simulate gravel shoulders. I could also take strips of foamcore and cut out roadbeds from the center ( just leaving the bottom layer of card), and mark up curbs/sidewalks onto the raised edge sections. The foamcore method is almost certainly going to be the way to go if I’m making bridges/overpasses, unless I can convince that guy in the Makerspace to let me use his laser cutter on some MDF or hork up for the Hirst Arts bridge mold..

Shack! [Post-apoc terrain]

I have invented a device for turning pop cans into scale-correct corrugated iron sheets. It is made from popsicle sticks. I’ve done up a quickie sample shack with the prototype. Plans will go up once I refine it into something a little less-dangerous and labor-intensive.

shackpix-1 shackpix-2

Reversing the Apocalypse: “Un-ruining” the Mantic 28mm Brick terrain set

I picked up the Mars Attacks! brick ruin terrain boxed set a year or so ago, while I was on my last Fallout kick. The sci-fi kits they put out were pretty cool, and I liked the way those fit together, so I snagged a couple of the MA! ruins boxes on sale from the LGS, hoping they’d fit the good old zeerusty Fallout aesthetic. They were.. not the most impressive. A couple of connectors snapped off while I was doing test fitting, and there were a huge number of “samey” pieces of ruin. That tends to make everything look a little too planned for a crumbling town (in particular, the three identical un-shattered glass doors, and all the identically-busted windows). The clip-together system also leaves huge unsightly gaps between pieces, and glaring holes in the models’ texture that would require filling. Plus they were a garish salmon-orange-pink. So I knew that if I put these together I’d either hate them or have to give up on the modularity that was supposed to be the kit’s selling point.

Instead of doing either, I got annoyed with it in the planning stage and stashed it in the back of my closet with the rest of my unloved but usable gaming crap.

Today I’ve been inspired by the work of the gent over on Tabletop Terrain to give my 20th-C brick a second look (he’s got a couple of really cool posts through that link showing his own work on it). He fixed the gapping problems and the clip-holes quite handily. As I said, however, the biggest thing that bugged me personally was the uniformity of the busted bits, along with how small most of the pieces are. Some are barely big enough to make a blasted corner sticking up out of the rubble, and only have 1-2 clip holes. That makes building walls and linear terrain much harder. Plus, I want a couple of vaguely intact buildings to fuck about in. The best part about Necromunda and Mordheim was always the massive, multi-level terrainscape; I want to get some of that feel with my own This is Not a Test tables. I know Mantic offers actual un-ruined sets, but most of them don’t actually give me anything over what I already have. In particular, the roof tiles look shit and they have no models with plain, open windows – everything’s a thin layer of tough, orange plastic I’d have to saw out anyway. I might pick up their Convenience Store for the windows, but really their setup is pretty janky and this is more about salvaging and getting the most out of what I have. Kinda appropriate for a post-apocalyptic project, if you think about it..

So I set about restoring what bits I have and planning out new ones – the roofs are going to have to wait for a bit.

One of the first things I noticed was that the “Accessories” sprue has some pretty cool bits on it that aren’t actually on any of the buildings Mantic offers – a different dustbin, beer kegs, a better-looking paneled door – so I plan to might wind up separating a few of those off and repairing/recasting them for scatter terrain. That door is >definitely< going under rubber, although I’m going to have to make it as a “face” mold since the other side is covered by crates and reinforcements.

accessories-linear-terrain-annotated

Annotated to show some of the nifty salvageable bits here

accessories-cool-door-in-barricade

Almost the same size, and you can’t tell me this isn’t cooler…

The park benches are too difficult to cast, and I can make my own, better-looking ones more quickly and cheaply with coffee stirrers and wire anyway, but the road signs and 50s-style lamps are badass.

I also did a basic repair on the main panel.

I had the sneaking suspicion that one of the smaller “ruin” pieces would match up fairly closely to the missing chunks of the largest panel. None of them did exactly, but a couple were pretty close. This was the best fit.
main-panel-tracing
I traced the outline of the larger wall on it with a sharpie and got to work with the ol’ razor saw (this stuff is a little too stiff to cut with the X-acto, although my heavy boxcutter is decent for trimming), and an emery board.
main-panel-traced

These things are the shit, kids. $1.50 for fifteen, and they're wide, straight, flat, and flexible.

These things are the shit, kids. $1.50 for fifteen, and they’re wide, straight, flat, and flexible.

Anyway, I sanded until the model hit a decent temporary fit, then clamped it into a pair of other walls as an alignment jig and sanded until it fit cleanly and without real effort before I glued it. I also lightly sanded the surface of the piece – like a lot of these hard-plastic wargaming models, it warped slightly while cooling and I want the recasts to be as clean as possible.

main-panel-fit-and-glueNext up is making a quick-and-dirty epoxy mold to transfer and repair the brick texture from the other side and replace the two bricks in the middle.

After that I have a couple of ideas, but given how shitty this plastic is to work with I think I may just cast up quick-and-shitty molds of the main unique wall sections instead of building off of what I have.

Said larger bits of ruin

Said larger bits of ruin

One of the cooler things is that the door piece aligns in a couple of different ways with the window-walls. With proper castings and a little elbow grease these ought to break up a lot of the monotony of the set.

Side alignment with two full-height windows

Side alignment with two full-height windows

Side alignment with the paneled door

Side alignment with the paneled door

Center alignment with two small windows above the door.

Center alignment with two small windows above the door.

The bay window will be kind of a bitch, but at least I can get my brownstone on in a reasonably attractive manner. Floors will be super easy, just joisted coffee stirrers with a little filler on top, and I think can get away with using the floor separators as a frame to hold on upper levels since I’m not going to be using the Mantic clips to hold the structures together.  Given my ongoing mold hold-out rates, this ought to give me enough casts for a couple reasonably-sized buildings to play in and beat the shit out of in a slightly less-regular manner than they probably intended.