Monday, January 12, 2015

Quick Build Light Forests

While I was waiting for things to dry on my hex-based rivers, I started working on my forests. In a previous post, I tentatively decided on how to make my heavy forests. I've now decided to follow the tutorial that Architects of War provide with some minor changes to materials. I did get my Syntra boards, but without any sort of electrical saw, I don't think I can cut it into hexes.

The Bases
The Architects of War tutorial suggested styrene plastic as an alternative for the base. I wanted to test how stiff it is and how easy it would be to cut it. Wanting to go on the cheap, I went for For Sale/Yard Sale signs. They come in two thicknesses. I can't tell you what they are, but the smaller For Sale signs are thinner than the Yard Scale signs. I've bought these before and have used it for various projects. Its seems recently these signs have gone up in price, but I think they still are a good deal compared to the hobby styrene sheets.

A good pilot study is always done on a small scale, so I decided to make some light forests using small hexes. I found that the Fiskars 2" hex cutter that I bought a while back
cannot punch through the thicker signs, but will go through the thin signs. I've heard mixed reviews on these punchers, mainly that they are not really worth the price. My original intent was to make hex mats from it, but have not gotten to that project yet. It did a good job cutting out the hexes, though several times I had to hunt for the hex as it flew off to parts unknown. One styrene hex was clearly too thin, so I was going to glue three styrene hexes together stacked on top of each other. Two glued together seem to be stiff enough so I stopped there. I wasn't sure how well things would stick to the styrene, so I added a final layer that consisted of a hex punched out of index card. I glued the three using super glue. Once I got some bases made, I then went on to make the trees.

The Trees
I was not interested in the mass canopy that is the heart of the Architects of War tutorial for this pilot project. The sole purpose was to see how good styrene would work. To make the trees, I mushed polymer clay onto my roofing nails and then baked them. Here is one of them ready to be painted.
Word of warning: do not bake with the nail stuck in it. The heat of the nail seems to burn the polymer clay pretty quickly. It is a good idea to pop them off then bake them. Once cooled, I glued them on, painted them, and flocked them. The baked clay was painted green, the trunk dark grey, and the base brown. They are not the most realistic looking trees, but they will do for microarmor scale.  As much as I love making terrain, I'm getting impatient and want to do some gaming!

Putting It All Together
Once dried, I glued the trees onto the bases. The tutorial uses latex caulk to glue down the trees. The caulk would make a nice textured ground, but I was not sure just how good a hold caulk would be, so I glued them with super glue. I arranged the tree such that there was some space in the middle of each hex. That way, at least one infantry unit or vehicle can be positioned in within the forest.
Completed forest prior to glue coating
I also made sure that the canopies did not go beyond the boundaries Remember they are supposed to be light forests.  I added flocking to the ground. I put some shrubbery down and a few random boulders.  One of the beauties of having kids is Play Doh. Ultimately, you find small bits of it lying around all dried up and they make great little boulders when you slap a coat of paint on them.

Once all of it was glued down, I then mixed some PVC glue and water together and coated the trees and shrubs to hold down the flock.
Trees and shrubs just coated with glue
With that, they were done. I might make a few more. I am thinking of make a few with palm trees since Gambusia is a tropical/sub-tropical micro-continent. However, palm trees take a lot longer to make, and might take up more space on the hexes.

They were done in assembly line fashion. I would say it took me about a two evenings to makes these, staying up about two hours per evening.  Compared to my other projects it was a pretty quick and straight forward one.


  1. I really like this approach - i imagine they are quite durable! I guess for a larger scale of miniature, it might not work so well, since you'd need a pretty large lump of clay. Then again, maybe for something more cylindrical than round?A cypress or spruce perhaps? Thanks for getting the wheels turning!

  2. John,
    A trick in the polymer clay community is to wrap the clay around something, sort of like an armature. Depending on what scale you are using, you could take aluminum foil and wad that up into a ball, or whatever shape you want, cover it with a thin layer of polymer clay and then bake it. I have also found that dried super glue is not affected by temperature (at least I don't think so). You could take several smaller wads of foil, glue them together and then apply the clay.