Friday, 30 March 2012

Terrain Boards - a sneak peek!

The flower pot is not to scale!
Well I did say that MDF is the way forward on the terrain board front, so I thought I would show the process I am using to make them (for those who like that sort of thing). I helped make the boards that you can see if you look at the excellent and it's also the place where I spend my Thursdays nights btw. The stories I could tell, but as everyone knows, Whats said in the Shed stays in the Shed...but I digress.

Drying rack in Shed 2
 The big problem we had encountered when making those boards was the chipboard base warping. We decided after much discussion that there were a number of reasons for this, but mostly it was to do with the mixture we had spread over the top of the board to give the rough ground effect. The combination of PVA, sawdust and white emulsion (known in the Shed as gloop, and yes I can tell you that!) had taken over a week to dry in many cases and this had caused 18mm chipboard to curl up quite spectacularly even though it had been sealed. The net effect had been to add a framework of 1" wood around the base of each board. Something that would not be an option to me because of the transport and weight implications. So this is the approach I have adopted.
Undercoated boards drying
I had decided on 12mm MDF as the base material and had this cut into 600mm x 600mm squares when I bought it (worth doing, the cuts are straight and transportation is so much easier, of course!), then Step 1 was to seal the boards with a primer undercoat, on all surfaces including the edges. Fortunately I have 2 sheds (no I'm not Arthur Jackson), and because I'm likely to be doing this on a bit of an industrial scale, my Dad created a drying rack (pictured above right) which is a real boon as space to allow these boards to dry is at a premium.

The stuff of gloop
Step 2 is to decide whether boards will have any hills on. I have decided to embed some hills into the terrain and create some other free standing ones to to allow for some scenario flexibility. Also I wont be adding roads or rivers, these will be made in sections and laid over the terrain as appropriate to the game. When the hills have been selected these as trimmed with my heated wire cutter (worth the effort finding), glued into place with PVA, and when firmly dried, any sections of hill which look too steep are given a more gentle gradient using filler. The idea being that the least amount of gloop that needs to go onto the board, the better.

Step 3 is my favourite, ask anyone at the shed. And yes it's information not covered by the shed official secrets act. Its gloop time!! There is not set formula for gloop in my experience. I use about 2 cups of PVA , 4 to 5 cups of white emulsion and an ice cream tub full of saw dust.When it looks like porridge but a lot whiter, you are onto a winner. Simple scoop it up with a trowel and dab it on. I decided to keep the application as thin as possible and also to flatten down any bits that stand too proud as these would only be broken off in transport at some point. There is an argument for using brown or green paint instead of white. This would effectively pre-colour the base of the board. The main reason that I have not done this is cost. Gloop does use a lot of emulsion and white is by far the cheapest colour. Where I only producing a few boards I might bite the bullet and get coloured emulsion - but I'm going to produce have have to find economies somewhere!

Step 4 really sees the board starting to look like something worth fighting on, even if it does seem a bit bright. The base coat choice is Dublin Bay 2. Its a bit of a pain to work into various nooks and crannies of the gloop, and definitely needs a once over after it has dried so that you have re-apply paint to the white bits. Its worth slightly thinning the paint that I use for the touching up process (oh please!!) as some of the unpainted sections are always in those hard to reach spots.
Step 5 is the addition of a dry brushed highlight coat of Dublin bay 3. I know it still looks a bit bright but the colours really do work! The boards pictured here have embedded hills and my plan is to add some brown shading to the hill tops and also to some parts of the board to break up the green, and add a dry brush yellow high-light. When that is done I will post the new pictures here. So far by applying the gloop fairly thinly, warping has been very limited and the boards are not overly heavy. When the are finished I will lay a sheet of bubble wrap over the top of each one and then package them ready for a couple of planned demo games and of course the up-coming Mega-game. For now though it's 24 boards under construction and just 226 to go. But it's not like I have to do them all next week. This is a two year plan. Perhaps I should post updates with  Soviet style production figures. Cue back drop of workers gathering an unending harvest, massive factories churning out products at never before seen rates, and a voice telling us we are all in this together. 
Join me, brothers, join me...Its time to gloop.  


Just finished a couple of boards and here they are!!

And more boards sunning themselves - Its like the film Birds, there were only 2 of them earlier I'm sure. Again the flower pot is not to scale.


  1. I use a very similar technique - I suppose inspired by Peter Gilder. For the paint I use latex house paint but buy miss-tints. In Canada any paint store will have tons of paint that were mixed and deemed incorrect by the customer. The shop then sells these on for very little. Of course the nice thing is that the most common colours are brown, beiges, and greens. By using this I save tons of money and the base tone under my topcoat is such that if I miss a bit in the painting process or something chips, it is a neutral natural colour that doesn't stand out.

  2. Thanks Chris - that is not a bad idea, regarding mis tints. Next time I am chatting to my B&Q paint man I will ask him about their mis tints. Apart from the draw back of the white specks that occur after the green base coat dries, the other main problem has been the glare from the sun when working with the white gloop on a white board. Thought I would end up with some sort of snow blindness!!

  3. Have you thought of adding some children's poster paint to the white emulsion. The powdered form should be able to dye the white to your colour. As it's designed to be mixed with water it would mix with emulsion.

    1. I hadn't Brendan. That really is a top idea!! And from you as well ;) I will try that with the next batch. Thank you for that. Good to hear from you.

  4. Plan B
    Following on from Chris the canadian's post, go to B&Q

    (btw just to show my usless quiz knowledge, B&Q comes from Block and Quayle, the surnames of the two guys who set up the buisness years ago!)

    any way go to your B&Q paint man and ask for a certain tint of green emulsion, when he has mixed you say 300 litres, tell him it is the wrong tint and promptly leave the store.

    Then send in A.N. Accomplice (Eric looks suitably honest) who can they buy the lot at a knock down price!

  5. I'm not too sure where this blog is hosted, but I just posted the above at 12 mins past 10 on Saturday morning, and it was timed at 02.12. 8 hours behind. Maybe that was why an Indian travel company posted on your site. They may well be in the office along the corridor from the blog host???

    1. I'm not sure either. Time stamp is set for London. Am looking at this now. Perhaps the excitement of all these posts has overloaded the blogosphere...sounds too Star Trekky.. but I am glad the stamp is wrong, I thought you had some form of raging insomnia for a while there!!

    2. Just checked on blogger and the answer is...
      I'm guessing you are using the embedded comment format. Thiis is a known bug, ever since this format was changed to allow threaded comments. I use this format too and all comments show Pacific Standard Time. I understand that the Google engineers are aware of this and are working on it.

  6. How are you going to make the roads and rivers?

    1. Roads and rivers are likely to be made from roofing felt but with some form of plaster wash to enable detailing. I am working on a few different ideas for this at the moment. Any gems you have, please feel free to pitch in. Like anything you know the scale of the final product that we need. I have looked at commercial roads and rivers but the cost is prohibitive.

  7. Enter LLoydian Aspects on google, and you will go to a site of a guy called Lloyd (Clever stuff this interweb!)His name is Nicholas Lloyd for some reason he calls himself Lloyd, but hey he's based in Newcastle so who can blame him? He used to post a lot on the Spearhead site.

    Anyway, one of his links is to his wargame / terrain building section.
    Where he shows you how to make roads out of cotton material smothered in brown acrylic mastic. It looks reasonable, it conforms to the terrain udulations, and it sounds cheap to make.
    It should be possible to make curvy, meandering roads in long pieces, which may well look better than the straight road lengths we use?

    Apparently this type of road can be rolled up for storage/transportation.

    He also has a section on building river sections, although using his road method and painting the sections may do the trick!

  8. Thanks again Brendan!! Have put a link on the side of the blog to that. Will try it and see how it works.

  9. Sorry to appear a bit negative (or was that Michael Jackson?) but looking at the piccies of the games on the right hand side of the blog, and comparing the green of the new boards to the green of the old poly ones, the old green looks better.

  10. I think the new green is brighter that is for sure. It actually looks a lot brighter in these pictures than it does in 'normal' light. I think I may try some some 'highlight' in a dull yellow to see if this brings the colour down. Its at a stage where changing the colour is not a major hassle

  11. I'm new to your blog, although I follow Garage Gamer. Why do you need 240 terrain squares. Wow!

    One day I might gain the courage to try making my own boards.

  12. Hi Der Alte Fritz...I'm replacing all of the tiles that are used for the annual mega-game. 240 is what I estimate that I will need to give us the flexibility set up enough tables for the scenarios that are likely to occur...then I only need the relevant amounts of roads, town sectors, rivers etc...It's not courage...more a little madness that you need :) ps. Have put some of the newly painted boards on my lasted post. These replace the paint scheme shown on here.