Sunday 27 June 2021

Oh, the excitement! A trip to Poundland...

Friday was my second COVID vaccination and the first trip to the city for several months.  I was pleased to have a chance to browse the aisles of Poundland because they do have an excellent selection of bits to use in scenery making and for 3D printing.  I'd built up quite a list of things that I needed, so let's have a little browse to see what useful items we can find:

Parts boxes/ multi-compartment organisers. I’ve been 3d printing out lots of small pieces of scatter terrain and these are just the job to keep them organised and safe from damage.  More on 3d printing in a future blog post.

Parts boxes.

Lot of compartments with removable dividers.

A silicone spatula is ideal for wiping out the resin bath of your 3D printer or for stirring plaster when making scenery.  Don't use the same one for both!  When the resin is cured or the plaster is set, just flex the silicon rubber and the waste should flake off.

Silicone spatula.

Pop-up silicone funnels are just the thing for pouring resin neatly back into the bottle or decanting varnish, glue, paint etc into different containers.  Not sure about the fleshy colour, I wonder if there is a reason they come as a pair?!  As with the spatula, a gentle flex should flake off anything that has set, leaving them clean for their next use.

Not a pair of novelty breasts.

Metal Machines "Sandstorm" (white medical) and "Epic" (black SWAT) vehicles.  Although I didn't get any this time (already about 10 awaiting repainting), they're still available in Poundland and are an excellent 15-20mm scale version of the Canadian Terradyne Gurkha MPV.

This one actually came from Poundstretcher.

Paracetamol (not pictured) are just the thing to take after your COVID jab to reduce any side effects!

Clip seal tubs to use for isopropanol for washing 3D prints and for securely storing small bits and pieces, scenic wash etc.  Small tubs come in packs of 3, the 1.1 and 500ml together in a double-pack.  Larger sizes are available but I only needed the smaller ones at the moment.

Small clipseal tubs.

Large clipseal tubs (1.1 litres and 500ml)

Although I didn't get any, plastic jugs are always handy for measuring and mixing things like foam flock when making scenery.

A jug purchased on a previous occasion.

Travel bottle sets usually come with a couple of mini spray bottles (I use them for isopropyl alcohol and heavily diluted PVA/varnish), a couple of small bottles (not pictured - use upside down as storage tanks in your scenery) and a tiny funnel (also not pictured but great for making sure your varnish or glue go in the bottle rather than all over the table/floor etc.).

Spray bottle.

Make-up brush - I grabbed one to try because I've heard they're really good for drybrushing terrain. I wish I'd grabbed one of the hard foam eye shadow ones too, I think they'd probably be good for shaping plaster when you're trying to sculpt it to match rock moulds.

Make-up brush.

Soft and fluffy!

Craft knives - two of each type, always nice to have some spares so I can keep a couple in each place I do my scenery and model making.


6 craft knives.

Cake decorating bottle  - with the multiple holes, this will be useful for saturating larger areas of flock with dilute PVA/varnish to seal them.  Should be faster than a dropper bottle and I never seem to be able to get the PVA thin enough to spray from a plant mister.

Cake decorating bottle.

Non-stick plastic mesh chip trays.  No picture of this, but they're plastic-like mesh with stapled corners sfor cooking your oven chips. I find them the perfect thing for drying out Hirst Arts plaster blocks.  Cast your blocks (you could use it for rock moulds too), chuck then on the tray, stick 'em in the oven as it's cooling after you've taken your food out.  The residual heat dries the bricks well and the mesh construction means that the warm air circulates freely round the plaster blocks, drying them evenly and avoiding any patches of condensation that you sometimes get with a solid tray.  They also cool to room temperature within a few seconds so you can easily handle the tray just after you've taken it out of the oven. Be wary of the staples in the corners and the plaster blocks though, they'll stay hot much longer!

I feel obliged to point out that there are many other cheap shops out there, many of whom also sell similar or identical items, sometimes cheaper.

If you come across them, Home Bargains in the UK sell "Jane Asher" baking essentials which include a silicon spatula with a more ergonomically shaped handle.  A few of the items listed above were more expensive than £1, plastic tubs and diecast cars seem to have increased to £1.25.  I did spot a few other interesting things, some artificial plants that woule yield large quantities of small-leafed foliage for low-level jungle, assorted water pistols that could be converted into chemical works.  And I haven't even mentioned the wide range of chocolate snacks that can keep one going in late-night craft sessions (and the toothpaste and brushes to use afterwards!)

Friday 18 June 2021

Spring of Scenery 2021 - Part 8: Alien hive spires

I found some nice models on Thingiverse for 3d printing Tyranid scenery which I thought might be useful as mysterious organic alien hive spires for a game.  Out of idle interest I had a look on ebay too and found someone selling prints of those exact models for a fairly good price. A day or two after I looked, the seller contacted me and offered a 5% discount offer so I ended up with 6 x "capillary towers" for £8.99.

They've been produced on an FDM printer which lays down a trail of molten plastic to build up the 3d structure.  As a result, they do have noticeable print lines but I applied a coat of white sandtex masonry paint mixed with filler which helped smooth out the surface without filling in much of the fine detail.  The bases received a coat of texture paint (burnt umber acrylic, PVA, readymix filler & fine sand) and then the whole lot were sprayed with black primer.

Capillary towers with 15mm EVA suits and life-sized toddler fingers for scale.

I asked for colour suggestions on the 15mm Sci Fi Facebook page and the general opinion seemed to be for a bone coloured carapace with a fleshy underside.  I'd originally been toying with the idea of old school Genestealer blue carapace with purple flesh.  While the blue didn't make it, I thought the purple could be worked in on the more squishy bits.

The carapace was painted with Vallejo khaki and the flesh in Vallejo dwarf flesh. A sepia wash was applied over the entire model, then the base colours re-applied as highlights.  Drybrushing doesn't work as well on something like this because it just enhances the 3d print lines, something you actually want to be minimising!  More highlights were carefully painted onto the bone (Vallejo bone with gradually increasing quantities of dead white added) and the flesh (Vallejo Elf flesh with increasing quantities of dead white added). I dug out my 25 year old bottle of GW purple ink from the "Expert paint set", thinned it with some Future floor polish and gave the fleshy bits a good coat, blending in a little extra purple around the edges.  This helped delineate the edge between the carapace and the flesh and the gloss Future gave a shiny finish to contrast with the very matt finish of the bony parts.

The finishing touch was to splash some PVA on the bases, sprinkle on flock and seal with PVA/matt varnish.

"Wow! What are these things?"

"I don't know, but lets go and have a really close look..."

 Now I just need a suitable scenario to use them for a game of Rogue Stars, or maybe to add a third party to an unsuspecting couple of players next time I run a Tomorrow's War game.

Monday 14 June 2021

Spring of Scenery 2021 - Part 7: Walls

Getting on for 10 years ago (judging by the postage marking on the box) I got some walls from ebay.  They seem to be some sort of white resin and most had been painted bright red.  I've no idea of their origin, whether they came from a particular company or someone casting from their own home-made moulds.  The quality was variable with some poor casting in places and a few bubbles but overall I was pleased and I think they only cost me something like £5-6 including postage.

I made a start on painting them, spray undercoating in grey and drybrushing the wall a duller brick red and the coping stones a brown/grey concrete colour.  This left the grey in between the bricks to look like cement.  I only got part of the set done, then they were put away and forgotten about...

I found them again a couple of years ago and put them in my general 15mm scenery box.  They made a brief appearance in Escape From Zombie Island 2019 where their thin profile, uneven edges and lack of bases made them constantly fall over, reminding me why I'd put them away in the first place!

Walls appearing in Escape from Zombie Island

Basing my hedges using thin foamex had worked well, so a rootle around in my supplies turned up a small sheet of 3mm onto which I was just able to squeeze all the bases.  I grouped some of the straight sections into pairs to make double-length walls.

Bases ready to cut out of 3mm foamex sheet.

Box of walls with bases ready for cutting.

The walls aren't exactly 15mm scale, maybe 1/72 instead.  A 15mm figure standing up straight could probably just peer over them but adding bases to the walls may completely block LOS.

Walls with GZG New Israeli for scale.

They went that-a-way!

The bases were easily trimmed out of the foamex using a sturdy craft knife. I considered whether to cut off the overhanging joints of the walls and glue back onto the opposite end to make them neat, flat-ended but in the end, I left them as they were. Cutting, gluing and blending in all those little pieces would have taken ages and life's just too short!

Bases cut to size.

The edges of the bases were chamfered and cut into a slightly more irregular edged shape.

That's going to be a lot of gluing!

With the bases added, the walls are just a touch taller than a 15mm figure.

Based wall with Rebel Minis mercenary for scale.

I used "Hard as Nails" adhesive to stick the walls in place.  When the walls were cast, they were either underfilled or the resin shrank a lot, some were 2 or 3mm short at one side or the other.  The underside of most walls was concave, so the nice thick adhesive filled the gaps and ensured a firm bond, also levelling up the worst of the uneven bottoms.  It also helped conceal the gaps between the 2 parts of the double-length walls.

Some of the walls were very uneven in height.

Walls all based.

Walls glued to base with "Hard as Nails" adhesive/filler.

After basing, the bases were painted with burnt umber acrylic.

Bases painted with burnt umber acrylic.

The walls were painted with burnt sienna, then individual bricks picked out with burnt umber, taupe and ochre.  The coping stones were painted with taupe.  I mixed up a brown/black wash with some matt acrylic varnish and applied it over the whole of the walls which toned the brighter colours down and hepled tie everything together.

Walls all painted and dark washed.

I had been planning to dust some pale tile grout over the walls and then wipe off with a damp cloth to leave mortar lines between the bricks but I decided that they actually looked pretty good as they were.  PVA was painted over the bases and they were dipped in a tub of sand and brown tile grout. This was sprayed with isopropanol then a thinned PVA and matt varnish mix dripped over to seal it.

Sand/grout mix applied to bases.

The final stage was more PVA, then a sprinkle of dark green flock followed by finer, lighter green flock and last of all, a few green dyed tea-leaves.

Flock added to bases

The isopropanol/PVA and varnish stage was repeated to finish everything off - or so I thought...

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Walls completed?

After looking at the end result in better light, I decided that I did need to do one more thing, just a quick drybrush over all the walls with some Humbrol desert sand to give them a faint dustiness and matt down the faint shine that even supposedly matt varnish sometimes seems to have.

Now they're finished!

GZG FSE Foreign Legionnaires for scale.

Bare earth was left in the gateways.

Additional vegetation was used to hide gaps.

Small reindeer licken & tea-leaf bush.

Vegetation to hide big blobs of Hard as Nails used to fill gaps.

Vegetation hides bad casting at the bottom of the wall.

These walls should get a few more outings now that I know they aren't going to fall over every time I try to use them!