Saturday, January 27, 2018

Modular Cliff Terrain - Part 3

The cliffs are finally starting to take shape.  I spent the last couple of weeks cutting, sanding, and generally making a ton of foam mess.  The 6 inch high cliff modules are generally made from three separate two inch layers, while the 3 inch high modules are made from a single three inch thick block.  The photos and discussion below will walk you through the process that I used on a three inch cliff module.

The first step was to cut a seam between the strata, using the old Foam Factory hotwire engraving tool.

The top two inches of foam makes up the upper strata, while the lower strata consists of a single inch of foam.  The engraving tool melts a "v" shaped slices into the foam. 

Excess foam was then cut away from the upper strata with a hacksaw blade.

Foam was cut away to create the slight "stepped" affect in the cliffs, such that the lower strata generally extents slightly forward of the upper strata.

Fallen rocks were cut out of the upper strata with a hobby knife.

These are just roughly hacked out of the foam and cleaned up in a later step.

The angular cuts were then softened, and recesses made deeper with a Perma Grit sander.

Perma Grit sanders come in a variety of shapes, and are tremendously helpful in shaping foam and plastic such as styrene or ABS.  The sander above is a curved R200.  I also used the flat F102 a great deal on the cliffs.

Once the dust was cleared away, I cut vertical crevices in the strata with the hotwire engraving tool, and the hack saw blade.

The segments of stone were then sanded to a near final shape with the Perma-Grit sander.

Note the contrast between the sanded upper strata, and the un-sanded lower strata above.  The module was then finished by sanding the lower strata as well.

A more over-head view shows the slight stepped affect in the strata below.

The six inch high modules were completed in much the same way, except the each two inch thick strata was separate, making the strata easier to shape.

The photo above shows a six inch tall module at the start of Part 3 to the left, and a similar sanded module to the right.

The photo below demonstrates three straight modules side by side.

The next two photos show two straight modules creating a 90 degree bend, when mated to an inside corner.


The overhead view more obviously demonstrates how the modules fit together, forming the 90 degree bend.

Below is a view of all of the 3 inch high modules, and 6 inch high modules behind, lined up.

Below are views that demonstrate how the inside corners, outside corners, and straight cliff modules assemble to create the cliffs.


Again, the 3 inch high cliffs are in front, the 6 inch to the rear.

The modules still need a fine sanding, and sealed and painted, which will be addressed in Part 4.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2017 in Review, Looking to 2018

I know I'm a touch late, but as many of us apparently do, I like to look back over the past year to see what I've accomplished, and to look ahead and dream about the projects that have yet come to pass.

Accomplishments of 2017

My goals for 2017 included completing work or making progress on five core interests:

28mm Post Apocalypse:
Some significant accomplishment here, starting with the launch of my campaign.  Despite the lack of games through most of the year, I finally settled on my back story, worked out the details and most of the figs for a dozen factions, and developed a variety of storylines that will lead to games yet to come.  So, post-apoc accomplishments:
     1. Completed the setting and roughed out the rules (vehicles may need some work though)
     2. Built 28mm Recce Cars for the Confederation - Important for connecting the factions.
     3. Built the Mesa - Important to one of the storylines.
     4. Built the Gas Station - Somewhere for post-apocalyptians to hang out
     5. Built the Highway- Connects some of the factions.
Overall, not too bad regarding progress, and at least I'm playing games.

15mm African Imagi-Nations:
Not so much progress here.  I moved the war ahead nearly one full day, completing 2 land battles, and a couple of air battles.  Unfortunately, though I am still quite excited about playing out the battles, I had too many detail items to build for the battles, and just couldn't work up the mojo for all of the work.  A couple of those things are happening right now, so 2018 will likely see a bit more progress.

Near Future Game:
2017 saw me complete the resurfacing of the roadway terrain for the game, which is at the heart of the layout of the games.  I also got some planning steps out of the way for some factions, but  little physical progress took place, as I focused on the post apocalypse.

Cold War in 6mm and 15mm:
Mostly, in 2017 I realized that I have too broad of an interest here, and after a ton of reading and watching this year, recognized that I can't pursue the Cold War in 5 different timeframes, and in two scales. About the only progress that I made, was some work on my 15mm M60A1 turret master, and acquired some miniatures, 15mm East German infantry, British armor and infantry, and some aircraft, all for the 1977 to 1982 time frame.

Star Fleet Battles:
This was an area of some success.  I completed ships and/or fighters for Kzinti, Federation, and Klingons, and we started playing the General War again.  We are about 5 turns into the war, 4 battles completed (I think), with two more planned. 

My quest to  get the game on the table in miniature faltered, when my miniatures money got eaten by some car problems in the later part of the year.  Hopefully, the Lyran fleet will get some reinforcements soon, and we can finally get miniatures on the table, instead of counters.  All things considered, a lot of progress was made, and we got some games on the table top.

Other Accomplishments in 2017:
15mm Humvees:  I finally got my 15mm Humvees on the table for the first time, playing three games set in Afghanistan earlier in the year.  I think I first cast my miniatures in 2009, so only took 8 years to get them on the table.  I'm getting faster.

20mm Vietnam:  I got some terrain, and a handful of miniatures done for 20mm Vietnam, though the game for which I was doing this work had to be cancelled due to the one of the car problems mentioned above.  With any luck, that game will happen in the near future.

Games Played: I played at least 18 games this year, the most in at least 7 years, and with any luck, the trend will continue.

Figs:  I only painted 191 figs and terrain pieces for the year, while buying/acquiring 278, so lost ground to the lead heap.  I've been keeping a detailed painting log for the last 13 years, and in that time have painted 7708 figs, while purchasing/acquiring 7074.

Plans for 2018

I simply want to push ahead with the 5 core periods from last year.

28mm Post Apocalypse: Hoping for lots of gaming in 2018, with development of the story around 4 core (and many lesser) factions in the wastes.

15mm African Imagi-Nations:  Make the stuff needed to fight out the war; a hospital, an airport, the president's palace, some trucks, and a few other things.  And hopefully get through a couple months of game time.

Near Future Game:  Mostly hoping to paint the remaining core factions (KGB, Boy Scouts, Martians, etc), finish the flying saucer, the farm, and a few other buildings , and be ready to start gaming by the end of the year.

Cold War, 6mm and 15mm:  Finish the 15mm M60 and complete a company, paint my Brits, and East Germans and get some circa 1982 games played.  In 6mm I need to settle on which earlier period, either 1957ish or 1967ish, and fill in the gaps for which ever wins out.

Star Fleet Battles:  Continue the war hopefully through 2-3 years of game time, and round out Kzinti, Lyran, and Klingon, miniatures fleets.

Closing Thoughts

2017 turned out to be a great hobby year for me.  It ended in a tidal wave of building and gaming, which I am still riding with my cliff project.  I got my mojo back, and simply can't wait for each free moment to see what I can accomplish next.  So, I'm going to wrap this up, get back downstairs, and enjoy 2018.

Hope your 2017 was awesome, and that your 2018 is even awesomer!!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Modular Cliff Terrain System - Part 2

Riding a wave of hobby enthusiasm left over from the holidays, I woke up at 5:01 AM on a Saturday morning, ready to build cliffs.  The night before, I was ready to start gluing up the foam, but was caught between two methods of actually roughing out the cliffs. Each offered an advantage during the construction process, and as I couldn't settle on which to use,  I decided to sleep on it. 

The foam before gluing or rough shaping.

After sleeping on it, the best method was more obvious to me, and involved gluing every two inches of foam for the 6 inch cliffs and all three of the panels for the three inch cliffs. 

Spraying  adhesive on the foam.

I used 3M Styrofoam adhesive to glue up the foam panels.  It sprays in a sort of stringy figure-eight pattern that is easy to control, and has basically no mist-like overspray that you get with most spray adhesives.  If offers a long last bond, and is easy to cut through with knife, saw, and hotwire.

3M Styrofoam Spray Adhesive.
The springy "figure-8" pattern of the adhesive
sprayed onto the foam

Adhesive was sprayed on both surfaces to be glued together, a couple of minutes was allowed to pass, then the two pieces were matched up along an edge and pressed together.

I had previously collected about 40 photos of cliffs, offering different textures and shapes, and settled on about half a dozen as guides for the cliff shaping process.

I made two cliff side templates, one 3 inches high, and the other 6 inches, out of thin styrene sheet, which will make it easy to give the modules matching edges.  The 3" template is identical to the upper 3 inches of the 6 inch template. 

Three inch and six inch tall side templates.

Starting with the first 6"x12"x6" section, I carefully aligned the three two inch thick subsections, and drew the cliff profile on the edges.  Note that the first 6 inch measurement is actually the depth of the module, and is a minimum dimension.  Some panels were cut such that they were deeper than 6 inches to allow more variation in the finished cliff modules, such as the one depicted below.

The three 2 inch thick panels lined up with a foam backing panel,
and the template at the side. Note that the three lower foam pieces
 in this module are approximately 9 inches deep, rather than 6"

A top profile was then drawn onto the uppermost section, and cut out with a hotwire,

The top profile drawn onto the the upper cliff section. 
The foam panel was then cut along this profile line with the hotwire 

The hotwired top panel was then place onto the middle 2 inch panel, the edge of the top panel was then traced onto the second panel.  Next, the top profile edge was drawn onto the second panel and cut, creating a stepped effect when the panels are stacked.  The same process was then performed on the bottom panel, yielding the first straight cliff section ready for the stone detailing.

This process was repeated for each cliff section until all were roughed out on the hotwire.  The 3 inch tall cliff sections only required the top profile to be drawn on, and then hotwired once to get the rough shape.

A view of all of the cliff sections after cutting with the hotwire.
Example of how the outside corner, inside corner, and straight
section mate together.  Note the stepped appearance of the panels
 making up the 12 inch long straight cliff module.
With the hotwire cutting complete, the cliffs are ready for the next step, detailing the stone, which will be addressed in Part 3.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Modular Cliff Terrain System - Part 1

A couple of years ago, I set out to create a rocky hill and cliff system for my 15mm Soviet-Afghan games.  I cut up a ton of foam, started assembling pieces, and realized that there were still some design kinks to work out.  I then realized that I cut the pieces too narrow to do what I had original intended.  So, about 150 pieces of foam measuring about 6'x12' sat stacked in my garage until this past November, when I finally decided that if I hadn't found a use for them after two years, that they might as well get tossed out.  And they were. 

As I mentioned recently in another post, I need more rocky terrain for use in my 28mm post apocalyptic dessert.  In addition to just rocky terrain pieces, I really need a modular cliff system; I came to real this about four weeks after throwing away all of that foam.

So, I started tinkering around with designs, and came up with a modular cliff system, built around 6"x12" foam modules. Big sigh. Life is just too funny sometimes.

So anyway, here is how I am going about making a modular foam cliff system...

The cliff system will be constructed from 1" expanded polystyrene insulation foam, and will need to mate with my existing modular foam terrain.  After thinking about this for a little while, I decided make two different height cliffs; one set  6" high, and the other set 3".  The two systems will be made, such that they can be used with each other.

The basic system will consist of, more or less, straight cliff sections joined by inside and outside corners.  The straight cliffs will have a 6"x12" footprint, while the corner pieces with have a 6" square footprint.  Additionally, I will need a river/waterfall section, and road sections for each height. 

The river sections will consist of 6'x12' modules, one of each height (3" & 6"), and mate with a 12" square river/water fall base.  The roads will employ a total of five 6"x12" sections.  Three will be use to create the slope that transitions from grade to the 6" rise, meaning that the total footprint for the sloped roadway panels will be 12"x18".  The other two will make the 3" clime in a footprint of 12"x12".

I decided to start out with 8 straight, 4 outside corner, and 2 inside corners for each thickness, as well as the two river/waterfall sections, and 5 total road sections.  This will require about three 4'x8' sheets of 1 inch thick foam.  There will also be a pair of transitions go from the 3" cliff to the 6" cliff.

Originally, I was going to buy a couple of sheets of foam, but after looking around my basement and garage, I realize that I must have ten or more sheets worth of foam setting around in the form of scraps that I have collected over the years.  So, time to clean up a bit.

I cut up about half of the foam that I need, before giving in to our single digit high temperatures (our garage is not heated) a few days ago, and will cut up the rest tomorrow (it is supposed to be in the 50s F.

The project currently looks like this:

In the foreground are the 6" square pieces for the corners, the 12" straight pieces are in two rows to the rear, one each for the 6" and 3" cliffs.  Some of the 6"x12" panels are actually deeper than 6 inches, allowing some modules to be deeper in their centers, creating more irregular shaped cliffs. The big stack to the right are scraps.

You will also note the different colors of foam; pink, blue, and green.  Like I said, I have collected scraps for many years.  Sadly, quality control is not what it used to be.  I noted that the green foam is often under-thickness, sometimes nearly 1/8" under, and the pink is often over, sometimes by more than 1/16".  It matters when you stack six of them together.  I'll fix any height problems during construction.

My next post will address joint profiles for the modules, and basic construction of the corner and straight pieces.  Hopefully, I'll have something to share by the end of the weekend.