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Sunday, 26 May 2019

Making the terrain boards for 'Carry On up the Nile!' (5)

The last piece of terrain that I needed to make was the city of Khartoum. To be roughly in scale with the rest of the terrain, this had to occupy an area that was approximately 9-inches/222.5cm long x 6-inches/15cm at its widest point, and needed to include the Governor's Residence or Palace, a wharf, at least one warehouse, an several smaller buildings. They had to be robust, simple to build, and easy to transport.

I started with the outline of the city, which I created by taping several lengths of thin plywood together. (I did not have a single piece large enough in my small wood store.) I did not glue them together at this stage, as I hoped that when the buildings etc. were in place, that would not be necessary.


I then added the wharf. This was made from a piece of thin plywood (approximately 9-inches/22.5cm long and 1-inch/2.5cm wide) which was glued to a thicker piece of balsa wood.

When the glue had dried, balsa wood was trimmed to size, and the wharf was glued in place along the riverside edge of the city.

Whilst the glue that was holding the wharf in place was drying, I set to work on building the Governor's residence and a warehouse. These were made using the as-yet-unused bottom half of one of my cheap £1.00 wooden boxes I bought from THE WORKS. (The lid had already been used to create two of the gateways in the defensive wall.)


The lower of the two was used to for the basis of the warehouse whilst the taller became the basis of the Governor's Residence. A suitably sized piece of thin plywood was glued to each of the two pieces of the box to form the building's fourth wall.

In the case of the warehouse, all I added was a door and small window to each of the long sides.

The door on the side of the building that was going to face the wharf had to be higher up the building so that its bottom was level with the wharf.

The completion of the Governor's Residence involved adding a narrow extension to the front of the building using a piece of balsa wood and one of thin plywood (the latter having an arch cut in its middle) as well as a main door and several windows to the front and rear.



I decided that these building would not be permanently fixed to the city baseboard, and trimmed blocks of balsa wood to size to act as locating lugs for the buildings. These lugs were then glued onto the city baseboard, along with several short lengths of wood that were to represent walls around and inside the city.

Above: The city baseboard with the locating blocks (and some short sections of wall) in place.
Below: The city baseboard showing the warehouse and the Governor's Residence in situ.

I then built two small small box-like structures from pieces of balsa wood ...


... to which I added roofs of thin plywood.


The square building was then given a single door, a dome (a small, cut-down wooden draw knob), and a couple of minarets (actually wooden lighthouses from a set of wooden ships bought some years ago!) so that it could be used as a mosque ...


... and the other was given a door and a couple of windows and became a single-storey dwelling.


For the next two buildings, I reverted to cutting the bottom half of one of my cheap £1.00 wooden boxes from THE WORKS into two slightly different sized parts, to which I added a piece of thin plywood to create my basic building 'block'.


Using various pieces of balsa wood, plywood, and basswood that I had to hand, I added a roof extension to each as well as a slightly projecting frontage on half of each 'block' ...


... after which I added a number of doors and windows to create the impression that each 'block' was made up from several different dwellings.



As I had done earlier, I trimmed blocks of balsa wood to size to act as locating lugs for these buildings. These lugs were then glued onto the city baseboard in appropriate locations.

I left everything to dry overnight ... and then discovered that the city baseboard had warped quite badly. I tried to rectify the problem by gluing further strips of thin ply at right angles to the existing baseboard, but although this went some way to curing the problem, I thought that the baseboard was still too warped to be acceptable.

In the end I decided that the best (and quickest) way to resolve the situation was to completely start afresh, and to make a new city baseboard. Two layers of thin plywood were glued so that the grain on the top and bottom pieces were at right angles to each other ... but when the glue had dried overnight, the new city baseboard had as much (if not more) warpage than the original!

I therefore decided to use my original (and slightly warped) city baseboard rather than the new one. All that remained was to give the completed models two coats of PVA to seal the surface of the wood before they were painted.

I am giving serious thought to replacing the baseboard with one made from MDF. For the moment, however, I'm going to stick with original one whilst I source a suitable piece of MDF.

12 comments:

  1. Hi BOB,
    You beat me to it- I was going to suggest to you 3mm MDF would be ideal for the Base Board- look forward to seeing how this all turns out if you choose MDF. You've done very well with the buildings-each has enough detail in their design to set it apart from the next and purpose buildings such as The Governors Residence and Mosque certainly do look the part. You'l have fun I'm sure painting your model of Khartoum - well done indeed. Cheers. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      Cheers!

      I've ordered several suitably-sized pieces of laser-cut 3mm MDF from Warbases, and I'm sure that one of them will eventually form the city baseboard. In the meantime, I'm persisting with the original baseboard, which - once I gave it a couple of coats of PVA on the wrong side (i.e. the side that will be in contact with the terrain boards) - seems to have begun to straighten out.

      The buildings do seem to have turned out reasonably well, and I am hoping to make some more in due course. Using an existing box that I can modify makes the building process a lot quicker, and I've already got some ideas for making buildings that I can use with my PW rules.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. I'm sorry to hear about your problems with keeping plywood flat. My recent experience suggests that there has definitely been a decline in the quality of thin ply in recent years, certainly compared with the 50 year old re-purposed ¼ inch ply I had been using.

    I don't particularly like MDF - even though, or maybe because, I've used quite a lot of it - but I'm pretty sure that KEV's suggestion is a good one.

    You may recall that I was looking for another picture of the great wall of Morobad. So far I've had no success but did find some pictures of a Joe Morschauser gridded wargame battle which looks like it would fit right into your Carry On Up the Nile scenario. What intrigued me were the flat buildings which, since they stood on the grid lines, took no space away from the figures. Quite different from your new structures but I wonder whether you have ever considered or indeed tried Joe's approach?

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    1. Mike Hall,

      It may well be that the plywood I'm using is not the best quality available as it was quite cheap when I bought it some years ago.

      I don't have the right tools (e,g laser cutter) to cut MDF very accurately, which is why I prefer using plywood and basswood or pre-cut MDF.

      I have experimented with constructing 2D rather than 3D buildings for use with my PW rules, but have not gone beyond making some prototypes. Chris Kemp (who writes the NOT QUITE MECHANISED blog) has taken the idea much further, and used a mixture of 2D and 3D buildings to create Moscow (and other large cities) for his Eastern Front battles.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Basically Bob, when you paint only one side of plywood (or mdf for that matter) it will warp. You need to paint both sides and that will keep things pretty flat. Hope this helps?

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    1. Steve J.,

      Thanks for the suggestion.

      Funnily enough, I tried that earlier today, and it has helped to reduce the warping.

      Not a 100% cure, but close enough for my needs!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. Epic stuff - hope I don't spill a pint over it ;)

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    1. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      Spill a pint! You might do many things, but never that!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. Very nice work as usual! Fairly simple, but effective. The extra bits and different sizes also make the buildings look distinctive.

    Warpage seems to be a common problem for many terrain-makers. The common suggestions to combat it seem to be the ones you tried - the 2 layers at cross-angles to each other, painting the "wrong" side with the same stuff you painted the "correct" side.

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    Replies
    1. Fitz-Badger,

      Cheers! I always try to keep things as simple as I can, as experience shows that the end results are more robust and give the impression of the sort of building the model represents.

      Using cross-layering and painting the 'wrong' side has reduced the warpage enough to be acceptable, but I do with that I could find a material that did not warp. Perhaps one day I will ...

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Steel plates? ha ha

      Not very practical. On the other hand think of the possibilities with magnets...

      But seriously, thicker materials will warp less. And warpage is more obvious the bigger the piece is. I think that's why some people use thicker foam sheets to make terrain squares or the like.

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    3. Fitz-Badger,

      About twenty years ago I looked at the possibility of covering some baseboards with thin steel sheets so that I could attach terrain items (e.g. buildings, hills, trees) to it using magnets, so your suggestion isn't quite as silly as it first appears!

      I moved over from 2mm to 3mm thick MDF bases after I experienced warpage with the thinner bases ... and the problem hasn't occurred again since I did. So I agree, the thicker the material, the less warpage should occur.

      All the best,

      Bob

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