Friday, April 6, 2012

Empire Themed Table - Part 3


First up let's take a look at the materials I'm using for the initial construction.   

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard): Used for basing all the of the terrain.  I went with 1/4" to give a more rugged base and to eliminated warpage that you may see with 1/8" MDF.  It's also possible to use Hardboard rather than MDF, though it's much tougher to make a nice, rounded edge on Hardboard.  I purchased a pre cut board 2' x 4' from Home Depot

1/2" EPS (Expanded Polystyrene):  Mainly used for lower or stepped hills but is really useful for lots of other stuff.  Purchased from Home Depot as a 4' x 8' sheet of blue insulation foam.

2" EPS (Expanding Polystyrene):  Mainly used for taller hills and impassable terrain but is really useful for lots of other stuff.  Purchased from Home Depot as a 4' x 8' sheet of pink insulation foam.

Wood Filler:  Used to fill the seam between the MDF and the foam.  I prefer to use spread it on with a finger while wearing a rubber glove.  You could also purchase it in a squeeze tube. 

Wood Glue:  Used for gluing foam to MDF.  Really doesn't matter what brand you buy.  Just avoid any with a short set time to give yourself more time to work with it.  

Fusion Foam EPS Glue (from Hotwire Foam Factory):  Used for gluing foam to foam.  This is honestly the best glue I've found for bonding foam to foam.  It also can be easily cut through with the hot wire tools.  However, if you can get a hold of this you can use wood glue or liquid nails.  Just make sure to keep the glue at least 1" away from where you will be cutting or you will struggle to get the hot wire to cleanly cut through the area. 

Tools of the Trade

Next let's take a look at the tools I'm using for the initial construction.


Hack Saw:  For rough cutting out foam.

Coping Saw:  For "delicately" cutting out foam.

Exacto Knife: For intricate cutting of foam.


Sandpaper: 100, 150, 220 and 320 grit.

Hot Wire Tools:  Used for cutting out the foam hills (using MDF as a pattern) and giving the rock facing to the impassable terrain.  Make sure to do this in a well ventilated area!

Jigsaw:  For cutting out the MDF.

Orbital Palm Sander (100 and 220 grit):  For smoothing and rounding over the MDF edges.  It's also used to rough shape the foam after it has been glued to MDF and cut out. 


One word of caution.  Carefully layout all the piece and make sure you really understand and think through how the pieces go together.  Pay special attention to where the windows fall to avoid a problem I had with my first building where I covered up open windows with a partial roof!  The buildings will also go together easier if you have cleaned up all the pieces before hand.  I also recommend scrubbing all of the pieces with warm water and soap to remove any release agents from the casting process. 

Each building story was created using 4 wall panels and a floor for the upper stories.  I used a 1/6" brass rod pin on the top and bottom of each corner between the walls.  After dry fitting each story together (this is an absolute must with these kits) I added the glue and used rubber bands to keep it together while the glue setup.  Then for the upper stories I pinned and glued the floor to the walls.  Next I pinned and glued the lower stories together and added the extra details like the bay windows.  Finally I built the roofs, which turned out to be the most time consuming part of the project.  They were a real %$#$% to fit together correctly.

Once I had the buildings and roofs assembled I recessed small 1/6" magnets into the top of the upper story and the bottom of the roof.  MAKE SURE TO KEEP TRACK OF POLARITY.  This allows me to pull the roof off and add models inside.  Plus, it allows me to show off the details insides of each building.  As I assembled the roof to be attached to the building in a specific way I offset one of the magnets to give me a visual clue which orientation the roof should go on.  I reinforced this idea by matching the chimney to the same corner with the offset magnet. 

Here is what the three buildings looked like all assembled.  I'm really happy with how they came out as they capture the look I'm going for better than any other resin buildings I've seen.

Next I drew up some paper patterns that I would use to cut out a MDF base for each building.  I labeled each pattern with 1, 2 or 3 to match the number of stories.  I also indicated which side the door was on with an arrow.

Sigmarite Shrine

This terrain piece is coming along really quickly.  Using a 2" piece of foam (pink) and a 1/2" piece of foam (blue) I cut out a simple shape using a coping saw.  After gluing the pieces together with Foam Fusion Glue I chamferd the edges with 320 grit sand paper which also gives it a more aged look.  Next I added wood putty to the pedestal to cover up my cutting mistakes.

For the statue I cut a piece of 1/2" foam and glued two different plastic statues from the chapel kit back to back.  After this setup I cut a deep rectangle in the top of the pedestal to recess the statue.  I then glued in the statue and tried to use wood putty blend the seam.  I will probably have to go over the seam with Milliput to make the transition smoother.  Finally, I have sanded all the wood putty with 320 grit sand paper. 

Looking at this piece one concern I have is the pedestal may be too large.  But I will wait and see how it stacks up once I have buildings assembled to avoid an rash decisions.  I am also considering adding a small MDF base to give it a little more protection.

Elven Waystone

For the waystone I settled on the classic elven shape.  Using a 2" piece of foam I drew out the shape and cut it out with a coping saw.  Then I rotated it 90 degrees and repeated the process.  After a bit of sanding I glued the waystone to a small foam/MDF base.  I'm probably going to have to reinforce the seam with some Apoxie Sculpt because I foresee the waystone easily snapping off.


For the hills I started by cutting out several MDF shapes to form the base of each hill.  I then cleaned up the edge and slightly rounded over the top side of the MDF base.  Next I spread glue over the top of the MDF base and placed it down on a sheet of EPS foam.  I used an aluminum plate to apply weight and keep everything nice and flat during setup.

After the glue had setup overnight I used a hack saw to roughly cut out the foam, using the MDF base a a guide.  Make sure to not cut to close to the MDF to leave yourself enough material to cut with the hot wire cutter.

Using the hot wire cutter I cut the foam using the MDF as a guide and started to carve out the slope of the sides of the hill.

Using a power sander I cleaned up the marks from the hot wire tool and roughed in the slope.  I added some wood putty to cover seam an left to dry overnight. 

For the stepped hills I glued a second piece of 1/2" foam to the first which is mounted on the MDF.  Just make sure to finish sanding both pieces of foam before gluing them together.  From the picture below you can see all of the hills I made. 



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