Friday, May 24, 2013

Empire Display Board

As I'm still in the post Adepticon hangover I've not gotten the bug to jump into a new army project.  In the interim I took on a display board commission for a play up in the Chicago area.  In the past I've simply built display boards to my taste and then found them homes after the fact.  This was my first attempt at a real commission and building a board to preset design specifications.  Here is what I shot for with the display board: 
  • 24" x 24" size
  • Hills at the back of the board to deploy war machines.
  • Empire castle as the backdrop for the board.
  • Cobblestone road running down the center of the board up to the main gate.

As you can see it's a relatively simple set of requirements which is good for my first commission.  that was important since I had never built a castle out of foam before (though I have built my fair share of pyramids).  With constraints in hand my first decision was how to structurally build the board.  24" x 24" is a strange size and I was unable to find a cork board that would fit the bill.  I opted to mount the display board on a pre-cut 24" square piece of plywood.  This adds a bit of weight to the board and keeps it from warping. 
Next I cut  3/4" piece of foam and mounted it to the plywood.  I followed this up by attaching two small hills built from 3/4" foam in the corners of the board.  I left enough space behind them to mount the castle and enough room in between them to fit the cobblestone road.  I created the rock edge with the steel ruler technique.  I created the castle wall with a 2" thick piece of foam with a 1/2" x 1/4" brick pattern engraved in.  Reference my previous post on carving brick patterns into foam.  In the past I did adobe buildings with only small amounts of exposed brick.  There are a LOT of bricks on this wall and this step took a lot more time then I was expecting.  The door and crenelations were made from 1/2" foam.  I cut 1/2" crenelations out with a hobby knife and created chamfers with 220 grit sandpaper (no hot wire tools were used on this display board).  I carved the stone and wood patterns using the same technique used for the brick.  I used polystyrene sheeting and rod to create the bracing detail on the door.  Finally I added a strip of cobblestone texture (produced by Lemax for use with a Christmas Village and is available at Michael's) for the road.  After gluing it down I secured the edge by building a slight berm with apoxie sculpt. 

My next task was to mount the castle so that it would be secure during movement at a tournament but removable for easy disassembly, transport and storage.  I opted to use 4 magnets mounted into the base of the castle with apoxie sculpt.  These attached to four steel plates mounted on the display board.  I'm really happy with how this turned out as the castle is very secure yet is removable with one hand.  At this point I glued industrial sand on the sides of the road to make it look like dirt.

The display board was now ready for paint.  I started with giving the horizontal surfaces a coat of burnt umber highlighted with raw sienna.  I didn't spend a great deal of time on this step as it was going to get totally covered with static grass.  For the rock formations and the stone wall I used a base coat of dark gray highlighted with several dry brushes with increasing amounts of gray and white mixed. The road was base coasted with Mudstone and highlighted with several dry brushes of sandstone.  
After painting the edge of the board with black craft paint I covered the the board with PVA glue and sprinkled Farm Pasture flocking over the surface using a sieve.  After the glue was dry I soaked the flock with a 1 to 1 PVA glue to water mixture with a disposable foam brush.  While the surface was still wet I applied Late Summer 2mm static grass using a static grass applicator (get a cheap one on Ebay for around $30).  The trick is to do smaller areas and take your time to ensure the grass is appropriately charged.

After the static grass was dry I went in and added another layer of texture and detail with a selection of Silfor pre-made grass tufts and flowers.  I can't speak highly enough about these products as they look awesome and are dead simple to use.  They also work wonderfully on bases and movement trays.  They can be purchased at Scenic Express.  To apply I stuck the foliage onto a drop of PVA glue.  Once the glue was dry I applied a 1 to 1 mixture of matte medium and water to the foliage.  This stiffens the foliage locking everything in to place.   

At this point I went in and added splotches of Athonian Camoshade and Agrax Earthshade washes to the stone work.  I left them on for a few moments prior to removing most of the wash with a dry brush.  As you probably have heard me say hundred times before the washes break up the stone texture and provide a basic weathered appearance.  The door was base coated with burnt umber and highlighted with several dry brushes with khaki mixed in.  The door bracing was painted with iron highlighted with brass.  The bolts were picked out with steel and then the entire door was washed with Devlan Mud.  Rust stains were added under the bolts with Gryphon Sepia wash.  As a final touch to truly set this display board off I added ivy around the door and in a few spots in the wall  While it was a time consuming step I think you will agree that it adds a great level of realism to the display board. 
Down below you will find a few photos of the final display board.  It is certainly the most aesthetically complicated board I've ever built and I'm very happy with how it turned out.  It's completion has got me salivating to see what my next project will be.  I'm hoping it's not another display board.  :)


TrekkerYu said...

Nice display board, Rob. At some point could you post some pics with the army on it? Thanks.


retroalias said...

Sure, I will get Lenny to send me some pix with his army on it. I bet you saw it at BITS...

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