Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to: Build a River

As BITSIII draws near I tasked myself with building a river not only for BITS, but also for my own gaming table at home.  The table is new and it needs terrain like I need more time to build it.

The idea was to build something similar to what my friend has.  A series of 6-8" pieces that can be combined many different ways to build a winding river.  This is the first part of that eventual goal.

I began by outlining a 4 foot river on a piece of hardboard.  I chose 4 feet so that stretched end to end it would cross the table.  Outlined with a sharpie I cut the river out using a jigsaw.

TIP: Decide the width you want your river to be and then add an inch on either side for the banks.

This is a side piece of the hardboard

The next step was to add the banks of the river.  These pieces will act as the boarders of the river when it is finished and help contain the resin when it is time to pour it in.  I initially chose to use Polystyrene.  I would go into how I did this, but it is unnecessary as it was a complete failure.

Here is the polystyrene glued down...right before I ripped it back off.

Above you can see that I was actually pretty far with the polystyrene.  When I went to sand it down the pieces broke up too much.  I think this could work but it was going to take me more time than I cared to invest in order to sand it down into a rounded bank.

With that a failure - I went to Apoxiesculpt.  I knew I could form it quickly and it wouldn't require additional gluing or sanding at the end.  The apoxiesculpt I rolled out into long snakes and then after adding a line of superglue I pressed it onto the sides of the hardboard.  I formed it into the banks and let it set to dry.

TIP: Make sure to add superglue as Johnny swears that the apoxiesculpt can detach from whatever it is pressed to.  I have always added superglue as I did not want this to happen to me.

After this dried overnight I busted out my 5 gallon pail of textured paint from BEHR.  This was only about $20 from Menard's and I have found a ton of uses for it.  The stuff when painted on covers polystyrene so it can be primed while adding texture.  Or it can be rolled on to give a table texture such as how I used it to finish my table top.  No gluing sand to a display board or table or to the river for me.

You can see the Behr can next to the river after painting.

TIP: The texture tends to fall to the bottom of the paint can.  I purchased a Drill attachment to stirt it up as it does get quite hard.

The textured paint has a slight tendancy to rub off if it is handled roughly and sometimes even when it is being painted over.  So at this step I hit it with a clear coat from a spray can to lock down the paint.

After this I began to paint the river. First step was a coat along the banks.  For my terrain I use pint cans of acrylic paint purchased from Menards.  I use citadel paints as a color match.  For this I used Mournfang Brown.  Once the mournfang brown was dry I drybrushed Steel Legion Drab and gradually worked my way from there up to a light drybrush of bleached bone.  I only purchased two pints one of Mournfang Brown and Steel Legion drab.  After this I added small amounts of a bleached bone substitute acrylic from Hobby Lobby to lighten up the paint.

The next step was to paint the river.  As I thought about what I wanted my river to look like I thought a dark greenish brown color would look the most real rather than a brigh tblue as I have seen before.  For this I purchased aqua blue, brown, dark green, and black acryclics from hobby lobby.  I can't say exactly what the mix was, but the eventual color I decided upon had some of each of these colors in it.  As a river is deeper in the center I painted it first with the dark and then added more Aqua to the mix and applied it to the outside.

TIP:  Paint the middle then immediately go back and paint the edges using your brush to blend the two colors while the dark is still wet.

In this picture you can see the gradient greens as well as the mixing bit I used for the texture paint.

The next step I chose to add additional pieces to the river. Rocks, banners, swords, broken spears, plants, etc.  Signifying that a battle may have been fought on the banks perhaps?  Regardless I painted each of these pieces separately and then added them sporadically along the banks.

TIP: Decide where you will be cutting the river up before adding these pieces so that they will not be right at the edges where you will cut.

I added some high elf bits as well as a few bits from Wood Elf kits.  The wood elf kit includes a lot of plant and branch bits.

At this point I was ready for pouring in what would be the "water" of the river.  I purchased E-Z-Water, a woodland scenics product to use.  It seemed easiest to use and cured within seconds which would solve the problem of an unclosed edge on either side of my river....DON'T DO IT!  E-Z-Water was horrible for my purposes here.  I could see it being effective in small pools but for a big river section such as this I could not melt enough at a time and it dried to quickly.  I had to rip it all off because it looked TERRIBLE.

Back to painting the banks and river again as ripping the EZWater off resulted in most of the paint coming off as well.

After repainting the river I spoke with a good friend Rob who had originally told me to steer clear of EZ water but I had already purchased it and did not realize I should have listened to my betters.  With his recommendation of Envirotex resin I went to Michael's and purchased it.

It was more of a liquid and as such I had to solve my edge problem.  Here is how I solved it.

Blue tac reinforced by leftover hardboard

After this I mixed the two part resin and poured it in allowing it and gravity to pull it to the edges.  I did pick up the river and help it along its way a couple times but be careful while doing this as it could easily spill over the edges.  Follow the directions on the Envirotex and all should go well.

TIP: As the Envirotex hardens any dust (or hair as my husky bounded down the stairs) will collect in the resin.  Cover it up with newspaper, cardboard etc so that nothing falls into it.

The Resin will dry in 8 hours but will not be completely set for 48.  Once the 48 hours is up I will use my circular saw to cut the river into 6-8" pieces.

TIP: Cut the river in sections that all have the same width.  I created several areas that are wider.  In order to make this a river that will go together in several ways the matches will need to look like the flow together.

Once this is done you can then add additional static grass, flock, basing materials as you see fit.  I will add static grass to mine eventually.

The river finished on my table.  It fits right into the borders of the table


Rushputin said...

As an alternative to apoxie sculpt: when I did my water features, I used drywall putty.

Domus said...

I've also used drywall mud / spackle for rivers as well. Cheap, cheap, cheap!!

Unknown said...

Great looking river!

Ryan said...

Not a bad idea - I had the apoxie sculpt on hand and went with it. I feel like that would be much more messy than Apoxiesculpt, though as you said quite a bit cheaper.

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