RefineryThis is possibly the most ambitious terrain piece I have made to date. It is also the most expensive, though it was still under 10 pounds. The refinery makes extensive use of plasticard and specially shaped plastic rod - see the materials section for details.


  1. Plywood or Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) for the base

  2. Foamcore

  3. Plasticard

  4. Plastic rod in girder cross-section (like a capital "I"), in "T' - shaped cross-section and in round cross-section about 3mm diameter.

  5. Two tin cans for the tanks. I used 1 litre beer cans which are about 7.5 inches tall but I recommend you experiment with lots and lots of beer cans until you find the best ones. This is a major advantage of this terrain piece!

  6. Thin card, such as cerial box card.

  7. PVA glue

  8. Press-studs (also called poppers - see materials section)


The refinery was made in sections and fixed to the base as ready, so prepare the base first. This model has very little strength from the buildings - because there are no walls - so use a good, strong base like 8mm plywood or MDF (see materials section). My base was about 14 inches by 16 inches. The concrete block effect is simply slabs of foamcore or thick card stuck to the base with gaps between. Seal with PVA and spray black. Paint with grey powder or poster paints and mix up the paints to a thick, pasty texture to get the concrete effect. Dry brush with lighter greys. Brush or spray with matt varnish to seal the water based paint and provide a good surface for gluing.

Obtain your cans, empty them, and then arrange them on your base in a position that pleases you (this may take some time due to knocking them over and failing to resist the temptation to stand your miniatures on them - this passes as you sober up). I suggest you allow a miniature-sized gap between them.

When you are happy with the position of the cans slip a sheet of plasticard beneath them and draw on the shape of the platform you want - this allows you to build a platform that is logical in relation to the tank position. Don't make it too complex a shape. My platform is like a capital letter J.

Refinery, alternative viewCut the platform shape out of the plasticard. This now has the legs built onto it in plastic rod. I used the T-shaped rod for the legs, one at each corner (internal and external corners have a leg). My platform is 4.5 inches tall. I used liquid poly cement to attach the legs, though a hot glue gun might allow quicker work. I then glued girder-shaped plastic rod under the platform at the edges, butting up to the legs. This makes the platform reasonably rigid.

Refinery steps and fan detailTo increase stability and add detail I used plastic rod to make X-shaped cross members between the legs. I cut and glued one cross member of the X as a long rod and then glued two rods half as long to complete the X shape.

Small rectangular plasticard plates were glued over the cross to tidy it and strengthen the joints. The rivet detail is just pricked into the reverse of the plasticard. The steps are scratch-built from plastic rod using I-shaped rod for the sides of the steps (stringer) and T-shaped rod for the steps. I got the rivet detail by pricking into very thin plasticard and sticking it on with the bumps uppermost.

The platform has a guard rail around the top constructed from plastic rod and plastic card. The rods appear to pass through the rail but really small slivers of rod have been glued on top.

I have also added a round rail to the top of one of the tanks.

Refinery platform and controls detailThe control box is scratch-built and the dials painted on.

Plastic rod in various diameters has been used to add a ladder to the tank side, waste and connecting pipes and so on. When adding them think about letting miniatures between and beneath them. To bend plastic rod I use a hot-air paint stripper on it until it softens. It will then bend easily but don't over-do it or it will go all wobbly. Prop the hot air gun up somehow, hold the rod in both hands, and keep testing it until it begins to bend at which point pull it out of the hot air.

One of the tanks has a pointed, conical top. Just cut a circle of thin card, cut a slit from the centre to the edge along the radius, and overlap the card to make a cone of the correct size. You will need to start out with a circle of card about 1 inch radius greater than the radius of the can.

Refinery gatewheel and fan detailThe control wheels are just half of a press-stud (UK name, also called poppers or pop-studs) painted in different colors. Press-studs come in various sizes. Sometimes I glue them straight on to a pipe, at other times I stick it in a small length of plastic rod and then stick that onto the pipe.

The large bore pipe in the photograph is an offcut from a piece of copper plumbing pipe that is sold as hand-bendable, hence the corrugated appearance. Look out for offcuts of interesting piping.

This model has some fans added here and there. You will find instructions for these on our industrial fans page. If you are having difficulty gluing and fitting onto round surfaces you will also find help on this topic on the fans page.

All that is left is the painting. Spray everything black. Then apply silver paint using an old, largish, soft brush - because the best way is to splay the brush by prodding it onto the surface rather than brushing. This gives a criss-cross pattern to the paint which looks like galavanised steel. Wash with black and chestnut inks diluted 50% with water. Paint rust on with neat chestnut ink. Paint black and yellow stripes, lettering, control panels of anything else you fancy on it.

Pat yourself on the back and look forward to some great games on the beautiful terrain piece you have just made!

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