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Ableman33's Project Archive - 3D Hex Maps & More


@ c quenther -

Sorry for the additional delays. Here is a list of tools/materials I use in making my hex maps. I can go into detail about the whys of particular items if you are interested.

3 - Which tools are absolutely essential to making your hex terrain? I'd really love a list of absolute musts - everything from sharpies to clamps to toothbrushes to hot-wire cutting table.

Hotwire Tools
• Hotwire Cutter
• Hotwire engraver (blunt tipped)
• Hotwire knife (useful, but not essential)
• Breath mask with chemical filters, aka. chemical respirator (totally worth the ~$30)

General Crafting Tools
• Standard office supplies (scissors, tape, pencils, etc.)
• X-acto blades.
• Long straight edge. (preferably metal so that blades won't cut into it)
• Rulers/tape measures
• Thin tipped permanent markers (narrow enough to mark through holes in my hex template)
• Low quality craft brushes
• Old toothbrush
• Stiff bristle brush
• Poster board (used to use for hotwire cutting templates, now mostly for marking hex grid on finished maps, still used when need straight cuts in foam that will remain straight in finished product)
• Saw, drill, hammer, sandpaper, wood glue, finishing nails, clamps (for making bases)

Fabrication Materials and Tools
• Toothpicks and bamboo skewers(to "nail" layers of foam together and to reinforce foam)
• Wire coat hangers or metal drop ceiling hanger wire (to reinforce foam)

Homemade Tools
• Hex grid template (THE most useful tool of all for me when making my hex maps. It enables me to make all my hexes neatly and to scale with all my other maps.)

Adhesives
• PVA glue (for toughening foam, and adhering textures)
• 3M Super-77 spray adhesive (for foam-to-foam, and foam-to-wood)

Texturing Materials and Tools
• Drywall mud (mixed with water and PVA glue for texturing and filling gaps)
• Rubbing alcohol (for "wetting" lose piles of texture before adding water/PVA mix)
• Narrow tipped dropper bottles (for dripping alcohol and water/PVA mix)
• Cheap craft paint
• Clear polyurethane (for shiny surfaces like water)
• Clear and shiny white, non-paintable silicone caulk (for 3-D flowing water)
• Compressed sawdust cat litter (source of clean standard-sized sawdust for ground texture)
• Spray paint and clip-on trigger grip (the grip is totally worth the few bucks)
• Hot glue gun, capable low temp (high temp melts foam)
• Bulk wire/flock and plastic trees (Ebay or cake decorating companies)
• Flock (homemade or purchased)
• Concrete patch

Design Aids
• Google Sketchup


@ c quenther -

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4 - Have you got a line (that you're willing to share) on places to get great flock, trees, etc.

I don't have any secret suppliers, sorry to say. Sad

For my wire/flock trees, I order them in bulk from China through ebay. I just search for model trees until I find the sizes and colors I am interested in, then use those codes/names to do a more targeted search to find the best deal. It can take a month for them to show up, but the price is unbeatable.

For me, knowing I am going to use a lot of trees over a lot of projects, it was worth it to buy in bulk. Getting a LOT of trees at once saved me on shipping.

NOTE: Usually these companies are more than willing to work with you if say you want a different color flocking on your trees. Just email them and explain what you want.

I have also bought plastic trees (especially palm and fir trees) from cake decorating suppliers. Some searching online you can find sources of these in bulk. Sugarcraft is the name of one company I believe. If you scroll down to near the bottom of this page you can find some plastic trees. Sugarcraft novelties

For flock I did the same, shopped around on ebay and the internet. You can also make your own flocking. I actually use very little flocking on my maps, saving it for my woods hexes and a few highlight touches here and there.

For most of my playing surface, I prefer to use hard textures painted to look like grass/sand/etc. For my grassy areas I make a paste out of drywall mud, sawdust, and glue. When dried, it makes a nice texture that holds paint detail well, and can stand up to serious play without shedding like flock.

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5 - Have people offered to buy your hex terrain pieces? Have you even contemplated a price to quote them?

People have enquired about if I would be willing to sell my terrain, or more often, make them some. The problem is not so much the cost of the materials, but the amount of labor involved. That, and shipping anything the size I typically make is prohibitive.

Even a simple map board set like my Tropical Islands can take 20+ hours of labor scattered over days and weeks of time. More involved ones just go up from there. If I was to charge even $5 an hour for my labor, few would be interested in buying anything.

To be sure, if I was going to try selling terrain, I could get an assembly line going. I could work on multiple copies of the same thing simultaneously, make more efficient use of my time, and shave some of the detailing down to reduce time and materials required. That might bring the cost down to what people might be willing to pay, but there just isn't the demand for it.

Few have the space to store such large maps. Most would want to buy small pieces of independent terrain that can be scattered around a flat playing table. These large hex maps would thus end up be individual commission projects, with associated higher costs.

In the end, these maps end up getting made for my local gaming group and for use at a local convention. My labor and materials are donated because I enjoy making these maps, like playing on them, and get satisfaction from the joy others take in playing on them as well.

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6 - Do you have SketchUp object templates for things like your hex grids on hand? Would you be willing to share them? Sketching up some maps is obviously the easiest first step for me.

I have a blank Google SketchUp map I use that has the exact same hex arrangement as the classic Battletech paper maps. I just load up the flat map, save it again as a different map, then use the elevation tool to raise and lower hexes to mess around with potential layouts. Once I have the 3-D shapes made, I will use the color fill tool to play around with water and woods placement.

I would be more than happy to share my base map with you, or any of my working files for that matter.

I got my original hex map after searching online. I eventually remade my own (the other has some numbers and such on it that I didn't want). It turned out to be surprisingly easy to recreate the map.


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First I made a hexagon.
Make a hexagon


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I then copied that hexagon and pasted a bunch of copies in a row connected flat side to flat side until I had a stripe of hexes as wide as my map.
Copy the hexagon and create a row of copies


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I then copied this row and pasted duplicates of it beside my original row until I had built up a grid of hexes larger than the map I needed.
Copy the row and paste the row into a plane

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To create the rectangular edges of the map, I used the line drawing tool to trace around the edges through the midpoints of the appropriate hexes.
Draw lines through midpoints around where you want edges to be


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I then erased everything outside my rectangle. This left me with a finished map, complete with half hexes around the sides and quarter hexes at the corners.
Erase extra bits outside of lines to create map grid.

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The map can then be saved and used as the basis for all future maps. Just load up a copy of the starter map and use the elevation tool to fool around.
Use elevation tool to create terrain.


Thanks for going into such great detail WRT answering my questions.

I do have to say that I think I love your mountain the best. If I were you, I think I'd be making a second one so that I could play a Capture The Flag scenario with two teams of mechs! Smile

As far as answering my question about what tools you find absolutely necessary, I really should give you some more insight as to what my own situation is.

I'm currently living in an smallish apartment in Vancouver. I don't really have room in the apartment to make terrain, however, there's a large 30 car garage in the basement. It's dimly lit, but on the plus side, it's almost always void of cars. Tenants in my building can either pay $50 a month for a parking spot, or they can get themselves a street parking permit from the city for $26 a year and there's always room on the street. So I'm pretty sure that as long as I pack things away in my storage locker, I'd be okay to work away down in the garage. In fact, I'm almost certain that there's already one parking spot being used as a workshop for something or other.

Basically, there are quite a few items on your list of required tools that might not be practical for me to purchase, but I'm still keen on attempting to emulate your work.

Some questions...

ableman33 said:


Texturing Materials and Tools
• Compressed sawdust cat litter (source of clean standard-sized sawdust for ground texture)

Do you have a brand you recommend?

Also, exactly how long and wide are your pre-made map board bases? I'm not sure you gave those dimensions in your excellent post on how you made them.

I love that your woods hexes end up being big enough to stand a mech inside with the trees, but exactly how big do your hexes end up being?
Image from http://www.drking.org.uk/hexagons/misc/dims.png
What are their A, a and s lengths?

Thanks for your help with SketchUp, though by the time you had responded, I'd managed to draft up my own hex map board. It took me quite a while due to me not realizing that the first hex had to start off canted at 45 degrees. I'm pretty sure I pulled out a lot of hair before I finally realized that. Brick wall

I've actually drafted up a few maps. SketchUp isn't the greatest tool but for the purposes of designing maps, it's not bad.

Here's a corner map from a set of four. This particular map would not be 100% modular and would always have to be aligned a certain way but the hope is that the other 3 maps would be modular.

Image: 20130501142501

Image: 20130501142637

Image: 20130501142908

I'm not sure how practical it is to have a waterfall with a cave behind it, but it could end up looking really pretty. I really like how you made your waterfalls on your jungle maps, however for this particular map, I don't think your technique would work as the hope is to have the water actually "fall" over the void that is the cave. Would calk work for something like this? I'd also have to make sure there's enough room for a hand to stick a mech or two back there.

I think I'd also have to make some house rules about the flow of the water up at the top of the falls should a mech want to stand in the water up there. I'd also have to make some house rules to encourage mechs to want to get into the water on this set of maps as I do plan on having there be lots of water on all four maps and I don't think calling it "ankle deep water" would do the trick.

Once you've drafted a map you like on SketchUp, how do you go about figuring out exactly which hexes belong to which levels when it comes time to cutting your foam? Is there a way to view cross-sectionals in SketchUp?

ableman33 said:


People have enquired about if I would be willing to sell my terrain, or more often, make them some. The problem is not so much the cost of the materials, but the amount of labor involved. That, and shipping anything the size I typically make is prohibitive.

Even a simple map board set like my Tropical Islands can take 20+ hours of labor scattered over days and weeks of time. More involved ones just go up from there. If I was to charge even $5 an hour for my labor, few would be interested in buying anything.

I've gotta say... For some of us who don't have ideal workshop scenarios, $100ish in labour for a set of 4 Tropical Islands maps isn't all that discouraging. Smile The materials and shipping would be the real problem!

ableman33 said:

To be sure, if I was going to try selling terrain, I could get an assembly line going.

From the looks of your pre-made map board bases post, you already do have a bit of an assembly line going! Thumbs Up

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to answer questions and share your experience. I've got some miniatures on the way and I'm sure I'll be around hassling you with more questions and musings about making terrain!

Cheers


@ c_guenther -

A quick answer for you regarding your question about using silicone caulk for a waterfall over a gap. Yes it could work.

One of the interesting discoveries I made while experimenting with this caulk is that it will not stick at all to plastic cling wrap (like that used in the kitchen to wrap sandwiches or seal open bowls). For other projects, I routinely tape down a piece of plastic wrap on a table so it stays flat and won't move. I can then place blobs of caulk or spread thin layers of caulk onto the plastic wrap. Once the caulk cures, it peels off the plastic wrap perfectly and easily. I have pulled off films of caulk way thinner than a sheet of paper this way.

If you wanted to create a sheet of flowing water, you could use the same method. Just create your wall of water horizontally with clear caulk on the plastic wrap, giving it as much texture (and possibly color) as you like. Once it cures, you can highlight it with white caulk for foam if you want. Once everything cures, just peel off your waterfall, trim with scissors to fit, and tack it in place on your map with some more caulk. (Glue won't stick to caulk.)

Regarding the size of my larger hexes, the sides "S" are one inch long. The reason they ended up that way is explained in my reply to your questions about my magnetic boards which I was typing up as you created this post. Smile

ableman33 said:

All my map boards are 24 inches by 29 1/2 inches.

I picked these measurements to maximize my usage of standard 4 foot by 8 foot sheet goods like plywood or foam.

I took the measurements from standard paper Battletch maps and enlarged them. Scaling up the short sides of the standard maps to 24" bumped the standard long sides up to 29.5". This means I can get 6 map boards (in a 2x3 arrangement) out of standard sheet good stock.

This also ended up having the fortuitous coincidence of making the sides of my new hexes exactly 1 inch long.

I'll try to respond more fully to the rest of your post a little later.


@ - c_guenther

I like the map you are working on. Lots of fun possibilities for play.

I understand your concern for making room for hands in different areas.

I actually made a thread describing my design process when making these maps. If you haven't seen it already, you can check it out here:

Considerations when designing 3-D Battletech maps


To give a more detailed answer for you about my trees, this is a quote from my Considerations when designing 3-D Battletech maps thread.

ableman33 said:

Gallery Image 19700101011346

The palm trees from my first map were modified cake decorations bought online from a cake decorating company called Sugar Craft. The ones I purchased are called "Double Palm Tree 2 1/2 inch". 144 pairs cost $28 with $7 shipping or 12 cents each.

I modified them heavily, removing the coconuts, trimming down and reshaping the fronds, and painting the trunks and fronds separately with spray paint.

Gallery Image 19700101011406

Gallery Image 20100215181307

The trees on the rest of my projects have been purchased in bulk from China. Looking for deals on Ebay, I am usually able to get bags of 500 trees at this size for around $53 with $7 shipping. That comes to 12 cents a tree. (For an example of the type of tree I get you can look at this Ebay auction. This is just an example of the type and size of trees I get, not a recommendation of this particular seller or auction.) The only draw back is that you need to wait on the shipping, often around a month. On the plus side, if you e-mail the seller, they will often make you batches in colors other than those listed in the sale at no additional charge. You just might have to wait a bit longer for them to get the different flock and make them.

The first time I ordered these trees, I tried getting them in two colors, one lighter and one darker, to represent my Light and Heavy woods respectively. Unfortunately, the contrast between the two colors was not as great as I needed for clarity on the board, so I made my light woods trees a brighter shade by dunking them in diluted yellow paint and letting them dry.

Gallery Image 20100215181712

Gallery Image 20100215180350

In addition to "painting" some of my trees, I flattened all of them and bent them slightly so that the branches would follow along the corners and sides of my hexes, acting like screens to give the look of cover to units within without taking up as much room on the table.

Gallery Image 20100215180736

Gallery Image 20100221151910

Gallery Image 20110703180850

The last time I ordered trees, I tried to get two colors that had a greater contrast so I would not have to do the painting step for my lighter trees. I also took a chance and made a really large bulk order. My lighter trees ended up almost yellow. They are usable, but for future maps, I will likely consider giving them a bit of a wash in darker green to tone them down a bit. Eventually I will find the right two color combos. Smile

Gallery Image 20110702210532

Gallery Image 20110702210540

Gallery Image 20110702210641

(Each small bag is 50 trees, and these are not all I got in my last batch. Suffice it to say, I am going to be experimenting with these exact trees a while. Laughing

Given that I use 3 to 4 trees per hex to indicate woods and a typical single map board could have 10 to 30 hexes of woods on it, a four board project could use up to 400 to 500 trees. I have not yet found a way to produce my own trees at this scale that would not take a prohibitive amount of time or cost more than the 12 cents each I have been able to find other products. (Materials aside, my time alone is worth more to me.)

I hope this helps answer your questions. Thumbs Up


Ableman33,

Have you got a recommendation (or two... or six) on how to make a great hex marking template?


@ c_guenther -

I originally tried making my templates out of printed hex paper taped together into large sheets. I used this site for making my own custom hex graph paper at my chosen scale:

Free Online Graph Paper

This worked well enough, but alignment of the grid over larger distances suffered.

I then tried projecting an image of my hex grid onto full size paper using a laptop and digital projector. This worked better than piecing together separate sheets of paper, but I could never quite eliminate the slight distortion effects around the edges from the projector.

Finally, a friend of mine who had access to a large format printer created a full size, single-sheet template for me (in my case 2 feet long on the short side). This gave me a perfect grid to use.

I used this master paper template to create a working grid out of plexiglass. First I trimmed a piece of plexiglass to exactly match my maps. I then laid the plexiglass on top of the paper map, taped it temporarily in place, and marked the intersections with dots from a fine permanent marker. I then removed the paper and drilled small holes through the plastic at each dot.

When choosing my plexiglass, I picked a thickness that was as thick as I could manage and still be able to mark through the holes with a fine-tipped permanent marker. Similarly, when drilling the holes, I made them just wide enough to let a fine-tipped marker fit through.

I use this plastic hex grid template in three ways.

When I want to quickly cut out hexagonal pieces of foam that do not require super precision (usually because the edges are going to be carved and/or textured later), I use the grid to mark the foam sheets directly. Usually I will put small pieces of tape on the plastic grid to mark the edges of the pieces I am going to transfer. I will then use my marker to dot the intersections around the edges. After marking the foam, I remove the template and draw lines connecting my dots. I then use a hotwire scroll saw to cut out these lines.

Paper grid under plastic grid to show hex lines and make marking outlines easier.

Plastic hex grid with paper template removed.

Foam sheet marked freehand after using plastic template to mark hex corners.

When I need exact precision in my foam cutting, I follow a slightly different pattern. Instead of marking my pieces onto the foam, I mark sheets of poster board instead (taping together one and a half sheets if necessary for very large pieces). I then use a ruler to connect the dots on my poster board and cut the pieces out carefully. These poster board pieces are then taped to foam sheets with loops of tape so that I can slide my hotwire scroll saw along the edge of the poster board for very precise cuts.

Foam pieces with poster board templates ready to be cut with Hot Wire scroll saw.

Foam pieces precisely cut with Hot Wire scroll saw by sliding along poster board templates.

Finished precisely cut pieces.

The third way I use my plastic hex template is to accurately mark the hex grid onto my completed maps. Since I now have 3-D terrain elements poking up, I cannot use the flat plastic grid directly. Instead I use the plastic template to mark an entire map sheet of hexes onto poster board. I then cut out holes in the poster board to let my 3-D terrain elements poke through. Once my poster board can lay flat on the map, I poke holes through the hex corners on the poster board with a push pin. I then use this custom poster board template to mark the hex grid onto my 3-D map with a fine tipper permanent marker.

This process is well detailed in this post: Making poster board hex templates.

Marking hex corners onto poster board.

Custom poster board template ready to mark hexes on map around 3-D terrain.

I prefer clear plexiglass for my template because it lets me see through it to the terrain below. This isn't always necessary so you could use any thin, tough, non-stretchy material you like. You could use sheets of laminate (like from counters), or thin metal, or even super thin plywood if you could find it.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you need anything else. Smile


Hey quick question. How do you get the 3M super 77 to work without melting the foam?


@ psyberwolfe - I have found that a normal amount of Super 77 sprayed directly onto foam does not cause enough "melting" to worry about.

When adhering foam to something (including other foam), I spray both surfaces that will be glued together with a moderate amount of spray glue. I then wave the pieces around or hold them in front of a fan for a half a minute to a minute to let most of the solvent evaporate and let the glue get nice and tacky. I then press the two pieces together.

The slight dissolving of the foam actually improves the bond as the thin layer of dissolved foam mixes with and bonds to the other pieces.

Letting the solvent evaporate not only makes for a better bond as the pieces get nice and tacky, but it keeps left-over solvent from being trapped between the two pieces where it would continue to eat away at the foam later.

If you put too much glue down, you can eat away noticeable amounts of foam. This happens to me when glue builds up on the tip of my sprayer and then falls down onto the foam as a pea to marble sized blob. These bubbly blobs of glue do eat into the foam as much as a quarter inch. I don't worry about this too much as the voids will be hidden when my pieces are stuck together. I just try to make sure those areas have time to evaporate before sticking my pieces together. If I was really worried about it I would just wipe off the excess as soon as it spilled.

I hope that answers your questions. Smile

Happy building. Thumbs Up


Ableman,

From your concise list of tools/supplies needed above, would you say that a glue gun is absolutely essential? What exactly do you use it for? And what heat range is good?

Also, what do you use Concrete Patch for (I assume you mean Spackle)?

My homemade hotwire foam cutting table is complete (will be pics up on my thread soon) and I just ordered an engraving kit from HWFF. I have most of the other tools/supplies on your list except for anything to do with water and trees - that stuff can wait.


c_guenther -

I use my hot glue gun all the time. I like the strong quick bond it forms with a variety of surfaces (including dusty or crumbly ones). I use it to attach trees to foam or wood, glue clumps of foliage to surfaces, foam core to foam core and/or wire mesh, really just about anywhere that the bulk of of the glue would not be a problem.

I still use Super 77 spray adhesive from 3M for attaching my foam sheets to each other and to the plywood bases, and I use dilute PVA glue for attaching loose piles of materials to surfaces, but just about all the rest of my general gluing is done with hot glue. (I do use wood glue in the construction of my wood bases, and other joints between flat wood surfaces where time is not an issue, but everything else is pretty much hot glued together.)

Temp range, I normally use a gun that can toggle between hot and "cool". I choose my temp setting depending on the working time I need. For small jobs, the cool setting is fine. When I need to lay down a lot of glue and/or need the glue to remain fluid longer, I use the hot setting.

CONCRETE PATCH is different from spackle/drywall mud. Concrete patch is a product used to patch cracks in concrete like driveways, sidewalks, or walls. It is an oily slurry of thick concrete mix. I have only really used it on my Canyon Map to texture the canyon floors and here and there to cover holes poked in my foam.

It dries rock hard and very gritty, whereas spackle/drywall mud is chalky and soft. When using spackle/drywall mud, I often mix it will some water and PVA glue to make a slurry. Sometimes I add sawdust if I want more texture.

You can buy concrete patch in the concrete section of hardware stores or home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowes.

Concrete Patch

I hope that helps.

I look forward to seeing your hotwire setup. Thumbs Up


Ableman,

I have a few more questions for you.

1) How many trees do you use per LW hex and per HW hex? I was thinking that for a LW hex I could use 3 or 4 and for a HW hex use 6. Obviously this would have to be adjusted to accommodate the terrain in the neighboring hexes. Also, how tall are the trees that you use? I've been looking around on ebay and the scales are all over the place.

2) Do you make your own flocking? I found a YouTube video ( here) that shows how to make flocking. I'm just wondering if you do something similar (or have a better method) or do you buy flocking from your local hobby store?

3) What are your thoughts on white foam for making terrain? My local Home Depot only carries blue foam that has a sheet of metalic paper stuck to one side of it, so I avoided it and went with 1" thick white foam (came in a 2'x8' long sheet) as my test material.

4) Finally, for my map, do you think you'd have a base layer of foam as your level 0 so that you could cut out the river/lake hexes or would you skip that and just paint them blue on the wooden map board? Why?

Image: 20130701234757


@Guenther, re: question 1) I think I know a partial answer:

On one of ableman's maps he used color-coding to mark the difference between Light Woods and Heavy Woods. One set of trees was a very dark pine forest shade and the other type was a much lighter/brighter green. But I think I remember he has experimented with some other methods as well.

Possibilities:

The heavy forest could have a much darker ground coloring while the light forest had the same coloration as open ground.

OR

The heavy forest could have trees that were much taller than any mech while the light forest had shorter trees that were just the minimum height to provide whatever cover the rules called for.

Remember that you have to be able to place the mech in the hex and that creates an upper limit for the number of trees.


c_guenther said:

1) How many trees do you use per LW hex and per HW hex? I was thinking that for a LW hex I could use 3 or 4 and for a HW hex use 6. Obviously this would have to be adjusted to accommodate the terrain in the neighboring hexes. Also, how tall are the trees that you use? I've been looking around on ebay and the scales are all over the place.

I indicate Light and Heavy woods in two ways. First, as pendrake mentioned, I use lighter green ground cover for the Light woods hexes, and darker green ground cover for the Heavy woods.

Secondly, I usually put less trees around Light woods hexes than for Heavy woods. For Light woods I usually place 3-4 trees at the corners, while for Heavy woods I usually put 4-6. If I want the woods hexes to look more "full", I will sometimes put a tuft of green scrubbing pad or other small bush substitute on the hex corners of a woods hex that do not have trees.

As pendrake mentioned, I always put 3-D elements like trees at the corners of my hexes to make room for unit placement.

As far as height goes, I look for trees around 1.5 to 2 inches tall. You can check out this reply I made about my trees in another thread for more details. Tree Info

The Ebay auction linked to in that thread says that the trees I have been buying are "N Z scale" if that helps. I picked that size because it was close enough to what I needed, and cheaper than buying larger trees. Buying in bulk save a lot.

c_guenther said:

2) Do you make your own flocking? I found a YouTube video ( here) that shows how to make flocking. I'm just wondering if you do something similar (or have a better method) or do you buy flocking from your local hobby store?

For the main surface areas of my Battletech maps, I do not use flock. I prefer a textured surface that is hard so it will better resist wear and tear. This is usually a mix of PVA glue, sawdust, and drywall mud mixed to an oatmeal consistency and spread around with my fingers. I have also used diluted concrete patch.

Where I do use flock is to color code my woods hexes. This gives them a different texture than the rest of the board to further indicate that they are different than open ground. Currently I use commercial flock for these locations. I am interested in someday trying to make my own flocking, but since I use so little, I am still making my way through the bottles I purchased when I first started building terrain.

c_guenther said:

3) What are your thoughts on white foam for making terrain? My local Home Depot only carries blue foam that has a sheet of metalic paper stuck to one side of it, so I avoided it and went with 1" thick white foam (came in a 2'x8' long sheet) as my test material.

If by "white" foam, you mean the expanded polystyrene that looks like its made from lots of tiny white balls stick together, it can be used just fine, though it needs more protection.

The expanded foam is softer, and tends to crumple when you rub acgainst broken edges. It is less dense than extruded polystyrene (the blue or pink insulating panels you find), and as such will tend to deform more than the blue or pink when pressed on by careless gamers. Since it is less dense and has lots more air in it, it also tends to melt more when trying to melt texture into the surface. If you are just cutting out shapes with a hotwire rather than dragging a hot tool over large areas to create texture, there is no real difference between the expanded and extruded foams.

To protect the white stuff, I would coat it at least twice with generous coatings of PVA glue. If you choose to cover your flat areas with PVA/drywall/sawdust mixes, that will be all the protection you will ever need. You can also mix some cornstarch into your plain PVA coatings to make the coating thicker and more protective.

I only use the extruded sheets because I can get them in standard thicknesses that exactly match my height elevations. Using pre-cut sheets of the right thickness saves me time and makes things nicely exact.

The white foam will work fine for almost all purposes, and it is far easier to get as well. Smile

c_guenther said:

4) Finally, for my map, do you think you'd have a base layer of foam as your level 0 so that you could cut out the river/lake hexes or would you skip that and just paint them blue on the wooden map board? Why?

Image: 20130701234757

I personally would skip the bottom layer. Level 0 water does not hinder movement and needs to be just as easy to cross as Level 0 land. For me, I have found that simply painting the water areas in different shades of blue and then going over them in something glossy not only greatly facilitates play, but it is cheaper (less foam needed), and less work.

To give a nice effect, I often paint my water areas one color of blue, then lightly brush a lighter color blue around the shorelines. When it is all covered in a glossy finish, this gives an illusion of depth.

I used to use clear glossy (non-paintable) caulk for the glossy coating on my water, but now I prefer clear vanish like Varathane. It is far far easier to work with, much much cheaper per square inch, and gives a nice glossy finish.

If I want the surface of my water to have actual waves, I can use some PVA/drywall mud mix to create waves on the water areas before painting and then going over with clear gloss finish.

For small areas like waterfalls or shorelines, I will still sometimes use glossy non-paintable caulk (often glossy white for "foam" on waterfalls, rapids, or shorelines). This will stick to the varnished water just fine.

For a more detailed breakdown of the thought process behind my map designs, you can check out my thread: Considerations when designing 3-D Battletech maps

I hope that helps. Good luck and happy building! Thumbs Up



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