Friday, March 30, 2012

Minas Tirith: Materials Plan

One of the big questions for this project is what am I going to use to make it? I could use carboard and other base materials but that will add a lot more time consumption and probably won't end with the amount of detail I am after in this project. Let's make no mistake here, this is a VERY large project and I don't expect to be done with it for at least 6 months. So adding lots of additional work is not desired. So lets set some requirements.

The materials need to be easy to aquire.
They need to be cheap.
They need to come with as much detail as possible in the textures so I don't have to add that.

Lets start with the core/base of the city. To make this I am going to go with styrofoam insulation. It is relatively cheap as I can get it for between 15 and 30 dollars for a 4' x 8' sheet depending on the thickness. It is easy to work with and it is light. It is also a favorite material for people making modular terrain which is another requirement of this project.

To make all the buildings that will be attached to this foam I did a bit of research. I stumbled upon a site that has created a large variety of molds for casting parts called Hirst Arts ( Basically they have designed a bunch of molds for people to make lego like building pieces that they can then assemble into the structures that they design. Perfect!!! Since the molds are Silicone you can cast any plastic or plaster pieces you want.

I looked at a bunch of molds and did some research on the available materials. I could use a resin to do all of the casting which would save greatly on the weight and make the pieces incredibly more durable. However resin costs $120 for a 2 gallon (2 parts so 4 gallons total) system. In order to make enough pieces for this city I would probably need 6 gallons or more of the resin. On top of that you need to buy special mold release to protect the silicon molds from being eaten up durring the chemical process of the resin and eventually destroying the mold. Because of these issues I decided to go with Plaster of Paris. It is a fairly light plaster and you can get a 25lb bag for about $15, which makes it incredibly cheap as well. The one downside is that it is not as durable. However I don't forsee this piece being abused so hopefully that won't be a problem.

The final main product I am considering using are some rare earth magnets of various sizes. The intent here will be to mount these in the bases along with some metal. This will provide for a locking mechanism within the modular pieces. It will add to the cost but it will also help ensure everything stays aligned as intended.

I have already purchased a couple of the Hirst Arts molds. I have selected the Wizard Tower and Octagon Tower molds to start with. When they arrive I will be writing about constructing those terrain pieces and figuring out how I can apply the pieces to the Minas Tirith project.

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