Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hirst Arts Molds Arrive

So I just checked the tracker for the hirst arts molds and found out that they have arrived!!! That is some fast shipping. I ordered them on wednesday and they are here on Saturday. Awesome!!! I ordered molds 50 and 63. 50 is for the wizard tower and has some of the base blocks. 63 is the octagon tower. While 50 is a self sufficient mold to build the tower, 63 requires 50 or one of the other molds that has the base blocks in order to make the tower.

Looks like I am going to start casting some parts tomorrow!!! I'll probably start by making the Wizard tower.

Minas Tirith: Snafu Number 1

So I was going back over my designs and realized I had messed up reading some of the numbers... I am currently using google sketchup to attempt to redesign my plan. However, it is fairly quickly becoming apparent that if I want this project to be constrained to the 4ft section of the gaming board I am going to have to cut out some of the tiers. It simply won't be playable otherwise. Right now I am considering cutting out 2 of the tiers. One of the medium size ones and one of the smaller ones. Hopefully this will give me the space I need to make the citadel at the top and have all of the outer levels still be playable.

Workspace: Before

I am going to be doing a series of posts on organizing the workspace. However before I go into step by step details of those projects it is probably important that you see some pictures of how my workspace is starting out.

As you can see there is not a lot of space to work with here. The overall dimensions of the workspace are 32" x 47" which is just big enough to fit the small desk you see. This will be my primary workstation as it is in my house and warm. I do have some space in the garage that I will be using for some of the projects.

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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Portable Gaming Board

Since I am intending to play Warmachine with co-workers after hours it is essential that we have a play surface that is easily transportable. Since most people don't have a truck to transport this in I decided I would make a table topper. Essential this will not be usable by itself and is designed to be place on an already existing table. The overall dimensions of the play surface will be 4' x 6'.

1x 4 x 8 sheet of 3/16-1/4 masonite
4x 1" x 2" x 8ft pine boards
1x 4' Piano Hinge
1" Screws
1.5" Screws
Spray Adhesive
2.5 - 5 yards of felt depending on width
Painters Tape
1/4" Staples
Saw (Chopsaw preferable but really any type of saw will work)
Counter Sink Bit
Philips Bit
How To:
1) First we need to cut the masonite. I had this done at home depot to make it easier to transport. You will make 2 cuts 3' apart from each other along the 4' side. This will leave you with 2 3' x 4' pieces and a left over piece of about 2ft.
2) Using the saw we need to cut 4 3' long sections out of the 1x2. This will take up 2 sticks and leave a section roughly 2' long left over.
3) Using the saw we need to cut 4 46.5" sections out of the 1x2. This will use up most of those pieces and leave very little left over.
Note: The pieces we just cut will become frames for the 3' x 4' sections. You may be wondering why we cut the long pieces to 46.5 inches. This is because the 3' sections will overlap the longer rails. 1x2 has an actual width of .75 x 1.5 after plaining. So the 3ft sections shorten the length of the long rail by 1.5 inches. You may also be asking yourself why not cut the 8' boards down to two 4' boards. The reason for this is because the thickness of the blade on most saws is 1/8" think which would leave us 1/16 of an inch short on each side.
4) Frame assembly. Take the 2 of the 3' sticks and 2 of the 46.5" sticks and set them on end so that they make a box. The box should measure 3' by 4' if you have set it up correctly. You may want to use box clamps to hold things together but that is not neccissary.
5) From the 3' stick use the dril and counter sink bit to pilot a hole that lines up roughly with the middle of the longer stick. Now sink a screw into that hole so that it is flush with the surface. Repeat this 4 times. You will only need one screw per stick in the frame as the top will provide more support.
6) Repeat steps 4 and 5 to make the second frame.

7) Lay one of the sheets of masonite on the frame. Make sure the smooth side is up and that the rough side is touching the frame. Line up all the edges so they are flush.

8) Using a counter sink bit pilot a hole in one of the corners. Make sure to offset enough so you don't run into one of the screws in the frame. I go in about 2 inches from each corner to do this.

9) Using a 1 inch screw drive it into the pilot hole so that the head of the screw is flush with the masonite. If the screw head is not flush it may show through the felt later.

10) Repeat step 8 and 9 applying screws every 8-12 inchs all around the border. Make sure the frame is flush with the edge as you do so.

11) Repeat steps 7-10 for the other frame and sheet of masonite.

12) Time to mount the Hinge. Take the 2 framed sheets of masonite and lay them on top of eachother so that the masonite sheets are touching and all edges are flush.

13) Along on of the 4' sides aline the hinge so that the center of the hinge follows the seam between the 2 boards of masonite and screw it in. I suggest putting a screw in each end to start.

When complete you should have a table that looks like this.

14) Time to apply the felt. The overall process for this will differ depending on what material you are using. If you are using 2 36" wide strips you will want to mask off the areas you don't want to get adhesive on. Essentially you want to start in the middle and apply adhesive. Lay the felt over the adhesive and work any airpockets out to the edge.
15) Once the adhesive sets fold the table in half to do the final touches. Like you see in the picture.
16) Cut the excess felt so you have about 4 inches of felt. This will make it easier to staple.
17) At the corner cut one edge at a 45 degree angle into the corner, cut the other edge perpendicular. This will allow you to make the corner edge later.
19) Starting from the corners work towards the hinge pulling the felt taut and stapling it down to the inside of the 1x2.
20) When it is complete you will have a bunch of fabric like in the picture to the right. Simply cut this bunch at about 4 inch and tuck it into the corner. You should be able to make a nice corner.
21) Repeat this for all the edges and corners and the pieces is complete.
Below is a bunch of other pictures I took but didn't use in the post.

Minas Tirith Research

The first step I am going through before starting construction is research. I need to determine the rough size and shape of each of the levels. I also need to take into account how the terrain piece will be played on. I don't want to take all this time to end up with something that is simply not playable.

Doing a search on google provided me with lots of good reference pictures to design around. One of my favorites is of a model that someone else is working on. It provided me with a very good idea of how things are laid out for the top tier of the city where the Citadel is.

Based on this image and the base size of a large model (50mm) I determined that the upper level of the city should be 250mm across. This would allow 5 large models to stand side by side. The Citadel itself would be 125mm across and about 200mm deep. Each of the next 3 levels would be 50mm across. This will provide that narrow feeling you see in the movies where the paths are just wide enough for a troll to make it up. Tier 5 is 75mm out from the tier above it. Tier 6 is 100mm. And tier 7 is 175mm out. This makes for an overall width of 1.2 meters, which is just under 4 feet wide.

After doing some reading on wikipedia I determined that each of the tiers had the same height of 100 feet and that the spire on the top was equivelent to 3 tiers tall at 300 feet. Based on these proportions I decided that 6 inches per tier would give me the appropriate height. So the height from the first tier to the top tier where the citadel is would be 42inches and adding another 18 inches for the spire. This gives me an overall height of 5 feet.

Given this data my target size for the model is going to be 4' x 5' x 5'. This is going to be a massive model and because of that it will not be possible to make it a solid structure. I will have to make this using a modular method. On the plus side using a modular method means that this will be usable for other things besides just the one massive model!

First post

Ok so I have decided to create a new blog to document the process I am going through creating terrain for wargaming. I may move this over to my wordpress site at some point but didn't want to take the time to register a domain and all that. I plan to post pictures and videos of all the work I am doing. The end goal is going to be to create a model of Minas Tirith from the Lord of the rings that is playable in 28mm. Obviously this will not be 100% to scale for the 28mm wargames as such a model would be about 30ft in diameter and stand almost 50ft tall. Never the less it should still look cool.