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The following is a list of some of the tricks developed by our members
for making figure bases, trees, rocks, huts, etc.

In time we hope to include instructions on how to 'accidentally' make
cement rocks, and 'Forced Perspective' Himalayan mountains. (Once
we actually get that idea to work properly.)

Until then we'll have to make do with some pretty standard info. on
"Basing, Trees, and Buildings."

15mm Pine Trees from a cake
decorating kit, 5 trees for $0.79
 
Magnets Washers Bases Rocks Huts Palm Trees

Basing Figures:
If you think about it there are really three reasons for basing wargames figures; 1.) because it's
required by the rules you're using to make the game work properly, 2.) to save your treasured
little pieces of artwork from horrific destruction when you apply the brakes in your automobile,
and 3.) to make them look better. OK, so after a (very) brief discussion of #2 we'll move on to
making the figures look better, with an emphasis on achieving that goal with as little work as
possible.

"Magnetization:"
Years ago somebody came up with the idea of putting magnets on the bottom of wargames
figures. That way if a 'magnetized' figure was carried in a metal tool box it wouldn't fly to
destruction every time the driver stopped the car. There are lots of offers on the Internet to cut
custom magnetized bases for gamers, but you can do it yourself simply by purchasing
magnetic strip from a local hardware store, gluing it to the bottom of your figure's base, and
then cutting away the excess magnet. Whether you "make" or "buy" depends upon how much
time you want to devote to the manufacture of bases. Because most 'hardware store' magnetic
strip may not be quite wide enough for your needs, you may have to do a bit of extra cutting
and pasting. However, an alternative magnetic material can be found at office/drugstores in the
guise of business card or photo magnets. These rubberized magnets are approximately the
right size to turn business cards or family photos into refrigerator magnets and are thus much
closer in size to those ubiquitous DBA/DBM/DBR bases.

Washers:
An alternative to magnetizing the figures is to magnetize the carrying case and put the figures
on steel bases. (I like this approach for individually based figures because it's less work for
me.) If you're using individually based figures I suggest another trip to the hardware store to
pick up some steel washers. You may have to make do with a size that isn't quite what you
wanted, say a diameter of 7/8th inch instead of a full one inch, but again it's so much easier this
way.

The "Chick Lewis Method:"
One of our members has what can only be described as a 'crafty' approach to basing his
figures. He glues magnetic strip directly to the figures' base. Then he transports them in plastic
cases with metal sheeting glued to the bottom of the case. Thus the figures are safe in
transport, but the don't really have a standard sized base for gaming purposes. When Chick
wants to use the figures he takes them out of the traveling case and sets them onto steel
washers of a size appropriate to the rules system he's using at that point in time
. If necessary,
he could make up DBA/DBM/DBR sized bases with steel in them somewhere and set the
figures down on that. It's a cunning scheme that I would immediately imitate if only I hadn't
already based so many of my figures on washers or purchased pre-cut DBA bases.

Finally, Decorative Terrain for Bases:
In the past I have used various types of putty, plaster, and vinyl spackle to decorate my bases
- and conceal the edges of a figure's base - but compared to plain old, water based white glue
everything else is much more work. White glue might take more drying time than other
methods, but it will still be less work for you. The technique I use is to paint away at the
figures, which I have already glued onto their washers/bases, until I reach a point at which I
want to take a break, or have to quit painting an go do some actual work somewhere. Then I
squirt white glue around the edge of the figures base (and by this I mean the edge of the
figure's base where it's glued onto the washer or DBA base) and then leave to let it dry. It
might take three applications for the white glue to obscure the edge of the base, but that's OK,
because it's less work for me.

Pigment in the Glue:
The next trick I would recommend is available only if you're painting with acrylics. (And yes,
one of our members is still using oils.) When you've decided that the coats of white glue have
successfully 'softened' the delineation between the flat top of the washer/base and the edge of
the figure's base, it's time to stick on something to make the base look like open terrain. I squirt
some glue into a paper 'Dixie Cup,' pour in an equal amount of water to thin the glue, then
squirt in a little bit of appropriately colored acrylic paint. I use a dull green if I'm gluing on
grass, and a light tan if I'm gluing on sand. I have a VERY cheap brush that I use only for
painting my glue mixture onto bases, and then I toss on the ground cover.

A word about 'ground cover.' I prefer small size 'spongey-bits' for 15mm figures and have
recently restricted that exciting static grass to figures 25mm or larger. I have two 15mm DBR
armies based with static grass and they look a bit like the figures are wading through fields of
green wheat. However, the static grass looks just fine with larger figures.

And now, an endorsement for 'sand.' A few years ago I was doing some concrete work out in
the back garden and I had a few bags of sand left over. I'd started work on some Wargames
Foundry Egyptians and thought that 'sand' might work well for decorating a desert base. It
turned out so well that I began experimenting on how I could use it to make 'North European'
bases. Here's what I ended up with.

1.) Squirt white glue on the base until you've obscured the edge of the figure's base.
2.)
Paint the base with "FolkArt 939 Butter Pecan" - it's a CHEAP acrylic doll paint.
Mix up a batch of thinned white glue and add some of the 'Butter Pecan.'
3.)
Paint the base with the 'colored glue mixture' and cover the base with sand. If you're really
industrious, pick through the sand to get some larger grains and place them in 'artistic spots'
on the base before covering it with smaller grains.
4.)
After the sand is dry, tip the base upside down and tap it to remove excess sand. Then give
the sand a wash of "Americana DA180 Asphaltum" - again, it's a CHEAP acrylic doll paint.
How dark you make the wash depends upon how 'dark' the soil is that you're trying to imitate
5.)
After the wash is dry, paint a few spots on the base with your colored glue mixture. Then
toss on some static grass.
6.)
After the glued grass is dry, I paint it so that more closely matches the shading of the sand.
I use a 'thick wash' of "Americana DA113 Plantation Pine" - yes I know, it's yet another
CHEAP acrylic doll paint.
7.)
After the painted grass is dry, and give it at least 24 hours, I dry brush both it and some of
the sand with "Aleene's OC129 Dusty Khaki" - I'm telling you, visit your local crafts/doll store.
These 'doll acrylics' go sometimes go on sale for $0.50 a 2 oz. bottle
8.) Finally, decide how you're going to paint the base edge. You could try to blend it in with
the terrain, or develop a color coding system to differentiate units. However, I prefer black
because it seems to make the base look more like a presentation piece.

 

3/4 inch steel washer with plaster and
"Hobby Shop Desert Ground Cover"
 
British Inf. on 3/4 inch steel washer
with dry-brushed vinyl spackle 'earth'
 
"Small Spongey Bits" on a DBR
15mm sized magnetic base
 
"Static Grass" on a DBR sized base
with 15mm French infantry
 
3/4 inch steel washer, with
"Glue Mixture" and sand.
 
DBR sized base with sand
and unpainted Static Grass
 
"Sand & Static Grass" Method
as described at left.
 
DBM sized base with
"Sand and Static Grass"
 

Rocks and Such:
We've employed several ways to produce believable rocks in 25mm. One of our
members actually sculpted up a very nice bolder, then made a mold of it, and now we
can mass produce some absolutely lovely large chunks of granite whose only drawback is that they all look the exactly same. Things are a bit better if you purchase one of those 'Rock Molds' from a model train store. The manufacturers seem to have put quite a lot of time into designing rocks that really do look different when you twist and turn them to face in different directions. On top of which, if you caste up your rocks in plaster, and pull them out while they're still just a little bit damp, you can carve away at them to make each one unique. The example at the right was 'sort of' made in this fashion. The actual rock is a fairly low affair representing only the flat top of the rock. After pulling it out of the mold I had some damp plaster left over, which I slapped on the bottom, squeezed into shape, and then carved away at until it looked something like the 'Vasquez Rocks' formation just North of Los Angeles.

Huts:
Always be willing to cruise through the local arts and crafts store. Not only do they
have CHEAP acrylic paints, but sometimes I stumble across things like the Papier
Mache Bird House from the Philippines. They're far too small for a real bird house and
were clearly designed for use with those decorative little 'stuffed birds' made out of
brightly colored feathers. Here's how we made the hut.

"Combo Rock" fixed to 2 inch washer
 
Papier Mache Bird House
transformed into....

1.) Cut off approximately 1/2 inch from the bottom of the bird house
2.) Thatch the roof using unraveled rope. Stick the thatch down with
white glue, working up from the bottom to the top of the roof.
3.) When the thatch is complete, paint the whole roof with a thinned
mixture of water and white glue.
4.) Paint the walls with white acrylic paint. Don't make this too wet
as that will make the walls go all soggy. Before the paint is dry, toss
on some Plaster of Paris to give texture.
5.) Once the plaster is completely dry, wash and dry-brush
6.) Abandon the idea for future huts as too time consuming.

Part of a 25mm African village
Palm Trees:
I've seen this idea on other sites, but it bares repeating. Some very nice terrain can be
found in 'Party Stores' and stores that sell cake decorations. The brand of palm trees
shown on the right can be found in almost any 'Cake Store.' They come in two sizes;
"Large," which when I last purchased any was one tree for $1.00, and "Small," which
came three pairs of trees to a pack for $0.79. The 'Small' palms on the right were given a
wash of acrylic dark brown, dry-brushed with an acrylic light khaki, and mounted on a
2 inch steel washer in between two 'Model Railroad' plaster rocks.
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