Gaming on a Budget: The Silent Hedges Part 2

Greetings fellow mortals.  It’s dethtron here, back to move the gaming table project forward.  As you’ll recall from my last installment, I was hard at work on a nice set of hedgerows, rounding out the last of the major terrain features on my budget gaming table- where I set out to make an entire modular table and full complement of terrain for under $250 in under 2 weeks.  Today I’ll be taking more major steps towards finishing those hedgerows.  To refresh your memory, after last week we were left with these hedge components which Hoagy was kind enough to describe as looking like ‘those dried dog turds:”

Now we’re ready to move on.  Today I’ll be getting these base coated and making some necessary add ons like extra trees and gates.

Base Coating

Having learned my lesson with attempting to paint a medium brown over a black undercoat using cheap craft paints on my roads, I got an inexpensive bottle of krylon ruddy brown primer to use on these.  It cost me about $3 and was enough to cover all my hedgerow sections with a little bit left over.  I used brown rather than black because I wanted the areas in the stones to appear like dirt, rather than mortar.  You’ll have to wait to see how this turns out, but I’m pretty proud of the results myself.

Going to my awesome home-made spray booth (consisting of a free copy paper box and empty GW model kit boxes to act as a pedestal- net cost $0),  I placed my hedge sections inside and hosed them down with 2 even coats of primer.  Krylon paints tend to dry quite quickly, so by the time I was done doing all of them, I only had to wait a few minutes before they were dry enough for handling for the next step.

Adding Sand to the Bases

Next, it was time to add some texture to the bases.  Like with everything I’ve done so far, these are going to be heavily covered in static grass in the end, but it’s still a good idea to have a well painted, textured base underneath since it will show through a little and help give static grass something to cling to.

Having already sifted an ass-load of playground sand (25 lb bag purchased years ago for less than $10 and showing no signs of ever running out), I was in a pretty sweet spot for getting this done.  If you remember back to earlier in this series, I did all my sifting of the sand using an old wire terrarium lid.  It works great for getting bigger rocks and bits out of the sand, leaving you with only the finest pieces.

Returning to my trusty recipe of Elmer’s white glue (purchased by the gallon for a fraction of the cost of buying squeeze bottles of the stuff), I brushed my glue on and sprinkled on the sand, working one section at a time.

Having done all the pieces and having set them over a makeshift drop cloth made of free newspapers, I left my hedgerow segments to dry overnight.

Making Gates

Since I was waiting for the sand to dry I had a little time to knock out a few extra details I’d be needing later down the road in the project.  The first of these were gates for the 15 gated sections I’d created.

After wracking my brain on what to use as a building material for these for weeks, Lauby came to the rescue by recommending  wooden coffee stirrers.  These turned out to be great since I was able to get them for free and they were the perfect size and thickness, much better than any of the balsa wood I’d been scouting out for this task and infinitely cheaper.  Really the only cost of these was going to Starbucks and having to drink one of their insufferably awful cups of coffee to get my hands on their stirrers.  When I was at the milk and sweetener station, I was able to grab about 20 stirrers fairly inconspicuously and run off into the night with them.  This turned out to be more than I needed, but now I’ve got extras in my supplies- huzzah!

The first thing I did with these was to split them down the middle with a hobby knife.  If you’re looking for a clean edge, I’d recommend doing this using a straight edge to guide you knife.  Since I was looking for a more rustic cut, I did it by hand.  I toyed with the idea of not splitting the stirrers and using them as is, but they simply looked too large compared to a 15mm model.  After they were split, though, they looked perfect.

The gaps in my hedgerows where the gates were going were made to be just over 1.5″- enough to accommodate most 15mm tanks.  To that end, I set about cutting my split stirrers into 1.5″ sections to be fashioned into gates.

For each gate I needed a total of 4 lengths of coffee stirrers- 3 to form the horizontal part of the gate and 1 piece to be laid across diagonally to hold it all together.

The 3 horizontal pieces were placed on my cutting mat with small gaps in between them.  I then took the 4th piece and ran a bead of glue along it before laying it down diagonally across the other “boards.”  Don’t worry if your edges aren’t straight or lined up well, as long as they’re fairly close, this can be fixed later.

If you’re looking to make a fancier gate, you could try putting on a second diagonal board on the opposite side running in an X pattern for even parallel to the existing cross-brace.  

Once these were dry, I took my hobby knife and trimmed up the ends, to make sure that they were even.

With this done, I went to my big old trusty bag of 1/8″ balsa matchsticks to get the materials to make the gate posts.  Using my hobby knife I cut 30 pieces to a height of about 1/2″, or the same approximate height as my gates.  Rather than measure each piece, I compared them to the gates I had made (which had some variance in height) and cut them by eye.  Since I made pretty rustic gates, a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t have worked for this.

With the posts cut, all I needed to do was glue them onto he sides of gates.  You can see from the picture that these make pretty convincing pieces in the end.  Not too bad for basically free.

In a later picture you’ll see a broken gate section.  I did this deliberately to make a section that looked like maybe somebody already rolled through.  Feel free to do this as much or as little as you’d like in your own projects.

All that was left to do was to paint these up.  I gave them a base coat of formula P3’s Umbral Umber, to give them a nice dark base.  I then dry brushed on a lighter brown.  I honestly forget what exact paint I used, but it was most likely a good khaki or Citadel’s graveyard earth.

Nevertheless, the gates ended up looking like this:

Making Trees

Down the road, I’ll be doing a more detailed tutorial on making your own trees in a future installment, but here is a quick overview of a method I used in this project since I had unexpectedly run short on pre-made woodland scenics trees and didn’t want to buy more.  Wanting to have more than just 3 or 4 scant trees sticking out of my hedgerows, I decided to make a good dozen or more trees on my on to fill in the gaps.

I went out to my garden and collected some dried plants, looking for anything that looked like it had a good woody stem and small branches.  I don’t do the gardening at home (mostly just do the digging), so I can’t recall what kind of plant these were from, but if you know, chime in in the comments thread.

Using a pair of scissors, I trimmed off  pieces that would make various sizes of trees in my scale.  I was careful to select sections that had a good number of branches on them.

Next I trimmed off the dried seed pods from the top.  If you’re in a hurry, you could leave these on and just stop here, they’d still make ok trees.

As you can see to the left, these make pretty convincing tree trunks.  If you were making dead trees or a winter scene, you’d be done by now.  Unfortunately, I am making a summer scene, so there was still some work to do.

For my next trick I poured glue into my handy free margarine tub.  I was careful to use undiluted Elmer’s for this, because watered down glue wouldn’t have enough tack in it for what comes next.

I then filled a second container with clump foliage and set it next to my glue container, not unlike the flour, egg wash, bread crumbs set-up familiar to any practitioners of the deep fried arts.

The end of the tree was carefully dipped into the glue.  These are pretty fragile at this point, so try no to mash it against the bottom.

These were then dipped immediately into the clump foliage.  After making sure an adequate amount stuck, I set them aside to dry for a few hours.

Once they were dry, I gave them a HEAVY coat or two of spray matte varnish.  This not only helps to keep the clump foliage stuck on to the branches but adds a surprising amount of strength to the trunk and branches.  This is great because these are just made out of dried, brittle plants, after all.

That’s it for today.  Look for the conclusion to this series on hedgerows this Saturday.  Until then, leave a comment if you’ve got a question or feel like telling me how awesome or sucky I am.  Cheers.

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