Sunday, November 2, 2014

Jungle Terrain Bases and Making Your Own mold for Scatter Terrain Bases

Quick update on a side terrain project I recently completed: scatter terrain bases.

I had been intending to make some jungle terrain for my collection for a long time now. I bought the plastic aquarium plants I needed a few years ago but never got around to working on them. My main issue was that I wanted to base the plants on small bases, but didn't feel like taking the time to make the dozens I would need. Recently I began casting and making my own terrain items, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to test out my skills.

The tools and materials I used included:

Sculpey clay (the kind you bake)
A wooden mold box (just a simple small wooden box I had laying around)
Aquarium plants
Basing sand
Zap-A-Gap Glue (this is the greatest stuff ever made)
OOMOO 30 rubber mold by Smooth On Inc.
Static Grass

First, I made the bases by sculpting them in sculpey. Really just random shapes of various sizes. I made sure the edges were flush with the surface as I wanted them to be flush when they sat on the game table. I then baked the sculpey in the oven at the prescribed temperature for the suggested time. They hardened up nicely. After they cooled off I used Zap-A-Gap glue to glue down sand basing material to give them texture. When that was dry I glued the finished bases on a piece of cardboard cut to the size of the wooden box so it fits in nice and snug. I would be pouring the rubber mold into the box and I needed it to lie as flat and fit as tight as possible to get the best mold I could.

Once the box was ready I mixed up my OOMOO 30 rubber mold. It is a two part mold 1:1 mixed by volume, so it is easy to just measure out equal amounts in two separate plastic cups. To find out how much you need you can use rice and fill up the box to the desired level and then pour the rice into a measuring cup. This gives you at least a general idea of how much rubber you will need. Also, I made sure to spray mold release into the box and get a nice coating so that the mold will separate easily. 

This is a one part drop mould. I will be pouring the rubber into the box and letting it rise up above the items I am casting. After mixing the rubber I poured it into the box and then let it sit to harden up. OOMOO 30 does not require degassing (so I'm told), and it hardens within 6 hours (though I found mine hard enough within 3 hours). Once it had set, I peeled the rubber out of the box and it was ready to go. I found a few places where the mold rubber had gotten under the bases and between the cardboard and bottom of the bases. I just trimmed this up a little with a knife. Basically, the mold was ready to go.

Before mixing my resin and pouring the mold I added some black resin dye to make my resin a mid gray color rather than the white it cures normally. I used the Smooth On dye they suggest to go with their Smooth Cast 300 resin. I think I used something like 8 drops for the sample bottle they gave me.I then mixed up a batch of Smooth Cast 300 resin (also 1:1 by volume) and stirred it thoroughly. The best method is to pour part A and B into separate plastic cups (the kind you use for condiments) then pour part B into part A. Stir well as you really want this stuff mixed well or it won't cure properly. You have about a 1 minute pot life for this resin, so make sure when you mix you are all ready to pour into the mold. They suggest using mold release on the mold prior to pouring the resin, but I found it wasn't necessary on such a simple master model and such a shallow drop cast mold.

Once mixed I poured the resin and let it sit for 15 minutes. The resin cures pretty quickly, but it remains bendable even after it feels like it has hardened. Once cured you can just pop the bases out of the mold ready to be used. Voila! As many bases as you will ever need.
Once I had my bases I needed to make my jungle plants. I found that if I painted the bases first then drilled holes for the plants that it messed up the paint job, so I decided to drill my holes first. After that, I spray painted the bases with Krylon dark brown camo primer. After that was dry I drybrushed the bases with GW vomit brown to give it a deep rich soil look. 

Once that was finished I added static grass to the edges of the bases all around so that the base would blend into my game mat. After that, I began affixing my aquarium plants. I wanted to go for a single type of plant for these bases so I could build up areas of heavy growth of one type of plant. I plan to do other bases with more variety of plants. For these plants I cut them into various heights using snips and then used the stalk of the plant to plug into the holes I had drilled and fixed them in place with Zap-A-Gap. I placed the taller plants towards the center of the bases and the shorter towards the edge. This hopefully gives it a more natural feel where each base can stand on its own as a growth or clumped together for a dense tangle of plants. Once the glue was dry I shaved the stalks that were sticking through the holes of the base to be flush with the bottom.

I completed 30 of these and still have a ton of plants left. They cover about a quarter of the table if clumped closely together. I think I'm going to do 30 more just to have plenty. I plan to use these more for sci fi games than earth jungle. But I'm sure they'll do double duty at some point.

Below are some pics of the different parts of the process. I hope this shows you how easy making simple molds can be and how useful they are for making lots of a simple terrain item that has many uses. I can use these bases for signs, bushes, small trees, heaps of rubble, etc. etc.

The mold box with the bases glued down and set ready for the pour.

The rubber mold after the pour and a casting.

The bases after being separated from the excess resin from the pour.

Aquarium plants ready to be separated and glued down to their bases.

One of my Mantis Warrior space marines in the jungle.

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