Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scratch made terrain

Last week, I was reading Iowa Grognard's blog on making a farm field with something called Durham's Water Putty. Whenever I've needed to build up terrain in my Field of Glory camps, I used GW Green Stuff and Milliput.  These are both serviceable but expensive options.  I was ready to try something new so over the weekend, I bought three 10" by 8" hardboards and a 4 lb can of Durham's Water Putty.  Here's a shot of the project, minus the fork and butter knife from the pantry I used for shaping the putty.  Don't tell my wife!

First, I shaped the hardboard with a jigsaw and a palm sander.  Then I mixed up a batch of Water Putty.  The recipe calls for a ratio of 3 parts dry mix to 1 part water but that was too soupy for my purposes.  I found a 4 to 1 ratio perfect for this project.  I experimented with bringing sand and grit in to the pieces.  For the farm field, I mixed sand in while mixing up the water and dry mix.  As I learned, you don't want to do that.  The rocks and grit made it difficult to shape the terrain and I ended up picking out many of the rocks so I could get a fork through it.  Plus, it mostly just gets swallowed into the putty.  For the second piece, I pressed sand and small rocks directly into the putty while it was setting up.  In the third, I waited until the putty dried and added the sand and grit after painting the base coat I used a fork to make the furrows in  the farm field and a butter knife for putting swirls into the other two pieces of terrain-just like frosting a cake!
Spoiler alert...the middle one turns out best!

I let the putty cure overnight.  Then I painted all three with Ceramcoat Burnt Umber and sprinkled some Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast flocking onto the wet paint.  When the basecoat dried, I put a coat of diluted Elmer's Glue over the top to lock up the flocking.  I dry brushed with Vallejo Leather Brown and then a touch of Ceramcoate Cafe con Leche over that for highlights.  For the last step, I painted a ribbon of Elmer's Glue around the edges and sprinkled Woodlan Scenics Blended Turf over that.

I'm usually my own worst critic but this time, I'm very pleased with the results.  One of best thing about this project is that the last two pieces can double as many different types of terrain in Field of Glory.


Pros on making your own terrain:
  • Low cost, especially if you have some or most of the project supplies already on hand.
  • Versatility.  A single piece can double as many of the terrain types necessary.
  • Pride.  It's nice when you can make something yourself and it turns out well. Nice and surprising. 
  • Time.  While fairly quick, the project does take some time to get done.
  • Durability.  Commercial terrain generally comes in plastic or latex that doesn't break or wear out.   
I plan on making gullies, marshes and impassible terrain in the future.  Despite my new found confidence in making my own terrain, I'm still in the market to buy commercial terrain.  I need more hills and makes excellent hills that match my battle mat perfectly. 

When I finish painting up a new army, I'm eager to get them on a tabletop as soon as possible.  Oddly, I feel the same way about this terrain.  I can't wait to get these pieces into play at our next meetup in August. Now if I could just learn how to make a decent set of dice. 


  1. You might find it worth mixing paint into the putty mix - terrain gets chipped sometimes, if the putty is precoloured then chips don't show up as a glaring white colour.


  2. Good suggestion! I wonder if I should use a dry dye mix or maybe use a cheap acrylic paint as my Vallejo paints might make this option expensive! I'll have to experiment with this in my next batch.