Test building hills using fibreglass bandages

Can you make durable wargaming terrain using lots of free stuff?

Of course you can, but can I develop a mass produced version so that we can make a bucket load of hills in time for Victory or Valhalla.  This is what I have managed to produce so far.
Fig 9. First coat of blended turf

So having scored a whole heap of MDF off-cuts, 30mm high standard packing polystyrene (bathrooms renovations) and out of date fibreglass bandages from a hospital, it was time to give it a go.
Fig 1. Hill No 1 glued to base

The first step was to trim the polystyrene sheeting to the shape of the base and then cut down the slopes with a hot wire cutter.  For the last few years I have only used high density extruded polystyrene so I had forgotten how easy it was to cut through the lower density expanded polystyrene.

During the cutting process I keep one of my miniatures around to test whether it would stand or topple on the slopes.  Steep size and flat tops make easier placement of figures, but I wanted more natural hills since Saga is skirmish based.

Fig 2. Hill No 2 sculpted and glued to base

I have found that PVA glue is not the best for gluing polystyrene to MDF.  This is because it takes far to long to dry and I am focused on speed.  Instead I use liquid nails, applying beads to both surfaces, smearing it smooth to the edges and waiting for it to tack.  I think place the polystyrene on the MDF and get a very quick bond then allows me to progress with the rest of the project quickly. Figs 1 and 2.

I have used plaster bandages before but never the fibreglass versions.  Since they have taken over the stabilisation of broken limbs, I thought that they must be pretty strong and therefore would be a good material to cover polystyrene
and strengthen the hills.

Fig 3.  Hills with fibreglass bandages 
Fig 4. First coat of sand to smooth out edges

Equipped with gloves, scissors and a bucket of water I set to work.  Like the plaster version, you submerge the bandage in water and within seconds you are good to go.  I held out the bandage to hill size and my trust companion (son #3) wielded the scissors and I smoothed the bandages over the polystyrene. Fig 3.

Fig 5. Full sand coast

I tried two methods.  The first was cutting the bandages first, then wetting them and placing them on the polystyrene.  The second was wetting the bandage, cutting and placing it.  The second worked much better sticking to the polystyrene straight away.  With the first method, the bandages stuck to each other and moulded to the shape of the hill but I need to remove them and glue them with PVA to the polystyrene.

Once the bandages had dried I trimmed around the bases to neaten up the hills.  When I next do this, I am going to try laying the bandages on the polystyrene hills before gluing them to the MDF.

Because the edges didn’t always stick to the MDF, I applied a couple of layers of sand to the edges to smooth out the sides of the hills, Fig 4.

I then applied another layer of PVA to the rest of the hill and sprinkled fine sand on mass, Fig 5.

After letting the sand dry and a very light brush down to remove any loose sand it was time to prime.  I have been using grey primer for the last year across my terrain and miniatures.  Decided I needed a change from white or black and I am happy how it works as a base.

Fig 6. Grey primer

My spray area is on the temporary fence which houses the chook yard and it has gained a little patina of different sprays.

Fig 7. Dusted white primer
Fig 8. Base layer of homemade earth colour

The grey covered well and it was interesting to see how the colour was absorbed differently between the fibreglass and the other materials.  Once the grey was tack dry I then dusted the hills off with white primer.  FYI, the white dusts easily because I am on the third can using the same nozzle and it is has developed an inbuilt splatter pattern.

Over the primer I applied a watered down layer of earth colour.  I had run out of my normal Woodland Scenics earth colour pigment, but decided to have a go a making some homemade earth colour.  Given that my kids have grown out of their big acrylic paint tubes, I pulled out some red, green and yellow and went mixing.  Very quickly I had whipped up a suitably earth green blend and with trusty paint brush and jar of water proceeded to slosh it on to the hills.

Aside from the extra glue lines around the fibreglass seams which remained its whiteness, the colour went on and dried pretty much the same as the pre-made bottled variety.  Guess what I am going to be using for the next year?

Next on the list was to apply a later of Mod Podge aiming for around 90-95% coverage.  I then generously sifted the Woodland Scenics blended turf over the hills one at a time.  I generally leave the flock on the glue for a few minutes, around about the time it takes to prepare the next hill with glue, before shaking the excess off into a plastic tray for reuse.

As a proof of concept I am pretty happy with the outcome in Fig 9 and they got the seal of approval from the gaming crew.  So these will go into mass production soon for Victory or Valhalla.

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