Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Building a Display Board Part 4: Inset Bases and Finishing Touches

This week sees the conclusion of the tutorial on how to build a display board. Before we proceed let's look back to week two, where we started work on the chaos warp gate. In week two we went over how to start the foundation for the warp gate, now we'll continue where that post left off.

Before we get started we'll need these materials:
7. Dreadnought base sized hole cutting bit
8. Monster base sized hole cutting bit
9. Infantry base size hole cutting bit

From our previous work we have one layer of the warp gate complete, but we want it to have more depth, so we'll proceed by tracing two more complementary layers to attach to the base layer.

For the second layer I focused on building an interior to the gate's energies by cutting tendrils that reach towards the center. This will work to make the piece appear less linear.

The third layer will add dimension to one side of the gate. Don't worry about bridging the left and right sides with an arch, they will be attached independently to the gate on their respective sides.

With all three layers cut out place them and see what layering order looks best to you. This was my original order. I decided that the central layer would contain the gate's sole arch and use the other two layers to add depth to the piece.

To shape the foam, cut off the hard edges with an xacto knife. This will make smoothing the edges and making transitions form layer to layer much easier.

Use a fine grain sandpaper to sand the piece. Folding the paper to differing widths allows you to create broader and sharper grooves. I held the paper loosely and sanded recesses around the "tendrils" to give them prominence. After that, I folded the sandpaper tighter and created sharper detail grooves. This process emulates the undulations you might expect from something that is semi-liquid or energy based.

The initial shaping of the gate's levels shouldn't be 100% complete before assembly. Remove any unwanted hard edges and get the basic flow you would like to achieve first. More shaping for the gate's final appearance will happen after you assemble the layers.

With the rough cut complete, assemble the layers and bind them together with all-purpose glue. Give the glue time to dry before continuing, most likely this will take a couple of hours.

When the glue has dried, once again use your sandpaper to increase the depth of the gate's energy "undulations." The reason why we waited until the gate was assembled to do this was so that we didn't risk fracturing any of the layers. Now that they are glued to one another, a level can be sanded down to the point that it is quite thin, but will not break because it is being supported by the layers glued beneath.

To ease some of the transitions between layers I applied a small amount of plaster along a few edges.

With the plaster dried, I sanded it down and continued to smooth transitions between layers by cutting off excess bulk at the top of the gate and sanding exterior layers until they met the middle layer is a smooth transition.

To make the tendrils on the edges and interior more streamlined, I cut them down to points at their terminus and sanded along the "necks" of the tendrils making them skinnier and more wispy in appearance.

Now that we're nearing completion of our board, let's take a moment to set up the figures the board will contain and decide how we want them positioned.

For this board I am representing a 1,500 - 1,750pt force organization chart. Though the army it contains is playable, the final decision to what made it on and what didn't was what made it most aesthetically pleasing. You may decide to prioritize more heavily on which units are better in-game or otherwise.

I decided to create recesses for inset bases on my display board. This is a great choice for boards that have a lot of terrain and for those which pose a greater risk of toppling your models over.

To get ready to cut your insets, trace the outline of each base.

The easiest way to proceed from here is to find suitable drill bits with which to cut your insets. For standard infantry bases a 1" bit is a perfect fit. For dreadnought sized bases and monster bases I used a 70mm and 45mm hollow cut bit respectively. These proved to be a little too large for my uses, so if you can find bits closer to 60mm and 40mm you'll achieve a more snug fit (living in America the 70mm and 45mm bits were sizes that corresponded to our standard of measure in inches, 2 and 3/4 and 1 and 3/4 inches respectively).
Use the bits to cut out base insets that are on foam or plaster, not roadways! We'll cut out the insets on the roadway by hand and thus preserve the cobbles for the bases which will take their places.

We'll address insets on pieces of architecture later in this post.

For the hollow bits, take an xacto and carve out the remaining plaster/foam left inside the inset cut.

To cut out the insets on the roadway, cut along each trace line with an xacto. Remove the cobbles, and then use an exacto to remove foam from the inset to the depth of the intended base.

With the roadway insets cut out, simply reglue the cobble to the top of the desired base to refill the road. However, in my case, I have a few flying bases. These present a unique problem as the base itself is convex and the road surface is flat. To remedy this I applied a layer of plaster to the tops of the bases then the planed them flat before attaching the cobbles.

To begin, mix up some Mold-A-Scene plaster.

Add a generous portion of plaster to each base, making sure to apply plaster all the way to each base's edge and enough that, when planed, a flat surface will reach from edge to edge.

When the plaster has dried plane the bases flat with a piece of coarse sandpaper. As you can see the highest point on the convex base is the center and is once again exposed by the sandpaper planing. The edges are now level with the center, creating a flat top for the base.

Glue the cobbles onto the newly planed bases with super glue.

I made note of where each base came from on the roadway to ensure that the cobbles best matched with their surroundings.

With each inset cut and hollowed, and the road cobbles resurfaced onto their respective bases, the board is now ready for one of the last layers of rubble.

Go back over where Mold-A-Scene flaked off during inset cutting with an additional layer of plaster. At this point I covered some of the bases with plaster in order to better visualize where the surrounding rubble would lie.

Don't worry about completing each and every individual base. We'll focus on basing after the display board is done. Give them enough attention to better help you decide where the board needs a greater level of detail and rubble, etc. needs to be placed.

As promised, we're going to take a look at how to cut insets for architectural pieces. To do this we'll use the same 1" bit as before, but with the added help of a friend to steady the piece being worked on.

It's important that someone holds the piece you are cutting, otherwise you risk damaging your board! Have a friend hold the building firmly on either side while you drill straight down. Apply a firm amount of pressure to the bit, but not so much that you collapse your building. The bit should cut through quite easily, though you may need to stop and clean off plastic debris from the bit midway through the cutting.

Drill all the way through, making a complete cut. Be careful when reaching the bottom of the inset, when your drill comes free it's very abrupt.

To complete the architectural inset, cut a thin sheet of Plastruct "plasticard" into circles the diameter of the inset and fasten them in place at the bottom the of the recess with an application of super glue.

The last bit of construction on the demon display board is the completion of the warp energy and the fastening of the warp gate.

To secure the warp gate I took paper clips, cutting them to about 1/2" and bending them into a "U" shape before pushing it through the base of the gate and into the board below. With the clips in place on both sides of the gate, I then applied a layer of plaster around the gate's base to further secure it and integrate in into the board.

To give the warp energy spilling over the landscape a more chaotic look, I rolled lengths of green stuff between my fingers making tendrils and then securing them to the plaster.

I also utilized a number of chaos bitz ranging from spikes to skulls to act as warp manifestations and detrius from the warp.

Eyeballs were made by rolling out a ball of green stuff, gluing it to the plaster, and then rolling out a thin strip of green stuff for the top and bottom eyelids.

With the details added to the warp energy, the board is complete and ready to be painted!

To greater increase the chaotic nature of the warp energy, I plan to paint it with a meangerie of leering faces and tortured souls. Each of the inset bases will be done separately from the board itself, but since they are integrated they will be modeled to fit with their surroundings.

Though this concludes the tutorial for how to build a display board, work will continue in later articles, focusing on finishing the inset bases and painting the board itself. Stay tuned!


  1. Love, LOVE, the warp gate - that turned out really cool! Definitely looking forward to seeing that it looks like painted up. Keep up the great work!

  2. This display base is going to be insane! Great job on the warp gate, it is really cool. It is going to be a bit of a pain to transport this whole thing when it is done. I imagine it will be fairly fragile. Great work!

  3. Mordian7th, thanks for the kudos, glad you like the warp gate!

    Cameron, it is a bit unweidly, but no guts no glory.. ha ha.

    The whole thing is really going to come together when it's painted, the warp energies will have tormented souls writhing within, I'll keep you posted on the progress.

  4. Amazing work. I love the step-by-step breakdown. Keep up the great work. Now I want to do some scenery.

  5. http://lh3.ggpht.com/_-aKPpNZfBrQ/TNc8tXheUzI/AAAAAAAAAQg/1k8lXdh23Yk/s400/SDC17774.JPG

    this guys had the right idea. could you do this?

  6. Definitely, though I used a Tyrannofex in the last tourny and thought it was pretty ineffective (it died every game having only killed two marines). Unless of course they're simply meant to be fire magnets.

  7. This really is coming along like a dream! mega post... looking forward to the next stage!

  8. Thanks Oink, I'm working on the bases now.. painting warp energy is a bit tricky, but fun.


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