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Author Topic: Beginner basing  (Read 1003 times)
FierceKitty
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« on: 18 April 2020, 04:04:41 AM »

Since I have recently flocked the bases on about 33 armies, let me share my experience. What I'm writing here is stuff I'd have profited from knowing a few months ago. There are doubtless many to whom this will be of no interest, so take advance warning not to waste your time; this isn't a masterclass.

1)  Making the flock Visit a sawmill or carpenter's workshop. Have a big bag and get much more sawdust than you think you'll want. My original shopping list would have got me about 20% of what I've used if my wife hadn't persuaded me to get a lot extra.

Once you're home, sift it until only powder remains. Mix this with cheap acryllic paint. Make several colours; I've found a sandy yellow and a mid olive green the most useful types. Dry it well on a sheet of wax paper or similar. Grind it in a cheap blender, since it will be far too coarse, and then sieve it once more. A mix of about three or four parts green to one sandy yellow makes a good meadow grass effect.

I've also found that raw, undyed sawdust can be similarly treated to yield a useful earth effect. Mixed with some dried grounds from our espresso for dark flecks, it gives a useful flock; a little sandy yellow can be added.

2) Basing I cut out standard-sized pieces of postcard and run a coloured felt tip around the rims to match the playing surface. With longer bases than usual, I sometimes stiffen them by glueing on a section of paper clip to resist warping (plastic covered is best - rust is seldom your friend). I now cover them in small numbers at a time with quick set epoxy glue, doing four or five in a batch. A drop of base colour mixed in the glue is helpful - burnt umber or yellow ochre (even burnt Sienna for Zululand, perhaps?). I've used a dull green too; it's a matter of how much detail you want. Something matching the paint on the metal figures' bases is desireable. Figures, filed flat under the bases, are set into the glue and left to dry thoroughly. It might be feasible to sprinkle flock on at this stage, but my instincts warn me not to complicate things; epoxy is messy to work with and time is tight.

3)  First covering  For decades I used unflocked bases to match the plain cloths I played on; having now bought a pretty mousepad games mat with printed surfaces, I have had to upgrade (whence this tutorial), but I think I was right to wait. In the old days, I just painted the epoxy to match the cloth, and it's this finish that I've been flocking over. If you've gone straight to flocking and have coloured your epoxy with a spot of pigment, you probably don't need to paint the surface with colours. I've found the most cost-effective approach is to begin with boulders, aka bits of kitty litter (you don't need a lot, so don't be stingy and unhygenic - use clean stuff). Glue them directly to the bases; I find Elmer's all-purpose is excellent here, though Europeans may use something else. Think a bit about where the army is operating; an English meadow has few rocks in it, since they've all long been turned into building material, camels will avoid rocky going since it hurts their feet (I haven't used any boulders on my Midianite army), and so on. You may also prefer to add boulders later, but I think this way they're a bit more firmly attached.

If you're fronding (see below), this is definitely the time to do it.

Get two brushes that you don't intend to paint with any more, and keep them in water. Mix up 30% wood glue (Elmer's again here, but there are plenty of others), a dash of washing-up liquid (for flow quality), and 70% alcohol. Avoid methyl alcohol, which is more poisonous than most and has fumes, and Cointreau, which is expensive. The mixture stores well in a sealed container. Put what you're using in a narrow vessel to reduce evaporation while you work. Paint it onto the bases, then dip them in a tray with your flock. It's best to use a shallow scooping motion, then angle them and shake the powder over the rest; excess is a real nuisance later. I have been pleased with the effect of using a brown and sandy mix here, then applying more glue in a few spots and sprinkling on my green mix. You needn't cover the whole base if you've painted an earth brown undercoat; grass doesn't always grow everywhere in a uniform carpet.

After applying this layer I often put a dab of Elmer's all purpose glue onto a small tuft of green pot scourer, and apply this to a base for a bit of vegetation. Again, this doesn't belong everywhere. For my 1943 Western Desert forces I put it on about 25% of the bases; I haven't used it at all for my Incas, though they have green bases.

Don't be alarmed if the glue mixture is a bit milky and opaque; it dries very clear, and won't even show if you splash a bit on your figures (honestly!). If you glue flock on them, however, you want to clear it off, which is why you've got that second brush in a water pot. Clean up your boulders too.

4)  Finishing  After all this has dried - and I mean dried! Be patient - paint on a second layer. This is important; the first won't hold the stuff securely, but the second will. Use a brush with soft, supple bristles, and paint in smooth, gentle strokes. It is imperative to remember that while the second coat is a liquid, it's a solvent, so it will try to undo the adhesive work of the first coat. Get it applied before it disolves the first layer, or you will find your brush is lifting off much of the flock.

Dry this on a sheet of plastic or foil. If you're like me, you'll have sloshed glue all over everything, and the base will end up glued to the surface it's resting on; if this is waterproof, however, removing it isn't hard.

5) And if you prefer, you could attach your boulders, scourer tufts, and other bits at this stage. That Elmer's all purpose is strong stuff, but I like the extra security of the glue washes. You can expect a little flock shedding, particularly if you put it on with a heavy hand initially, but the main layer, soaked with a sort of laquer, is tough. I haven't gone for hairspray; I've read too many warnings that it doesn't last beyond few years.

6) Other cover  I have used a lot of little plastic fronds from florists, cut into sections of about 6mm and attached before flocking, using blobs of wall putty coloured to match the bases. When this has dried, it can be glued over and flocked like the rest. This is a bit more laborious than the scourer vegetation, however, and I haven't used it everywhere.

A few army-specific bits are sometimes possible. My berserkir have bases littered with discarded shields, as do my Viking archers, though I'm troubled by the thought that these would be face-down for easy grabbing...maybe you want to make sure you don't accidentally steal the shield of Thorvald, son of Gutrune the Strong, that killed Bjorn...shut up!...and my 21st Lancers, whom I have in mounted and dismounted states, have their lances lying at their feet. It's tempting to put on casualties, but think about practicalities - a mutilated Greek in full hoplite gear in the wake of a scythed chariot will look very atmospheric, until you want to use your Persians against Scythians or Indians. Better to have a mangled corpse in a nondescript tunic, and Peckinpah gore effects.

Thank you for your patience, if you've read this far!
  
« Last Edit: 18 April 2020, 04:32:50 AM by FierceKitty » Logged

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mmcv
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« Reply #1 on: 18 April 2020, 12:17:53 PM »

Interesting reading, something I've been quite interested in myself lately as I've been giving a lot of thought to basing sizes and techniques. If I recall you use 40mm frontage and varying depths?

I take it using the epoxy gives it a good solid base, similar to what you'd get using something like MDF? Does it tend to end up flat or more textured? I experimented with painted milliput basing in the early days before moving to flocking and it did give a nice varied ground texture. I've taken to using modelling paste for the same effect on my 2mm bits.

Interesting glue mix with the washing liquid and alcohol, one of my issues with adding glue for flocking is getting in between the figures. Watering it down flows better but doesn't adhere as well, thick and clumpy tends to end up in figures by mistake!
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FierceKitty
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« Reply #2 on: 18 April 2020, 01:18:46 PM »

Interesting reading, something I've been quite interested in myself lately as I've been giving a lot of thought to basing sizes and techniques. If I recall you use 40mm frontage and varying depths?

I take it using the epoxy gives it a good solid base, similar to what you'd get using something like MDF? Does it tend to end up flat or more textured? I experimented with painted milliput basing in the early days before moving to flocking and it did give a nice varied ground texture. I've taken to using modelling paste for the same effect on my 2mm bits.

Interesting glue mix with the washing liquid and alcohol, one of my issues with adding glue for flocking is getting in between the figures. Watering it down flows better but doesn't adhere as well, thick and clumpy tends to end up in figures by mistake!

Base proportions correct.
Quickset epoxy dries smooth; slow set is textured and lumpy, and a swine to paint.  
I think an important feature of the alcohol, apart from its being a good solvent, is that it dries fast without having time to warp bases much.
« Last Edit: 18 April 2020, 01:23:59 PM by FierceKitty » Logged

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petercooman
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« Reply #3 on: 18 April 2020, 02:39:12 PM »

So I read this as:

1) cover base in vallejo dark earth

2) drybrush base

3) buy flock/static grass and stick to base


By all means i must applaud your dedication, but with so much to do and so little time, i can't even imagine making my own flock!
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FierceKitty
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« Reply #4 on: 18 April 2020, 03:44:36 PM »

Ever tried maintaining your hobby on the income of a part-time teacher in Asia?
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Orcs
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« Reply #5 on: 18 April 2020, 04:15:14 PM »

Ever tried maintaining your hobby on the income of a part-time teacher in Asia?

No. but I am a mercenary, doing on average 3 x 12 hours shifts a week  at a job I dislike intensely  ( the works ok but the management of the company leaves a lot to be desired), but the pay is good  so that I can do virtually what I like when I am not at work.

You pays your money and you takes your choice I suppose.

While like peter I would not go to that length it was an interesting post .  Why do you use the alcohol with the wood glue?  I find that diluting it with plain watr is sufficient to allow it to flow and to soak into the sand I use.
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FierceKitty
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The dog is a peasant. The cat is a gentleman.


« Reply #6 on: 18 April 2020, 04:35:08 PM »

Good solvent and rapid drying. I followed advice on other sites, and it worked, so I let well enough alone.
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fsn
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« Reply #7 on: 18 April 2020, 06:39:04 PM »

1) cover base in vallejo dark earth
2) drybrush base
3) buy flock/static grass and stick to base

That sounds like a good scheme.

I like a plain base. Over-sculpted bases are on my list of pet hates (along with kneeling & firing figures pre-1900 and prone support weapons post 1900). I feel sorry for that unit of grenadiers that has to lug that log around, or the mg team that can only move if it takes that wall with them. My greatest sympathy is for the aide-de-camp that has to uproot that tree every time the General wants to have a trot over to look at the left flank.

The only time that I saw over-sculpted bases that seems to make sense is a Stalingrad game where each base had a small amount of rubble. That seemed apposite.


Ok, that's very nice and clever, but when Erik Big Horn here charges into battle, does he have to carry that huge rock and bunch of flowers with him? No wonder he looks grumpy.

I accept that this is only my opinion and if you want to spend hours sculpting bases, good for you. I'll stick to my static grass, thanks.
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Lord Oik of Runcorn
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Ithoriel
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« Reply #8 on: 18 April 2020, 07:34:43 PM »

Why would there only be one log on a battlefield? Clearly there's a scatter of them.

My mg teams make use of all available cover and move from ruined wall to ruined wall.

You think that's the only rock and flower. Damn things are all over the place and they all look the damn same! I am Erik Big Horn and I'm too damn busy looking for Ivar the Brainless, who burned my father to death in his own house, to bother about damn flowers!!!

Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy

As you say fsn, each to their own.

With you on prone support weapons post 1900 though.
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FierceKitty
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The dog is a peasant. The cat is a gentleman.


« Reply #9 on: 19 April 2020, 03:55:16 AM »

Isn't there a story that Kiyomasa once halted his troop of cavalry, dismounted, walked over to a bamboo grove, and cut a likely section of a stem to make a vase for his tea house? Terrain matters!
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fsn
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« Reply #10 on: 19 April 2020, 07:33:10 AM »

Terrain certainly matters - I just don't want it on my figure bases.
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Lord Oik of Runcorn
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Orcs
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« Reply #11 on: 19 April 2020, 07:42:37 AM »

Personally I don't like over sculpted bases.  Bit of texture, static grass/flock and maybe a tuft of grass or small rock.

But this post was more about FK's basing system and the way he does it living a long way from conventional wargames suppliers.

Hang on - I am bringing a thread back on track - I must be unwell  Shocked
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Leon
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« Reply #12 on: 19 April 2020, 10:19:01 PM »

I'm not sure if I'm in the minority now but I quite like a scenic base...   Sad  Rocks, shrubs, patches of clear ground, maybe a tree on a command stand.  I don't worry about them having to uproot it and carry it about, that's a logistics issue and not my concern!  Cheesy
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mmcv
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« Reply #13 on: 19 April 2020, 10:31:01 PM »

I quite like scenic bases, especially on command stands. Can be fun having a mini diorama, sure it may not look a 100℅ fit for realism, but can be thematic and enjoyable to make and stands out more. Ultimately, depends on where on the realism vs abstraction spectrum you fall.
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Orcs
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« Reply #14 on: 20 April 2020, 12:34:04 PM »

Yes most of my command stands a mini dioramas/vignettes
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My aim in life was to P*ss off one person a day. I am so far ahead of schedule I will have to live to 97 even if I stop now.

The cynics are right nine times out of ten. -Mencken, H. L.
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