Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Terrain: Once You Pop...

I've mentioned several times here that I'm a big fan of the resin terrain produced by Armorcast, but I'm a big fan of scratch-building as well - but many times it just doesn't give me the results I'm looking for. (A lot of times it doesn't matter how much Green Stuff and bitz you glue to a yogurt container, it still just looks like a yogurt container). But, a lot of gamers find resin terrain prohibitively expensive. Armorcast has a unique solution that attempts to give us the best of both worlds - inexpensive kits that allow you to turn empty cans into terrain pieces.

I've been wanting to try some of these for a while, and I got to select a freebie when I bought a mess of Armorcast stuff from their booth at GenCon. I have several other small "industrial" terrain pieces that could represent a refinery or chem plant, so I chose the Potato Crisp Can Liquid Storage Unit. This kit consists of four pieces of molded resin designed to be glued to a Pringles can, and sells for $10.

This project required the assistance of my lovely wife - because I don't really care for Pringles all that much, but she loves 'em. At my request, she picked up a can during her next trip to the grocery store. After she had packed them in her lunches for a week, I snagged the empty can:

One thing that I was concerned about was the strength of the can - although it has a metal bottom, it's just flimsy cardboard. I considered several options for reinforcing it, such as filling it with plaster or folded newspapers, but that would increase the weight significantly, and one of the much-touted advantages of resin is that it's extremely lightweight - it seemed silly to negate that. I decided to strike a compromise between strength and weight and fill the container with expanding foam insulation:

This will hopefully give the empty can a "honeycomb" -like web of support, without adding too much weight. You should be able to find cans of spray insulation at any home improvement or big box store for about three dollars. It comes in useful for other types of terrain projects as well, so it's handy to have a can around. For this project I used the "minimum expanding" variety, since I want the foam to be as dense as possible.

Following the instructions on the label, I filled the Pringles can with the insulation:

The foam needs to dry for a couple of hours, so I went and took care of some other stuff. One of those things was to prep the resin pieces:

Most resin pieces are cast in molds that have been treated with mold release - this needs to be removed before gluing or painting. I keep an old toothbrush with my painting supplies, and scrubbed the pieces well with lukewarm water (do NOT use hot water - it will warp the resin) and dish soap, then rinsed them and left them to air dry.

After the foam insulation has dried for a couple of hours, I had something that looked like this:

(Now you see why I used the "Minimum Expanding" variety, huh?) I cut the insulation off flush with the top of the can with a hacksaw blade:

(I didn't throw out the "bubble" of foam I cut off - I can use it for another project!)

Hmmm, an unexpected setback: I need the insulation that's flush with the rim of the can to be solid & flat - what I was left with was a solid outer rim, and a core of uncured goop:

Okay, change of plans. I dug the lid for the can out of the trash, and cut a small hole in it. I then placed the lid back on the can and topped off the insulation:

This gave me flat surface I wanted, and I would only have to trim the small "plug" of insulation at the center of the lid. Every so often I would remove the lid to let the surface of the foam insulation cure a bit, and once I noticed it expanding past the rim, I would put the lid back on and squash it down again. This worked well, since the foam won't stick to the plastic of the lid. I would also tear the "plug" of insulation off several times, to let as much of the foam on the interior of the can cure as possible.

Next I glued the vertical accents to the can, using cyanoacrylate glue & an accelerator spray:

It was kind of handy having the labels on the can - it gave me a straight line to make sure I had the accent pieces lined up straight.

I gave the metal bottom of the can a quick sanding to give some "tooth" for the adhesive:

Since the piece will probably be picked up & handled a lot by the top and bottom, I wanted a stronger bond for those pieces - I chose to use an epoxy resin:

(I just mix the resin in the blister pack it's packaged in - then you can just throw it away). I applied the resin to the top of the can and to the base with a small wooden craft stick:

Then I assembled the whole deal:

I took the whole thing outside to dry - epoxy stinks while it's curing. (One of my roommates in college walked in to the room when I was using some epoxy and asked me, "What smells like a combination of feet & @$$ in here?!?")

After everything was dry, I gave the whole piece a coat of black primer:

(Unfortunately I was trying to squeeze the last little bit out of a can of black primer, and was laying it on pretty thick to cover the neon orange-colored can, so I got a few runs in the primer coat). Luckily that's not a big deal on a large terrain piece - I hit it with a bit of sandpaper to minimize it.

Next I gave it a coat of heavily thinned Citadel Boltgun Metal, and a liberal coat of my homebrew APJ Heavy Black wash:

Then the whole piece received a thin wash of Citadel Devlan Mud wash, to make it nice and grimy:

I gave the base a coat of PVA glue, then sprinkled it with sand:

I drybrushed some of the details with Citadel Mithril Silver. I then painted the beacon lights with Citadel Goblin Green and Warlock Purple, then highlighted them with Scorpion Green and a 50/50 mix of Warlock Purple & Skull White. The wires & hoses were painted with Citadel Blood Red & Vallejo Ultramarine Blue:

I decided I wanted to have a rust effect on this piece - it would be most prominent at the top, since that's what would take the brunt of exposure from the elements, and fade as it went down towards the bottom, as though rain had been slowly spreading the rust. Instead of applying this with a brush, I went with a sponge for a more "organic" look. For the sponge, I plucked a few pieces of foam out of one of my Army Transport trays:

...then I tore one chunk of the foam diagonally:

To apply this effect, I dipped the sponge in the paint (directly from the pot), then daubed most of it off on a paper towel. Then I blotted it around the top of the tank. For the first color, I used Citadel Snakebite Leather:

Then I used the flat side of the sponge to "drag" the paint down the tank vertically:

For the next color, I used Citadel Blazing Orange. Again, I dipped the sponge in the paint:

Then blotted most of it off on a paper towel:

Then I daubed it over top of the Snakebite Leather (I used the orange much more sparingly):

Then drug it down with the flat side of the sponge:

There were a few areas where I didn't work fast enough, and the Blazing Orange dried before I could drag it out with the sponge. The nice thing about this method is that you can go back and daub over the orange with the original color if the effect is too glaring.

After the PVA glue had dried, I dripped some Woodland Scenics scenic cement on it, just to make doubly sure it won't wear off:

After that had dried, I drybrushed the sand with Citadel Bestial Brown:

There were a few areas where the orange color was still a bit too bright for my tastes, so I went over it with a thin coat Devlan Mud wash:

...and here's the finished piece, ready to be clearcoated:

So there you have it - a large piece of terrain that looks great on the table, with nicely detailed resin accents, for $10. Hard to beat that.

1 comment:

  1. Everybody likes cheap terrain. This looks like a keeper.