Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wargames Terrain - Archer stake obstacles, part 1

One of the terrain projects that I began a long time ago but have needed to complete was the making of a bunch of archer stakes for my Hundred Years War English army. These would be useful little terrain bits that I could envision serving multiple purposes as generic defensive obstacles. In addition to their intended use as archer stakes for the English in HYW, I could see them serving as anything from the obstacles in front of the Ottoman infantry lines at Nicopolis to components of temporary camp protection in ancient battles.

I mocked up one sample stand of these many months ago and was pleased with the result, so I knew exactly what I needed to do, it was just a question of setting aside the time. This is a simple project. To make the 24 stands I am making, the raw material cost is minimal. Most items either came from the household toolbox or miscellaneous hobby stock materials already lying around. I used:
  • A power drill with a small drill bit (the diameter of a round toothpick) from the toolbox
  • A pair of medium duty snips from the toolbox
  • Some craft glue (Aileen's) from the hobby stocks
  • An Xacto knife from the hobby stocks
  • A 3 inch wide sheet of 3/32 inch thick balsa wood (about $2)
  • One pack of 250 round toothpicks (about $3)
  • Some paint, flock and other basing materials from the hobby stocks
Each stand is the same size as my standard base for 25mm infantry figures; 60mm wide by 1 inch (or about 25mm) deep, this way each obstacle stand has the same frontage as a single stand of figures. The process is very simple:
  1. Measure and mark bases on the large balsa wood sheet.
  2. Holding the drill at about a 45 degree angle to the surface of the wood, make 7-9 unevenly spaced holes through the wood (for each base). For this step I placed the wood on top of a styrofoam sheet so I could drill completely through the balsa and into the styrofoam and not hit anything important underneath. (Note that it is much easier drilling all the holes in one large sheet of balsa than it is to drill each individual base after cutting...)
  3. Cut the bases from the large balsa wood sheet with an Xacto knife. Be careful. Score, break, sand lightly (if necessary) and trim.
  4. After cutting apart the bases, I bevel the upper edges using the Xacto knife held at and angle. I prefer the bevelled edge to a straight edge, but that's just personal preference.
  5. For the stakes, I use so-called "fancy" round toothpicks that come 250 to a package. They are pointed on one end (obviously!) and have a decorative banded butt end. Not counting the banded end, which gets cut off and discarded, each toothpick is perfectly sized to make 3 stakes. The first third has the pointed end. After snipping this end off, the cut end of the remaining section needs a little whittling with the Xacto to get it pointed again, then this next third is snipped off. The remaining third is whittled to a point again, and the butt end is snipped off and discarded. (see the top picture for an un-cut toothpick as well as one cut into its four eventual parts).
  6. A small dab of glue on the non-pointed end of each little stake gets poked into one of the holes. I find it looks better and more natural to have the stakes pointing in slightly different directions and at different angles.
After about an hour of this, I had completed the 18 stands as shown in the bottom picture. I decided I wanted a total of 24 stands after doing these 18, so I will crank out 6 more before doing the finishing work, which will be part 2 of this little how-to...

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