Saturday, March 30, 2013

Terrain Making - Hedges

A batch in progress
One of my goals for the March/April time frame was to complete a hedge/hedgerow making project that I had begun a few months ago. The goal was to create sections of hedge that would be usable as either hedgerows for 15mm WW2 or as simple hedges for any of my multitude of 25/28mm periods. I worked out a simple process that produced a really nice end result and completed a small batch of about 6 linear feet of hedge. I started a second much larger batch (about 16 feet), but as I often do, I bogged down and didn't get very far into it before moving on to something else that had caught my attention. As a part of forcing myself to sit down and drive this to completion, I took a few pictures and have sketched out the process I used.

Materials List:
Most of the following materials are things that a miniatures hobbyist will have lying around already. The only thing I needed to purchase for this project was the balsa wood in this specific thickness. Everything else I already had.
  • 1/4" thick balsa wood strips or sheets
  • Sharp hobby knife
  • Medium-fine sandpaper
  • Large clump foliage
  • Sand
  • Flocking material (optional)
  • Spray paints - medium brown and an optional primer
  • Tan craft paint and brush for dry brushing
  • White glue (such as Elmer's) and thicker craft glue (such as Aleen's)
After steps 3, 4 and 5
Step by Step:
  1. Sections are made using 1/4" thick balsa strips that are 1" wide and varying lengths between 4" and 12" long. I started with 1/4" sheets that were 4" by 36" and cut them down. A single 4 by 36 sheet becomes 12 linear feet of hedge (but does use a lot of clump foliage).
  2. Use a sharp large bladed hobby knife to bevel the edges and round off the ends of the sections. I want the exposed parts of the bases of the hedges to give an acceptable illusion of the mounded earth of hedgerows for a 15mm WW2 Normandy look. The 1/4" thickness isn't much, but it's enough.
  3. Use a medium-fine grit sandpaper to smooth off the carving work (I think I used a 180 or 200 grit).
  4. [Optional] I sprayed the sections at this point with a gray primer to make sure that the liquid in the glue used in the next step wouldn't warp the pieces. I don't think this is really necessary (since these aren't thin pieces), but it was not a big deal to add this step. Allow to dry.
  5. Use a disposable craft brush to smear simple white glue (like Elmer's; Aleen's craft glue is too thick to spread easily) over the top surfaces of the  sections. Sprinkle sand over the glued surfaces. Allow to dry.
  6. Spray the sections with a flat or satin finish brown color that you find suitable. I used a cheap home improvement store milk chocolate color that cost less than $4. Allow to dry.
  7. Dry brush the sections with a tan color craft paint. I used Plaid/FolkArt brand "Camel".
  8. Glue chunks of clump foliage down the center of the sections. I used generous amounts of Aleen's Craft Glue to hold down a random mix of Woodland Scenics foliage clusters in dark, medium and light green. I tried to have the clusters fill the width of the stick fairly well, and tried to vary the height a little bit where possible. It also helps if you take the time to make the clumps roundish or ovalish, as very often tearing chunks off the larger pieces leaves lines and corners and unnatural looking pieces. The first large batch of these I have made do not include any trees, as the scale of trees that would look good for 15mm would probably not look right for 25mm. In the latter part of this batch I added a few small trees onto some sections and they look pretty good. I will have to do a batch that has trees at some point.
  9. [Optional] You could very easily be done at this point, or you could add one last step which would be to glue random patches of green flocking around the bevelled edges of the sections. They don't necessarily need it, but it can help them blend into the table a little better.
Finished pieces (step 8) with 15mm armor for scale
I wouldn't say the end result is museum quality, but the sections do look very nice on the table. Perhaps the best thing about the project is that it is easy, inexpensive and relatively quick. Large amounts of hedge can be made efficiently and quickly. Given the astounding amounts of hedgerow terrain that a 15mm WW2 game set in Normandy can gobble up, even on a modest sized table, this is a very good thing. [As an aside, the little bit of terrain that I placed on the corner of a green board to take the sample "end result" picture above contains four 12" sections and an 8" section, so one-third of the entire 15-16 foot batch I made fits on that one little piece of terrain board... A 4' by 6' board could easily take 40-50 linear feet of hedgerow]

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