How I made my 20mm wargaming river (“Carving out a river, on a Wednesday afternoon…” continued)

March 14, 2010

Just before Christmas 2009 I sat down with the remaining large pieces of my sheet styrene supply and my trusty Olfa cutter and cut and shaped all the pieces I wanted to use in making my first wargaming river. I talked and showed you about it here. I then put that project aside while I busied myself with Revell Panthers and some other things. Having completed the Panthers on Thursday night (photos tomorrow) I was free again to tackle the river. I checked the weather report and it said we are in for 7 days of sun and a temperature of 29 degrees each day…in other words,  perfect conditions and I would be foolish to do something else and waste such an opportunity, especially as we are now in Autumn. I took the box that the river sections were in and prepared my work area. Here’s how my work are looked:

What you can see in that photo: caulk gun, Fuller’s Caulk in Colours, leftover sticks from Magnum icecreams, the aforementioned river sections cut from sheet styrene, two plastic jars filled with different grades of Woodland Scenics’ Talus, Woodland Scenics’ Modelling grass and lastly real pieces of sticks and twigs that I have collected. At this point I was ready to continue my learning and practicing of Nikolas Lloyd’s modelling tips, this lesson being in making rivers.

First, I squeezed the caulk onto the river section: . When you do this, the caulk will pull along a little as you squeeze it onto the section – meaning that if you commenced flush with the edge, it will get no longer be so at the end of application as it will have pulled off the edge in the direction you are squeezing and you’ll have to go back and add a little bit so that it is flush again. This became very annoying very quickly so I would commence squeezing over the edge of the river section and then lay it onto the section and along. This solved the need to go back. I may need to cut off the excess hanging off the edge, but that’s fine – you have to do this at the other end of the section anyway! So I wasted a little bit of caulk, but the amount is negligible and an ‘equal’ or ‘balanced’ section of river was made each time as a result.

Second, you need to flatten and shape the caulk. I did this using the wooden sticks from Magnum icecreams – they became my trowels. As you can see from the photo, the caulk comes out as a rounded tube shape and will stay like that unless you shape it. I’ve begun to flatten the sides down so they look like natural river banks or levee banks on the outer side of the river section. Something that you didn’t see in the first photo was a roll of paper towelling. This was necessary to wipe excess caulk from my wooden icecream stick-trowel.

This shaping and smoothing takes up the vast majority of the time spent on the project as a whole. You don’t want the banks to look unnatural and you also don’t want ‘holes’ or ‘pockets’ being exposed in the caulk bank as you shape it. I went back and corrected areas many times. I’ll give you a warning now…this part of making rivers is not easily completed! Don’t start, thinking that you’ll have it done in an hour! More about this later.

Here I’ve finished shaping and smooting: . Nikolas Lloyd then brushed caulk along the length of each section in order to create ripples and other detail effects on the river’s surface. I opted not to do this with caulk but will do it later with PVA glue, where I can use a brush that won’t end up clogged with caulk. I also don’t want the same amount of water surface detail that he does.

I added extra details to selected sections, just as Mr Lloyd did. Here I’ve added modelling grasses and talus to a section: . The grasses were cut in half to get a better size (in the packet they are about 4 inches long) and then securely and firmly stuck them into the wet caulk. I would then check their free-standing position and adjust any clumps that were not more or less vertical. This sometimes required pulling them back upwards a millimetre or two. I’ve also stuck some talus here, to represent where stones and pebbles are visible after erosion.

I needed some river crossing areas. I chose to make fords. Here’s one: . I’ve tried to represent where the river widens a little and is a little shallower, hence the muddy wheel tracks and wheel ruts showing where everyone else has succesfully forded the river. I’m happy with this and especially the effects I got in shaping the caulk, but paint will really help in conveying water depth and so on and complete the picture in my (and hopefully anyone else’s) mind’s eye.

At the end of the session, all river sections were completed: as was a swampy section of river, a seperate free-standing swamp or bog and a lake!

I commenced at 3pm and finished at 7.30pm. I had a couple of five minute breaks, sure, but ultimately all this took four and a half hours. Most of that was spent shaping the caulk. Doing things like the talus and the grasses took very little time overall – probably 90% or more was spent in all the shaping, smoothing and adjusting of the caulk. A warning then to all of you – make sure you have a whole afternoon or a good few hours if you want to do this yourself! Also remember this – Mr Lloyd added all that extra caulk and shaped it to create water ripples and riffles – if I had also done that, maybe I would have needed another 2-3 hours?

Anyway, this caulk needs a full seven days to be fully cured – so it can sit on the spare table and enjoy this weeks’ Autumn warmth.

Panthers tomorrow.

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One Response to “How I made my 20mm wargaming river (“Carving out a river, on a Wednesday afternoon…” continued)”

  1. […] Episode 2:  How I made my 20mm wargaming river (“Carving out a river, on a Wednesday afternoon…” continued… […]

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