An Idol moment and a foam cutting table

In my doddery old age, I thought I would invest in a hot wire table to make slicing up blue foam a bit easier.
The one I chose is pictured below – I have marked the tabletop with lines at 1cm intervals to make it easy to cut to the required thickness. the guide bar makes straight cuts easy. I’ve not used it a lot yet, but it seems like a decent bit of kit. Got it from ebay for £35 – link here; hotwire cutter – I have no link with the seller.
I’m sure that with practise, freehand cuts would be easier, but at the moment it is easy to misjudge it and end up making a mistake. I wanted to come up with a way of being able to cut things in different shapes, and be able to produce things to a consistent size when I need to, and so decided to try making some templates from thick card. The wire won’t cut or burn them, and being softer than the wire, they should not damage the wire either.
The first project was to create a fancy base for a big statue. I obtained a crouching winged demon/gargoyle from some kind of trinket store. It looked a bit benign, so I added some horns and wing spikes, by drilling into the resin and inserting wire, then building the spikes with green stuff. I’d still rather it looked nastier, but it’s ok.
I could have put it on a rectangular base, but decided I wanted something a bit more exotic. I decided on an oval shape, but have a series of indentations where smaller statues will help support the top of the plinth. The smaller statues are plastic orcs from a boxed game I got years ago.
I trimmed the figure bases and cut the weapons to the same height as the top of the head. The base cutting was done at this time so that I could work out how big to make the indentations.
To create the template, I started by drawing up a rectangle on some thick card that could accommodate the main statue, and drew the required oval shape within it. Using the smaller figures, I marked up how wide the indentations had to be. Next stage was to cut out the basic oval shape from the card. When that’s done, I marked out the indentations using a handy little tool that I got from Poundland for £2. It has a little blade instead of a pencil and makes cutting the circular indentations very easy. This shows the template, the small figures and the cutter.

01 template and cutter
A piece of 25mm blue foam big enough for the template was then cut, and the template added to the top using a couple of bits of blu-tac.
Back to the cutting table. Loosen the straight guide and move it out so that the piece to be cut is not obstructed. Using the template, run the hot wire around it, and you get the resulting shape. Not perfect, but ok for a first attempt and good enough for my purposes. These show the cut piece with the template attached and without. I suspect I can find a use for those offcuts somewhere, as well.

02 template on base03 cut base

Using some 4mm obeche, I then cut the top and bottom of the plinth, and sanded the both edges of the top piece to round it, and just the top edge of the bottom piece so that it sits flush on the ground. the grid was marked to try and get a good oval shape. It was was a larger oval than that used for the support stone, to give a good overlap of 7-8 mm all round.

04 top and bottom of plinth

Just realised I didn’t take enough pictures of the next stage. I needed to disguise the figure bases for the supporting figures, so decide to use the thick card that I used for the template, together with some filler. At the same time, to give a neat finish to that raised area, and add a little detail, I decided to use the same card to put a 4mm wide oval around the bottom of the supporting structure. I used a mixed of grey paint and plaster filler to disguise some of the joins. Could have been a better job, but I was a bit impatient to get it done. This picture shows the figures glued in place, the oval strip laid down and the bases disguise. Note that I constantly checked that the support central stonework would sit in the resulting indentation properly.

05 small figures based

I then sprayed the plinth top and bottom, along with the small figures, with grey primer. The stone plinth was given a dark grey undercoat, and any stonework that would show was heavily drybrushed with white to which a small amount of black and brown was added. Then using a mix of black and bronze, I painted the idol and the smaller figures. Apologies for the contrast on this one.

06 first coat

Bronze statues can acquire a green patina – verdigris I think – over time. Having looked at a fair number of pictures, there doesn’t seem to be a standard pattern to it – some have patches, some streaks and some are completely green. Suspect it’s down to the distribution of copper in the mix, perhaps. I applied a mix of sage green and white to the idol and the other figures, leaving a few patches bare here and there, and on the idol in particular, trying to streak it down a bit. I then glued it all together.

07 verdigris

I then applied 2 washes to give the impression of weathering. One was a brownish mix, and another greenish. Not everywhere got coated  – some got 1, some none, and others both. I have a feeling that copper is not good for plants, so I didn’t use the green on the bronze figures or around their feet – on the basis that tiny amounts of copper might get washed down. To represent weathering, I try to make it look that the water has taken the logical route to flow down, and the easiest thing to do is to apply it to the top in the hope that it would take the correct route. 1 tip – on a dry figure it tends to puddle where you put it unless you use a lot. One thing I found on the idol – it you use plain water to wet the surface, the wash will then flow down that surface much more easily.

Here are front and back shots of the finished figure.

08 completed09 back view

I have put 2 gems into the eyes – these were obtained with a fair number of others from a discount craft/bookshop chain called The Works. Lots of useful stuff in there.

Bit surprised that these have not been taken by treasure seekers in Frostgrave. Those claws seem to be a bit shiny, and there are some dark reddish stains around the claws and mouth – but hey, it’s just a statue, isn’t it?

Frostgrave archer statue

Another element done for the Frostgrave scenarios. This plastic archer came to me mixed in with a load of undead from eBay.  He’s a little small, and the two-dimensional pose and poor detailing meant I had no use for him as a normal model.

Frostgrave statue

Frostgrave statue

I popped him on a Frostgrave disc-shaped base on top of an old Citadel display base (which I also had no other use for) and hey presto, a rather handsome statue. The large leaves on the base are from birch seed casings – at the end of summer you can harvest these. The moss flock I dotted on him was an important part of making him look more like a statue, rather than just a model painted grey.

I’d be interested to know where this model comes from – he is made of bright red plastic, which is rather unusual?

Frostgrave Well of Dreams and Sorrows

I’ve been working on some of the bits required for the scenarios in the main rulebook. This is the “Well of Dreams and Sorrows”. As followers of this blog would expect, it has been made for tuppence-ha’penny from bits of scrap.

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

I dug out an unwanted CD (AOL CD from 16 years ago – good terrain makers hoard everything), and a cardboard tube that had some kind of soap in it. I covered the CD with pizza base (scratched the CD up a bit to give it something to key into and used plenty of PVA.  I then used a piece of tarmac (very rough and knobbly), to dent up the surface of the pizza base.  The pattern was cut in with a scalpel and then opened up with a pencil tip.

I cut a hole in the pizza base to exactly fit the cardboard tube and stuck that in. The lipping on the top of it is simply mounting board stuck to the top of the tube with PVA.

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

Well of Dreams and Sorrows

The water was done in the same way as this frozen pond. Unfortunately the card tube end wasn’t quite flat and it took 3 layers to get it flat enough. With hindsight I should have cut a separate disc as the base.

Detail of well

Detail of well

To decorate the edge of the well, I used Oyamaru and Super Sculpey. Oyamaru is a re-usable silicone rubber – it has the texture of soft putty when heated, but a firm rubber when cooled. I’ve found that it isn’t really good enough to mould bits of models, but is ideal for this sort of thing. First I sculpted the original of each detail in Super Sculpey and baked it hard.   I then heated some Oyamaru and pressed it on to the originals to make moulds. Once the moulds had fully cooled – I used one of those freezer packs that you put in cold boxes to speed this up, because I was pretty impatient by this point, I packed Super Sculpey in and rolled it flat on the back with a pencil. Then I carefully peeled the Super Sculpey out of the mould and repeated until I had eight of each. The second from the left is the original – you can see the detail is a bit sharper and deeper cut, but the copies are certainly good enough for scenery. Because the Oyamaru mould itself is done in minutes, and you don’t have to leave the Sculpey in the mould to harden, you can make multiple copies of something in less than half an hour.

After hardening the copies, I then cut them to size (I had deliberately done them slightly longer than the height of the well), and stuck them on all the way round with PVA. There was a bit of a gap along the edge of each one, which I filled with decorator’s caulk. In another flash of hindsight I realised that I should have made more effort to curve them to match the well – it was very fiddly filling the gaps.

Super Sculpey sculpts

Super Sculpey sculpts

Rogue trader – raid on illegal crops

A few photos from a Rogue Trader scenario that Rowan has been putting together. The Imperial Guard are raiding a farm where criminals have been growing wheat. This is of course illegal in the 41st millenium, due to its use in the highly addictive foodstuff known as “cheese toasties”. In the central building are a number of scientists gone bad, who are helping them refine the raw product and are essential to the operation. The pirate gang have to get them to safety, but the only exit is on the side that the Imperial Guard are attacking from.


The centre of the operation, surrounded by crops

To add a further complication, one of the gang feels that he has been cheated of his fair share of the profits and is planning to shoot the scientists with a crossbow (silent and deadly). He is loose in the building and will have to be stopped.


Pirate scum defend their operation


“Don’t let them destroy our livelihoods”

So far in play testing, the pirates have won once, and the Guard have won once.

Frostgrave statues

Some fairly chunky statues to add to the mix. The 4 in the first picture were Burger King giveaways – can’t remember where I got them from, but I only realised their provenance when I undercoated them and found the brand moulded into the back of the figure.  Bit of work with a scalpel and a respray sorted that.

The bases are made from blue foam sandwiched between 2 pieces of obeche woodstrip, around 4mm thick. The top piece is chamfered on both side to give a rounded profile. The bottom piece is chamfered on the top side only, so the bottom side sits flush to the ground. The figures are fixed to the top ssections  – one is screwed into place – tho others are partly hollow so I rammed and glued some wood offcuts, into them, then cut the offcut flush with the base and used woodglue to fix it to the obeche.

I tried 2 different effects for the blue foam sections. On the first I decided it be a single rectangle of carved stone, so simply applied a section of  decorative plastic tape to the blue foam, as per the end figures in the picture below. Looks ok, but a bit sterile to my mind. On the others, I decided that I wanted to have it look like it had been made from blocks and been plastered, and that the plaster had suffered over time.

To do this I used a propelling pencil to score it so that it looked like it had been made of 3 rows of blocks. I then mixed some filler and smeared it over most of the surface of the blocks – covering most of the scoring. When it dried I then rubbed each face against a flat sheet of sandpaper to get a flat thin layer. Some of it flaked off at this time, but no problem as I wanted it to look damaged. I then used a scalpel to take some more off to expose the blockwork and carve a few cracks.

Statues based

I then painted the bases with grey acrylic to protect the foam, and added a few pits of grit to the bases to stop them looking too pristine. I then sprayed them with grey primer.

A black/brown wash is then applied to the whole pieces.

Drybrush with white acrylic softened with a small amount of red-brown. This was done more heavily than for the pillars and ruins – I wanted these to stand out more.

I then painted the plaster with white paint to which a bit more red-brown had been added to give it a slightly pinkish appearance – the pics don’t show this all that clearly.

The final stage is to take a black/brown  wash, and a green/brown wash, and apply them selectively to weather the figures, highlight the cracks and hint at muck being washed down by rain and snow-melt. The following pics show the finished pieces with a 28mm figure for size comparison.

statues finished 1 statues finished 2

The following pictures show some of the statues pieces from the LOTRbox, and another statue – this time from a magazine I think, which have been given the same treatment.

statues 2 based statues 2 finished

Frostgrave pillars

Figured a few pillars would be useful to block line of sight. I cut a strip from a 25mm sheet of foam using a nifty little hot-wire cutting table I got from ebay, to get a strip about 25mm square.

Using a propelling pencil and a ruler, I mark the courses of blocks at 1cm intervals, then again using the ruler mark the vertical joints. You could do it freehand, but I think that masons knew their stuff and it looks better for straight lines at right angles.

I then cut them into various sections and leave one section spare that I will cut into individual blocks, which can eiher be placed on top of the column or around the base to represent those which have fallen around it. In the second example from the left in the picture below, I wanted to represent the situation where something has dealt the column a might blow and displaced a block in the middle. I cut the section at a suitable join, cut one of the blocks from the top of the bottom section, glued it back in place at an angle and glued the top section back on.

I then distressed the columns and blocks to represent damage accumulated over the years, and split some of the spare blocks to give me some broken pieces. You need to part cut them to snap them without deforming the block. I do the distressing with a dentists tool and pick at the blocks to get the right effect. Trial and error to get the look you want, but not difficult. Bear in mind that if a lock has suffered some damage it does not mean the adjacent block has – so the damage might stop at the join. Not always the case, but I think this sort of detail adds to the impression of realism.

Incidentally, the ornament on the right came from Pets at Home – a pet store chin here in the UK. Don’t know if it’s elsewhere but lots of them sell useful junk like this for decorating aquariums.

pillars foam

Next I mount them on chamfered mdf, and add some bigger lumps of rubble, as per the ruins in the earlier article. In the picture below a big chunk of decorative masonry, presumably that had been supported by the pillar, has crashed down and come to rest against it. The black pattern is decorative adhesive tape from Poundland. The brown bits are pieces of cork. The pillar to the right has a piece of broken block.

pillars based

A mixture of bird grits, pva, water and grey acrylic is then liberally applied to the base, and smaller amounts to any flat ledges.

pillars gunk

In the following order, I cover the whole thing in grey acrylic to protect the foam from spray paint, spray everything in light grey, drybrush with white softened with a small amount of red-brown, add a little more grit – this time without the grey acrylic to allow the colours to break up the grey a bit, apply a brown-black wash to the whole thing, a further wash with a green/black/brown applied more selectively to hint at mould and lichen in sheltered spots, a final drybrush with the softened white, perhaps a tuft of dry grass with some thin bristles from a cheap diy paint brush, and it’s done.

There is more detail in the ruins article.

Here is a pic, with a figure for scale.

pillars finished

Frostgrave ruins

I have 3 buildings that I have largely scratchbuilt which I did for an Osgiliath project, which like most of my projects, stalled. These will serve for Frostgrave, but snow and ice would make them less useful for Osgiliath, so I am not adding them to further models so that they will serve a dual purpose. I’m sure it probably snowed in Osgiliath, but it didn’t do it in the film!

These ruins are some GW plastic ruins that may have come in a 40k box. Not sure that the bullet holes are particularly Frostgrave or Osgiliath, but they will do the job. I mounted them on some 3mm mdf that I cut to shape and chamfered the edges. I then wanted to add in some rubble, consisting of broken masonry, timber and rougher chunks of stone which have been heavily weathered. The following pics show the initial pieces in place.

ruins based 1ruins based 2
These consist of some small chunks of cork I got ready-broken in a bag from one of the wargame terrain suppliers. I had some smallish blocks cut from a block of modelling clay which was getting too hard to use properly – I cut it into blocks for this purpose rather than just throw it away. Finally I produced some larger chunks of masonry from offcuts of blue foam, some scribed to show the component blocks and then distressed to show damage and breaks and others left unscribed but with sections of decorative adhesive tape from Poundland to indicate decorative masonry. Some of the foam blocks were cut to represent sections of stair to be put into the corners – these provide a vantage point for a figure to see over a wall or through a high window. Some broken pieces of timber completed the initial mix.
The larger chunks are glued into place using pva glue.

The next stage was to add finer rubble, consisting of 2 types of bird grit, one rounded and one more angular – it had crushed oyster shell in it – along with some fine sand. These were mixed with pva, water and some grey acrylic paint and worked in and around the buildings and larger pieces.
A few bits were applied to ledges on the buildings to show where rubble had been deposited.
The next stage is to paint the foam with grey acrylic – I will next spray the whole piece with a light grey and don’t want to risk it melting the foam.

On the first couple I then liberally applied a black/brown wash. The following pic shows the 3 steps;

ruins painted sprayed drybrushed

For further batches I left the wash out at this stage.
When the paint and the subsequent spray is dry, I then drybrush the whole thing with white acrylic to which a small amount of black and red-brown has been added to soften it a little.

All looks a bit grey at this stage, so I next mix some of the grit with pva and water and apply some of it here and there to break up that grey a bit.

sprayed drybrushed grit
Now for some organic matter, to represent where leaves and other vegetation has either been blown or gathered by creatures for a nest or lair. This consists of dried green tea leaves from teabags, along with some chopped fine bristles. Mixed with water and pva I use a brush to deposit bits and pieces, putting bigger clumps in suitable spots.

Next is to mix white with a small amount of red-brown which I water down a little, and this is applied to plastered sections of the wall on the inside of the building.

Washes next. I have 3 very watery washes – black to which a little brown is added, brown to which some black is added, and a black/brown to which green is mixed. I apply these randomly to each piece, trying to make it look like muck has been washed down by rain and snow melt, making sure that the ground area is fully covered. No real rule, but the green is to represent lichen and moulds so I’ll try to put these in sheltered spots and crevices.

To my mind it still looks a bit dark, so I again  dry brush with the softened white to lighten the piece. I try to steer clear of the non-grey bits, but it doesn’t matter too much.

The final bit was prompted by a building I saw in Birmingham yesterday on my way back to New St Station. It’s a stone building with a striking pattern of green moss and mould(?) on the sections above ledges and in the crevices running down to them. Should have taken a pic to show this. I decided to try this, mixing sage green paint with some filler powder, pva and a little water – the filler was to give it a tiny amount of bulk and texture to represent moss. The pic at bottom right shows it, although not particularly well.

I’m quite pleased with the results – hope you like them.

finished 1finished 2finished 4finished 3finished 5

Frozen Pond for Frostgrave


Frozen pond for Frostgrave

This is one of the more interesting test pieces I’ve made. I wanted to experiment with a water effect. A little artistic licence needed to be taken with the water – probably it would be covered in snow like everything else,  but I wanted to get that look that ponds sometimes have when they are just frozen over, and the water looks very dark against the white snow and ice dusted on top.

I started with a piece of hardboard and I roughed out the shape of the pond by sticking down corrugated cardboard. I then used my old friend, plasterboard adhesive, to cover it over to make smooth contours. The cardboard not only makes the piece a bit lighter but it gives the plaster something to key into – otherwise if you dropped it, it can smoothly break away from the hardboard in a single piece.

Frozen pond

Frozen pond

Once that was dry, I painted it all white with Acrylic Primer (the sort of thing house decorators use on woodwork). I gave it a very thin turquoise wash to make sure it looks a cool white rather than slightly grey/brown. Then I painted the water (which is the smooth surface of the hardboard), with a really dark brown. Next came a coat of PVA and Woodland Scenics snow flock.

When that was dry I applied Woodland Scenics Realistic water in two thin pours. After they had both fully cured, I painted on patches of Realistic Water with a brush and sprinkled with snow flock. It looked a bit blotchy, with hard edges to the blotches, so I had another go and carefully stippled it with the brush to break it up more.

This time I got the effect I was looking for, so following this successful test piece, I’m planning some slightly larger water features – possibly even some marsh with snow covered clumps of long grass sticking up.

Prototype Confrontation gangers by John Blanche?

Last weekend we nipped over to Foundry and took advantage of their sale to pick up a few odds and ends, (but trying not to add too much to lead pile). Obviously while we were there, we took a look through the cabinets, and I noticed these interesting models. Nothing is labelled, so what follows is purely my speculation.

For a start, they definitely look like John Blanche paint jobs – the choice of colours, the fine black detailing and the heavy gloss varnish – I’d be amazed if they had been painted by anyone else.


First up is some gangers with a strong ‘low-life’ feel. Tattoos, stubble, and the one front right is still wearing his prison uniform, judging by the arrows. I don’t recognise the base models of any of these. Initially I thought the front right one was one from the Rogue Trader pirate range, but closer inspection revealed that he wasn’t that similar at all.


Moving a bit further along are what look like two religions cultists. The red symbol looks like a variant on the Orthodox Christian cross, and the red on white also contributes to the pilgrim/crusade feel. Don’t recognise these either. I note that back right and front left are both wielding the same pistol, and it looks a bit like the bolt pistol from the original Space Crusade.blanche_confrontation_3

Into more familiar territory here. These are on conventional slotter bases and a slightly different style. Back left looks like Link from the Angel Gang and front left appears to be a converted junior. I’ve got the two models on the right myself. I don’t what back right is, but this one has a few pouches that mine doesn’t have, and to round it off at the front right, we have Space Santa.

Judging by the styling and the use of base figures, these are later than 1986 and probably before the end of the eighties as the style was shifting towards big battles and bright colours. I don’t recall ever seeing them in White Dwarf, and I’m guessing these were prototypes for Confrontation. The ‘criminal’ and ‘religious cult’ themes seem to point towards it, and Blanche was definitely involved in the concept art for that. They could have been done for the original Rogue Trader release, but they aren’t pictured in the rule book and I think they would have been.

What does everyone else think? Can anyone recognise any of the base figures – I’ve done pretty badly (unless they are unreleased).

Frostgrave scenery for practically nothing

Since just before Christmas, I’ve been churning out Frostgrave scenery, all of it made very cheaply. Total spend so far is around £20 and there’s enough to fill a 3ft square table already.

Insulation foam ruins

Insulation foam ruins

Specially bought:


  • Stones from the garden
  • Bits of dried plant. In the UK this is a good time of year to collect things, anything that’s lasted this long through the winter will be well and truly dried out.
  • Foam pizza bases (I didn’t buy the pizzas specially and then discard them).
Dried plant sprigs and stones from the garden

Dried plant sprigs and stones from the garden

From the store cupboard:

These are virtually all left over from building work or other projects. Either free, or I’ve used very small quantities of a large stock.

  • Plasterboard Adhesive (left over from building work – at 25kg for £9, that’s enough to last you for years if you buy it specially). You could also use any hard plaster such as Herculite.
  • Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. That’s quite pricey too at £10-15 per bottle, but I’ve only used about 5ml for a Frostgrave pond which is less than 20p worth. It’s great stuff – buy one and it will last you for dozens of little projects. I tried quite a few different water techniques and products, and this was the best.
  • Scraps of extruded polystyrene. These are bits of insulation that I peeled off plasterboard.
  • Scraps of hardboard left over from building work or scavenged from old picture frame backs etc.
  • Some resin gothic windows – I was given these. They would be fairly expensive to buy, but you can make your own by cutting them from mounting board. See this tutorial I wrote years ago: Gothic Ruin
  • 5mm Foamboard. This was left over from work presentations, so it cost me nothing, but you can get it for less than a couple of pounds for an A1 sheet if you shop around.
Work in progress - needs paint and flock

Work in progress – needs paint and flock