Friday, 29 March 2019

Normandy Farmland - Making fields

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been gathering materials and experimenting with several ideas for mass producing some cheap and easy terrain fields. During the Painting Challenge, I made a load of Boccage hedgerow suitable for 15mm Normandy games and quickly realised I needed fields to put between the hedges. Commercially produced wargames terrain can be quite expensive to buy and at a recent show, I looked at some simple ploughed fields that ranged in price from £7-12 depending on their size and complexity. I needed quite a lot of these and quickly came to the conclusion that I could replicate the commercial examples for a fraction of the cost. The following examples are the product of that lightbulb moment and have been produced for under £2.00 each. 



So the technique is very simple and well within the ability of most modellers. The key to success I have discovered is using the right materials. I experimented with various products, including rubber matting and a range of sealants and pastes. In the end, I found some thin MDF for the baseboards and paintable exterior window sealant/caulk for the textured surface (details below). These can then be finished off with regular acrylic paints, flock, tufts etc to produce a range of effects. The best thing about these materials is the finished fields are very thin (not more than 2mm) and sit flush on the surface of your game mat or table.

I sourced sheets of 1mm MDF online and cut it onto an assortment of different sizes. Then score the surface to give the plaster/caulk something to key into. 
Everflex One Hour Caulk / Flexible Decorators Filler is a fast drying flexible decorators filler and sealant which can be overpainted with all paint types. Importantly it remains flexible when dry so it doesn't crack when bent. I bought a brown version but it also comes in white. Using a spatula I spread it across the board to a depth of no more than 1mm. 



Any suitably textured scraper could be used to create the furrows in the plaster. I, of course, went for the over-engineered option and made myself a brush using offcuts of wooden lolly sticks. I like the 'rough' look this gives but if you want cleaner furrows a cheap comb would probably achieve the same result and would be easier to clean! 

The Caulk I used surface dries in an hour but I left it overnight to cure fully and then sprayed all over with my usual brown primer. The caulk remains flexible so it won't crack or crumble if the boards flex when handling them. Once dry a light coating of spray Matt Varnish sealed the surface and it is ready to add some greenery. This is the fun bit, turning this basic ploughed earth into a wide range of different fields with different crops in them. The main cost in making these - other than the MDF - is the greenery. So fields with lots of grass tufts, vines or other plants will be more expensive than simple ploughed earth but the level of detail is entirely up to you.




I have made sixteen fields with sizes ranging from 7"x10" down to 5"x7". Total material costs came in at less than £30 although I am sure that with a little more sleuthing online the MDF could be bought a lot cheaper. As with all things, there are economies of scale and I'm sure the 'per unit' cost could be brought down even further. Either way, my homemade fields look as good as the commercial ones I recently saw on sale, and most importantly at a fraction of the cost. 

20 comments:

  1. Its worth adding, I have never made as much mess as I have over the last few days. There is static grass everywhere. Its in every nook and cranny of my desk; there's a halo of green on the carper around my desk; its in the curtains, on the dining table and inside my cloths. Maybe this job should have been done outside!

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  2. excellent fields mate jolly well done indeed

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    1. Thanks. I'm going to make some more, but first I need to make more Cornfields. I have a handful I made years ago but they are a bit small and I think I only had a five or six. The end plan is to have a patchwork of mixed arable farmland with a few pastures in between.

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  3. Excellent work Lee, I'm sure Toni still luvs you!!!!

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    1. She will love me more if I get the hoover out!

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  4. Those look great! And that row tool you made is very clever, although as you say maybe a bit too clever as compared to a cheap plastic comb.

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    1. Too clever by far! I've found a plastic comb that I'll use for the next batch.

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  5. Great tutorial - great looking result!

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    1. Thank you. I've saved myself a bundle of cash so I'm happy and I can 're-invest' the saving in some other models. That's how I'm selling it to the wife anyway.

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  6. Good looking stuff. Nicely done. Home made terrain often looks really nice on the table. 😀

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    1. Thanks. My rule for a good looking table is simple....lots of terrain. The more the better but that can be very expensive, so a project like this is the only way forward (unless you have a bottomless wallet).

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  7. Great Word BigLee!
    Thanks for tutoriel! :-)

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  8. I think you should have been a farmer or country lord = excellent fields!

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  9. Great looking terrain Lee, and multiscale t'boot. I guess you could even make them seasonal and have different sets for different times of year (with in the game).

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  10. excellent idea, need to make a few of them myself

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  11. Great idea. I'll be pinching that technique for sure!

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  12. Do you think this could be suitable for 6mm as well?

    Being lazy here, do you know what kinds of farming might have been done in the North African theatre?

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    1. Italian occupation of Libya saw over 20,000 settlers (the ventimilli) allocated the best land and access to resources. They improved irrigation and for the most part cultivated Olive Groves. There would also have been extensive grazing available for sheep and goats.

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