Monday, January 27, 2014

Forest or Jungle Paths

Pathways for jungles or forests made out of acrylic caulk. The colorful flower foliage is also newly created, using the same technique I did for the "Jungle Pieces".
The last terrain pieces that I wanted to have for my next installment of my 28mm Pulp adventure were jungle or forest paths. The board for this game will be mostly jungle (as will later ones). So, rather than put a lot of variously-shaped pieces out on the table, plop trees on them and say, “This is jungle”, I figured to do it the opposite way. I would say the entire board is jungle EXCEPT designated areas. These areas would include pathways through the jungle that explorers could follow and move on more quickly.

I did a lot of searching on the internet (as well as soul searching!) to decide how to create them. Obviously, the cheapest, simplest, and least attractive way would be to cut out pieces of brown felt and say, “Voila!” Next in line, I could look for a suitable material — such as suede or other fabric — that had more of a dappled look to it. Another idea would be to cut them out of thin styrene and flock them. The one I actually settled on was an idea I found on The Lead Adventure Forum and The Miniatures Page. It involved using paintable acrylic caulk to create the roads — which would easily translate for me into forest pathways. I read several tutorials on it, which I will link at the end of this post. The material seemed to be very similar to what the maker must have used for the latex river pieces that I’d bought at Historicon. The thing that excited me the most about trying this method was that I could translate it into other types of terrain. I could use it to make that swamp or bog that I’ve been wanting to do. I could use it to make wider rivers than the ones I created. I could even use it to create a pond — heck, anything I really wanted to make with it!

The tutorials all used the caulk in slightly different ways. The biggest variation seemed to be whether to use a base material or simply use the caulk itself as the terrain piece. One tutorial advised using a fabric base and to spread the caulk atop it. Another advised using a plastic mesh (called “granny grate”) — similar to what I used as my window panes on my Saxon church. Still another advised using it without any base material. I decided to go with a felt base because I was worried about the latex sticking to flocking and picking it up off other pieces. I would doubtless end up stacking them up and I didn’t want the flock I was going to put on the pathway surface to be pulled off by the bottoms of the pieces piled on top of them.
Various shapes for path sections drawn on white paper, cut out and traced onto the felt
With that decided, I drew out the shapes I wanted for my pathways on a sheet of white paper. I cut it out and traced it onto a piece of brown felt with permanent marker. This was cut out with fabric scissors — sharp scissors are a must, I’ve found, if cutting a lot of felt. I picked up a 5.5 ounce (162 ml) tube of “Premium All Purpose Elastomeric Sealant” in the cedar color. This is a medium tan which would be a good base for the pathway color. The brand name for mine was “White Lightning,” but what you are looking for is paintable acrylic caulk. Do NOT get silicone caulk — it repels water and you will hate yourself (I read) when you go to paint it.
Paintable acrylic caulk in "cedar" color -- the material that would form the surface of my paths
The tutorials also recommended to cut a slice of cardboard to put inside of a large ziplock bag to use as your working surface. The caulk peels right up off of the ziplock bag once dry — and it IS quite messy. I squeezed out 5 lines of the caulk onto the first, 2-inch wide pathway. I then took a half inch wide strip of cardboard and smoothed it out. Don’t worry about overlapping the edges, as you’ll trim it up later. I found that using the cardboard in the opposite direction from which I went to squeeze the caulk onto the felt helped keep it from lifting the line of caulk off of the felt. I got better at it as I went on to other pieces. As the tutorial instructed, I gave it about 20 minutes to begin setting, and then took a wide, soft brush, wetted it with water, and smoothed out the caulk. If you are doing a road instead of a forest path, this would be where you would add in ruts and cart or wheel tracks. Since mine is a footpath, I went for a smoother surface. While it was wet, I sprinkled on a number of smaller pebbles to represent rocks buried in the path surface. I pressed them down slightly into the caulk with the other end of the paint brush. I would add smaller gravel at a later stage. These were the big stones that I wanted partially buried in the path’s surface.
Lines of caulk squeezed out onto the felt base, which itself sits atop a ziplock bag with a piece of cardboard inside to stiffen it as a working surface
I let it dry about six hours (as the tutorials recommended). Then I peeled it up off of the ziplock bag and was pleased to see it worked to perfection as a surface. I took my sharp fabric scissors and trimmed up the edges, eliminating any rough edges. Then I took my reddish-brown earth color that I use on bases and watered it down so it was only about 1/4 to 1/3 paint. I painted this over the tan surface of the road. While it was wet, I sprinkled on Woodland Scenics coarse and medium ballast — hoping the mixture would “grab” it, and affix it into place. The wash of reddish brown settled into the lower places of the road nicely. It was at this point that I “fell down on the job” and forgot to keep taking photos. My apologies. Once it was dry, I did a very light dry brush of khaki over the surface of the road and ballast. I hit the embedded stones a bit heavier with the dry brush to make them pop out more, visually. Then, I took my normal ink wash and diluted it by half with distilled water. I painted this over the surface of the road — trying my best not to pull off the tiny pieces of ballast that would represent scattered pebbles or gravel on the surface of the path.
A wet paint brush smoothes out the caulk. This is where you would add any other embellishments, like wheel ruts, potholes, etc., if you wanted.
Once it was dry, I took straight white glue and applied it to patches here and there, mostly along the edges of the pathway. I then sprinkled the glue with Woodland Scenics blended green turf. I followed this up with beads of more white glue which would each receive a piece of Woodland Scenics clump foliage. I bought three different green tones awhile back, and mixed them here and there on the path surface. Once the white glue was dry, I mixed up a batch of 50/50 white glue and water and painted it over the entire road surface. This is to “cement” down the flocking. A light coating of dullcoate spray followed to take off any sheen, but not so heavy as to give it a thick enamel surface. I wanted the pathway to be flexible and be able to be take handling without cracking. I’m not sure if that would make it crack, but since the white glue would provide the primary coating on it — and white glue is slightly flexible — I needed the spray only to give it a nice matte appearance.
The pathway pieces, dried and with edges trimmed up. Note also the stones embedded in the surface of the road.

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