I can count the number of bases I’ve built with one hand. Hell, with one finger. When I was a kit, I made a very poor water base for Monogram’s OS2U Kingfisher. It was my first and last foray into placing a build into its natural habitat.
For 2014, I aim to change that, beginning with the Challenger.
My inspiration? This one maddeningly low-res photo. I’m not intending to recreate it exactly, but kinda get somewhere in the vicinity. More snow, more mud, more elevation…
From what I’ve managed to gather, flat bases are somewhat easier. Little bit of plaster, little bit of paint, and viola, terrain.
But this base needs more than “slightly not flat”, so I turned to some scrap styrofoam lying around in the garage.
I started out cutting the foam with a knife – which made a mess – and then with my Dremel with a rotary cutter attached – which made a HUGE MESS.
The next night, I managed to track down an electric knife, which sped things up considerably. Though I still used the Dremel for smaller scale shaping.
The end result wasn’t too bad.
Adventures in Celluclay
Foam is a great material for establishing terrain, but it definitely needs to be sealed with something. First, because foam texture isn’t all that lifelike and second, the stuff reacts poorly to many different chemicals used in this hobby. And by reacts poorly, I mean melts.
To coat the foam, I opted to use Celluclay, which is essentially paper mache. Mix it with some water, make a nasty, grayish paste, and slather it on. It’s pretty easy, but definitely messy.
Adding the track marks was actually very easy. I simply grabbed the set of track links out of my Challenger Mk.3 kit and pressed them into the Celluclay after it had set up a bit. Then I took the Challenger with the tracks attached and pressed it in as well. That’s it. Very little mess.
The only downsides I experienced with the celluclay were:
- As it dried it pulled the foam base up slightly at the corners
- I found it challenging to get smooth borders on the sides
Next time around one of my missions will be figuring out how to do a better job with those borders.
You know what’s slower than watching paint dry? Watching Celluclay dry. It starts out as a rather dark gray and goes lighter as it cures. At least it’s easy to tell when it’s fully dry – but it took several days.
To set up the base and provide an extra layer of protection to the foam (which still peaked through in a few random places), I slathered the whole thing with some cheap acrylic craft paint.
I’ve been planning all along to make this a snow base, and to that end I’ve determined to use the new stuff from Precision Ice & Snow.
But I didn’t want to waste it getting coverage over the painted base, so I decided to lay down some “base snow” with some Woodland Scenics snow first. Using a tip I picked up from Andy (deafpanzer) over at Modeler’s Social Club, I mixed the snow with Woodland Scenics landscape cement (glorified diluted white glue) until it was at a slushee-like consistency, then spread it on with a popsicle stick.
Overall, the Woodland Scenics stuff is decent. Not great, but as a base snow layer it’ll do.
Oh, and I’m Still Working on the Tank
In between my adventures with the base, I’ve been making a bit more progress on the Challenger as well, starting with a drybrushing of Model Master Dunkelgrau.
Stay tuned for more in Part III, when I’ll be weathering the Challenger and pushing further on the base.