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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Making a Modular Multi-Level Gaming Table, Part 2

You may remember that we left the modular table with two empty frames previously to be able to create some negative-depth landscape. Before I got onto that, however, I decided to paint the edges of the frames using black emulsion.

This is after one coat, I gave them two to ensure an even black finish. With that done, the next thing to do was to create a negative-depth frame. With another piece of hardboard, I marked out a 12" square inset 4" from one corner. I then used a 10mm drill bit to drill and entry point in the hardboard for the jigsaw.

Next I cut out the square

Leaving an even hole in the hardboard, so;

I then attached this to the frame in the same way I had with the intact pieces.

Now, to create the negative-space, I needed to re-attach the piece I'd just cut out, but at a lower level. Fortunately I still had the remnants from cutting the frames.

Of course these would be too large if used as they were, so had to be trimmed a little to accommodate the extra depth of the hardboard, otherwise they would protrude beyond the depth of the frame.

These trimmed pieces were attached to the cut-out...

...and then to the main piece. Voila! A hole with a bottom!

Of course, the hole needed more than this, but as the next part of the work was indoors, I needed to add a little protection to the frames so that they wouldn't damage the kitchen table either during further work, or in their gaming lifetime. This helps my wife tolerate my hobbies and keep our marriage intact!

So, protection comes in this form;

It's a piece of black felt, available from most fabric shops for about 50p a piece. I bought 5 pieces, just in case, but each almost does two squares. The next step is to cut the felt into strips - I used a rotary cutter as it stops the felt stretching.

The strips are then glued with PVA glue to the bottom of the frames

I glued several small pieces to the bottom of the "negative" space too.

OK, table and partner sanity preserved and wrath pre-empted, progress could be made on making the negative terrain look less like an elevator shaft. This starts by blocking in the sides with polystyrene, roughly cut to size.

Additional pieces were then cut and glued in so that it would have some form and a "ramp" of rock and earth going down to the bottom.

As you can see, this was all secured with copious quantities of white glue. At this stage it looks less like terrain and more like some sort of shipping crate accident, but were making progress. Honest! This was left for a couple of days to set before continuing.

The next purchase is some standard household filler - I used one suitable for indoor and outdoor use as it's pretty robust.

But before we get to that, we need to sculpt the polystyrene a bit. For this I used a large soldering iron - you might have a better, purpose-made tool, but this works.

Make sure your work area is well-ventilated, as the fumes of melted/vaporised polystyrene are both unpleasant and toxic. Using the soldering iron, I took off the square edges of the polystyrene and carved vertical scars and clefts in what would become the rock face.

A lot more of this later, and we were ready for filler!

For the filler I took white glue, diluted with water, and filler....

...and mixed to an even consistency.

I then took standard toilet paper;

Take a sheet, put it in the filler mixture and apply to the polystyrene. The tissue helps give a support structure to the filler and increases the resistance to cracking later on (as does the white glue).

Repeat this until you feel everything has a pretty even layer. Don't apply too thick as it will take forever to dry - better to build up in layers.

Once that is almost dry, I then diluted some white glue 50/50 in water

And applied with a brush to areas of the terrain;

Individual sheets of tissue were then laid on these and pressed down with a light stabbing action of the brush.

This was repeated across the terrain

This softens the features somewhat and strengthens everything a bit more. I then added some filler powder to the remaining glue/water mix...

...and painted this on areas I felt needed it. Now time to leave it to dry completely before Part 3!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Making a Modular Multi-Level Gaming Table

On the Spartan Games Community there was some talk about the table that was used for the Planetfall game at Claymore earlier this year. This features areas where the terrain dips below the surface of the other tiles, and people were speculating exactly how this was done. I want to show you the basic principles of this as it's actually much easier than many might think!

So, the modular tiles used at Claymore are 2' x 2', based on a simple wooden frame about 7cm deep. These are topped with boards in the majority of cases, but some are sculpted in negative.

To make a table like this is surprisingly easy - first you need some wood, I used eight pieces of 1.8m x 70mm x 17mm (about 6' x 2.5" x 2/3"), which cost around £20. The first thing to do with this is measure 2' lengths - we'll need 12 of these in total for six 2' squares.

Make sure you mark the side to cut on here, as you want them to be as accurate as possible.

I used a jigsaw as I wanted the edges to be as clean as I could get them, but feel free to use whatever means you have.

Now for the other two sides of each square, we need to take the thickness of the wood into account or the squares won't end up as squares....

So I subtracted 1.5" from the 2' total width and measured out these lengths too;

Next step is to pre-drill the holes in the long sections.

Once this is all done, its time to start joining the sections together. Here you can either pre-drill the holes into the ends, or you can just go straight ahead and screw them in. Whichever you do, make sure the sections are at 90 degrees (or as close as you're able to get them).

Once all four sides are connected, it's time to put the board on top. I used hardboard, which is under £6 for a 2' by 4' sheet. With these dimensions, all that's needed is to cut it in half.

To attach to the frame, first put a bead of glue around the top of the frame.

Then pop the frame onto the hardboard. If you want to put the hardboard onto the frame, that's fine too - I tried it both ways and there's no difference with either way.

If you put the frame on the hardboard, you now have to invert the whole assembly. Then the board needs to be fixed whilst the glue dries. Make sure the hardboard is flush with the end and secure a single corner using a panel pin.

No you'll see how straight you made your frame! If it's perfect, the hardboard will align nicely with all the edges. if it doesn't, now is your chance to pull it into shape and secure at the far corner with another pin.

Once square, you can go ahead and add more panel pins to ensure the board is firmly attached - I used three per side plus the corner pins. Now you should have a nice, strong but relatively light baseboard almost 3" high.

You just have to repeat that five more times and you're done!....except I only based the next three of my frames, and left two open. This is because I want to use the open frames to build terrain below the frame level.

Here are four of the frames all laid out....

And again, with one of the "open" frames that will be built down...

This was easy to do, and doesn't take long at all - to create four closed and two open squares took me 2 hours from scratch (including all the measuring etc), and cost just over £30 - not bad for a modular 6' x 4' table. Next time I'll look at detailing and dressing the table, and building down into those open frames. I hope this has inspired some of you out there to try something similar, and I'll see you next time!