Saturday, May 12, 2012

Let's Talk Terrain: Afghan Village

Now that I had the basic concept of how to scratch-build a small structure out of foam insulation and cardboard I was confident in moving on to somewhat of a "mass production" phase. I wasn't sure exactly how many buildings that I wanted to start with, but 6-9 seemed like a good target.

Waking up early on a saturday morning and went straight to work.

Tools and materials: Hacksaw (a long drywall saw would be better because you're not constrained by the blade holder), Hot Glue Gun, Hobby Knives (large and small), Pen, Pink Foam Insulation, Half Inch White Foam Sheet, Metal Ruler, Pencil, paint brushes of various sizes; Goop (Caulk, Glue, Water, Plaster), Paint

The first two structures I made had flat roofs though I wanted to have a bit of a ledge around the buildings for cover and aesthetics. To compensate on the two that had already been completed, I cut some rectangles out of 1/2" foam board and glued them around. For the rest of the buildings, I had a design change in mind. I would simply make the walls 1/2" higher, put braces inside the four corners to hold the roof, which would be cut to size and dropped down to leave the remaining 1/2" lip.

So, cut the pink foam sheet to long 3" high rectangles. I'd measure out two to four cuts on that rectangle, maybe at 6", 6", 5", and 4". Making those cuts, I'd end up with:

2) 6"x3"x1" rectangles
1) 5"x3"x1" rectangle
1) 4"x3"x1" rectangle

Then, using the hacksaw, I'd saw down the middle of the 1" edge, creating two for every one rectangle. Ending up with:

4) 6"x3"x1/2" rectangles
2) 5"x3"x1/2" rectangles
2) 4"x3"x1/2" rectangles

These would be used as the walls for 2 buildings. A 6"x4"x3" and a 6"x5"x3"

I repeated until I had enough walls for 9+ buildings of varied sizes.

You'll also need a good amount of braces to put in the inside corners to hold the roof up. I had sheets of 1/2" white foam (I think about 12" wide) so I cut a number of 1/2" x 12" lengths. Those were then cut to 2" braces.

I had some extra 1/2"x12" strips so I decided they could be used as small walls.

After sawing through the centers, I sanded the rough edges down, especially flattening out the edges of the walls where they would be glued to their connecting walls.

Once I had the basic structural components ready, I started to draw and cut out windows and doors. The size of the windows and doorways can very, but you generally want to have the tops of them all in line with each other, more accurately representing where a structural beam would be. I went with 1 1/2" high. This is also when you would want to add any brickwork (unless it's wrapping a corner in which case you'd want to have the building put together.

To do the brick work, first I cut a little away into the wall, as if the outer layer of plaster or stucco had broken away. You then draw out your brick pattern with pen, trace the pattern with your hobby knife, making sure to only cut into the foam a little bit. After that, run a pencil through your cuts to widen the spacing a little bit. Finally, using the blunt end of a pen or piece of scrap material, push a few bricks in.

Glueing them together is straight forward enough. These buildings are purposely not attached to a base of any sort. This allows for greater flexibility and modularity, where you can stack smaller buildings on larger ones, or push them together. That being the case, when you glue them, make sure that you're standing them in place on the table so that when you're done all four walls are flush with each other on the bottom, even if the top ends up being uneven. You don't want a wobbly building!

Once your four walls are assembled, glue your braces on the inside corners. They'll be recessed 1" down from the top of your building. I then just measured the inside perimeter of the roof, cut a roof out of the 12" foam and pressed it down into place. Resulting in the desired 1/2" lip.

I then started to apply Goop to my first six so that the first coat could dry while I went on to my next three. For most of my buildings I didn't add paint to my Goop directly and applied it after, but some later on I did mix the paint directly in. At this point I'm not sure which method I prefer because you'll still want to likely do some more painting when they dry, but I guess it doesn't hurt that you can mix in a base coat of your primary color. I plan to move onto more of a modern city landscape where I'll probably mix some gray directly in for concrete.

I was moving along nicely and still wasn't satisfied that 9 buildings would be enough. So I quickly cranked out another six to end up with Fifteen. I'll hold there for a while, but I'm already eager to try some new structures!


  1. My favorite part is the brick work you add, looks incredibly realistic in that photo!

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