Monday, April 6, 2015

Cheap Flagstone Bases - step by step

I've recently been making good progress on my small Mordheim board, and I hope to post more on that soon.  In the meantime, I wanted to get some bases that matched up well with the flagstone texture on my board.  I'm getting sick of all my minis standing on bases coated in sand.  

Having looked at some of the great resin bases on the market, I found three problems.  First, the bases are expensive and I am cheap.  Second. they don't really match up well with the particular pattern on my board.  Third, I couldn't find any slotta base styles and I didn't want to cut off the mini tabs. 

So, I decided to home-brew my own bases with stuff I had on hand.  I used a spackle/glue mix on my Mordheim buildings to replicate stucco and I decided to do something similar on the bases.  Like home-brewing beer, results were mixed, so consider this a bit of an experiment.  I'll try to point out some of the mistakes I made, so you can avoid them!

Here's the "ingredients":

Bases of your choosing.  I needed to complete eight 25mm square bases. 
Very fine sand.
White Glue
Throw away cup.
You'll also need some water and, if you want, cheap acrylic craft paint to color the mixture.  And now, the recipe:
Dollop of spackle.  You don't need much, as you'll be spreading it thin.  I used a spackle knife for mixing and spreading. 
Add some glue, about half the amount of the spackle.  If you've done any work around the house, you know spackle sands and cracks very easily - adding the glue makes it rock hard, more like cement.
Add in a bit of water (and, if you want to tint the mix, some paint) and then the sand, and start mixing it until . . . 
it has a smooth, spreadable consistency, but not runny.  You can see it sticking to the knife, like creamy peanut butter.
Spread it on the bases, trying to get a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch.  Then clean up the sides of the bases.  Best to do this while the bases are drying.
While the stuff dried, I poked through the slotta area to clear it out a bit.  Here's where I made a mistake in not cleaning it out enough.  Once the spackle/glue mix dries, it's very hard to get out of the slot.  And if the slot isn't clear, the tabs have a tough time fitting it.  I recommend you clear the slots very well with something like a popsicle stick or piece of thick cardboard, before it dries.
I left the bases to dry overnight.  Next morning, I finished cleaning up the sides of the bases with the back edge of an exacto knife.
Clean out whatever material is left in the slots (here I'm using a flathead screwdriver, and I also used a file).  Hopefully, you'll follow my prior advice and will have less work to do on this than I did.   
Using a flat edge file, grind a straight line into the base, to create the flagstone work. 
Then use a worn out exacto blade to scrape some small cracks into the base, keeping the lines thiner than the main flagstone separation lines.  
Painted up.  The bases took paint very well, though I rushed the dry brushing stages, as I was too excited!
I was a bit worried that the tops of the tabs would show, but I just painted them blackish grey and they blended in fine with the rest of the bases.
My original concern was that the spackle/glue mix wouldn't hold to the bases.  Turned out that my concern should have been cleaning the bases before they dried, as the dried mix is tough to get off.  Also, when I inserted some of the tabs into the bases before they were clear, the base bent a bit.  Again, keep those slots clear!

The glue/spackle mix is really great for terrain building, and I enjoyed using the same technique on bases. 

Thanks for stopping by, and let me know if you give this a try!