Sunday, 25 November 2012

15mm Gettysburg Terrain

I was sitting in a campground in Round Top, mere paces south of Big Round Top in Gettysburg, looking at gravel. My Dad and I had spent the day touring the battlefield, looking at monuments and trying to get a feel for the terrain. We saw the huge boulders of Devils Den and paced along side the stone and rail fences that line Cemetery Ridge. The dark gravel at the campground was interspersed with larger lighter coloured rocks. Hmmm…

Stone and rail fences on Cemetary Ridge
One method of recreating rail fences in miniature is to use the real material—wooden rails! The campground gravel would make perfect stone fences in 15 mm! Shown are rail fences made for Jonhny Reb gaming. They were created from wooden toothpicks and the gravel I picked up in Pennsylvania.* The models show a technique I have been using more and more in my models: rather than build a model and then have to paint it, it seems to me to be more effective to build the model with natural or pre-coloured materials that do not require painting.

Fences near the Bryan barn,
After spending a few evenings with a sharp craft knife and a box of band aids, I was able to trim to square a small heap of toothpicks. The “rails” should be fairly even along their length and the rounded tips of the toothpicks should be trimmed off. I then prepared a light wash of black acrylic craft paint diluted with water in a recycled plastic yogurt container. The cup was big enough to hold a couple ounces of wash and my pile of toothpick rails. The rails were placed into the wash and allowed to soak for several minutes. They were then spread out on some plastic wrap and left to dry.

15 mm fence sections using Gettysburg gravel and toothpicks!
While the rails dried I cut some thick card (I use 1/16 thick “show card” which is the cheap form of matte board) to approximately 2 inch by ½ inch size bases. These were then painted grass green and terrained with model railroad grass. Usually the acrylic paint is sufficient to stick the grass to the card, but you can mix the paint with a bit of white glue for extra adhesion. These particular pieces were made several years ago when I was still using the sawdust style of railroad grass. Woodland Scenics makes various colours and textures of “Turf” which I am now using on current models. I liked the irregular nature of the sawdust, but it has become harder to find these days.

The Iron Brigade advances to the fence line. 15mm figures painted by my friend Kirk Doherty.
When everything was dried, I began to glue a layer of gravel along the center line of the card bases. I used super-tacky white glue, which dries clear. I sorted the size of the gravel to keep the fence sections uniform, but on some bases I glued on a second layer of stones. Its best to let your glue dry first before proceeding. I get antsy and like to work quickly, but it is frustrating when things don’t stay put or fall off the bases later because they were disturbed before the glue had a chance to dry. On top of the stones I glued a line of rails. This was followed by the “X” form of the support rails, allowed to dry again and finally a top rail was added to the crux of the “X” supports. And, the best part, no further painting is required.

Devil's Den looking towards Little Roundtop.
The larger rocks I had picked up were used to build a Devil’s Den type formation. A heavier plywood base was cut to size and the large rocks were washed and hot-glued into place. Some white styrofoam sheet was used to slope the hill behind the rocks. I used fairly thick pieces of foam, but slope could be built up in several layers. Try a stand of your figures on the slope to see if they slide off. Remember a fairly shallow slope is desired, but the rocks are about 3 inches high and I didn’t want this terrain piece to get too big a footprint. The foam was finished off with some drywall mud which was spread thickly on the foam, allowed to dry and then sanded smooth. This was followed by craft paint green and the remainder of my railroad grass. I added a toothpick and pebble rail fence to finish it off. The rocks were left their natural finish.

Devil's Den in 15 mil using "Gettysburg" rocks!

* It would be illegal, immoral and fattening to pick up “samples” from the actual battlefield. I suspect my gravel was trucked in from New Jersey, but to me it is “authentic” Gettysburg!

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