Sunday, February 26, 2012

To the Blue Foam Beyond Part II ......Shell Holes

     Having constructed my trench lines the next step was to add the contributions of the opposing side; a thorough shelling! I spent a bit of time going over photos of WW1 battlefields and was impressed with the accuracy of the gunners, almost all of the shell holes were in and amongst the trenches with rather few being in "No Man's Land". The times that I found significant numbers of shell holes in the space between the trenches was where there had been significant back-and-forth between the trenches and there had been shelling to stop counter attacks or where there had been a failed offensive that only advanced a short distance and thus Incorporated portions of the old, shell marked, enemy trenches. I decided to make rather fewer shell holes in my "No Man's Land" ( this went well with my desire to get on with things as I did not relic\sh the idea of doing 24 sq ft of shell holes).

      This being a game surface and not a diorama another significant concern was maintaining playability. Too often in the past I have made good-looking terrain only to find that the minis could not stand on it. I tried to keep a careful eye on the modelling process to ensure that the surface remained usable. To get a random placement of shell holes I took a handful of pennies and nickles and tossed them at the playing surface from about four feet away. The pennies marked the location of the smaller caliber shells, the nickels the larger ones. If a nickle landed face down it was a medium shell, face up indicated a heavy shell. I marked the locations with Sharpie and got to work. Below you will find the step-by=step on how I made the holes. Following the photos are two (crappy) videos of me making more holes, I lost my tripod so I ended up shooting these freehand with my left hand while trying to do the work with my right, the results are as bad as you would expect. They do seem to get the idea across, but I am buying another tripod!

     Click on the photos for a larger view

enough holes to look embattled, not too many to play over (I hope!)

I made some of the holes breach the edges of the trenches, I will add rubble later

smaller holes were made using the heat from the tip of the tool to melt the plastic foam

as the heat opens the cells the gas escapes and the plastic shrinks away

to widen the hole I make an X then another one 45 degrees off
 to delineate the overall area of the hole

then I fill in the gaps, melting the foam away with the hot tip

small nodules of melted plastic will form,
sweep them to the bottom of the hole with the tip of the tool for later removal

once they have cooled you can break them loose with your fingertip and sweep them away

cutting a larger hole requires slicing away the foam and removing chunks

cut around in a circle, keeping the tip in the center point, where the shell struck

as you cut you can remove parts of the foam

the last bit awaiting removal

     Now that we have shell holes everywhere we need to add the ring of ejected soil that surrounds every shell hole. I have two ways of doing this, but I have never worked on a project this size before so I will try both and decide which one I will use to complete the project after I see how much time and effort each one involves.

the first method is the tried and true wood glue and sand

don't be an idiot (like me) and add sand before you have all of your glue down,
 the sand gets everywhere  and sticks to the nozzle

one section done, two more to go

done, be liberal with the sand, it will be providing almost all of you vertical dimension,
 as the glue dries it shrinks

the No Man's Land boards have shell-holes mostly at one end

the next method exploits a property of one of my favorite glues, Gorilla Glue,
this stuff is tough, fast-setting and strong, it also expands by foaming up as it dries

moisten the surface before applying the glue,
this is tough as the blue board is smooth styrene, I sanded a little with some 80 grit

the glue will slowly begin to expand

I also tried this on some areas that I had sanded with the wood glue earlier
I moistened the sand before adding the Gorilla Glue and then more sand

spread the glue thinly over the moistened sand

you are looking for a thin glaze of glue

you don't have to load on the sand as the glue will expand,
 providing the extra dimension you need

in about fifteen minutes or so the glue will have expanded

if the glue rises too much you can press it down with your fingertip,
 you should probably use gloves like it says on the bottle as the glue is very sticky at this point

there was enough sand on it to keep from sticking to my finger

lightly sand for the most rise

wood glue and sand does not rise very high, perhaps 1/16"-3/32" or so

you can add more layers of glue and sand as you see fit

Gorilla Glue, it creates about an 1/8th of an inch in height

it also has a neat texture that looks good to me

         Here are the two videos; one is one making small shell holes the other on larger ones. Somebody pointed out to me that a soldering iron would work as well for this sort of thing, I am not certain of the ignition point of blue board so BE CAREFUL if you are crazy enough to try that method!


  1. Can't way to see more. Some where buried in boxes in the basement I another set of WWI trench warfare rules. Along with was a set of rules for the Aussie Cav in the middle east fighting the turks. Like the idea of gorilla glue. Best glue around today.

  2. Coming along really well. Great stuff.

  3. Very nice.

    I used a fork to dig out my craters and used the bit of foam dug out to build up the crater lips before applying sand.