Sunday, 3 August 2014

Laser cut 28mm terrain buildings - wild west

A while back, we made some simple 28mm buildings for a wild west shoot out miniatures board game. Having turned our backs on the laser cut buildings that seem to be flooding the board gaming market in recent months, we decided to "scratch-build" our buildings from lolly sticks and coffee stirrers.

The results were quite nice, but the overall process took far too long. So we tried a half-way house - laser cutting rows of shingles for the roofs and cutting planks to make the walls of the buildings. Again, a successful trial, but still making a complete building - even a relatively small, single storey one - was tediously slow.

So now it's time to give laser-cut buildings a try. We know that scratch-building gives impressive results. Shingle roofs and plank-built walls look great when painted up and drybrushed, but - to date - we've nothing to compare them to. So we thought we'd at least put some buildings together, and compare them to our scratch-built ones.

Using photos of existing models on the 'net as "inspiration" we got busy with Inkscrape

We designed and cut a small, single story building (with 3 inch sides, 3 inches deep)...

...and a larger, two-storey building, again with a 3 inch square footprint:

Being impatient, we cut the doorframes and windows from regular 3mm mdf - ideally these would be cut from 2mm, as the 3mm gives them a slightly cartoon-chunky look

The pieces fitted together easily. Unlike a lot of mdf laser-cut buildings, we tried to keep the number of interlocking tabs to a minimum. We're using PVA glue to assemble our parts, which means putting a few sections together, then leaving overnight to dry before further assembly.

Superglue (the real stuff, not the nasty knock-off clone from Poundland) does a pretty good job of gluing mdf together, with the advantage of not needing to be left for a few hours to try before putting more pieces together. But it does suffer from "instant grab" which means you need to be pretty accurate when placing each piece.

Because we hadn't yet tried a full fit of all the pieces, we decided to stick with PVA - to give us time to slide pieces around if they didn't quite line up, first time.

The finished double-storey building looks pretty good. There are a number of first-time design faults that need to be addressed in the second version, but for a first time try, it looks ok.

For a start, things like the top plank isn't wide enough to sit on top of the decorative false-roof parts. This can easily be corrected in the next iteration. The window frames are too chunky, and we designed the canopy supports to line up when cut from 2mm mdf, not the thicker 3mm stuff we had to hand. But these are simple design problems that are easily fixed. The actual, finished building looks quite nice - and even though it has a relatively small 3" footprint, still looks a decent scale for the "heroic 28mm" (i.e. 32mm high) miniatures from Black Scorpion.

Unfortunately, it still looks like a flat, laser-cut building. We're going to try drawing (heavily) on the wood to create a grain effect, before painting over the whole thing with a primer and base coat, to give it a little more character.

 Perhaps a computer-printed sticker for the canopy sign and some posters to go along the sides of the building are the finishing touches it needs? According to some sources, advertising was just as prevalent, garish and clever as today's efforts to get people to part with their hard-earned. Except instead of pasting adverts all over the internet, they just pasted them onto their buildings!