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Terrain Workshop: Ruined Watchtower

This is not really an extension of my "idiots guide" series, but the priciples learned in the first article are certainly applied here. Free free to review that o­ne before attempting this project. Additionaly, this project uses the Hirst Arts blocks, a whole hobby in itself, which really disqualifies it from being a beginners terrain piece. Overall, however, the project was pretty easy, and o­nly takes about 2 days to complete if you already have the blocks (due to some drying times).

General Notes:
this piece was not intended to be used as a "skirmish piece" although there is room for individual figs to stand in the building. The stairs are strong, but mostly decorative, and too narrow to support most 25mm figs. By simply scaling up the width of the steps and platforms, this could easily be used as a centerpiece of a skirmish battlem with a heroic battle on the crumbling stairwell. For now it is just an attractive terrain element to break up the battlefield.

Starting with the basic hill cut out of 3/4" insulation foam, I built up what would have been the support tower of a border watch tower. It is easy to imagine there must have been a door at the ground level, and a spiral stairwell leading to a wooden tower, but due to war or neglect the remaining bits are left in ruin. The 2 Hirst Arts mold used for this project are #70 (Fieldstone Wall Mold) and #220 (Wooden Plank Mold). You will have to cast the wooden plank mold enough times to get all the stair steps (6), by then you will have enough other planks to make the floor and platforms. The fieldstone mold should be cast about 100 times, you will use the blocks on many other projects, I promise.

You will want to preassemble the stairs and trim the pointy ends off the zigzag pieces (sorry no pic, you know what i mean). The lowest step might be a little short to reach the platform correctly. Every layer of the main structure (which i will refer to as a "course") should be a little "shorter" in diameter than the one before it, widening the damaged opening. Standing stone structures like this slope away from the missing support of the lower layers as the top rocks fall down into a rubble pile around the building. In a medieval society, these stones would be reused in other structures, so little debris would be left around the ruin as the good rocks are carted away. Break up some blocks with a pair of pliers or a hammer to get a random damaged end for each course, so that it looks like it is falling apart, and not neat and intentional. On the 4th course, I used one half of the large arch to create a support for the wooden platforms. I put one platform on each side (using 2 large planks and 2 arch-halves); there really needs to be only one where the stairs end, its your call. You can see one of the arches on the broken side of the tower. The above picture is actually a blooper, that support was moved so that it was directly opposite to the "complete" platform. White glue does dry slow enough to make these sort of last minute corrections, but dont push your luck. After the 4th course and platforms are laid, you will need to glue the "stairs to nowhere" onto the platform and arch half. Let the building dry and then turn it on its side. glue the stairs in place and use some other blocks to support the loose end (shown in pink). Let this dry.

Now finish the last few courses, you can include another platform near the top if you like, but the very last course should be a line of busted up blocks, showing weathering and damage from losing its "roof."

Here is a top-down picture to help if the white-on-white blocks are hard to see whats going on.

Now take some of the remaining planks and fieldstone chunks and glue them around the base of the structure, mostly where it is broken open. Make sure to bust up the loose planks into "unusable" pieces with angled edges, this isnt a hardware store. Now the joy of the foam hill comes in: I have a type of rock called Talus (which i highly reccomend for its light, porus qualites), but you can use any old stones. Jam the stone halfway into the foam, and pull it out. Put a little glue in the hole and put the stone back. This will make the rocks look more natural and part of the ground, instead of just lying around like they were left there. You can do the same thing to a couple small fieldstone blocks.

Paint white or wood glue (whatever you are using to build the tower) in patches around the base of the structure, especially the opening. Liberally sprinkle course sand or fine talus onto the patches. This is the gravel, detritus, and broken mortar left after the building collapsed. Let all of this dry well, at least for a few hours; if you don't, the next step will really ruin your building.

Using a flat black housepaint (this is for structual reinforcment as well as the fact that it is cheap) and a fat brush paint the entire building, hill, flock and all. If your glue has not had time to properly dry, this paint will loosen all of the glue and things like the "stairs to nowhere" will just fall off. Be sure to get under the stairwell and platform, rotate the building in your hands to see what you have missed. This is the most important painting layer, as it will hide some of your missed painting areas later. When complete go over it again with a small brush and get all the little nooks and crannies the big brush missed. There will be many and they will stick out like a sore thumb. When you are happy, let this dry overnight.

Drybrush all of the stone parts and sandy flock with a heavy dark grey paint. Big bottles of cheap acrylic paint are perfect for this, buy a black and a white bottle and mix in a small container (the cap off of a wide-mouthed sports drink is nice). Then use a smaller brush and put a basecoat (not a drybrush) of a dark brown on everything that looks like wood. Mix a much lighter gray and drybrush the stone again with a lighter touch. Then use just a wee bit of white to just catch the edges with a very light drybrush. Now drybrush (carefully) the wood with a tan, and then an off-yellow. Done carefully, this will correct any slopover from the grey-grey-white. As you go along you will see little missed cracks between stones that you didnt paint, just paint a little black in there. By the time the drybrushing is done you really wont be able to see them e
ither way.

This is an unneccesary step, but to match my other terrain, I painted all the areas that will eventually have foam flock on them the same gloss green I used on my idiots hill. I am allowing this to dry BEFORE adding the flock. If you plan on spraying any sort of sealant on your piece, now is the time to do it, allowing dry time. Paint white or wood glue everywhere you want grass to grow (the green areas on my model) and then sprinkle ground foam flock onto it. i prefer wood glue for this step, it stays "spread out" whereas the white glue tends to bead up on the foam and paint, leaving unwanted gaps. Do this in your "flock tray" to save any unused foam.

Viola, the ruined watchtower. Let everything dry for an hour or so, gently BRUSH OFF the excess foam (do not blow) and prepare yourself for the ooohs and ahhhs of your fellow gamers. Additional details that could be added might be some vines or shrubs, and the everpresent skull, shield or wagon wheel; this is entirely up to the tastes of the individual terrain maker.

Colors used:
Base coat: Painters Touch Flat Black
For the stone: Apple Barrel Black, Apple Barrel White
For the wood: Apple Barrel Burnt Umber, Folk Art Teddy Bear Tan, Folk Art Sunflower, Painters Touch Hunter Green

hamster boy

Posted in Terrain Building.

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