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 How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?

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rain9441
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PostSubject: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 6:54

A couple of buddies of mine and myself constantly lose the war against the concept of warping every time we make terrain. It's an uphill battle (pun intended).

We used to use cardboard from cases of beer or what not. Those warped every time so we gave up trying to use them.
We tried some thicker, corregated cardboard from shipping boxes, but to no avail. They always warped.
We tried foamcore bases, but still the pieces ended up warping!

Using foamcore I've been able to limit the warping a bit but not get rid of it entirely by painting the bases on both sides. But as soon as we flock one side to make it match the board better it just turns into a U.

The type of terrain we are making this for is actually just simple things like sections of forest. We cut, paint and flock a small piece of foamcore. Then we place model trees on top (With washers attached to the bottom for weight) to simulate a forest while being able to move the trees around at will to make room for the miniatures. Every single one of our tree bases is now a hassle since placing a miniature or tree on one side causes the other side to lift up a good 1/2" or more.

I have some rough terrain pieces that suffered the same fate.

I've tried putting weight on top of the piece during creation to prevent it from warping while drying (20 lb's maybe). Still warped. The only thing that seemed to work is to not flock one side and paint both sides, but even then it is subject to a tidbit of warping. We also tried flocking one side and just putting a ton of glue on the other side -- still some warping.

Does anyone have any tips to make terrain bases that just simply do not warp?

The last thing I can think of is cutting terrain bases out of some thin plywood or MDF. But we don't have the tools readily available to do so. I also feel its a cost increase that may be avoidable.

Any tips, suggestions, or feedback is appreciated!
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 8:03

don't bother with the wood... that warps as well...

problem is, that all materials will warp when made wet or covered with other stuff unless it is thoroughly reinforced. (if you make a building out of foam for instance, it will not warp that much, due to the cross connections which keep it in place. if you use a single layer of that same foam as a base, it will warp.

we once made an apocalypse sized table out of a layer of 12mm MDF with two sheets of 80 mm foamboard glued to it (making it 132 mm thick in total) and that managed to warp so much that if you one side down on the table, the other end (120 cm wide table) was 8 cm up in the air... so that posed a real problem)

you will need the same force "pulling" on both sides to prevent this.

what I usually do to prevent it is (steering clear of cartboard as that warps the most) water down some glue and "paint" the bottom of the base with it, and then let that dry, that way, the base will start to warp downwards, making it less of a problem in game. once dried, I start on the actual bit of scenery I wanted to make. it will warp abain, but due to the force applied on the bottom, ti will not be so bad.

If this still doesn't help enough we found during the making of that apocalypse table, that you can cover the bottom with tapistry (is that the right word? I mean the paper wall coverings a lot of us use for cobblestone?)
that way, the paper makes sure the pressure applied on the bottom will not falter if more pressure is applied on the top side.

Good luck, and may your bases remain flat from now! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 8:54

I have used plywood for a couple of projects and it worked just fine.

Check out the forest sections I made:
http://boringmordheimforum.forumieren.com/scenery-f13/cathayan-borderlands-scenery-wipcompleted-t397-100.htm#11746

Or the tunnel tiles I did were also based on plywood. I even sand it with a mix of sand, water and wood glue.
http://boringmordheimforum.forumieren.com/scenery-f13/cathayan-borderlands-scenery-wipcompleted-t397-125.htm#15465

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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 9:11

Combating warping. Ezekiel is right. Everything warps, but some materials warp less than others.
You have already discovered most of the materials to avoid. I use a lot of 1/4" Luaun, 1/8" and 1/4" MDF. MDF is best although it is still advisable to paint both sides. I find that I get very little warping even in pieces up to 18" x 12" that I use for river banks. My river banks are actually 1/4" Luaun now that I check.

There is also a grade of foam core used in sign making that is faced with vinyl instead of paper. It is very good for bases of buildings.

I recommend not being self sufficient when building terrain. By which I mean do not depend solely on yourself for materials and tools. I build scale architectural models as part of my work but I rarely buy basic material. I loot the dumpsters of 2 or 3 theaters and fabrication shops. Depending on the project, they will throw away more useable tabletop scenery material in a week than you could use in a lifetime. Shops that fabricate displays are common in any larger city and most towns have at least an amateur theater group if not a professional company. All it takes is the gumption to approach the person who runs the shop and ask if you can cart away discarded material. Also for gator board and other expensive foam cores check with operas, theaters and museums and see what they do with old posters, the advertising from one production can equal 3 or 4 4x8 sheets worth of poster size pieces. (And some advertisements are 4x8!)

Sharing tools is harder, but I know like 5-10 guys with home shops. I just ask if I can come by and make a few cuts or if they are willing to cut something out for me, its a bonus. All it takes is not be a nuisance about it and basic politeness. If you know what you need when you ask and keep the projects small. For bigger projects I use my brother's shop or enlist one of my professional contacts, but I know that won't work for everyone. (My brother is real picky about who uses his tools.)
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 9:38

I've been using the Fan Insulation Foam [looks like an accordian Suspect ] with no warping problems thus far; it's two ply, 3/8". I've used in combination with regular pink foam, by itself, & for buildings instead of foam board.
The only negative is it has a pattern of tiny hole of unknown purpose that either have to be filled [foam putty] or sanded out prior to painting [brush] to avoid spray finish rot. thumbsup
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 12:02

When using cardboard for bases I glue the corrugation 90 degrees off on each ply. This seems to cancel out each sheets want to warp and I have had pretty good results with it. I use it for small ruins and tree stands, the largest about 8x12 inches so not sure how well it would work for larger. I always weight down as well.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 1 Aug 2009 - 13:00

I prefer Masonite for my terrain bases. It does warp a little bit if you use large bits of it, but not to such a degree that it's disruptive to the game. It's sturdy, fairly heavy yet easily workable. I use the Necromundicon-inspired technique of breaking it off bit by bith with a wrench or pair of pliers. Here's a raw and undercoated version:



Lovely random natural edges, and stands up to any normal gaming punishment with ease.

Love letter over, as you were gentlemen Razz
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sun 2 Aug 2009 - 6:29

I agree with mike... when using cardboard try to use 3 or 5 layers of the thiner ones. If you want to have thicker bases use more but always take an odd number of layers and turn every layer 90. Like with plywood it will avoid the deforming of your smaller bases. Don't save on PVA-Glue when sticking them together. And use heavy books or something like that to press the layers together.
For bigger ones I prefere MDF (about 6-12 mm thick) and I seal them with one layer of acrylick lacquer on every side.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 9:11

Thanks a bunch guys, lots of useful information here!

I think I'll try the MDF approach next, as well as the 90 deg stagger approach. I'm looking forward to the flat terrain pieces to come! =]
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 10:15

Sorry but I don't understand in english "When using cardboard for bases I glue the corrugation 90 degrees off on each ply." Can you explain me with other words ? Or in french Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 10:22

With corrugation, he means the 'wavy' stuff in the middle. So if on your first layer of cardboard the waves go horizontal, you put the next layer so the waves go vertical.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Mon 3 Aug 2009 - 10:32

ok thx, I understand Wink
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Fri 18 Mar 2011 - 3:35

I use cork tiles for bases, they don't seem to warp at all, however bad storage of scenery can lead to odd bends!
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Fri 18 Mar 2011 - 6:29

I have had success with 3mm MDF for building bases without any warping problems: I will try and find time to put some photos up on the forum in the next day or two, depending on available time. I have used GW undercoat for one, but the current project is using Jo Sonja Black Gesso for the basecoat, this saves on having to protect the foam edges from melting. it also has a very fine grainy finish that helps topcoats adhere!
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Fri 18 Mar 2011 - 8:29

Thick Plasticard is the answer. It doesn't warp at all, it's very durable, easy to cut and relatively cheap if you know where to look.

Hope this helps!
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 19 Mar 2011 - 11:39

...and where does one look for cheap plasticard?
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 19 Mar 2011 - 12:31

That would depend entirely on where you live, Mr Stonetroll. You'll have an easier time in the US than scandinavia for example. Comicbook stores sometimes have good plastic as dividers or backing for comic issues. If you'er lucky, the 'For Sale' signs outside houses are plastic. My last find was at the grocery store, where I looted a stack of advertisement boards they were removing from above the meat freezers. If you keep your eyes open, it's just a question of timing. And knowing your area.

Best of luck!
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Sat 19 Mar 2011 - 21:57

As promised, here are a few shots from my current works-in-progress: all are using MDF bases: once I have time to set up my scroll-saw I'll start experimenting with MDF walls etc.





There's still a little bit of work to do on the big building, but the bases have worked out well, and are flat.
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PostSubject: Re: How do you make terrain bases that don't warp?   Today at 21:37

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