Friday, June 21, 2013

How to: Wooden Oil Derrick

One of the most prominent constructions found on the Baku oilfields in the Caucasus are the massive wooden oil derricks pumping up the black gold that brought wealth to the region. Constructed with the sole pupose of pumping up the precious black oil of the region, needed for both civilian and military purposes. Often the scene or objective of many battles starting from the bloody Russian Civil War to the massive onslaughts of the Second World War. During this tutorial we will focus on constructing these wooden oil derricks as found in Baku during the 19th century and beyond. These terrain pieces are ideal to be used in Russian Civil War battles and won’t look to shabby in a nice pulp game set in Baku or even Africa!

What do you need?

To build an oil derrick you need the following tools. These tools are just an example of the tools I find suited but if you prefer to use other tools it’s all up to you. For example you can use a hotglue gun but if you prefer to use woodglue feel free to do so. I prefer a hot glue gun as it allows you to quickly construct your terrain.


- Wooden craftsticks
- Cartonboard
- Mdf or hardboard
- Ready made filler
- Woodglue
- Assortment of paints
- White sand
- Bits of broken plaster or rocks
- Satin varnish


- Sanding paper
- Wood vile
- Stanley Knife
- Multi cutter tool
- Painting brushes
- Hotglue gun

Inspiration pictures

As with most of my scratchbuilding projects I started to draw a simple sketch to ensure that the measurements are scaled correctly for 28mm miniatures. The initial sketch and inspiration pictures will serve as a rough guide for the further construction and will also be saved in the terrain map for later projects.

Constructing the pump tower

The main feature of the oil derrick is the pump tower. To begin, I created four identical cartonboard shapes which form the four walls of the oil derrick. I have forgotten to take pictures but the base of each wall has a width of 8 cm while the top has a witdh of 4 cm. The walls are 17 cm high and aren't in scale with the real derricks but fine for 28mm miniatures as you can see from the pictures. I have also added a door in one of the walls which is 2 x 3cm. After I have made the four walls I glued them together with some hotglue and made sure they were attached firmly to each other. After that I planked the tower with wooden craftsticks (the most time consuming bit of the construction), which I sanded with a steel brush to achieve a better effect when later painting the piece. As it's easier to explain with pictures, I have now taken photo's of each step.

For the construction of the scenic base I decided to use and old wooden puzzle board as it had the perfect size for the project and even came with an attached rim. This rim has been trimmed down with a vile and some sanding paper to remove the obvious edges. I was lucky to find such a sturdy base but you can easily make one yourself when you have a hand saw or electric tools. The arched area is the place where the twoer will be attached while the ather stripes indicate where I need to put some filler to create the earth embankements which seperate the oil reservoirs. 

As you can see I have now hotglued the tower firmly in place and put a layer of hotglue on the lines to create the base of the embankement. To further add some nice features I have added some pieces of broken plaster representing rough ground or rocks. In the bottom middle of the tower I have added a small piece of plastic tubing to create an oil pipe. 

The next step is to cover the embankements with some ready-made filler which I apply with a piece of craftstick. When the filler was dry I added a good amount of woodlgue on the embankements and then put some fine sand on it to create a ground texture. Be carefull not add woodglue and sand in the parts which will form the oil reservoirs as they need to be as flat and clean as possible to create a smooth oil surface. 

After everything was dry, I sprayed the entire piece in a black basecoat. After that I added some diluted woodglue (not to much water maybe 1 part of water to three parts of woodglue) to the oil reservoires to create a shiny surface. Be careful when adding the woodglue that no dust or otehr pieces fall onto the surface an druin the smooth surface area. I added the woodglue in several thin layers to allow them to fully dry before adding another layer. 

The painting

The paintjob on this terrain piece is quite straight forward and doesn’t require much skill or experience. The paintjob is a combination of block painting and a lot of drybrushing. All you need fro a succesful finish is a good flat and stiff painting brush, a piece of cloth to whipe of the excessive paint and some basic colors. Most of the paints are shared and will be used for both the derrick and the scenic base. For this paintjob I choose for a dark finish as the piece represents a part of the filthy oil fields and isn’t to clean after all. 

Before we start the actual painting we basecoat the entire piece with Chaos black using a brush or spraycan. This basecoat provides a good adhesive for the further paintjob but also seals the sand and wood. After that we add a layer of woodglue on the areas which will represent the oil. This thin layer of woodglue will remove the grain of the wood and create a smooth surface for the oil.

Before we start here’s a list of the colors using the old Gamesworkshop color references I used when painting this terrain pieces: Chaos Black, Scorched Brown, Bleached Bone and to be honest that’s all! All we have to do is mix these three basic colors to get the needed tones for the succesive drybrush layers for the wood and ground. 

The first layer is a nice thin basecoat of Scorched Brown which will become the darkest color of the derrick. The second layer is drybrushed on the previous layer using a 5:1 mix of Scorched Brown and bleached Bone. The third layer is another drybrush this time using a 3:1 mix of Scorched Brown and Bleached Bone

The finished piece

Tufts and flock can be added but I liked the desolated look and used the piece as it is. But looking at it, I may add a layer of satin varnish on the oil reservoirs and add some more color to the piece by drybrushing the earth in another tone and adding some dead looking tufts.  



Mike said...

Well done. I am definitely making a few of these for one of my Red Actions games.

Wargame News and Terrain Blog said...

Glad you enjoyed the tutorial Mike, looking forward in seeing the end result!


Tony said...

A great tutorial of an unusual subject.

Thank you for posting the details.


Wargame News and Terrain Blog said...

Glad you enjoyed it, looking forward in purchasing your book!