Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to: Easy Bamboo Vegetation

Forget all the hard ways to make bamboo vegetation for your 28mm wargames as with this tutorial you will be able to fill up your oriental tabletop in no time. Although these bamboo bases won’t win prizes and probably won’t be recognised by the true bamboo connoisseur, they look splendid and convincing on the tabletop.

Filling up a table of bamboo vegetation has always seemed to be a daunting task looking at the many tutorials already available on the internet. Luckily most of those bamboo tutorials are created for diorama purposes and made with small quantities in mind. In this tutorial we won’t be making single bamboo plants but whole bases of them allowing you to quickly fill up your table with some great line of sight blockers and creating a dense oriental bamboo forest feel.

To start we need a sturdy base which will be the base of the entire bamboo vegetation piece. For the base I decided to use a soft variant of hardboard which is often used to protect large more valuable wood types on pallets. For cutting out the base I used a multicutter tool as the base material is quite soft. After cutting out the base I sanded the edge to remove faults and give the base a smooth finish.

When the base is done, we drill holes in the base at random to create a natural look. To drill these holes I used a pillar drill machine but you can also use a regular drill machine. The holes created vary in width to allow us in the further steps to glue in the bamboo skewers of two different widths. To create a natural look, it seemed better to drill the larger holes in the middle of the base representing the older and thicker bamboo plants while the smaller newer ones are more located at the edges of the base.

When you have drilled the holes, you sand the residue of the drilling on the back of the base. This to make sure that the base lies more or less flat on the tabletop.

The second step is to add the actual bamboo sticks. These sticks are made using bamboo skewers of two types as you can see in the picture. In this step there’s nothing really difficult as you only need to cut the skewers at different sizes to using a small hand saw or multi cutter to create a nice variation in bamboo sticks. To give you a scale indication I have added a non heroic 28mm miniature in the picture but you can adjust the size as you prefer. To make the thicker skewers a bit more bamboo like, I have added some notches using a multi cutter tool or pliers as you can see in the picture. These notches represent the rings you can see on real bamboo plants. 

After you have made the bamboo sticks, you can now glue them to your base using a hotglue gun or some woodglue. Make sure that you don’t glue all the pieces nice straight up but glue them slightly slanting. Also be aware that you don’t glue the skewers in too deep as your base won’t be laying flat on the tabletop anymore.

The next step is to texture the base. To texture the base I firstly add a layer of readymade filler using a craft wood stick to cover the entire base. When the filler has dried, I coat the entire base in slightly diluted woodglue using an old stiff, flat brush and then cover the base up with a large amount of fine texturing sand. After a minute or so you shake of the surplus sand. Just make sure to lay down a newspaper on your workbench when doing texturing, so you can easily put the surplus sand back in its storage container. When finishing this step most of the basic construction is done so we can now paint the bamboo terrain piece.

Before we start to paint, we basecoat the entire piece in black using a brush or spray can. This black undercoat gives you a good undercoat for further paint layers to attach on and really blends all the used materials together in one cohesive piece. When the basecoat is dry we paint the ground of the base in scorched brown and the bamboo sticks in a dark green similar to GW’s old Catachan green. Note that the colours used by me are just examples and you easily can use your own paints to make sure the terrain fits your existing miniature and terrain collection.

When these layers are dry we paint another layer of Catachan green on the bamboo sticks to make sure these are properly covered before moving on to the next steps. When this layer is dry we drybrush the ground with a lighter brown using your preferred drybrush brush. This light brown colour was mixed using a good amount of scorched brown and a small amount of off white paint. When the base is dry we carefully drybrush the bamboo sticks with a light green using a large paintbrush. This lighter tone was again using the original colour and adding some off white paint.

When dry brushing the bamboo sticks be careful of not dry brushing your already finished earthwork! Although mistakes and paint splashes can be easily covered in the following step. After all the paintwork is done is time for my favourite part of the construction adding the static grass, clump foliage and plastic aquarium plants. The first step in finishing your bamboo base is to add some static grass to the edges of the base as you can see in the picture. The static grass used is a dark green variant called something like swamp grass if I recall correctly. To add the static grass on your base, you put diluted woodglue to the places you want to be covered using an old stiff flat brush. 

After you have added the woodglue you put a large amount of static grass on the woodglue and firmly press it. After a minute or less you shake of the surplus static grass making use of the open newspaper under your construction area. You repeat this step until you have added the desired amount of static grass.

When the glue has dried you can proceed to the next step adding some different aquarium plants using your hotglue gun or some woodglue although using a hotglue gun will certainly speed up the construction time. When these are added, you can now go to the final step of the construction by adding clump foliage to the tops of the bamboo sticks used to represent the foliage of the bamboo plant. To add the clump foliage I also used my trusty hotglue gun. When adding the foliage make sure to use some of the larger clumps to cover several bamboo sticks so it looks that the foliage has grown into each other. 

The last step is matt varnishing the entire piece using a spray can. Although this step is not necessary, it can significantly increase the durability of your terrain piece. The matt coat also takes away the plastic like shine of the aquarium plants. Just make sure that before you varnish the piece you first of all check that all the surplus foliage and static grass is removed from the base! The terrain you see in this tutorial has not been varnished as they won’t be transported to clubs and will be safely and carefully stored at home. 

Now this versatile piece of terrain is ready for usage on the tabletop! Repeat this tutorial five times and you already have a nice bunch of bamboo vegetation to cover a small skirmish board. And remember that mass producing these terrain pieces is a whole lot faster than making one at a time as you can skip the boring drying periods and work on the other bases in line instead. This method can also be used to decorate larger terrain pieces such as ruined jungle temples cities, jungle villages and others.


Michael Awdry said...

That certainly does the trick nicely.

rhingley said...

Great easy to follow tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

Wargame News and Terrain Blog said...

Hi, Glad you both enjoyed the tutorial, I hope to post more of these articles in the future.

Kind regards

Chris Stoesen said...

Nice tutorial. I think I may use this and scale it down for 15mm.

Wargame News and Terrain Blog said...

Good idea Chris, I had never thought of that possiblity.

Kind regards

Curt said...

Brilliant tutorial! I'll have to give this a go for an upcoming Indochine project.