There are plenty of resin bases on the market these days but if I’ve got the materials already at hand and it’s not going to take a lifetime to do, I’ll make my own scenic bases. It saves money and I can make exactly what I want.
I wanted to make a base top that would resemble a partially ruined city street suitable for mounting fantasy miniatures on, specifically some old Rackham Confrontation models. After changing my mind several times I decided to use round DS bases and make a topper that would sit inside the lip of the rim.
Wills Granite Sets embossed plastic sheet works pretty well for 28-35mm models. You get 4 sheets (75mm x 130mm x 1mm) in a pack which gives plenty of material to work with and costs just over £3.00.
In true Blue Peter fashion, for this ‘make’ you will need (anyone having grown up watching British childrens TV will be familiar with this):
Fine grit sandpaper (I also use a coarser grit wet & dry paper)
Modelling putty (Green Stuff here but anything will do)
Plastic slotta base
PVA glue (not shown)
Sand (not shown)
This is pretty much everything I used in addition to the plastic sheet, although a pair of tweezers and something to push a bit of putty around with also comes in handy.
The first thing to do is measure the diameter of the base top and set the compass cutter. It measures roughly as being 22.5mm but my cutter is set at 22mm because it’s not exactly a precision instrument. Before cutting out your base topper it’s useful to check that you’ve got the diameter correct by cutting a paper template and testing that first. If it’s a fraction too big or too small you can easily alter the cutter without wasting plastic.
With the cutter set you can get your base topper cut out. It’s a lot easier to get a neat cut if you cut out on the blank underside of the plastic sheet. Trying to work on the embossed side can lead to the blade slipping into the grooves and that can create an uneven edge. Also when the blade cuts into the plastic a ridge will form either side of the cut which might ruin the detail.
Make sure the point of the compass is embedded well into the plastic (another good reason to cut on the blank side) so as not to slip and carefully make a shallow cut the full circumference of the circle. Once this first cut is made you’ve got a guide channel for the blade which makes it easier to apply a little more pressure without as much risk of it slipping. A sharp blade is really important, not only is it less likely to slip but it’ll make an already tedious part of the job a bit quicker. I find that rather than making a full circle with the compass every time, cutting into the same quarter several times before moving the sheet around another quarter and doing the same again is a little more efficient. It took me about 9 minutes to cut through the 1mm thick sheet including several sips of Jack and Coke (yeah, I timed it). Usually with plastic sheet it’s enough to just score the surface and then snap the plastic in two but doing that here tends to damage the embossed surface.
You can clearly see the raised edge where the blade has cut as well as the mark left by the compass point and what appears to be an injection point from the moulding process. The wet & dry paper I use is great for quickly removing things like this but it does leave a very coarse surface which requires the fine grit sandpaper to smooth out.
Sticking with the fine grit sandpaper I smooth the edges of the topper and lightly bevel the top edge (the embossed side). It’s not essential to do this but I find it more aesthetically pleasing than a hard edge, especially when the topper will sit slightly proud of the base lip.
You might need to remove some of the plastic ‘fluff’ from between the stone blocks as well for the sake of neatness.
And there’s your base topper!
If you want to make something a little more worn and run down it’s easy enough to cut away individual stones to represent this. I mark out what I intend to remove with a pencil first so I can see exactly what I’ll be left with before letting loose with the scalpel.
Small stones on the edge are easy to trim away, but if cutting further into the base I cut along the horizontal grooves all the way through and then just score along a suitable vertical groove…
…so the whole length can be snapped away. Keep hold of the cut away stones as they can be useful later.
With the stones removed I cut away the excess plastic and then sand the edge, bevel the top slightly and define the individual stones.
That done I apply a few spots of superglue and stick the topper in place.
Remember the cut offs you kept?
They’re useful for making individual stones from. Trim one of the stones and sand the edges to lose any harsh corners.
Then glue it in place to look like a displaced stone. This is where tweezers come in handy.
With that done I find applying a little putty into the recessed area helps to make the transition from the stonework to groundwork a little easier on the eye. It’s not essential and partly depends on the effect you’re after.
All that’s left to do is apply some PVA to the area that’s going to represent broken ground and scatter with sand (I use a mix of sand and model railway ballast for a little extra texture). And there’s the finished base alongside a couple of others. All that needs to be done now is to paint them up and more importantly, paint the models I intend to mount on them (bear in mind I’ve been intending to paint some of my Rackham stuff since 2004 so I’m not promising anything!).