Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bamboo U, Part I

There's been a lot of discussion on the TooFatLardies Yahoo group about making bamboo lately, in scenic anticipation of the forthcoming Charlie Don't Surf Vietnam-era company-scale rules (an IABSM offshoot). What we're all trying to model is this:

To the sides we see what an "impassable" stand of bamboo looks like, with a handy trail through the middle.

This shows some of the top foliage, which will be the trickier part to get right. It looks generally like it's only at the top, but it does run down a bit. This would be "passable" bamboo.

A distance shot of a bamboo forest, showing that from further away the foliage seems to be clumpy at the top, which I think will be my main objective in getting right in the end.

Most of the ideas have been for 15-20mm scale terrain pieces, which has been helpful to me in thinking of what to do for my 1/72 (20mm) bamboo for FNG skirmish-scale Vietnam gaming. But for CDS, which I'm doing in 3mm with Oddzial Osmy's Vietnam range, I've had to go smaller.

So after realizing toothpicks were too big and my cheap plastic plant material was also out of scale for bamboo (good for elephant grass though), I scaled myself down to trying pins. Armed only with a 40% off coupon and my steely nerves, I made my way into the needlework section of my local Michael's and picked up 800 13mm sequin pins. They aren't really different than regular flat-headed pins, just a bit shorter and maybe a bit sturdier than your usual "new shirt pins".

I've started with just a test project, using the following proof-of-principle method:

  • Cut out a suitable base shape in corrugated cardboard (I'm using a lot of odd pieces that are lying around).
  • Dab white glue randomly around, at higher densities for "impassable" stands and with much more room for "passable" stands (for my figure basing I'll need to fit pennies on the base).
  • In each dab, stick a pin through the top of the cardboard, being careful not to stick it all the way through! For variety, stick some in at angles, or curve the pin, or cut it down (from the pointy end). Also for variety, stick in two or three pins into one dab, with some of them angling off to the sides.
  • Use some polyfill to patch up the sides and add some base texture.
  • Prime with spray paint.
  • Paint the base brown, with some green.
  • Paint the pins a very light green (I have a green called "Lemonade" that I'm going to try). Maybe some trunks can be mustard yellow-brown (first pic above) or a near-white (second pic above) too.
  • Flock some ground cover shrubs/low-lying trees, or not (it seems highly variable, with denser stands having less).
  • Add glue to the pinheads, and in some cases down the body of the pin to get the effect seen in the second picture above.
  • Roll the pinheads through flock, either a grass or maybe some extra-shredded shrub or tree flocking material. Or both (clumpy for top, finer for lower down). Definitely want a light, bright green though.
  • Seal.
So far I've gotten the first three steps done, so here's my work-in-progress:

Top view with 3mm US command figures for scale.

Side view.

With Oddzial Osmy's palm tree in for comparison. Despite my fingers, the tree is set so it is at the height it would be on an actual base. 08's trees actually have a little pin in the base, which gave me the idea of sticking things into corrugated cardboard in the first place.

If painting the pins once mounted turns out to be a real bugger, a smarter method might end up being:
  • Cut out base and texture with polyfill or basing material of choice.
  • Prime the base, paint, and flock.
  • Prime and paint the pins loose, even if it means dipping the pins in paint.
  • Add glue and pins as above.
  • Flock pins as above, and seal.
It's a bit overkill for 2mm, my usual forest method (cork + scrubber) would work, but some may want to try it. Here's the bamboo stand with a handy 2mm Acheronian chariot beside it; probably the only chariot that made it to Vietnam in the 1960's...

It also works ok for 6mm too, but one might want to try bigger pins. GHQ has a pretty good Vietnam line, and I suspect other companies produce appropriate pieces too. Here's the bamboo stand up against a 6mm Russian field piece; the gun crew is crouching/kneeling, so it's not a proper comparison, but it'll give y'all some idea of what it would look like.

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