Hi! Thanks for taking the time to read my post. As you might have seen from the rest of my blog, I enjoy playing the 15mm wargame Flames of War (by Battlefront Miniatures), I really like making my own terrain for this game, and have made a whole host of pieces so far, either from scratch or by taking existing models and adding to them, repainting or whatever. I've been inspired by a few people in the wargames community to make my own terrain, most notably "The Terrain guy" from youtube, who produces some fantastic videos about terrain making, if you haven't already, check out his channel. I decided that I wanted to make some road sections, I've made road sections in the past, based on "Wills kits" which I usually buy sets of from a shop here in the UK called modelzone. The Wills kits packs are packs of 13cm x 7.5cm plastic sheets which have detailing to look like cobbles, paving slabs, brick work etc, with my last set of roads I cut one of these sheets in half, (long ways) then simply used that as a length of road, mounting it on styrene sheeting raised slightly and tapered the edges with pollyfiller, they came out pretty effective, but I decided for my next set, I wanted some rural dirt track roads. Here is a photo of a small section of the old roads.
Cobbled T-junction

Cobbled T-junction

I've seen lots of different ways to do these, such as THIS tutorial on making them with builders caulk and garden matting type stuff, but I wanted to do something a little different. I've also wanted to try my hand at casting for a while, and I got a sample bottle of silicone rubber from one of our suppliers at work recently which has been sitting there for a while itching for me to use. So, I decided to have a go at making a road section, then seeing if I could successfully cast it! I'm going to apologise now for the photos in this post, as I took them all on my phone, making this road was really messy, and while I love having nice photos I couldn't bare to see my good camera get caked with pollyfiller and silicone. So im warning you now, some of the photos are crap! Anywhoo.. lets get down to it. Modelling the road I've wanted to do something like this for a while, and I've been put off because I haven't had an effective way of simulating tank tracks in the mud. The battlefront rural roads are really wide, and have a set of tracks going down the middle of them, I wanted to replicate this effect but on a smaller scale, as I think that the battlefront ones, even though they were designed specifically for flames of war, are too big. I've been wracking my brains for a while now, and then while having my tea one day, I got it. The lid from the tomato sauce bottle! (thats "ketchup" for you fellows across the pond). The one I got wasn't great, but it did the job just fine. I quickly made excuses to why this bottle should be binned, and swiftly removed the lid...
sauce lid

sauce lid

Just a simple lid, there are probably better ones out there, but this one was in my hand, and when i saw the grooves around the edges I thought "YES! I have to try this!" Here's a closeup of the edge, cos more pictures are always better.
sauce lid

sauce lid

I want these roads to be quite large, but not totally overpowering when on the gaming table. Roads were an important part of pretty much every campaign in world war two, well, most wars really! good lines of supplies and communications can win a war. So roads are always going to be a focal point on a gaming table too. Especially when in flames of war, tanks and wheeled vehicles ususally get extra benefits for drving on roads than on cross country or difficult terrain. My old cobble roads are about 37mm wide, I like this size, for this section at least anyway, so I've made this one around 40mm wide, with the overall base being 60mm wide to account for the road usually being raised a little, or at least having ditches on the sides. For my "Master" mould, I am using Styrene sheeting, I buy this from modelzone too, but the manufacturer is JAVIS manufacturing, they only sell to trade customers, the amount of this stuff that I go through though, I am going to look into getting a trade account. to save on weight, and drying time, I raised the road up by using foam core, this is cheap stuff, costs less than £1 from most art shops for an A4 sheet, an A4 sheet is around 30cm in length, which is handy as thats also about one foot. and us wargamers like doing things in 1' lengths. This makes it easy enough to get the lengths, as the plastic-card is also A4 sheets, meaning I only need one cut for each piece. The best way I have found to cut plastic card, for long straight cuts is simply to score the card with a sharp knife, then snap it. it snaps really clean if it's got a good enough guide line. I stuck the foam core onto the styrene sheet with a hot glue gun, not going too mental with the glue as it'll raise the profile of the foam core off the styrene if you use too much, and it dries really quick. Use just enough to get a good bond, but no more.
foam core on styrene

foam core on styrene

Now I covered the whole thing in pollyfiller. I THINK that this stuff is the same as what some people use called "Spackle" in the US, although having never used spackle, I can't be too sure. Anyway, a tub of ready mix filler is available from the  £1 shop, I use this stuff all the time, its great. I use it to cover my bases and for loads of scenery projects. If used excessivly though, it takes a while to dry and can add lots of unnessesary weight to a piece. So use with things like foam core to keep weight down.
filler

filler

I spread the filler onto the piece quite liberally, spreading it with a plastic spatula, these are actually one of many products that I've ended up buying from work, we do cake decorating equipment, but some of the stuff is actually really useful for wargaming. These are lolly sticks. you can find them HERE, but they work great for disposable spatulas!
filler basic shape done

filler basic shape done

I smoothed the filler out to the basic shape you can see above, this will later become the road, with a tapered edge down to the board. I like to raise my roads up a little to add a little depth to them, makes them stand out a bit more, and when put next to hedges and things it makes them fit nicer. Full length shot of the road section pre-detailing. The natural roughness of the material is pretty nice for road and dirt type effects, when it dires and has some sand/grit applied it will have a lovely texture to it. The next step was where I got to try out my sauce lid tracks! I simply rolled the lid down the flat road surface from one side to the other. I stopped pretty much every revolution and cleaned out hte groves as the filler is pretty sticky. I didnt press too hard, as the filler layer here is quite thin, and not being held in place to the foamcore by anything other than its natural stickiness.
rollin'

rollin'

Once I did this step, I then took a couple of tanks, and pressed them into the roads over the top of the wide track marks, and made them go off the road at different points to create some interesting features. After this, the road section is pretty much complete. I could have then painted it up and used it like this, if you aren't into casting, you could just take the steps up to here, and create your own road sections, for T-junctions and curves the principles are the same, it just comes down to the shape of the first cut of styrene for the base. Casting I wanted to cast this piece though, so I then moved on to the casting part by first spraying the model (after letting it dry of course) with a healthy dose of Games workshop's matt varnish. Sorry, Purity seal.. I would never ever let this stuff near a model that i've painted, I've seen many people use it and it go frosty/cloudy over the top of the model, making it look like it's been on a dusty shelf for years, even people who know what they are doing and spray only in the best weather conditions. But for terrain, this stuff is pretty good, its quick, and one tin can last years if you don't spray lots with it. I did this because both the material I am using to cast with, and the filler are both pretty pourous, so I wanted to give it a good sealing coat to act as a barrier for when I pour some very wet stuff onto it very soon. The next stage was to build a frame for my mould to sit in. Believe it or not, the best thing to use here is Lego. Lego is easy to build with, and is pretty waterproof as long as you give it a good press down on the model to make sure all the bits are seated correctly. It's also 100% reusable. Fun fact for the evening. The lego I'm actually using came from my uncle from when he was a kid. he's in his 50's now.. so there you go! recycling at it's best!
lego surround

lego surround

  I went a little crazy with the electrical tape on here, but Ususally I would have used a lego base, But because this model is rather long, I didnt have a lego base big enough, so I taped some styrene sheets to the bottom, I didnt want to cut them to size either because I can reuse them. So this looks a bit messy, really it was just easier and more cost effective to do it like this. The electrical tape makes a waterproof barrier as well as holding the styrene to the lego without the need for glue. In the photo I also thought i'd made my mould too big, so I blocked off the end, turns out I hadn't made it too big, so i just removed this block before I poured in the resin. The stuff I am using to make the mould is called "Resin Plaster" It's probably not the best stuff to use if I'm honest, but It's pretty cheap, and it's available to me locally. It's also easy to use. Which is a big bonus! It ends up looking like plaster, but it's not as brittle, it's nowhere near as resiliant as proper resin, but at a fraction of the cost it's worth it, especially for this experiment. It comes as a powder, and needs to be mixed with water, the instructions state that it should be mixed 3 parts powder to 1 part water. So I weighed how much powder I had using the normal kitchen scales (Shhh! don't tell!)
resin plaster

resin plaster

As you can see, I have about 730g here, this couldnt have worked out better, as I worked out that the volume of my lego container was 1332cm3, (37cm long x 9cm wide  x 4cm tall), the volume of the piece to be cast was rougly 31cm x 6cm x 1cm =186cm3, therefore the total volume available to the resin is 1332 - 186 = 1146cm3. I wanted to fill the container about 60% of the way, which should give the mould enough volume to hold it's own weight without snapping from being too thin. 1146 x 0.6 = 687.6. So I needed to make roughly 700cm3 of material, and i had 730g, which is enough to make 730cm3of material. Superb.
ready

ready for pouring

This is what the mixture looks like after its had the water poured into it. It took a lot of stiring to get this mixture properly ready, and I had to split it over a couple of measuring jugs, the powder stuck to the bottom of the jug, so I had to get my hands stuck in, messy, but worked pretty well when i was finished. I then positioned the model in the mould and got ready to pour in the resin plaster. Heres where I made a pretty big mistake. I totally forgot to apply some form of mould release. I had some vasaline on standby, ready to brush it over the surface, this should have worked a treat, but I was concentrating so hard on the fact that the resin plaster sets in about 20 minutes (And it took me about 5 to stir it together properly) and i'd made quite a big mess of the kitchen, that I totally forgot to put on the vasaline!
ready and waiting

ready and waiting

resin poured in

resin poured in

Once I got this resin poured in. I swore a bit, as I realised my total n00b error of not covering the master with vasaline, then I waited for it to set, it takes about 20-30minutes for it to set properly, but I got pretty involved in a game of Red Orchestra 2 online so it got about an hour. When I pulled the lego off I wasn't exactly sure whether I had just wasted my time, or if this would work. I turned over the now solid resin brick, to reveal the styrene sheet lying smoothly on the top, with the aid of a craft knife I carefully scribed around the edge, then got the knife underneath and then POP, it popped off, my initial jubilation was short lived when I was presented with this:
oh dear

oh dear

Oh dear. Pretty much all of the polly filler was stuck in the mould, I wasn't sure how to get this stuff out, and even if I got it out, I didnt know what state the mould would be in. This after all is my first real attempt at casting, especially this method. I took a tooth brush (an old one, obviously) and started to scrub away at the mess that was the filler. it crumbled away and made an even bigger mess. Que cleaning the kitchen for the second time of the evening! This is when I remembered my layer of varnish. My lovely layer of varnish. The varnish seemed to stick to the resin plaster, and hold onto it, the layer was so thin that none of the detail was effected, it just clung on like a film, so when I scrubbed down to it, it peeled off underneath in a few pieces to reveal a lovely crisp mould underneath! epic win!
Completed Mould

Completed Mould

larger view

larger view

As you can see the level of detail captured by the resin is brilliant, the mould came out exactly how i wanted it! You might also notice that there is a lip inside the mould, I actually stood the road section on another slightly wider piece of styrene, so that I could create a runout area, so that i could overfill the area, then cut the final product down to size, this will make my life easier than if i hadn't done this and i misguage how much silicone I'm going to pour into the mould, saving on mess and waste (guess what I do next...) So yeah, I cocked up again, I made far too much silicone solution, so I ended up splilling it over the overflow edge. The Silicone I used is, I believe (im not actually entirely sure)  "20 shore, food grade Silicone", If I find out otherwise I shall amend the post accordingly. The silicone comes in two parts, I honestly dont know what it the second part of the solution is, it's some clear liquid, and my instructions were "whatever volume of silicone you use, use 5% of this stuff, oh, and dont drink it", I followed both of these instructions to the letter. Using a measuring jug to measure the silicone, which is a pretty thick viscose solution, then used a measuring syringe to measure 5% worht of the clear magical liquid I wasn't allowed to drink. I mixed this stuff up throurougly and poured it in, This is where I found out that I'd actually made too much, only a few millietres too much, but still, too much, it spilled over the edge of my overflow zone. and so begineth kitchen clean number three. I then went to bed. This stuff takes about 12 hours to dry, so I left it for about that long, in normal room conditions.
Dried silicone

Dried silicone

This is what I came to find in the morning, The great thing about this mould is it only needs one side. As the back is going to be flat, it can be left to the open air, as long as it is left on a flat surface then gravity will play it's part and keep the back level. When it doesn't contact anything other than air, the silicone goes really shiny, this might cause a problem if it were to be painted, but I'm sure with a coat of spray varnish first then it wouldnt matter, and, well, it's the back. the bit that touches the board, that noone ever sees. So who cares? The new silicone road came out of the mould really easily. I used a light coating off WD-40 as a mould release before I poured the silicone in, but to be honest, with how easy it came off on the overflow parts I'm not sure it made the slightest bit of difference. This material seems to be pretty good that way.
finished result straight out the mould

finished result straight out the mould

I was really pleased with how this came out, With a little trimming of the excess with a craft knife it almost looked good enough to go down on the table already! I haven't tried painting this yet, so I really don't know how well it will take paint, but, even if i have to varnish it with something first, It shouldnt be too difficult to get it up to gaming standard with a coat or two of a brown colour then a couple of dry brush highlights. I will post pictures of when it's painted when I get round to it. Here's a close up of the detail
finished road

finished road after trimming

The silicone did just as good a job of capturing the detail as what the resin plaster did. I now have a master mould that can be used to replicate this road section as many times as I like. The beauty of using the silicone for the product (I could have done this the other way round, and made the mould from silicone, and the product from resin), is that the road is light and flexible, It will also be rather forgiving when mdoels are placed on it, or as frequently happens, dropped onto it. it will store really easily, and will be really durable. If I had done it the other way round, and had the resin as the road, the sections would be heavier, carrying enough to cover a 6' x 4' table too and from a gaming club would make the box alot heavier, the and could cause damage to models if dropped onto it. Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this has turned out, I shall endeavour to get this section painted up over the next few days and post a photo here once it's painted, Then when It's painted I will get started on making some more sections, such as a curved road, and also maybe a T-junction and the like. I hope you have found my post here interesting, and hopefully inspired you to make your own roads, terrain or even have a go at casting something. Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave feedback in the comments and share this post if you like it! Chris  

2 Responses

  1. malonlabe300

    Chris,
    Superb “DIY” for roads. I have used ‘brown’ caulking from the squeeze tube. Your way is much better. Thanks so for the tip.

    Best,
    Leonidas

    Reply
  2. PMAn

    Hi Chris
    Looks great, i’ve wanted to do it for some time.
    Could you be more specific regarding the “food grade silicone” you use for the actual casting ??
    Like where did you get it and brand name or something that makes me able to get it ?
    regards
    Peter

    Reply

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