Almost all terrain pieces will need some kind of firm base. The base adds strength to the model and allows a bit of landscaping to help it blend into the gameboard. I use three types of base - thin card or foamcore, corrugated cardboard, and plywood/MDF. The commonest problem with bases is warping after the model is finished and the heavier the base, the harder it is to make, but the less likely it is to warp. You pay your money and take your choice! See the materials section for details of each material.
This is the lightest and weakest kind of base. It is only suitable for very small and light pieces of terrain such as fencing, archeotech hoards or Epic 40K plastic ruins; or pieces that are quite heavy and strong in themselves, such as the packing cases shown elsewhere on TerraGenesis. I use picture framing card because it is quite sturdy and you can buy offcuts cheaply from picture framing shops. Thin stock such as this tends to be OK unless you cover it with flock or sand - it is the application of glue to only one side of a material that tends to make it warp.
Very thick corrugated cardboard can be used quite successfully for bases but you really need to use two layers. Glue the layers so that the corrugations run at right-angles to each other to minimise warp in each direction. I used a corrugated cardboard base on the Lizardmen temple and the fortified tower. In the latter case I used corrugated cardboard because I wanted to cut through the top layer to make the pond. This material is quite difficult to cut - it can be easier to saw it with a hacksaw blade than cut it - and sealing the edges of the corrugation can be tricky...until now that is, because I have discovered how to do it! Buy some of that brown, gummed paper that comes in rolls and is used to seal parcels. Butterfly is one brand in the UK. Don't buy the plastic tape - it has to be the brown gummed paper type. Get 2 inch wide tape if you can. Then lick it (yeuk!) and stick it over the bare corrugated edges.
This stuff sticks like crazy to cardboard and you can tear it into little bits to go around difficult corners. I highly recommend this way of sealing corrugated cardboard - you could try filling the corrugated edges with filler bit it tends to fall out as the base flexes slightly.
Plywood and MDF (medium density fibreboard) are the strongest and best materials to use for bases. The down side is that they are the most expensive and the most difficult to work. Note that even plywood will warp if it is only 4 mm or so thick - I recommend 6mm plywood/MDF and thicker. This type of strong base is essential on models that don't have a great deal of strength in themselves (for example the refinery which has a 10mm plywood base). Cut the base out with a jigsaw, fretsaw, keyhole saw or similar and then take the edges off with sandpaper, a file or a surform tool (a sort of cross between a rasp and plane). You can always glue some foamcore as a top layer to the plywood or MDF if you want a surface that you can cut into to make streams, roads and such like.
Copyright & Credits
TerraGenesis was created in 1997 by Gary James and is currently owned, edited and maintained by Andy Slater, however the ideas and opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors. TerraGenesis and its content are © Andy Slater, unless otherwise stated, and should not be reproduced without permission.
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