Caverns - Greywolf's Under Construction Page
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Greywolf's Under Construction Page

CAVERNS

 

Cave Construction Step 1This is definitely on the grey fuzzy area of Hirst Arts construction, but I set out to create some caverns using Castlemolds blocks, and here are the results!

First off, I cut out several sections of foam core board (1/4" thick) into 6"x6" pieces. (Roughly. I was working with a bunch of pieces of scrap for this, since this was an experiment.) I marked them off into inch square grids, and roughly penciled out layouts for modular cavern sections: 3 large room corners, 1 large room corner exit, two large room walls, three passages, one corner turn, one T-section, one cul-de-sac.

In my version, I started gluing down various blocks to rough out the walls, making them roughly 3/4" high. I left the foam core board bare (and in that case, I shouldn't have pressed so hard with the pencil lines!) since I intended to make "rocky" floor tiles for this, but I think some decent results could be had with using fieldstone floor tiles for the floor. I primarily used wall pieces from the tower molds - especially miscasts - though I threw in a few fieldstone and gothic wall blocks as well. (It hardly mattered, really, since I was using these for a "skeleton" - but I found that the "teeth" pieces from the round towers really worked nicely for this.)

Cave Construction Step 2Next, I filled in lots of open areas with "rubble" and other mis-cast blocks. I keep a bunch of the scrapings and junk from castings in a container, just in case I need filler or rubble. Larger pieces I glued down with wood glue, but smaller bits I just counted on getting "glued down" by the next step.

Cave Construction Step 3And here's where it gets messy. I basically mixed up lots of very small batches of hydrocal in a cup and poured them over the tops of the walls, to let them drip over the sides. As each mixture would start to harden up in the process of all this dripping, I'd scrape it out with a plastic knife and apply it to bare sections of wall. The intent here is to obscure the wonderful fieldstone texturing, so it looks like cavern wall, not fieldstone - though a few fieldstones may still show here or there. This is a time-consuming process (and did I mention that it's messy?) and it often required me to pick up pieces so I could properly smear partially-hardened putty into some of these areas. I would go ahead and reuse the mixing cup, so bits of dried hydrocal from the previous mix would get broken up and mixed into the "putty". This resulted in a nice variety of textures: some areas were nice and smooth from multiple deposits of liquid hydrocal being dripped down. Others had lots of little rough bits, looking like a "rockfall" area.

Cave Construction Step 4Here's a close-up of the "cul-de-sac" room, partway through the application. Pouring hydrocal over the tops of the walls gave some semblance of "stalactite formation", but not at such fine detail as I would have liked. In retrospect, I should have started with smearing thicker putty on the walls, and then gone over to try to dribble "stalactites" on top - finally using air-dry clay to add more fine "stalactite/stalagmite" details once all the plaster had dried.

Cave Construction Step 5I used some air-dry clay (Marblex, in this case) to "cheat" and add "mineral formations" here and there, and to squash out a suggestion of "floor tiles" - purposefully irregular - for the flooring.

Caverns - CompleteFast forward to an overview of the complete layout (somewhat rearranged). Once everything dried, I painted everything a thick dark brown. This served not only as a base, but as a little extra "mortar" to seal gaps, and to hold down all those pieces of clay I grafted onto the surface. I then went over with a lighter brown, and when that dried, I dry-brushed with some Apple Barrel Paints "antique white". Voila!

Caverns - DetailHere's a close-up of some of the "mineral formations". Basically, I'd apply a few "steps" of clay - particularly on areas that were already sloping - and then I'd use a dull pencil to create vertical gouges to suggest gaps between hanging mini-stalagmites. In some parts of the layout, there would be gradual slopes where the plaster had built up - not flat enough for a model to stand on, but shallow enough that someone just might try putting one there. Doing "steps" of mineral formations like this helped me to get rid of those sloping areas - either by creating tiers that models could actually be placed on, or by making them so narrow that it would read as "obstacle" and thus dissuade players from putting models there and tempting them to fall over.

Caverns - Mineral PoolsAnother touch I added was to try to add "mineral pools". Some of these went into "natural" depressions created during the construction process, and in others, I used some air-dry clay to make bowl-like structures, sometimes in steps. Here, I painted (thickly) with Apple Barrel Paints "aquamarine" into the pool area, and then I went back with "misty white" to create a calcified ring - and touched up with more aquamarine to keep the ring fairly thin and irregular despite the thickness of my brush and the sloppiness of my handiwork.

Once this all dried, I got permission of my wife to borrow her clear nail polish and to apply just a bit to the tops of the pools so they'd look wet and shiny. I suppose the best results could be obtained with some clear casting resin, but this was such a small amount that it'd be overkill. (And I didn't feel like stinking up the garage with Castin Clear fumes.)

Caverns - Figure for ScaleAnd here's a close-up shot of a Reaper figure in one of the passages, for a sense of scale.

What next? Well, I really liked the "mineral formations" formed when I poured a bit of hydrocal over some of the tower "tooth" pieces, and I may go back and make a few standing "formations" as separate pieces that I can put in the caverns to block off passages, or serve as obstacles within a larger room. Also, it would be nice to make a "transition piece" where a fieldstone dungeon room gives way to cavern, so I can link this up with my dungeons.


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