Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Auld Nick's workbench: Stone Walls

This time it's not me who is seeking your estimated attention. Auld Nick, a close friend of mine, spent some time to create some stonewalls for our gaming board. He wrote a short tutorial and asked me wether I was interested to post it as byline article.

Needless to say I'm pleased to and admit Auld Nick to the floor:

Hi there folks,

my name's Niclas (a.k.a. Auld Nick). Monty and I are old friends since school days and share, not surprisingly, a common interest ­­– 20 mm (1/72 – 1/76 resp.) scale modelling.

After our trip to the WTS and subsequent scale modelling session last weekend I decided to build some other terrain parts for our little game – stone walls.
Building stone walls actually follows the basic concept of building bocages explained by Monty in a recent post (link); because of the good results obtained when building several bocages last weekend I decided to adapt it in order to build the walls (Monty's not: I'll present the Bocages after the finishing touches) .

I used the following material to build the walls:
  • Hot glue: I used it to glue base strips and wall cores together.
  • PVA Glue (Wood glue): Used to fix turf and scatter material onto the wall’s surface. My recommendation is to dilute the glue with water as it is a bit thick when used straight out of the bottle.
  • Primer: I used black acrylic spray paint.
  • Turf yellow grass: Fine scatter material; ideal to emulate moss and lichen.
  • Scatter material: Slightly coarser variant of turf resembling sod/grass and used in this manner.
  • Clump foliage: Used as shrubbery.
  • Stone boulders: Needed for the stone surface of the walls. I used medium-sized quartz boulders.
  • Kapa board: Kapa is the German trade name of three-layered composite board (two outer cardboard shells with a polystyrene core). I decided to use boards measuring 3 mm in thickness. (Monty's note: I think in English you call it "foamboard")
  • Styrodur: Styrodur is the trade name of foamed polystyrene blocks sold in shape of rectangular bars in German DIY stores (Obi, Bauhaus etc.). The size of the bars doesn’t really matter, as long as you can cut it into pieces of the following measurements: length: 10 or 5 cm resp.; height: 2 cm; diameter: 1 cm.
  • Fine sand: Used as scatter material.
  • Ballast: Used as scatter material.
And here’s how I built the walls:
The base of the walls I fashioned out of kapa board. Because I had something of a modular system in mind I decided to use two basic lengths for the base strips, 10 cm and 5 cm respectively, the width of the strips measuring 2 cm.

A piece of Styrodur foam before it's been cut. It's rather solid stuff that's a bit tricky to cut but it can be sanded nicely.

Onto those I glued styrodur pieces of the appropriate length using hot glue (N.B.: When used excessively the hot glue tends to melt the styrodur considerably, a fact that should be taken into consideration when applying the stone boulders in a later step). This procedure gives you straight wall sections; I recommend that you treat them with a scalpel or cutter in order to give the crest and sides an uneven and more natural appearance.

The prepared core for the stone walls. More for the cornered section later...
To have more options of setting up the walls I decided to build some quoins as well. For this I used two 5 cm kapa strips. These were joined by means of a mitre joint: I took one strip and cut away part of one end in 45° angle; I repeated this with the second strip; then I glued both strips together. The result was an angled piece with a 90° angle (the outer edges of the piece measuring the original 5 cm of the two separate 5 cm strips) onto which I glued the styrodur core of the wall following the outline of the base (i.e. a quoin with a 90° edge).

The next step was to apply the primer; although I used acrylic paint with water as solvent the binder contained within the paint (some sort of resin would be my guess) had a slight dissolving effect on the styrodur of my first two wall segments. This effect can be diminished, I found out, by sparsely applying the paint. In case that there are some blank spots left: That’s no grave matter since my next step consisted in painting the segments by hand. I used a middle grey colour for the styrodur core and a dark green for the parts of the kapa base still visible.
The stone wall ready to be covered with pebbles, clump foliage etc.
After the paint had dried I started to glue the stone boulders onto the styrodur using hot glue (my advice is that you treat only small portions of the pieces at a time: this gives you the opportunity to correct the fitting of the stones and by the same token diminishes the chance of burning yourself with hot glue – not an altogether pleasant experience I can assure you!).

The next step was to decorate the segments using the foliage, turf and scatter material. The turf is a good choice for imitating moss or lichen on stones, the scatter material can be used as grass. In order to glue it onto the walls you simply treat the spots where you want the lichen, grass etc. with diluted wood glue and then sprinkle the material turf etc. on it. The clump foliage can be used as shrubbery: Simply glue it to the spot where you want a shrub; let it dry, then brush some diluted wood glue onto the clump foliage and sprinkle it with fine turf or fine scatter material.

You can further adorn segments with trees: Simply glue them to free spots, where, for example the wall has crumbled leaving open a breach – there are quite a few arrangement possibilities.

That’s, more or less, the procedure for building stone walls.

A last hint: I encountered some problems with the straight joints of the segments: There were quite a few gaps between the individual segments when I aligned them in order to form a continuous wall. I overcame this problem by gluing little pieces of clump foliage onto both narrow sides of the segments; this helps concealing the uneven straight joints of the individual segments.

Well then... Thanks a lot for the tutorial. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Next time I'll present the finished Bocage segments and maybe some WIP-pictures of the houses I'm working on. Soon I plan a side trip to some 28mm Napoleonic stuff and I hope you don't mind that I'll post it here although the main theme of my Blog was 20mm WW II.

Finally some pictures of Nick's finished wall segments:


  1. That's a good tutorial and good work for people less lazy than myself...very nice Nick and Monty!

  2. A wonderful tutorial, many thanks.

  3. hi, your blog is very nice and I add my favourite blogs..


  4. Very interesting tutorial. This technique is also usefull for diorama makers. Thanks for sharing!

    PS: nice blog!