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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Showing off: Making a terrain display shelf

Until the new tribe arrives, I've filled a little of my time making this display shelf to increase and standardize some of my shelf space. It was about the easiest piece of terrain I've ever done, and it only took about 1 1/2 hours of actual work time.

Here's how I did it!...

What you'll need (What I used anyway; feel free to substitute): Blue foam (I used 1/2-inch thickness here, but thicker layers will allow miniatures further back to be seen more easily), Hot foam cutter (or other method of cutting. The cutter just makes things a lot easier if you're using foam.) White glue (PVA or wood), paint, and flock (or static grass or gravel or whatever you like to use on your bases.)

1: I've jumped straight past the cutting and assembling steps in this photo. I've measured the space on my shelf (28 3/4"x11 1/4") and decided on 2-inch terrace widths. This width allows enough space for larger scale minis, cavalry figures and most monster figures. This also allows me 5 terrace levels. I can easily fit 100 standard 28mm figures on this shelf.
You can use PVA glue to assemble your levels. I didn't worry about the sides too much since these would be hidden by the walls of my shelving unit.
In this step, you can see I've covered the entire piece with a coat of wood glue; this serves two purposes, it gives the piece strength and it gives you a nice surface to apply paint to in the next step.

2: Here I've squirted some acrylic paint on each of the terraces. Use cheap craft paints for this. All I had at hand was some bright green, so I've muted it by throwing down a little brown as well.

3: By the time you've finished spreading out the paint (depending on how thick you put it on), those areas where you started painting should already be drying. They were for me, anyway. I started with the green and then went to the gray (to simulate a stony foundation). I chose this order because if I got any gray paint on my green terraces, it wold simply be covered up with my flock later.

4: My green is layed down as well as my stone walls (which have also been lightly dry brushed.) Time to dig out the glue!

5: Mix up some water and PVA glue (I went about 4:1, glue to water here.) Get an old brush and spread it around.

6: After you're happy with the glue coverage, start sprinkling the flock. It will take a lot, so be prepared with enough flock at hand. This piece took about 1/4-1/3 of a tub of Games Workshop flock.

7: Done! Let your display dry overnight. You can inspect the piece closely and apply patched of flock to bare spots, or paint to areas you might have missed. You can also accent the flock with small pieces of shrub or other vegetation if you want.
I wanted to use static grass (for a softer look and feel), but I prefer static grass for basing my minis, and I had some old flock that I knew I would not otherwise use. When the glue dries (it's not dry in the final pic), I will add patches of static grass to give it a little variety.

Yes, of course this is the same method for making stepped hills, but did you think to make your hills into display areas? What? You did? Oh. Ok. Good for you. ;)

You can, of course, simply place the minis on the flat shelf, and there is a little more space if you do so, but if you want your minis to all be seen, try this simple project out. All that you need to invest is a couple hours of work time and a couple overnight's worth of waiting.

When the glue dries, I'll put some minis on the new piece and (try to remember to) update this post with a new picture.


  1. Very practical. Look at the version which I made myself, is a bit more complicated, but the function is the same :-)

  2. Heh. I made a similar thing...but made mine out of wood. Never even noticed the resemblance to stepped wargaming hills. I may well go back and redo it, now!! That looks really good!

  3. Everybody go have a look at Pablo's version. Great stuff!

    Nothing wrong with wood; my first thought was to make mine out of wood. I only went blue foam because I have the resources to work with it.

  4. I know I should be making a display shelf, bet there is always something else taking priority.

    I do like the overall effect.