Nesting Houses: Part 1

house

With less than a 15×40 cm space available in my tabletop battlebox (which is a converted toolbox) I was left with some hard choices. Do I use the space for more miniatures? Do I stack in a couple of stone walls, or ruins, or forest scenery? When you’re a dungeon-master on the go, like me, every centimeter counts. I needed more houses and buildings and castles rooms, sure, but I refuse to wheel a dolly stacked with Rubbermaid tubs into the hobby-shop, full of delicately crafted scene-setters.

So, with a need for stone buildings and castle interior, and almost no space whatsoever left in my box for it, I drafted a new design.

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(Note: I apologize for the shitty lighting. I didn’t intend to share this design, and took photo evidence only so I could rub this in my fellow GMs’ faces.)

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Above: Cheap foam-core from the dollar store. One bottle of white glue. Straight pins. An exacto blade. And a self-healing cutting mat. The goal is to end up with apx. 6-10 houses, which fit inside each other, maximizing space to structure ratio.

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I then used a 50/50 water and pva glue solution to seal the rims of the boxes and the corners. The foamcore wanted to separate from the outer paper layer. I convinced it not to.

Step 5) Watching glue dry…

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I then carved stone-like facades into the foamcore, first by scoring it with an exacto knife, then by deepening the lines with a wax-carver tool. I use the broader spade heads for this part.

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You can bond the outer layer of paper on the foam-core by doing another treatment with gluewater in the creases you’ve cut, or strip the paper off entirely, leaving a foam exterior. But keep in mind that the foam under the paper doesn’t take water-based paints or glue as well as the paper layer.

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All the facade sides are done. Note: This is a time-consuming yet brainless part of the process. Kick back and watch a movie (or 4) while you score and mark the sides.

Next we layer tape on the inside of the houses for mock wood paneling. This will be stained during Part 2 of this post, which will focus on the interior. For now the tape acts as extra support. As you can see I’ve also cut doors into my nesting houses, which are roughly the width of the 28mm miniatures I plan on playing with.

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Below I’ve demonstrated how to layer the tape. It’s pretty simple, and any imperfections or horizontal wrinkles in the tape will be brought out by the woodstain later. This can either ruin the project, or make it look authentic and aged, so be mindful of small creases.

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This layering is how it should look on the inside of the boxes. Cut the excess masking tape along the seems with and exacto blade and steel ruler.

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Now I use an acrylic (water based) black paint, mixed with 50% warm water. You want a tar or pancake batter consistency, to get into the many cracks you’ve carved into the facade.

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Be sure to get lots of black paint on your carpet, too.

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For the last step on the facade I sponged the brick with grey, starting with a dark gunmetal and working my way toward a lighter concrete. Irregularities in shade and hue are welcome at this stage. For the purpose of this build I’ve skipped flocking the brick, although you may choose to do so before moving on to the interior.

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Lastly, clearcoat the bricks. I used a standard matte finish from the hardware store, which costs half what most dull-coat miniature cans cost. For the grainy semi-satin finish on the bricks, this stuff works fine.

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Also, the more you shake the camera while you snap pictures, the better your project will turn out apparently.

Next week will be Part 2 of the nesting houses, which will focus on woodstaining the floors and interior decoration.

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