Showing posts with label DIY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DIY. Show all posts

Monday, February 12, 2024

Maker Monday - Project 1 - The Tall House

My wife and I have been dressing up our newly rebuilt house with furniture. That stuff comes in flat-pack boxes with tons of odd bits and foam pieces to protect the item inside. I noticed some great upcycle bits that I will be using for the first couple of projects. 

There is a ton of styrofoam in this packaging and I saved it all. The type I am upcycling is called EPS or expanded polystyrene which doesn't break down over time making it very hard to tip in the trash or recycling bin. 

I noticed that some of these companies are using small cardboard L's to get around using a lot of styrofoam and these bits are going to be the tip-top of these projects. 


Other handy bits found in packing are pieces of wood or particle board cast off the from manufacturing process. While heavy, it does fill space in a shipping box nicely. I have my cutting mat sitting on one, just so you don't think my table is a strange two-grained surface. 

Let's take a look at some of those pieces. 

I have my styrofoam and a couple of cardboard Ls on the cutting mat, plus Sarafina the Cat for scale. 

You will need your tool kit, styrofoam pieces, cardboard, heavyweight paper, and maybe some other items particular for your build, like popsicle sticks or stir sticks. 

What scale am I using? I call it "handy scale". Pieces are bigger than an inch and beyond that, I don't care much. I have both 15mm and 25 mm figures. I want the display pieces to be big enough to look nice but small enough to move around and store easily. I want to be able to use them for both 15 and 25 mm figures. 

I can set these parts to a scale like 1" equals 6 feet. In this case, the cardboard L is two inches wide (12 feet) and one inch high (6 feet). 

As I mentioned, the cardboard Ls are going to be the cherry on top of this project. They will be both the roof and a ready-made item I don't have to cut. 


I do need to make some measurements. The styrofoam (foam from here on out) is about 1 and 1/4 inches wide and much longer. When I match it up to the cardboard L, there is a 3/4 overhang. I can smoosh the cardboard to make this more or less by changing the pitch. This has the nice effect of making two different buildings appear to have completely different rooves with the exact same material. 

Each small L is about 4 to 5 inches long. The foam needs to be cut just a smidgen smaller than that, say 1/2 inch smaller so the overhang is close to the same all the way around. 

In the image, there is a very long piece of cardboard, about 12 inches. I haven't tried to cut it but I already know that I will use it for a different project as it is so tough cutting will be difficult. 

Speaking of size, let me apologize now. It's been a few years since I have posted on modeling. Mistakes have been made. What I need to get in the habit of is using GIMP to make sure every image is the same size. I didn't do that here, simply snapping a picture on my phone and cropping to whatever seemed ok. In retrospect, every crop is very not ok. It's annoying for me and probably distracting for you. 

I have sized up the foam I had in easy reach. The Ls match both, so I picked the skinnier, taller pieces for this model. This will be a Tall House after all. This particular piece is 4 inches tall making it about 30 feet tall plus an extra 1/2 inch under the eaves. This would represent a 3-story building. 

For D&D games, this would translate to a four-story building because there would likely be a dug-out root cellar or a crawlspace between the structure and the solid ground. This is highly variable as this building could be wood, stone, or block construction with the stone or blocks sitting on a rock base while a wooden structure simply resting on the dirt. 

I am not going deep into the weeds on this because how the building interacts with this ground is not only dependent on the material used but also the climate. If it freezes, you either need to be deep in the ground or right on top and no deeper. Both present construction problems in real life.

This reminds me, if you goof anywhere within this project, you can turn the building into a ruined structure. Ground heave, earthquakes, and fires have destroyed many, many ancient buildings. 

In my last post, I told you 3 lies. In this post, I will apologize 3 times. The second apology is about my 12-item list. I forgot sandpaper. We're almost there. You'll need sandpaper. 



In this picture, I line up the roof on the edge of the foam and push it over about 1/2 inch. This will give me a 1/4 overhang on all four sides. This is a very rude measurement and not entirely true for reasons I will explain later. 

This is a roughly built structure, so I just eyeballed the cutline. I want consistent lines, but not necessarily straight and square. I am shocked that the pencil is visible in the photograph. 

If your line isn't visible, use a ballpoint pen, not a marker. The ink can melt the foam and this is less noticeable with a ballpoint pen. 

This next part requires a bit of care. I'm working with a knife or wire foam cutter or maybe one other item, a hot knife. I forgot about the hot knife method until I opened my wire foam cutter and found one. The idea is that you put the knife in a flame and try not to stab yourself with a flaming hot knife. I am not a fan of this method. 

I used the wire foam cutter, but let me fill you in on a secret to using a foam cutter. 

Make a cardboard or tagboard jig or template. In the photo, you can see I simply aligned 2 cardboard Ls with the line. This was a mistake. The Ls are slightly smaller than the foam and it is only on 3 sides. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for the cutter. 

Well, that will be a problem. 

I selected the half-hoop cutter for this. I have a choice of two different probe-like wires and the half-hoop. I have poked myself with the probe-like wires so I wanted the one that can't poke me. 

These things get raging hot very quickly. They also cool just as quick. DO NOT touch, a couple of seconds can mean the difference between a cool wire and a 3rd-degree burn. Don't play that game. 

The wire is barely under Fahrenheit 451. It shouldn't burn paper, but could brown it. If you don't like burning smells in the house, open a window, go outside, or use your garage or basement.  

The trick is to move swiftly and smoothly as the wire radiates heat which melts the foam some distance from the contact point. This takes practice and the jig or template can help. Assuming you make it correctly, unlike me. 

The cut takes about 2 seconds to complete, maybe faster. Do not force the wire through the foam. Let the heat work for you. 

As you can see from the picture, I didn't move smoothly and my makeshift jig let the wire slide all over. I do have plenty of experience doing this and simply overestimated my skill. I am two or three years out of practice and boy did it show. 

I grabbed a piece of sandpaper, something I always have to run out and buy because I didn't have any around when I made my post about the 12 items you need in your tool kit. It took far longer to buy the stuff than it did to sand the block down. 

When sanding styrofoam, use steady, flat strokes. Resist the urge to go in circles or roll onto the edges, unless you actually want rounded edges. If you do round your edges, do all four vertical corners and leave the top and bottom natural. Rounding the bottom where it touches the ground looks weird unless you are making a sci-fi-themed building where there is the possibility that the "building" is actually a shipping container-like structure. 

As you can see, I quickly sanded this down. I could have covered this side with a skim of plaster, or a sheet of paper or made details that covered the roughness. You could, in theory, skip the sandpaper but I already did it. 

Now for the final apology. I had expected to have the whole building done in a single post. Rooves are fiddly things with a zillion options. Having the Ls shaped piece simplifies the build but doesn't make the roof less time intensive. Whatever you save using the L-pieces, you can burn with other details.   

This will be my very next post. Again, I apologize. 

Through the magic of making several buildings off-camera, we can look at several different styles and methods for the roof. In later posts, I will either link to the roof post or create a series of roofing posts that you can reference.  

This post appears on These Old Games, but please do me a favor and follow me on FacebookMeWeDice.Camp and/or Ko-Fi

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Lights, Camera, Prep - The 65 Dollar Tool Kit

I have so much going on. I need my shelves back to do some gardening, which means cleaning and organizing my D&D and modeling supplies. 

For the past couple of months, I've had some crafting projects on my mind that never went anywhere. I want finished products, not another tote or bin full of unfinished crap. I have supplies on top of tools and that drives me nuts. 

We could do this together. 

Let's pull together a 65.00 dollar tool kit for DIY models. This toolbox is meant more for crafting as opposed to plastic models. You probably have many of these things already and my suggestion is to buy as little as possible.  

The inspiration for this series is this custom Star Smuggler Print and Playbox, which remains at 90% complete. 

This list does not include supplies for projects. Each part of this series will have a separate supply list for each model or project. These projects will range from upcycling junk to throwing together scraps from other projects. You shouldn't have to buy too much for these crafts. 

These are the 12 items you will need to follow along at home. I have included basic prices and only a few lies: 

  • Cutting mat - $9.00 
  • Paper cutter - $10.00
  • 3 in 1 foam cutter - $20.00 to $30.00
  • Razor knives - $5.00
  • Glue - $5.00
  • Paint - $1-2.00 each*
  • Tape - $1.00
  • Rule/Straight Edge - $1.00
  • Pencil - $1.00
  • Pen - $1.00
  • Marker - $1.00*
  • Brushes - $1.00*
  • (I forgot this one until I started working on a project. Sandpaper). 
Items marked with a * are lies. 

This collection of tools is pretty standard. You probably already have markers, pens, pencils, and tape, so we can shave off 4 bucks. 

Cutting mats are wonderful and highly variable in price. The green one above is 17" by 12" and I found a two-pack for $9.00. You can also find one at the Dollar Store, for a surprising $1.25. Of course, I can't find it for a picture, but the black and orange one I did find was $25 with some tools. If you want to save some money, go find a scrap of wood or a piece of cardboard. Tagboard or poster board is a little too thin. If you go with the board, shave off another $9.00. 

The cutting mat serves three functions: a scale or ruler, a nice surface, and safety. The ruled lines allow for nice straight and/or square cuts without resorting to a second tool. It has a soft surface that protects your workspace. Most importantly, the soft, self-healing surface can protect your body and hands as blades have a tendency to lodge into the surface on slips, saving you from a nasty cut or scare. 

I prefer cardboard over wood for catching cutting accidents. If you go with a piece of wood, pick a soft board. 

I will be using a foam cutter for many of these projects. I consider it necessary, but you can get by just fine with a very, very sharp knife or razor. Just be careful. The foam cutter eliminates a lot of messes, but it's a hot tool that takes some practice to use. My first couple of projects only involve straight cuts, so you can get that practice by following along. 

Foam cutters are wonderful, but the pricing is outrageous for no good reason. The item pictured was $20.00. However, I have seen the EXACT SAME ITEM for $200. Don't do that to yourself, shop around. You don't need it that badly. 

The paper cutter is an optional "nice to have, but not necessary" item. I like it but you can do just fine the mat and a razor or use a pair of scissors. This one I found at Target on clearance, otherwise, I would not have one at all. It's a product with a single purpose which may or may not come up that often. 

The paper cutter is nice but...

I feel like I can skip over many items on this list as you probably have them. 

Let's go to the LIES section. There are 3 of them: brushes, paints, and markers. The list claims you can have all three for about $12 assuming you want only 10 paints, a brush, and a marker. That is actually a tiny lie due to the projects we will be doing. 

DO NOT USE your wife's Copic markers on these projects. The same goes for her wonderful Citadel paints or her sable-hair paintbrushes. Murder will result. There is no "may" in that statement. It will happen. 

The projects we will be working on are rather rude. You can glitz them up to your level of comfort, but don't waste nice markers, paints, or brushes on this. Dollar store items will be fine.   

The same can be said of glue. I have three different items from the Dollar Store. We aren't building furniture, so don't waste your money on "nice things". There is one item in this picture that is a "must have", the Tacky Glue. It's a Dollar Store item which is shocking. It has the consistency of Mod Podge and can be used for both gluing and a surface cover. I love it. 

I can't wait for us to get started.

Before I finish up, I wanted to talk about the writing implements: pen, pencil, and markers. Certain materials do not like certain marking implements. Styrofoam melts with some markers, damaging both the craft and the marker itself. Pens are good for dark, soft materials as you can see the color. Pencils are pretty much universal to all products, but sometimes not for foam or dark surfaces. If I notice this happening in this series of projects, I will warn you in advance. 

That is it, here are the 12 items you will need for this project series, complete with three lies. 

(And one omission, sandpaper.) 

This post appears on These Old Games, but please do me a favor and follow me on Facebook, MeWe, Dice.Camp and/or Ko-Fi

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I... We Still Hate Read Magic

I hate read magic as spell. Its... well, let me tell you, it's everything Dragons Gonna Drag said it was. Justin says everything I thought about this useless spell and more. With poetry, actual poetry. He doesn't just hate this spell, he has all kinds of tips, tricks and mechanics to get rid of it in a comprehensive fashion.

Someone once told me, "Criticism without an action item is... assholish." Justin Stewart names the issue and gives the reader many, many good ideas on alleviating the problem. It isn't just criticism, is valid criticism with a viable solution. Love it!

Why not add him to your reading list? Go check him out. 

By the way, feel free to add your blog or your favorite blog to my reading list by mentioning it in the comments. I can't wait to add it to my blog roll.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Burning Keep

I want to recess windows and doors on my Keep model, but I am 20+ years out of practice. I've already cut myself with a razor and don't want to bust out an iron to melt the Styrofoam.

So, I'll use a chemical to melt the doors and windows into the surface.

Markers are great for marking Styrofoam. In the picture to the left, I have marked out the various levels in black and the stairs in red. I used dry erase markers after testing them to make sure they wouldn't damage the material. I also outlined the windows and doors before starting with my Sharpie.

One caveat here. Not all markers are the same. In the last image series called Rough Cuts, I used a fine line red Sharpie to mark my cut outs. It didn't melt anything. A fine line marker maybe too small, formulated differently or the age of the marker cause it not to melt the Styrofoam. I picked an old marker for this task because this chemical does a number on the nib of the marker.

I cannot suggest alcohol based markers for this. I did try it and it didn't work. First, you'll ruin a perfectly good marker if it does work, and to my knowledge, alcohol doesn't damage Styrofoam. It is often used as a thinner in airbrushes, and airbrushes work fine on Styrofoam models. It's the ink doing the burning, not the smelly carrier.

In the image to the right, you can see how the marker chewed up the surface. I was expecting spray paint like melting, but all it did was coat each cell-like structure of the foam and caused them to pop off. Messy, but exactly what I wanted.

The marker is easily controlled and my lines are sort of straight. My purpose in making an indented windows and doors is to protect and mark those areas from the plaster I will skim over the surface. Later today, I will make a series of light cardboard masks for these spaces, with pull tabs so I can remove any mistakes I make with the plaster.

These windows and doors will have wooden or plastic features and I will need to be able to partially recess them in these spaces. 

The marker was able to melt in about 1/8 of an inch or (3 mm), which should be good enough for my wooden structures.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Keep - Rough Cuts

I decided to work on my Keep tonight. Of course, I will do floor plan maps, but tonight, I want to work on the model itself. I'm starting with the crenelation. You'll probably notice that this is bad form, I am making a model with no paper plans, then making a floor plan from an unscaled model. Hmmm... It could work.

To create the crenelations, I "measured" out the walls. I came up with 2 different numbers. 3 inches and 3 1/4 inches. Not bad considering the source of my Styrofoam was upcycled packing material. It wasn't going to be square no matter what I did.

I divided the wall section into five parts, a classic looking crenelation. 3 parts will be empty, 2 parts filled and then the 4 corners of unmeasured sizes. That works out to be about 9 1/16ths for the 3 inch sections and 10 1/16ths for the 3 1/4 walls. Small enough not to matter.

I put an x on the parts that would be cut away. One of the issues with this method is, I have no scale in mind. My brain defaults to 1 inch equals 6 feet, so a cut out of 10 1/16ths is going to be 3.75 feet. So this is 25 mm. This is pretty good, as most of my figures are 28mm. Oh... My brain is so broken.

Anyway, forget scale. I want this to look nice rather than be a particular size.
Although the Keep will not have a scale,
the cat is as close to 1:1 scale as it could get it.
Your cat may vary. 

Let's get cutting. I'm using scraper handled razor. I want to push down on the line. It turns out this cutter was bad for what I was doing and I switched it up with a boxing razor.

The straight down cut allows me to work in two angled cuts. Again, I am not working for a "scale", so I didn't measure how deep I went. I'm guessing that it's also about 3.75 feet in scale.

Let me give you two tips when cutting. First, unless you have a cutting table, work on a finished surface like a table. Wipe it down with a wet rag and do not it dry. The water will make the base of the Keep stick and all of the bits of Styrofoam will also stay in place.. This makes clean up easy. Dry, unfinished wood will also stick to Styrofoam, so that is an option, too.

These look like teeth. The blade is semi flexible, so I can force it into the soft Styrofoam, and end up with a straight cut and a flat surface on the bottom.

As you can see from the pictures, I have some basal wood pushed into the Styrofoam as a floor. I need to plan my details before the next step, which is going to force me to pick a scale. Judging by the size, this Keep will be nothing like a real world Keep. It is all out of proportion.

But I am happy with my results as of now. More tomorrow, I think.