Friday, May 15, 2009

Road Building or Try, Try Again

When at first you don’t succeed, ask for a bailout. Unfortunately there is no TARP money left to bail out miniature scenery projects, so it off for another try. The fabric based under-layer for my roads proved to be susceptible to warping and I couldn’t figure a way to keep the roads both flat and flexible (to follow terrain contours). Then I had an idea - use heavy weight strathmore board as the under layer for the paintable latex caulk, and it works like a charm. Here is a revised list of materials for making roads:

Under-layer: - Heavyweight Strathmore Board
(purchased from Michaels’ Art Stores)
Covering: - DAP paintable caulk - I choose a buff tone which helps in
the shading of the final product
Paint: - Folk Art “Twill” paint - nice neutral tone
Tools: - Hobby Knife and Steel straight edge (to cut out road
Caulk Gun
Popsicle Sticks (to spread the caulk)
Bamboo Skewer (to make ruts)
Cup of Water (to help with smoothing out the caulk)
Paint brushes

Total Materials Cost $28.00

Cut out Sections:
I decided to make my roads 2 inches wide. In previous posts, the roads where 2.5 inches wide, which is more accurate for a 15mm scale but they just look too wide on the table. The reduction to a 2 inch width really made them look better.

Draw your road sections out on the strathmore board. Using a straight edge cut out the sections with your hobby knife. Strathmore is a pain to cut and it takes me about 4 passes with a hobby knife to make a clean cut using medium pressure. Make sure pull the knife away from you - the board dulls a blade very quickly and you will hit some snags that cause the blade to “jump”. You can see in the first picture below one of the base sections before being caulked. I cut out the following sections:
8 - 12” straight
2 - 6” straight
2 - 3” straight
2 “T” Crossings
1 “X” crossing
1 “Y” Crossing
2 90 degree curves - these need to be free handed when cutting

Apply the Caulk:
Once the road sections are cut, it’s time to apply the caulk. I put a bead of caulk down in a tight wave shape along each section and then smoothed it out with a wet popsicle stick. I tried to get thin covering along the the entire road section and it’s sides. Don..’t worry if a little of the strathmore board shows through as it paints up . I let each section set up for about an hour before adding wheel ruts using a bamboo skewer. Now I have a heavy hand and the initial ruts were too severe but that was easy to fix. I used a damp foam brush and lightly swept over the road sections to damp down the ruts. I then let the road sections cure for 24 hours.

The road sections will still warp a bit while curing but can be easily bent back into shape (the strathmore board is surprisingly strong and flexible). One section was somewhat resistant to de-warping (I had way too much caulk on it). That was easily fixed by inserting straightened paper clips into the strathmore for support (think of this as paper clip rebar). I then cleaned up the ends of each section using a sanding block to make sure the road sections would fit together cleanly.

Painting involved covering the roads with Folk Art “Twill” acrylic paint thinned 50/50 with water. I painted a base coat over each section and then went back and highlighted with un-thinned twill. I like the results.

Once the paint dries, the road sections are ready to use. The srtathmore is bendable so each section can we adjusted to fit terrain contours. To be honest, I’m not sure of the long term durability of the strathmore so I have reinforced the underside of each section with duct tape. Might be overkill but then again it might not.

I’ve been very happy with the initial results and plan to make some more sections for the table. I used about 3/4 a tube of caulk for what I made with this first set.

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