Tutorial - How to make a desert base - Part 1

by Raffa aka Picster

posted by Raffe, Picster, Capuchin...

Hey everyone,
In this tutorial i'll show you how to build a desert styled base for a 70mm Miniature.
The shown techniques could be also used for bases for smaller miniatures.

Before we begin i want to show you a picture how the base will look in the end of part I:
This is our goal for part I

The tutorial is divided into several steps and two parts:



Materials you need:
  1. Gypsum
  2. Styrodur
  3. Milliput
  4. Some tool that rotates electrically (rotary tool, drill, electric screwdriver)
  5. Flathead screwdriver
  6. Hobby knife
  7. Pen
  8. Modeling tools or something alike
  9. Baking soda or very very fine sand
  10. White glue
  11. Superglue
  12. Lead foil
  13. Wood (stirring rods from Mc Donalds)
  14. Banana 

    Many of the tools can be replaced by something similar, be creative, be McGyver!

    As you maybe guessed from reading this list this will be a rather long tutorial, so better go and grab a banana before reading this!

    We start by setting a theme for the base, i wanted to have a desert themed base with sand on the ground, covering some destroyed tile floor and a broken door frame with the size of a pillar.

    After trying out different methods to create the pillar (almost needless to say they all failed me... haha) i wanted to give the so called 'gypsum carving' a chance.
    I read about it on another tutorial and wanted to try it out for quite a long time.
    So i ordered some dental gypsum on ebay and the result was exactly what i searched for.


    Building the door frame

    First we have to create a mold for the gypsum.
    Let's think about what kind of door we want to create.... if you like to you can sketch it first.
    I started by sketching the design on a piece of styrodur.
    Search for References in History or Artbooks or on the Internet if you want to do something realistic...

    After that i cut into the lines with a hobby knife.
    Don't cut yourself, always take care while using hobby knifes

    With the screwdriver i poked out the inside leaving dents and holes in the form.
    A flathead screwdriver is best for this.

    Now we're ready to pour the gypsum. Mix your gypsum like it's written in the manual and pour it into the mold.
    If you mix too much water into the gypsum it's nothing too 
    bad, the water will set itself apart while drying.

    Pour a little bit of the gypsum into the lid of some plastic box or something similar so you have a thin layer of gypsum when it's dry.

    Now you have to wait a little bit. Good time to write some comments on massive voodoo or to eat a banana!
    OMNOMNOMNOMNOM!

    When you notice the gypsum get's hard (time depends on gypsum type....) you can start carving.
    The importand thing is that the gypsum still needa to be pretty damp, better try start working on it sooner than later.
    You will feel when the time is right to start :)

    I started carving when the gypsum was still pretty damp so i could carve the rough shapes pretty smoothely with my Zahle A tool.

    I began with the door border and progressed through the stones.
    Try carving the biggest details and shapes first.

    Then i further detailed the spaces between the stones. You'll notice how the gypsum gets dryer and harder as you progress with the carving. This comes in handy as it hold detail better as dryer as it gets.
    At this stage the gypsum won't hold that much detail, save that for later.

    Continue detailling and when you think you're done (don't try to overdo it at this stage ... Too much detail and it won't look believable).
    You need a little bit of patience ;)

    Now we need to create the back and the sides of the wall.
    As you have guessed, you need to remove the mold.
    I did so by cutting into the sides of the mold and just broke it apart. While doing this, i broke my wall into 3 pieces.
    Nothing to worry about as wehave our trusted super glue!!

    But for the moment i left it broken as it was easier to work on seperate small pieces. Murphy loves me sometimes, haha :)

    I started defining the lines between the stones with my Zahle A tool as i did in the front and i removed the 'mold lines' on the decorative border.
    After that i defined the shape of the deco border on the side.
    I wanted it to look as it were different stones that have been put on there.
    Here are the 3 parts so far.

    After doing the side, i created some seams between the stones on the back.
    The back has a nice structure thanks to 
    the screwdriver poking in the styrodur.

    When i was so far done on the back side, the gypsum was pretty hard and i could continue with detail work. For this i used my needle tool. I carved out more of the space between the stones, added dents and damage to the stones and some cracks into the decorative border.

    After this stage the gypsum was ready for the final detail.
    For this i used a self made tool consisting of basically 2 wires bent over at the tip. With this tool i scratched around on the surface in different random directions.
    Making tools that fit certain jobs is always
    interesting and helps very much sometimes!

    Yay! We finished the basic wall part, looks pretty good so far :)

    When the wall was finally dried on the next morning, i glued it together and put it on the base to think about the composition when i noticed that i made it a bit too tall.
    Buuuut this was no problem, i just cut off a little piece which i could use as broken wall segments on the base.


    Creating a tiled floor piece

    After i was confident with the composition i took a piece of the gypsum plate we poured in the beginning which was already dry.

    I broke of a piece of it with the right size and drew some lines on it (a basic raster). Then i looked in google image search for an interesting pattern of a tiled floor.
    When i found a pattern i liked that wasn't too complicated i drew the pattern on the gypsum piece.
    Maybe, on your first few tries, don't use 
    a too complicated pattern...

    Again with the Zahle tool i started carving out the basic lines.
    As always i then started giving the whole thing more definition with the Needle tool. Add cracks and dents to make it believable...
    This should be done pretty fast.
    Try to not overdo it with sharpness on a old broken floor...

    After the carving was done, i broke some of the tiles.
    Destruction is fun!


    Fixing the parts on a base

    With the wall and floor done we can start putting the stuff on the base.
    I used a socket from sockelmacher.de for this.
    This stuff rocks!!

    Before i did anything on this wonderful piece, i taped the sides of the socket so the beautiful wood doesn't get painted.

    I forgot to take some step by step pictures here but i basically put some Milliput on the base and started by pressing the wall into it. Then i reinforced the sides a bit with more Milliput and created the basic shape for the sand dunes that should be there later.

    I put a thin layer of Milliput beneath the wall which was a little bit thicker in the middle than on the sides.
    You then need to put a little water on the Milliput to keep it wet, otherwise the gypsum we're about to add won't hold.

    Now i pressed the floor peice onto the milliput, my plan worked like i thought and the floor tiles broke at the carved lines creating a destroyed tile floor.

    After that done i added the pieces of broken wall onto the base.
    Just use some Milliput and press them on the base.
    I then defined the basic shape of the sand dunes with the rest of the milliput.
    Try to create a good composition, don't put on 
    too much detail or spread out everything too much.

    So we finished the biggest part of the base.


    Adding desert sand

    Now we will add the sand.
    Because sand is very fine, especially desert sand i won't use normal basing sand as i nromally do.
    Instead i decided to give baking soda a try.
    To make it look like it flowed into the crevices between the tiles etc we will use dilluted PVA glue to fix it on the base.

    Get a small container and put in some PVA glue and a bit of water (around 60 percent glue) and mix it.
    Then use a old paint brush to put the glue on the base.
    Do this in 3 or 4 segments so the glue won't dry before you could add the baking soda.
    Here i added PVA glue to one of the 'segments' of the base.
    Ready to add backing soda.

    Put the base into the container and pour the baking soda over it. Shake off the excess and continue this for every segment of the base.
    Even if baking soda doesn't cost too much, don't waste
    it, you can reuse the backing soda in the container :)

    After the baking soda is on the base, take a bristle brush and wipe off the baking soda from the tiles and from everywhere were you don't like it (less is maybe more here).
    Do this when the glue is not already completely dry but not soaking wet.
    Wipe away the sand from the tiles.
    If you don't do this step you'll lose many details.

    While the glue is drying, press onto the baking soda with your dry finger to make a smoother surface.

    Here's a photo with the miniature(WiP) fixed to the base after this step.
    Looks good so far!

    Creating details

    At this stage we leave the baking soda and we can start with the details. What i wanted to add is:
    • A broken vase
    • A snake that's in the vase and a salamander on the wall
    • Pieces of grout on the wall
    • Pieces of a broken door

    A broken vase

    Ok, now it gets a little complicated... I've tried several methods for creating such a vase.
    Gypsum carving did it again for me.
    I have to say, i could have done this a lot easier because i destroyed the vase anyway after finishing it, but i want to show you a method here.

    So i started by creating a mold. This time it won't be that easy haha :)
    Take a piece of thin plasticard and tape it to a round shape.
    Wrap the plasticard around some cylinder 
    (brush, pen, anything..) and tape it together.

    The next step is a bit of McGyvering.
    Because i don't own a drilling machine i had to improvise.
    I used the bit of my electric screwdriver and pressed the positive end into a block of clay.
    Oh man, this is never gonna end good ;)

    After that i pressed the cylinder of plasticard into the clay.
    Add some plutonium and your flux-compensator is done!

    If you like to (it'll really help!) you can now press a small wire into the clay in the middle of the 'screwdriver hole' so it'll support the whole thing a bit.
    Now mix some gypsum and pour it into this mold.
    After almost dry, remove the clay and cut the tape on the plasticard to get this wonderful piece.
    Simple and effective, haha :)

    Now i had a way to continue with my limited electric tools :)
    The big plus of the electric screwdriver is that it won't rotate that fast so i have total control and the gypsum wont break that fast.

    I took a hobby knife and started carving the piece while it rotates in the tool.
    It really works... i'm amazed.

    If something breaks while carving this, try to glue it together with super glue...
    I had to try this 2 times until it worked.

    Continue until you have a rough vase.
    You can also carve the rough inside 
    out while it's on the tool.

    Now i finished the vase by making everything round by further carving with the hobby knife. I also carved a bit of the inside away so it looks hollow.
    After looking how it adds to the base i decided to destroy the vase and hollow the inside out completely (pretty easy one you have two halves).
    I sawed the vase into two halves and broke some pieces off, added dents and scratches and finally glued it onto the base.

    Here's how the result looks:
    More contrast please ;)


    Small animals

    I decided to add a little detail to the base.
    First a snake in the vase and a small salamander on the wall.

    This was pretty easy because i've cheated here :D
    I bet you expected me to sculpt a sausage of green stuff and so on ...

    But i already bought this set a while ago:
    Open this and you will laugh out on sprues from
    other 'big companys' for the rest of your life!

    The quality of this set is AMAZING, there are all kinds of animals that are super small without mold lines.... So i'm not telling you to buy this, but believe me you won't regret these 7 euros.

    Here is the salamander glued to the wall.
    Sunny up here :)

    And the snake in the vase.
    "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes 
    in this motherfucking vase!"

    That's it with the animals, pretty easy step...


    Pieces of grout

    I wanted some grout on the wall.
    i used this stuff for it, normally you fill holes in the walls in your appartement.
    When a big gorilla destroys your 
    book shelf, you need this stuff!!!

    I put some of this stuff on a small piece of paper, added a little bit of water and put it on the wall in some random pattern.
    Try to not make the patches too similar.

    That's it :)


    Broken Door

    Let's start with the broken door.
    Take a piece of lead foil. You can also use plasticard or what ever you have at your hands that'll fit here.
    When i start to scratchbuild thing, before i do anything i do a quick sketch of what i want to do.
    With this sketch it's easier for me to think about the materials i want to use etc.

    Now i start by sketching the needed parts onto the lead foil and cut them out with a hobby knife
    Better don't try to do details that are too small... 
    otherwise it's hard to cut.

    Sorry but i again forgot to take some pictures....
    But i recreated the interesting part, the pivot:







    Please add Tetris music!

    Take something round and roll over the lead foil to make it flat.


    Hey you idiot! That's NOT FLAT!

    Bend the ends around a piece of wire or something similar to make them round.
    Start with the first part...

    You can use a plier to make the progress easier...

    and continue with the second part to finish of the door pivot.
    Now a plier is recommended ;)

    Now cut and break the wooden pieces to a desired shape and glue them together.
    Gotta love McDonalds for this gift ;)

    You can add a little wooden structure with a sharp tool but that's optional.
    Again i used the Zahle A tool... 
    it's a great tool for all kind of detailling.

    Punch in some holes with something sharp to create 'nails'.
    In such a scale, adding nail heads 
    would be overkill in my opinion.

    Now glue the first part of the pivot onto the wood.
    Search for the best position before glueing it into place.

    And position and fix the second part with glue.
    This might be tricky, you can add a wire
    into it if you want a stable connection.

    Glue the broken door to the wall and you're done.
    Everything fixed, yay!

    We just finished the door :)

    Afterword

    So far for the first part of this Tutorial.
    In some days i'll post the second part: Painting and finishing the base.

    I hope you maybe got some inspiration from this article.
    If you like it and you want to support the jungle, just click here, we're happy about every little donation ;)

    Cheers,
    Raffaele



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