WWII Africa Campaign Map: Resin Casting and Prep for Envirotex Light
Last time we looked at the rationale behind making a WWII African Theatre wargames map from scratch and laid the foundation of the board. This time we’re making resin casts of land and ocean hexes and small items like convoy markers. We’ll assemble the map, prime it, and work toward getting ready to pour Envirotex Lite to make realistic looking water.
The more miniatures games I play the more I want a campaign map to tie all the pieces together. While one off battles are fun I really like the sense of history and continuity a campaign map provides. With that reminder to motivate me: To Work! It’s not going to build itself.
I needed to be able to mass produce the hexes. All told, the map has over 480 hexes on it. Access to as many hexes as I wanted in any configuration made laying the base far easier. As we know, cutting and sanding solid resin creates unhealthy dust so I needed to minimize both. Casting the exact shapes I needed cut out A LOT of work. However, because the 3D printed hexes were semiporous my first silicon mould cast was ripped apart when I tried to separate it from the master. Oops, should have seen that coming! I sealed it several times with Future (yup, the floor polish), letting it dry in between heavy coats. This eventually sealed the 3D printed hex so I could cast it.
What I’d Do Again: Use 3D printed masters. They were relatively cheap to have printed and created a perfect hex grid with no gaps. There is a level of precision offered by 3D printing that other production methods can’t beat. I’d also make sure I got a wide selection of hex configurations. I had sets of 3, 5, 9, and 12 on hand making undulating shoreline easier to create.
What I’d Do Better: Get the 3D hexes and shapes printed with surface density high enough to be water tight. The internal structure of the item can be a lattice but the surface has to be solid. I would also take my time and cast more carefully. As it was, I cast about 50 pieces for the map and although I did it over a long period of time I still rushed a few times. A few small errors crept into the hexes I cast which over many, many sets of hexes created a small gap here and there. Patience would have eliminated this problem.
I needed a cheap and plentiful supply of mountain terrain, desert features, cities, port and convoy markers. I’m a proficient resin caster – I can copy just about anything – but I’m terrible sculptor. A quick look around my local craft store gave me little stamps with anchors and ship’s wheels. A couple of face moulds of GW Mighty and Planetary Empires tiles gave me surface texture and mountains. Once the moulds were made it was simply a task of knocking out a bunch of the shapes.
What I’d Do Again: Collect, on the cheap, all the little features I’d need and then cast a bunch of them. Once they were all stuck to the board a thorough coat of Duplicolor dark grey auto primer stuck to metal, resin, wood, and plastic like a charm. It also really takes paint well when you airbrush any medium – acrylic, lacquer, or enamel – onto it.
What I’d Do Better: I cast the mountain and rougher terrain inserts as almost an afterthought cutting a big piece down to size. What I should have done is get a 3D printed insert that fit inside the hexes. It is remarkably difficult to ‘eyeball’ a hex shape and in result my mountain hexes have a sloppy fit and other terrain features like the Qattara Depression were guesswork and trial and error.
The ‘Shoreline’ around the Mediterranean had to literally hold water. After thoroughly washing all the resin bits in warm soapy water and leaving them to dry, I laid out the hexes. After a few necessary cuts I had the coastline all planned out and, thank goodness, it has the right shape and feel to it. I had made a map from scratch! I can check that off my ‘geography nerd’s bucket list’. There were, however, some gaps between the resin and metal backing and some of the hexes had low edges due to cutting. Envirotex Light is just like water. If there’s a gap it’ll sneak through it and drain the clear resin onto the floor, never to be removed. I built a dam out of thin styrene to form a ‘wall’ around the shoreline. Next, I painted a good amount of the clear resin Envirotex around the edge to seal it completely.
What I’d Do Again: This worked really well. A glued down dam sealed with a lot of resin worked perfectly. The entire edge didn’t leak a drop when I later poured the liquid resin in. Using Envirotex to seal Envirotex has the advantage of sealing any and all little gaps with the material itself.
What I’d Do Better: Not much, I did my research on this part and nailed it. There are a lot of good videos by the company and others who have had success with the product. Watch them before trying.
Airbrushing the Mediterranean Sea colours was a nice break from casting and a lot of fun! You can see in the pictures below the colours and progression for the Med. Also, Future Floor Polish (again, I’m not kidding) is a cheap and easy way to airbrush a levelling coat onto your surface that seals in your surface paint and makes it ‘pop’ a bit more.
Next time we’ll pour the Envirotex Lite clear two-part resin to create a water effect over the sea hexes we’ve painted and then airbrush and apply surface details to our map.