A River and a Little Pond – Part I

Water is usually an element that everybody want´s to have on their gaming table. There a many ways to produce water effect and only limitations are time, money and how much effort are you willing to but on the piece. Here is how i made my first river years ago. This project taught me a lot about terrain making so I’m not hiding my mistakes in this article. Pictures could be better but at that time my camera wasn´t really hi-tech so bear with me.

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  • Chipboard / MDF or something similar
  • glue
  • insulation foam
  • spackle
  • small rocks and fine sand
  • modelling clay
  • paints for painting


  • Realistic water


First I roughly planed the shape of the pond to the chipboard and cut it out.

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I also decided the width of the river and drew it onto the board. My goal was to make a modular river so it would be important that width of the pieces would have a exact measurements. I taped two pencils to a ruler and with this cunning device I drew the shape for the two river pieces.

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I wanted to have small banks to the river so I used previously cut chipboard pieces as a model to draw the shapes to the insulation foam.

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After this it was a simple task to glue the soon-to-be riverbanks to the chipboard. For this I used hot glue gun but because the glue cools off quickly. Otherwise I would recommend normal PVA glue. I have learned that when you have to do something quickly with terrain it´s 100% sure that you will mess it up some way. I have a bad habit to curse a lot when I do something wrong and because I’m a teacher it´s not a good thing to rehearse frequently. So, no haste no problems=)

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I used a modelling knife to roughly shape the insulation foam. I also decide that small part of the pond edge would be stone. I just made small v-shaped cuts to the foam to create stone effect. I recommend that it would be wise to look up some reference pictures when your are making the stone. It´s easier to mimic the stone effect when you can check what the actual stone looks like.

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Because most of my knife work was too rough I used sandpaper to smooth the surfaces. As you can see from the next photo, I removed most of the insulation foam during the whole process. I also used some spackle to hide all my cutting mistakes and all of the unnecessary gaps. Always remember to sand the spackle because it forms sharp lines which doesn’t look natural.

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From the start I knew that I would use Woodland Scenics realistic water for this project. When I searched through the internet I learned that leaking and absorbing are the things that you should beware of while using the product. I didn’t know at the time if chipboard would absorb realistic water-stuff ( it doesn’t by the way) so I played it safe. I covered all the joints and the surfaces with PVA glue to prevent leaking and soaking. No harm done here BUT beware that if you use too much glue with chipboard you may encounter some warping (and I don’t mean some fancy scifi timewarpingblackholeteleportation stuff but mindblowing, groinkicking, fingers-in-the-eyes-type depression when your terrain piece resembles a corkscrew).

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OK, so after one day the project looked like this:

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Next up: Part II – Finishing base-work and painting



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