In this article I will discuss the building of a simple grass battlefield top for the folding warmachine table I built previously. The great thing about the folding table was it allows for all kinds of different tops, but to get the dice rolling, I started with a very simple grass top.
- Iron and Ironing Board
- White crayon
- Utility Knife or Foam Knife
- Tape measure
- 4′ straight edge
- Mini paint roller or a paint brush
- Mini paint roller tray or pail
- 1″ insulation board (4’x8′ sheet)
- Citadel Battlemat
- PVA Glue (white glue)
- Construction cement (Liquid nails)
- Upholstery nails
For this top I opted to use a Citadel Battlemat. There are a lot of choices of grass mats out there and many of them should work well. One of my main reasons I chose this battlemat is that it does not shed. The way the grass is attached to the fabric it is extremely secure and you don’t need to worry about grass getting shaved off the sides when you take the top in and out or when you store the top somewhere in favor of a different one. Also this mat is a breathable fabric, which means we can use simple PVA glue to attach it to the foam board and the fabric will allow air through to let the glue dry, which the foam board will not do on its own.
Step 1 : Ironing the Battlemat
The Citadel Battlemat comes folded up in a box. This means wrinkles and creases which we don’t want on our finished board. I took the mat out, unfolded it and ironed it upside down (black side up, grass side down) on an ironing board. I had the iron set pretty high (the Wool setting) and that did a good job of getting out the wrinkles, but it does take patience and persistence with something this large. Don’t expect to wave your iron at it and have the wrinkles fall out. Go over it a few times. I haven’t tried using water in the iron for a steam effect, but I’m guessing it would be okay and might help. The battle mat is 6′ x 4′ (although I discovered it’s actually a few inches wider than 4′, which is good for this build), making it unwieldy while ironing. Iron one section at a time and as it hangs onto the floor make sure it lays smoothly to prevent re-wrinkling it.
Step 2 : Cutting the Battlemat
Take your wrinkle free battlemat and lay it out flat on a large table or the floor, keeping the black side facing up. Measure out a length of 4’2″ from the 6′ side. We want the extra two inches to give us some overhang on both sides of the board for a more secure fit. Use they white crayon to mark your measurement on each long edge then use the straightedge and crayon to draw a straight line connecting them. The mat is pretty tough, so using good sharp scissors cut along the line to give us a slightly oversized 4′ x 4′ square battlemat.
Don’t throw out the leftover chunk of battlemat! We can use that for topping hills and other types of modular flat terrain for our board in the future.
Step 3 : Cutting the Insulation Board
Why insulation board? There are a lot of options for what to make a top out of: insulation board, hard board, MDF, plywood, chipboard… I went with insulation board because it’s lightweight, just like the table. It’s easy to cut, makes for a nice surface and it’s not going to warp.
Time to cut the insulation board. Since the board is 1″ thick it’s helpful if you have a knife with a blade at least that long. The internal dimensions of our table are 4′ x 4′, but we need to wrap the grass mat around to edges of the insulation board and still be able to slide the top in and out. Therefore we are going to cut the width and length to be 47 5/8″. Measure out the distance on both long edges and use your straight edge to make a line. I prefer to clamp the straight edge to the insulation board to use as a guide. When doing so make sure to clamp the straight edge so it guards the usable piece of insulation board, so any mistakes will happen into the unused part. Start with a shallow cut along the line. Then follow it up with a deeper cut and then make the final cut through. Do your best to keep the knife perpendicular to give a nice straight side. Repeat this for the other dimension, taking off about 3/8″ in the same manner. Test fit your board to make sure it’s going to fit well inside your table. For extra reassurance you can temporarily wrap the grass mat around the board and tape the overhangs underneath and then make sure it will still fit smoothly. Trim as the insulation board further as necessary.
Step 4 : Applying the Glue
To adhere the battlemat to the insulation board we will use PVA glue. The glue needs to be applied evenly and not too thick, you don’t want the glue to soak through the battlemat and clump in the grass. You can use a brush, or even easier is to use a mini roller (a small paint roller used for trim). The roller applies a very uniform coat of glue with a good thickness. Pour some glue into your roller tray and then add some water and mix it together. You want to thin the glue out enough to break the surface tension, making it similar to house paint in consistency. Wet your roller with water, squeezing out the excess then roll it in the paint. Roll it along the sloped part of the paint tray to get an even coating. Apply uniformly to the entire top of the insulation board. I had to go over the board a couple of times in different directions to get it all coated evenly.
Step 5 : Attaching the Battlemat
You will want an assistant for step 5 as it’s time to lay down the grass mat. Take the section we cut in step 2 and hold it taut between the two of you. Keeping the mat and board square with one another lay the battle mat down with equal overhang on opposite ends. Start from the center and gently smooth the mat down on the board, working out any wrinkles or creases. The PVA glue will give you a bit of working time, but try not to disturb it too much. I then let the board dry overnight.
Step 6 : Gluing the Overhang
Now that the top is dry and secure, it’s time to glue down the overhanging edges. The edges are going to take the most abuse when getting the board in and out of the table. The last thing you want is for the edge to get caught and have the battlemat rip off the board. For extra security use a construction adhesive (like Liquid Nails). Squeeze an even bead of adhesive along one edge that has the shorter overhang. Take a small piece of thin cardboard and smooth the bead out cover the entire edge. Gently pull out and down on the overhanging material before pressing into the adhesive to ensure a smooth, tight edge. Make a single small cut at each corner of the insulation along the shorter overhang we just glued down. Repeat these same steps for the two remaining sides, but don’t but the corners off. Let this construction adhesive dry overnight. We will use the extra material from the longer overhangs to wrap around the corner (See image for step 7). Repeat this for the opposite side.
Step 7: Trimming and Pinning
When you’re done your corners should look like this:
Trim any remaining overhang from the shortest-overhanging sides. On the two long overhanging sides you will also trim the excess overhang flush with the bottom of the table, but be careful to leave the excess that we will use to wrap around the corner. In other words: cut off the excess cloth that hangs below the table, but not the parts that stick past the side corners. Now take the excess corner material and wrap it around the edge, covering the corner. Cut off anything more than 1″. Push a 1″ upholstery nail through the corner to hold the flap in place. You’ll have to push pretty hard as this fabric is very puncture resistant.
With that we have completed our grass top for our folding Warmachine table. Drop it into the table, layout some terrain and you’re in business. Best of all the reverse side is still blank, meaning you could easily make a double-sided table top, just make sure it’s going to survive resting on the frame of the table. Applying some felt the under frame could help in keeping a reversible board in pristine condition. I hope to revisit this table again in future articles and add some more features to it.