Long Road To The Harbor City Board: The Beginning

Because it took little bit more time to finish the houses than I first thought, I had plenty of time to plan the board itself. In fact I have over 30 A4-papers full of drawings, mindless words, smudges and other not so professional looking stuff. Now I just have to figure where to start.

The basic plan is that I use MDF as a base and then add some foam on top of that. MDF will hopefully form a solid base for the foam to prevent cracks. Normal height of the land will be 6 cm and the MDF level will be the sea-level. Why 6 cm you might think? I don´t remember the exact reason for the thicknes but in this way I have room to go down with the terrain (rivers, trench ect.). I can have a  good difference in height by making something under the 6 cm and something over the 6 cm. As you can see from the picture above the hexes will be 22,5 cm wide (one side of a hex is 13 cm).

As the name suggest there will be a harbor but also some kind of transition to grassland also. I have a strong feeling that I will start from the harbor because it will be the part which will set the over all look for the whole board.

1. MDF/Base hexes

I’m using 3mm MDF to form the hexes. First I needed a template which I could use to draw all the other hexes. The right measurements were the key here so I checked and double-checked everything before the cut. I used these instructions to draw the template.

You don´t need a power tool to make the cuts. I used Dremel for the first hexes but quickly noticed that I could make accurate cuts much faster with ordinary, sharp, saw and some patience. REMEMBER to always use some kind of respirator mask when you cut the MDF because the fine dust will do nasty things to your lungs!!

When the template was ready I used it to draw and cut more hexes.

I suggest that if you use this technique make the template thick. I used the same 3mm MDF for the template as with the bases but it would be better and sturdier if it would be little bit thicker.

2. Foam Hexes

Then I took the same template and used it to draw hexes on to the foamboard. I used knife to “rough cut” the hexes off.

Then I used The template to make two MDF hexes which would form a “cutting box” for the foam hexes. I driller three holes through the hexes and took three bolts and nuts which would keep the box straight during the cut.  Then I placed one hex on top of the foam and with the aid of set square drilled three holes through the foam. Bolts through the holes, second hex to the other side of the foam and some tightening with the nuts, ready for the cut!

I use Woodland Scenics foam cutter which is quite decent for this job. The wooden hexes ensure that I get a clean and straight cut.

Before removing the wooden hexes I use some sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots. After this I can marvel my at first foam terrain hex!

Then it´s just matter of repeating the process over and over and over again…

OK, so if this would be a perfect world this would be the end of this article but behold, NO!

Before I even started to cut the blue foam I had purchased yellow foam which I thought would be the same stuff. Well it is but it isn’t. Firstly the yellow foam has some kind of coating which makes it harder to carve. As you can see from the next picture, when I tried to make some paving the surface of the foam descend slightly around the carving. When I use blue foam I can easily push different shapes in to the foam but it´s much harder and not so accurate with yellow foam.

I think that this coating makes the board water resistant and therefore is very good feature in some places but not in terrain making. This was annoying but the best was still ahead!

I didn’t let the surface problem let me down and started to cut hexes from the yellow foam. I had cut over 20 hexes before I noticed that the yellow foam boards weren’t homogeneous in thickness! I bought 3 cm thick board and checked the first board before cutting. However it turned out that the thickness of the board varied depending on the board and the point of measurement. The variation were 1-3 mm which doesn’t sound so bad but in  project were accuracy is the key it’s disaster!

Because the basic thickness of the gaming board will be 6cmm I will glue two 3 cm hexes together to achieve this. Now if the thickness varies between 1-3 mm/hex max mistake could be as much as 6 mm which is quite a stair and not acceptable. So I wasted time ( a week) and materials/money (four full foam boards). Worst result was the impact on my motivation. I just had to drop the project for a while and do other things to get this out of my system.

But no worries. Motivation is back twofold and as you can see, I acquired some blue foam (and checked the thickness very carefully) and started all over again. God I like this hobby!!!

Until next time!!



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