Space Truck

datetime December 12, 2015 8:30 PM

Alrighty, let’s start working on the outside of the ship!

Unlike the papercraft-heavy interior of the ship, the outside would be built mostly out of insulation styrofoam, with craft foam paneling laid over it to add a bit of Space Textureβ„’.

You saw at the start how I cut the overall shape of the ship out of 1″ foam; here I’ve traced out the “rooftop blocks” on a thicker piece of 2″ blue foam that was given to me years ago by a former Terrain Elf. Blue foam is much higher density than pink foam; this makes it much harder to cut, but also means that it completely shrugs off spray paint propellant without any visible bubbling or melting. So while pink foam generally requires sealant before it can be painted, blue foam can be sprayed naked without any ill effects.

The downside: it’s apparently super expensive. The guy who gave it to me swiped it from a dumpster at work, but the pieces he gave me would apparently have cost about $50 if I’d tried to buy them. @_@

Once the blue chunks and the extra pink layer were cut out, I brought it all outside to be sanded.

Which was necessary, since the hard-to-cut blue foam mostly looked like this.

But after a few minutes of sanding without a dust mask (safety third!), it looked much prettier. πŸ™‚

The chunks were brought back inside, and then attached together with wood glue.

I was going for a very low-fidelity look for the outside of the ship. No complex machinery like on a Star Wars ship– just a few chunky panels to break up the totally flat surfaces. With that goal in mind, here are the fronts (yellow) and backs (green) of the engines, which I would later paint to look a bit less… cartoony. The coloured sheets are thin 1/8″ craft foam, while the black rims are thicker 1/2″ foam.

These will be attached a bit later.

I envisioned the ship being a very functional bulk transport with very few sleek lines. The chunks toward the back of the hull would be left in their rectangular state, but I wanted to have just a tiny bit of “swoop” toward the front, so I traces out some lines to help create a bit of a beveled leading edge.

This type of “freehand” cut is really hard to do cleanly; you basically just have to trace the top and bottom edge, and then do your best to keep the knife angled such that it hits both lines the entire way along without wobbling too much.

I was… mostly successful.

To tie the top and bottom halves together, I continued the lower level windows into the roof. I saved and labeled the foamcore chunks I cut out on the lower level, which allowed me to draw the angles of the top windows simply by tracing over them.

Cutting this slot was fairly difficult. I think I had to take it out in several pieces– angling in with a knife to take out the middle of each cut-out panel, and then going in from that point to cut out the sides.

3/10, would not re-attempt. >_<

Alrighty, remember those engine openings from before? I cut them in half and glued them to the top and bottom. I wanted to have as many features of the outer hull as possible stretch between top and bottom to really drive home the point that they’re two halves of the same ship.

Wait, I guess now is when I glued it all together.

And using Weld Bond, not wood glue.

I apologize for lying earlier.

…no, I’m not going to go back and fix it. Apologizing is faster. πŸ˜›

To hide the seams between the various foam chunks, I filled the cracks with spackle.

I spooned a bunch of goop onto the foam, and then ran another foam block along the seam to squish it flush against both sides.

I love watching spackle dry. It’s neat to watch it go from pink to white as the ammonia evaporates. πŸ™‚

Alrighty, paneling!

I didn’t have any huge plan for this– I just cut out craft foam bits that looked like they fit inside the styrofoam shapes.

To create a consistent look between all of the panels, I kept them spaced at a specific distance apart, and created an angled cutout template so that they all had the same shape of small notch cut out of their corners.

When repeated throughout the ship, it almost looks planned out! πŸ˜›

That was essentially all I wanted to do for the hull layer, so I started preparing to spray it. First, I taped the cutouts I had saved from the bridge windows and taped them back into place, to stop the spray from getting in there.

I also taped over the upper along the entire outside wall of the ship, in case the top and bottom weren’t perfectly matched anywhere (a wise precaution, because I already knew that they weren’t).

The rear also needed a panel dropped in, since I hadn’t given the rear of the cargo bay an actual door.

I still haven’t, five months later.

I am very lazy in very specific ways. >_<

Once I had the interior taped up, I immediately started spraying it.

Note that I did NOT protect the surface with Mod Podge before I did this, because I was stranded at my parents’ house and had no mod podge. This lack of protection had two negative effects in the end:

  • The styrofoam melted slightly.
  • The spraypaint didn’t stick well to the hull, especially in areas where the spackle was very thin, leading to a lot of paint lifting off later on.

About once every two years, I screw up a terrain project by failing to Podge before I spray. And then I learn my lesson, and I’m good for a while, and then I get lazy, and then I stop doing it, and then I screw up another project, and then the cycle repeats itself.

Spudbrain is ungood sometimes. πŸ™

Hey look, melting styrofoam!

No-one could have predicted that!

I let the spraypaint dry overnight, and then got ready for my second round of airbrushing– I intended to create highlights and shading over the orange base colour. I had consulted with a local airbrush expert about the problems I experienced with the engine pods, and we correctly determined that my compressor was the culprit. I unfortunately hadn’t had the time to seek out the equipment to fix the problem at this point, but was fairly confident that I could keep the undesired over-spray under control on this larger and less delicate piece.

So, yeah, let’s find out how that went!

Oh, and as for the photo–Β  I’ve put tape around the base of every panel where I intended to apply the shading coat

Spud’s airbrush and some paints! I went with Vallejo paints since the other paint ranges tend toward more vibrant and cartoonish colours; whereas I wanted more realistic “faded” colours that are common in the Vallejo range.

Spud made a bit of a boo-boo when he bought his airbrush and got one with a siphon feed. Rather than having a small cup on top, Spud’s has huge bottle hanging underneath. This makes it much less practical to mix up small quantities of paint– Spud generally needs to mix up a huge batch and discard the waste, as it’s too hard to judge the proportions of small quantities of paint in the bottle.

Spud’s local airbrush expert has subsequently shown him a method for using the siphon feed to pull paint from a tiny cup, and Spud has now begun to use this to mix up more reasonable paint batches when not working on terrain. But since in this case Spud WAS working on terrain, the huge pile of paint he ended up mixing (which went to #5 on the hand-drawn scale Spud applied to his bottle with a Sharpie the airbrush medium was mixed in) didn’t end up being too wasteful. πŸ™‚

The transport was envisioned as a Yu Jing spacecraft, so I went with their official colour scheme of orange and dark grey. The base coat was the least fluorescent can of orange paint I could find (which was still super bright, unfortunately), and then I shaded it by spraying a reddish brown the colour of dried blood. This ended up not being as opaque as I had imagined (even after a few coats), but it did establish a bit of a shade and cut some of the brightness of the spraypaint.

Ehh, not too bad.

Note the spot where the paint peeled off when I removed the tape– this was a result of the lack of Mod Podge under the spray paint. There will sadly be quite a few more of these spots throughout the ship (some quite a bit worse) before I’m done. πŸ™

Once the shading had been dried with a hair drier, I taped the top of the the side panels to let me apply an edge highlight.

I figured a sulfur yellow colour would look good here.

It ended up looking okay, but came out quite a bit more white than the paint, for reasons I haven’t yet entirely identified.

Does airbrush medium tinge paint toward white? The medium itself is white-ish, so I could see that being the case… should I be using water for this instead?


Once the highlight was set, I applied a third set of tape masks, this time to delineate the areas of dark grey hull. I hadn’t yet learned how to airbrush a smooth opaque coat of paint, so the grey was simply brushed on where needed.

Brush brush brush.

…and we have now reached the point where I was officially impressed with the ship. πŸ™‚

The league was set to start two days later and I still needed to fine-tune some of the missions; I knew I didn’t have time to completely finish the ship, but there were a few items I still needed to add to get it up to “good enough” status. First up: shiny windows. Remember those window cutouts I saved earlier on? They continued to be super useful, as I was able to use them to cut the window panes out of my reflective scrapbooking paper. I traced each one twice, so that when it was folded down, it would be reflective on both sides.

The hull window being cut out…

…and glued down. Looks pretty nice. πŸ™‚

The last desperate piece to be added was the reactor core. I had been waffling on how exactly I wanted to model this, but having run out of time for any of my fancier solutions, I simply bought this headlamp at a local hardware store, tore the face off of it, and glued it to the back wall of the engineering bay.

With that, the board was “good enough to play on”, and we proceeded to use it in the state you see here all throughout the league and in casual and tournament play over the next few months.

However, there were still a few things that needed fixing up before I could completely wipe my hands of the project, and I finally got to those items in November.

Now, unfortunately, I appear not to have taken any photos of the first few items on the repair list. So, text updates only for these two:

First up, I added doors to the outside of the ship. We had been playing the board for months with doors on the inside and flat hull on the outside; this was fairly confusing, so I finally got around to creating some simple

Next on the “no pictures” list was the work we did fixing all of the spots where the masking tape ripped the spraypaint. With the assistance of local biker gang member Kyle “Bonemulcher” Van Berk, we ran over all of these spots with grey paint to imply Space Battle Damage; so, still chipped paint, but chipped down to dark grey instead of bright pink. >_<

Kyle also had the idea to run streaks straight backward from most of the chips, to make them look like they resulted from high-speed impacts, the debris then scraping backward before bouncing off. This looked really awesome, so props to Kyle for his first verifiable good idea.

Like I said, though, I appear to have forgotten to take pictures of this work, but you can check out the results in later photos.

The first thing I remembered to photograph was the painting of the ship’s name. Being a Yu Jing vessel, the ship required a name written in Chinese; but since that is not among my stable of spoken languages, I turned to my lovely assistant Google Translate to turn her appellation (“Glorious Soaring Golden Ox”)* into a more culturally relevant text.

*This narrowly beat out my second choice, “General Tso Noodles with Chicken”

I located a reasonably nice-looking Chinese font to render the characters in, printed it out, and then spent a lunch break at work delicately cutting them out. Sadly I had no cardstock to print on at work, which meant the template was made of normal printer paper. This ended up being a problem, as the paper began curling partway through the first airbrushed coat of white paint; the adges of the characters (seen below) were fuzzy, and I was unable to take a second pass to make the paint opaque.

While the semi-successful stencilling was drying, I turned to the engines. I wanted to give them the same blue glow that I had tried to create on the inside engine parts, so each engine was started with a flat coat of dark blue.

I then added two soft blobs inside each engine, first with royal blue, then light blue. By this point I had finally acquired the necessary hardware to control my compressor’s output pressure, but I was still fairly inexperienced at using it, so what I had intended to be clean faded blurs ended up having a solid circle in the middle.

Bah. >:(

Back to the letters!

Since I wasn’t going to be able to finish the letters with the airbrush as I had planned, I decided to simply go over them by hand. Over the course of two hours, I created a dark grey stroke around the characters to clean up their fuzzy edges…

…and then went back over the characters themselves to make the white more opaque.

Time-consuming, but the result looks pretty nice. πŸ™‚

Two hours of looking at the blotchy engines was starting to bother me, so I decided to make it look intentional by freehanding concentric white circles around the flat discs of light blue paint.

Which looks okay in the end, so… ehh.

That was about all I wanted to do paint-wise, so I sealed it all up with a coat of Mod Podge. To avoid spoiling the flat surfaces of the panels, I applies the podge with a brush and then rolled over it with a paint roller to eliminate brush strokes.

I am going to use this picture to illustrate two different things, because something important happened here that went too quickly for me to take photos of.


This always happens, and it happened here, and I got over it. I kept the podge from drying white through my usual method of thinning out any pockets and pools with a wet brush, and this was working for the most part.

Until it stopped working.

Long story short, the pot of water I was dipping my brush into to keep it wet was not clean. It was paint water. And Spudbrain completely blanked on that fact. So after a couple of minutes, I started to notice that the areas of podge I was trying to thin out weren’t getting better– and were, in fact, getting WORSE. The small pockets of white were being replaced with entire panels covered in light grey.

Once this finally clicked for me– when I moved the ship and realized the grey haze wasn’t just a trick of the crappy light in the back room where I was working– I went into complete panic mode. I sprinted outside, dumped my gross grey water, refilled the water pot with clear water, and began MADLY SCRUBBING DOWN THE RAPIDLY DRYING PODGE WITH A SOAKING WET CLOTH to get as much of it off as I could.

The good news is that I was mostly successful on the flat panels– I caught the problem at the last possible moment, and was able to re-hydrate the still-slightly-tacky mod podge in time to scrub it from the surface of my ship.

The bad news is that I couldn’t get it out of the crevices and corners, which dried looking like this. >_<

After I got over the soul-crushing shock of having wrecked my space ship, I re-composed myself and started brainstorming solutions. I was doing all of this repair work at the store in the evening, and had only about 45 minutes before it closed. I needed to fill deep crevices with colour, but didn’t want to wreck the surrounding raised surfaces, which had mostly escaped unscathed. My brain informed me that this was a job for an ink or a wash. And then after another moment, I remembered that the airbrush expert I keep mentioning had told me a few months before that he had had some great results from running inks through an airbrush.

I had no idea how this actually worked– do you thin it? Will inks sprayed so thinly even go into cracks, or will they just sit where you spray them? But I had no time to ask anybody, so I quickly bought some P3 black and brown ink, mixed them together to make a murky dark brown, thinned it to about 1:3 ink to water, and fired up my airbrush.

The result was… pretty awesome. I again have no photos of the process because I was working in a mad frenzy, but the thinned inks sprayed very nicely, and while they didn’t really settle into cracks as I suspected they might not, I was able to simply spray an areas and then wipe the ink off of surrounding raised areas with paper towel without anything being left behind.

This fixed my “horrible grey pools of awfulness”, but when I stepped back, I noticed that the dark colour I was spraying actually just made a really nice shading layer on the side panels where it was being applied. I still had a few minutes before I had to leave, so I shrugged and embraced the discovery, appllying an inky shading layer over dark areas on the entire outer surface of the ship (once again sponging the excess off).

So, one hour of mindless panic later, I actually managed to recover from the brink of disaster and end up with an even better paintjob than I would have without the accidental catastrophe. πŸ™‚

This board has been an extremely entertaining addition to my store’s Infinity terrain selection, as it results in an entirely different gameplay style than the usual “array of square buildings” setups. Combat in the interior corridors is a brutal knife fight that favours shotguns, flamethrowers, and melee weapons, while the hull is a long-range sniper gallery that offers only sporadic cover– but allows models to sidestep a knot of enemies on the interior and sneak up on them through another airlock.

We play the boards in a number of configurations, sometimes together and sometimes separately. When used together, they are laid side-by-side and models can move between them by means of the outer doors. When used separately, the interior makes a good continuation of a building complex (as shown above) to depict a shipyard or dry dock; and the outer hull fits well alongside a space station, with models bouncing around in zero gravity outside.

I heart this board very much, and am excited to be lugging it down to CaptainCon this coming February. I’m sure that the attendees will hate it just as much as they hated my blue building complex from last year, if not more. πŸ™‚


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