In addition to the elves’ squalid abodes, they also needed some dank caves to toil within all the live-long day. I used the excavator to establish the scale of the various rock formations, and then cut them out of pink insulation foam.
I made the cuts at an angle to make everything slope slightly upward.
Each cliff piece would be built out of multiple layers of foam. Each time I finished a layer, I turned it upside-down and traced its shape onto the foam, then drew a new line that would become the next layer up. A smart person would have used two different-coloured markers for this, but I have a bad brain that doesn’t always work, so instead I tries to use tick marks to indicate which lines were for reference and which were actual cut lines, which turned out to be SUPER CONFUSING. >_<
But, whatever. The final rock formation looked pretty sweet. 🙂
Once it was all cut out and glued together, I brought everything outside to sand down the sides and corners. I didn’t want it to be completely smooth, but I wanted to conceal the flaked-off styrofoam and the obvious knife marks.
Not great, not terrible. “Good enough.”
I wanted to paint the hills with spraypaint to save time, and I knew this would require sealing everything first with Mod Podge to prevent the spray from just eating away the foam. However, I REEEEEEALLY didn’t want to brush Podge over all of the irregularly-shaped rocks, so instead, I tried shooting it through my airbrush.
And to my mild surprise… this worked. 😀 You have to dilute the podge quite a bit, crank up the air pressure, and clean the airbrush immediately after to avoid gluing it shut, but the podge does spray quite nicely and coats very evenly. I’ll definitely be doing this again for future terrain projects. 😀
Everything was sprayed with dark brown Rustoleum camouflage paint (basically, it’s just normal paint with a nearly dead matte), then highlighted with dark grey, light grey, and white, all out of spraycans.
However, I wasn’t satisfied with merely surrounding my village with plain grey rocks. I was building a magical present mine, so I needed some whimsical rainbow present ore, dagnabbit. >:(
And because magic = lights, I bought some battery-powered Christmas lights from the dollar store, and set to work embedding them on the underside of my cliffs.
The string I bought had a few too many lights for what I needed, so I had to really cram all of the lights in to fit them all. They were all just roughly glued into place with very large amounts of hot glue.
I had a few of the lights poke through to the top because it looked cool.
Once the lights were in place, I needed to add the presents. Fortunately, dollar stores sell these tiny present decorations, which are bits of foam wrapped in shiny cellophane, with gold string tied around them as bows. They’re super cheap and make great atmospheric decorations for stupid projects like this. 🙂
The presents nearest to the surface were embedded into the styrofoam by cutting rectangular holes and gluing the presents into them.
Other ones deeper down were simply glued to the surface. I wanted to cover most of the visible LEDs so that their light was illuminating and bouncing off of the presents without being directly visible to the viewer.
Final result: totally badass. 😀
A second, smaller ore vein had even less room to fit all the LEDs, so there’s basically just a massive wad of lights crammed in under the foam with no attempt to make it look good. This mess then required a super dense coverage of presents to hide it. Not my finest work, but whatever, it did the job. 😛
The last major detail I needed for my village was a rail system and mine carts to move the mined ore around. For the mine carts, I designed a simple trapezoidal box template, traced it onto foamcore, and cut out six copies with a knife.
I then stuck them together with hot glue.
I didn’t want to make my own wheels for the carts, so instead I bought a cheap pack of plastic cars from the dollar store.
I clipped the cars apart with hobby clippers, taking care to leave the wheels attached to the axles.
Foam was cut away from the carts to give the wheels space to slot into them.
The axles were glued underneath, with a strip of paper sealing them into place.
I wanted the carts to be full of ore, so I built some small chunks of rock in the same way as the cliffs above, impaling them on wooden skewers to make them easier to paint.
Presents were jammed into these rocks…
…and then the rocks were glued inside the carts. A strip of ribbon around each cart completed the look.
Mine carts need tracks to run around on, so as the very last stage in this project, I set about making some of those.
The Michaels near me was COMPLETELY out of white and brown craft foam, however, so I was left to desperately rummage for something to build tracks out of. All I could find in my apartment for the rail bases was cardstock paper. It was nowhere near sturdy enough and would absolutely curl over time, but it was all I had, so I sighed and got to work.
To make the curved track sections, I just drew a smooth curve freehand onto the paper, and then used a ruler to measure and mark ticks 2.5″ away from it as a guideline for the other side, which I then connected together. I made a variety of different curvy shapes to let me arrange the tracks into different layouts.
Using a sponge, I applied dark brown paint down the center of each track segment.
I then needed to build the actual tracks. For the wooden railroad ties, I used the Silhouette to cut a 1ft square of craft foam into 2″ x 1/4″ segments, then spraypainted the entire sheet dark brown.
I cut these out with a pair of scissors, and then glued them over the paper curves with white glue.
The rails were also cut out by the Silhouette (the first pass, anyway); I happened to have some actual grey for this one.
The flexible foam rails turned out to be fairly easy to bend into shape, and were glued down to the ties with hot glue.
Final result: not sturdy at all, but they look pretty sweet.
OH, RIGHT. Random last detail: to make the board functional, a bunch of the buildings needed ladders. Ladders are super fiddly and gross to build, so I built the fastest version I could think of. First I used foamcore spacers to keep both ends evenly separated…
…and then glued thin strips of craft foam between them. A quick coat of spraypaint, and they were… say it with me… “Good Enough”. 😛
Jump to the last page for glamour shots and a SPECIAL SURPRISE. 😀