Home Forums Terrain and Scenery Beginner flocking

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  • #134948

    Since I have recently flocked the bases on about 33 10mm armies, let me share my experience. What I’m writing here is stuff I’d have profited from knowing a few months ago. There are doubtless many to whom this will be of no interest, so take advance warning not to waste your time; this isn’t a masterclass.

    1)  Making the flock Visit a sawmill or carpenter’s workshop. Have a big bag and get much more sawdust than you think you’ll want. My original shopping list would have got me about 20% of what I’ve used if my wife hadn’t persuaded me to get a lot extra.

    Once you’re home, sift it until only powder remains. Mix this with cheap acryllic paint. Make several colours; I’ve found a sandy yellow and a mid olive green the most useful types. Dry it well on a sheet of wax paper or similar. Grind it in a cheap blender, since it will be far too coarse, and then sieve it once more. A mix of about three or four parts green to one sandy yellow makes a good meadow grass effect.

    I’ve also found that raw, undyed sawdust can be similarly treated to yield a useful earth effect. Mixed with some dried grounds from our espresso for dark flecks, it gives a useful flock; a little sandy yellow can be added.

    2) Basing I cut out standard-sized pieces of postcard and run a coloured felt tip around the rims to match the playing surface. With longer bases than usual, I sometimes stiffen them by glueing on a section of paper clip to resist warping (plastic covered is best – rust is seldom your friend). I now cover them in small numbers at a time with quick set epoxy glue, doing four or five in a batch. A drop of base colour mixed in the glue is helpful – burnt umber or yellow ochre (even burnt Sienna for Zululand, perhaps?). I’ve used a dull green too; it’s a matter of how much detail you want. Something matching the paint on the metal figures’ bases is desireable. Figures, filed flat under the bases, are set into the glue and left to dry thoroughly. It might be feasible to sprinkle flock on at this stage, but my instincts warn me not to complicate things; epoxy is messy to work with and time is tight.

    3)  First covering  For decades I used unflocked bases to match the plain cloths I played on; having now bought a pretty mousepad games mat with printed surfaces, I have had to upgrade (whence this tutorial), but I think I was right to wait. In the old days, I just painted the epoxy to match the cloth, and it’s this finish that I’ve been flocking over. If you’ve gone straight to flocking and have coloured your epoxy with a spot of pigment, you probably don’t need to paint the surface with colours. I’ve found the most cost-effective approach is to begin with boulders, aka bits of kitty litter (you don’t need a lot, so don’t be stingy and unhygenic – use clean stuff). Glue them directly to the bases; I find Elmer’s all-purpose is excellent here, though Europeans may use something else. Think a bit about where the army is operating; an English meadow has few rocks in it, since they’ve all long been turned into building material, camels will avoid rocky going since it hurts their feet (I haven’t used any boulders on my Midianite army), and so on. You may also prefer to add boulders later, but I think this way they’re a bit more firmly attached.

    If you’re fronding (see below), this is definitely the time to do it.

    Get two brushes that you don’t intend to paint with any more, and keep them in water. Mix up 30% wood glue (Elmer’s again here, but there are plenty of others), a dash of washing-up liquid (for flow quality), and 70% alcohol. Avoid methyl alcohol, which is more poisonous than most and has fumes, and Cointreau, which is expensive. The mixture stores well in a sealed container. Put what you’re using in a narrow vessel to reduce evaporation while you work. Paint it onto the bases, then dip them in a tray with your flock. It’s best to use a shallow scooping motion, then angle them and shake the powder over the rest; excess is a real nuisance later. I have been pleased with the effect of using a brown and sandy mix here, then applying more glue in a few spots and sprinkling on my green mix. You needn’t cover the whole base if you’ve painted an earth brown undercoat; grass doesn’t always grow everywhere in a uniform carpet.

    After applying this layer I often put a dab of Elmer’s all purpose glue onto a small tuft of green pot scourer, and apply this to a base for a bit of vegetation. Again, this doesn’t belong everywhere. For my 1943 Western Desert forces I put it on about 25% of the bases; I haven’t used it at all for my Incas, though they have green bases.

    Don’t be alarmed if the glue mixture is a bit milky and opaque; it dries very clear, and won’t even show if you splash a bit on your figures (honestly!). If you glue flock on them, however, you want to clear it off, which is why you’ve got that second brush in a water pot. Clean up your boulders too.

    4)  Finishing  After all this has dried – and I mean dried! Be patient – paint on a second layer. This is important; the first won’t hold the stuff securely, but the second will. Use a brush with soft, supple bristles, and paint in smooth, gentle strokes. It is imperative to remember that while the second coat is a liquid, it’s a solvent, so it will try to undo the adhesive work of the first coat. Get it applied before it disolves the first layer, or you will find your brush is lifting off much of the flock.

    Dry this on a sheet of plastic or foil. If you’re like me, you’ll have sloshed glue all over everything, and the base will end up glued to the surface it’s resting on; if this is waterproof, however, removing it isn’t hard.

    5) And if you prefer, you could attach your boulders, scourer tufts, and other bits at this stage. That Elmer’s all purpose is strong stuff, but I like the extra security of the glue washes. You can expect a little flock shedding, particularly if you put it on with a heavy hand initially, but the main layer, soaked with a sort of laquer, is tough. I haven’t gone for hairspray; I’ve read too many warnings that it doesn’t last beyond few years.

    6) Other cover  I have used a lot of little plastic fronds from florists, cut into sections of about 6mm and attached before flocking, using blobs of wall putty coloured to match the bases. When this has dried, it can be glued over and flocked like the rest. This is a bit more laborious than the scourer vegetation, however, and I haven’t used it everywhere.

    A few army-specific bits are sometimes possible. My berserkir have bases littered with discarded shields, as do my Viking archers, though I’m troubled by the thought that these would be face-down for easy grabbing…maybe you want to make sure you don’t accidentally steal the shield of Thorvald, son of Gutrune the Strong, that killed Bjorn…shut up!…and my 21st Lancers, whom I have in mounted and dismounted states, have their lances lying at their feet. It’s tempting to put on casualties, but think about practicalities – a mutilated Greek in full hoplite gear in the wake of a scythed chariot will look very atmospheric, until you want to use your Persians against Scythians or Indians. Better to have a mangled corpse in a nondescript tunic, and Peckinpah gore effects.

    Thank you for your patience, if you’ve read this far!

    #135031
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    Great post, thanks for sharing. I started a couple years ago making my own flock from sawdust as you describe, though I don’t sift as much as you do—I like the coarseness. I keep different coarseness’es of each color.

    Your flock glue sounds interesting, and it might be the same mix a US seller (in Texas) sells pre mixed.

     

     

    #135612

    A watchpoint that’s emerged, btw: it might be important to stir, not shake, the flocking martini. Shaking aerates it, and there appears to be a danger of its going all viscous and jellied.

    Thanks for friendly comment. 🙂

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