Home Forums Terrain and Scenery Home Made vs Shop Bought

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    Angel Barracks

    I was made aware of this TOPIC the other day and it is something that crops up every now and then.

    Why buy something you can make?
    That of course depends…

    Not everyone can make stuff.
    Not everyone that can, wants to.
    Not everyone that can and wants to has the time.
    Not everyone that can, wants to and has the time has the raw materials.
    And so on…

    I see the advantages of resin terrain as easy in terms of not needing raw materials or time.
    Plus you have the advantage of being able to have multiples without having to make multiples.
    Being essentially plastic they are often much sturdier than card and Polyfilla home made scratch built models.

    Having said that, if you enjoy making terrain then why buy what you can make.

    So, once again I am waffling so will hand it over to you to comment on your reasons for buying/not buying terrain you could make.




    I enjoy making terrain. I love throwing trees down with hot glue, foliage clumps, creating hedge rows on lolly sticks, carving up cork heat mats to make hills. I like chopping up floor tiles for roads, flocking the edges.

    I hate making buildings. The paint scratches off, bits fall off, I can’t be inspired. In all, there is a lot going on that I can’t be bothered with. I have gathered so much crap to make buildings from, but just don’t want to. Shop bought for me/paper buildings it is.


    I seem to rely on my strengths.  I think I am good at painting terrain, but my scratch building needs a lot of work.  Basic stuff is easy but my measuring skills are weak.

    Cost is also a big factor.  I just built some Samurai buildings because the ones I liked were over 10 dollars each.  I just bought some clutter from CM because the price was affordable, and the terrain looked versatile.

    There is also the fiddly factor.  Some things are so annoying to make, and I will just end up crazy gluing my hand to the table.  Recently I discovered a foam board cutter at my work.  This makes things easier for me.

    Sometimes materials are a factor as well.  We have very few modelling shops here so finding plasticard, or bits can be hard.

    Finally there is a artistic factor.  Some things are challenging and fun to make.  It’s always good to push yourself in new directions.


    Darkest Star Games

    I always try to buy what I can for 2 reasons: first I can get multiples (in case I mess one up, or just want more) and secondly to support a small business (as one myself, I know what it can take to put out even a small item).

    There is a lot of great stuff out there, and I tend to only scratch build what I cannot find.  For instance, this last week I was doing some 6mm sci-fi buildings in 6mm.  I have a bunch of great resin pieces for colony and outpost type places but there is little out there for urban centers that seems truly sci-fi to me.  I was also working on 6mm sci-fi freighters for TTRPGing.  I bought a couple from sources but they weren’t enough so I have a bunch of bottle and canisters that are becoming cattle haulers, customs inspectors, free traders and pirates.

    There are things that I will never scratch build because there are such great options to be purchased already, like crates (for every era, including sci-fi), or Normandy buildings or “gothic sci-fi” style ruins.  But there are no 15mm sci-fi street cleaners/sweepers so I need to finish mine up and beat other companies to the (non-existent) market!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Mike Headden

    If it’s available commercially for a price I’m willing to pay then I buy it.

    If not I’d go for scratch built … secure in the knowledge that, a fortnight after I finally complete it, someone will release a commercial version so much better than my effort! DOH!!

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!


    I really enjoy scratchbuilding (much more than I enjoy painting), so I will often scratchbuild things even if the commercial version is available at a reasonable price. If I had the talent, I would even sculpt my own figures.

    Of course, disposable income is finite, while hobby desires are infinite, so it certainly helps on the cash front.

    Also, it is a great feeling when you plonk something down on the table and get positive comments about it. Almost as good is when people dont even realise a given item is scratchbuilt.

    Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!


    For me, a goodly portion of the hobby is scratch-building, so I tend to lean that way for most things outside of figures (I don’t enjoy sculpting people in teeny scales).

    When I started gaming, most of “us” were scratch-builders, as we were lucky to find figs, let alone anything else for gaming.  It is nice now to have a choice in the matter, and with all of the fine products available now,  there are indeed things that I prefer to buy,  rather than build.



    I have a very finite amount of free time, even in retirement. Everything is a trade off between time and the enjoyment of scratch building with almost all choices being commercial and only the odd special project getting scratch built.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    Deleted User

    There’s a lot of home renovation shows on TV. In these shows. various toothy presenters show easy to do home maintenance and building projects.

    …..they’re easy if you have the time, patience, know how but above all, the requisite tools. There’s a lesson in this.

    For years I attempted various scratch-build projects  with varied success. About 2 years ago, I decided to set up a bespoke workshop space in my shed with a decent work bench and vise. I also spent a fair amount on tools: files, clamps, various hand saws, key-hole bits,   jigsaws & drills (both electric and hand), glue guns etc. I also lashed out on sheets of MDF, medium density foam, tins of spray paint and tubs of hobby paint, various fillers and glues.

    My most useful purchase was a dremel. This is a magic device that has multiple uses. I also built a spray painting booth.

    Without claiming any extraordinary expertise, I think I now produce wargaming terrain & scenery items with some degree of worth.

    In other words, if you don’t have the wherewithal, you will find scratch building quite difficult.





    I enjoy making terrain items, and once you’ve made them they’ll last forever. I’ve never made my own trees though, and in the last few decades I’ve generally bought buildings rather than making them. I’ve still got all my original scratch built houses though, which still get a fair degree of use.

    I mainly make hills, fields, rivers and fortifications.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Deleted User

    I’ve always baulked at making trees too, as there are several excellent ‘store bought’ lines but after looking at a You Tube tutorial recently, I may well have a go.

    I’m not sure if I’ll go full wire armature or mod the bags of plastic stems you can get in model RR shops.




    The plastic ‘stems’ are much easier on your fingers! They’re basically the same as the Woodland Scenics kits but a lot cheaper in bulk. Wire armatures make for realistic trees but are time consuming.

    As to the topic, I’m happy to turn my hand to making or converting most things but time is at a premium these days, so if there is something suitable available commercially (or potentially so, eg Kickstarter projects) then I’ll go that route.

    “In other words, if you don’t have the wherewithal, you will find scratch building quite difficult.” 

    True enough, but patience, persistence and practice can achieve a lot. My tips would be: buy the best tools you can afford, use fresh blades whenever cutting, have a well illuminated workbench &, if making multiple similar items use a ‘production line.’

    Andreas Johansson

    I have more money than time, so I tend to buy terrain so as to reserve the hobby time I do have for painting figures.

    I did scratchbuilt a moat a couple months ago, because it was clear I was unlikely to find a ready-made one with the specific measurements I wanted, but that was the first time I scratchbuilt anything in ages.


    I definitely  prefer to scratch build although it is more time consuming, and I have less time! I brought a 3d printer so i can print the little details for buildings which tends to speed it up. But 3d printing is also time consuming  distraction.

    Deleted User

    I brought a 3d printer .

    To state the bleeding obvious, this is the way of the future. I wonder if the technology will get to a point that I’ll come on board?




    I am less sure.
    Home/office printers have been affordable and very easy to obtain for years, yet I still buy books.
    Your typical ‘home’ 3d printer is no where near the quality I demanded for making master models.
    I would be spending in the region of £35.00 for a small 6mm vehicle, this had minimum striations but still required sanding and smoothing before using as a master in a mould.
    I certainly would not entertain spending 10 times as much for a model half the quality.
    Maybe when the £50,000 printers are affordable, but then you still need the technical skills and various ancillary bits of equipment, plus the files to print.

    Deleted User

    With all due respect, Mike, you’re looking at ‘now’.

    Even in a few years 3D printing has made impressive improvements. I’ve been watching them at work for the last 8 years & they’ve gone from cumbersome toys to genuine shortcuts for manufacture.

    I will not argue with what you wrote (or, at least, not with most of it) but I think it would be a brave man who would state further improvements & dropping costs will not happen relatively quickly. I would imagine the requisite programs will be either freely available or at a minimal cost: no great technical know-how required.

    “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”Thomas Watson, president of IBM, 1943

    I did indicate I may not ” come on board” but only because I’m beyond the need for large scale manufacturing of figures & terrain. I probably won’t buy any more power tools either.




    With all due respect, Mike, you’re looking at ‘now’.

    Even in a few years 3D printing has made impressive improvements. I’ve been watching them at work for the last 8 years & they’ve gone from cumbersome toys to genuine shortcuts for manufacture.


    That’s true but the high end manufacturing equipment remains expensive. Costs will come down & in a few years time the ‘hobby’ machines will be vastly superior to the current ones. There’s also the factor of the ‘learning curve’ which takes time and practice.

    Look at the current boom in pre(laser)cut MDF kits though, they’ve come from almost nowhere 10 years ago to being ubiquitous now.


    I like to make stuff, or at least ‘enhance’ it, however in reality I tend to end up buying more ready made stuff simply because I have less available time than I do available funds!

    So any homemade stuff tends to be the quicker, simpler items like fields. Most stuff is shop bought ready made though sadly.

    If I ever get to retire early enough to still have usuable eyes and hands I’ll certainly make more 🙂


    Interest include 6mm WW2, 6mm SciFi, 30mm Old West, DropFleet, Warlords Exterminate and others!


    The printer I got cost $200 NZ which is about 100 euros. It is good for terrain and bigger models but fine details is a stretch if you want to make masters. Once I got it dialed it I have it running. Also the cleanup of prints is no worse than resin models and of course you can make as many as you want!

    But I still enjoy making stuff with my hands instead of cleaning up 3d prints One of my projects is some Star wars legion terrain with a mix of 3d accessories and scratch built pieces.



    I hate making terrain but very little on the market meets my needs so I have little choice. Problem for me with terrain making is I’m more comfortable with sculpting than gluing materials together.

    Mr. Average

    As a kid I always loved how-to books, yet at the same time, found it very frustrating to see games I wanted to play telling me “it shouldn’t be too hard to sculpt your own miniatures” because none of the right kind existed. Making things from nothing is hard for me – and I’m a builder by profession so I mean…

    Generally speaking, terrain is a big problem for me because it feels too much like what I do for work. I much prefer the low-impact route: premade, or papercraft.


    I think the advantage of todays glut of companies now producing well, everything, its easier for them make the more complicated  buildings, now with the level of detail than most average makers could do in a reasonable time scale.

    I still make small items, and in the mode of everywhere I go looking at thrown out bits to see how I can use it in my games. Most recently found some bug mesh on site, and its perfect. I only want a bit and has already replaced some of my cruder efforts. An item for sale recently made me smile, a pack of  twigs, real twigs sigh!!

    So, I think there is always going to be a place for home made, and I still don’t believe people at least can`t have a go themselves. Scale it from real life.

    We can be heroes just for 1 day...............

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