The Table™

The is The Table™. There are many tables like it, but this one is mine. If you keep reading you will see a comprehensive rundown of how it's made, tons of photos and so-on. It's not that I think this is a great table or that I'm a genius at table-making. I just want to share the highs and lows and, if I'm lucky, impart a bit of my experience making it for those who want to do one of their own.

In case this is the first you've read of it, I decided to make my first gaming table recently. I made this decision on a day when I was at the St. Laurent mall taking my kids to a movie and, with a few minutes to kill, popped into Games Workshop to see what was up. My kids, Ruth and Dora, fell in love with the gaming tables that had been made by the staff. I had a conversation with Ruth, who is eight, about possibly making our own table, and she said that she'd like to. Ruth is a very clear thinker and, if she says she wants to embark on a project, she's probably capable of doing that. We talked about what kind of table we wanted, how we wanted to make it, when, etc. I told her that we could do it the coming weekend and, now that said weekend has just past, we have enjoyed the process of creating a gaming table... together. Dora also helped, but her work is a bit more... "rough" than Ruth's. What with being five years old and something of a party girl, Dora doesn't really care too much about doing it the right way as long as she's invited to the event.

I, myself, was also quite chuffed about the idea of making this table but, to be honest, if it wasn't for Ruth desperately wanting to see it come to pass I probably wouldn't have; very few people come out to the sleepy town where I live to play Warhammer with me (in fact, almost none) and I don't really need yet one more big, bulky thing in my kitchen to figure out what to do with. The kids, however, adore this thing and can't get enough of playing with it. They have a small collection of their own models (mostly leftovers and really cheap old models that they can paint in whatever ghastly way they please), and they just go nuts on this thing. So... I believe I will probably get the occasional game in and the kids will definitely have a great time so... where's the harm?

The process of creating it was a lot of fun, though. Even though I am still trying to get sand out of my hair and from my socks, I consider it to be an unqualified success. Here's a rundown of the ingredients of the Table™ and how they were made...

The Cliff
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usRuth said she wanted a cliff, and so who am I to tell her that I can't make one? This is four layers of foam cut with an exacto blade and glued together with white glue. As it is with the Tiered Hill (below), I worked like a mofo to seal this thing with glue because I wanted to spray paint it (and, as we all know, spray paint eats through foam like a fat kid through an M&M). Lots of watered-down glue went on, and fine sand went on top of it. I acquired the sand from my buddy Keith, who called it "Military Sand" (whatever that means). Anyhow, it's very fine and did great for my purposes. I had the kids collect good rocks from outdoors and bring them in, and I littered them all over this and the Tiered Hill to give them a slightly rougher, more natural look. After sealing the sand and rocks in with more glue (I did a lot of gluing), I sprayed it with the reddish-brown Mars Primer I got from Canadian Tire and minimal damage was done (and, to be honest, I didn't give much of a damn at that point). Following that, a nice drybrush with Bleached Bone. The edges of the cliff are, of course, black with a drybrush of Codex Grey. I will follow it up later with a drybrush of Fortress Grey and them maybe even white. The rocks were washed in Brown Ink just to differentiate them from the rest of the ground and, later, I will drybrush those as well to give them detail and to dull their shine.

The Crashed Aquila Lander
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAs many of you will know by the sight of it, this is the crashed Aquila Lander from the Games Workshop Macragge box set. There is a lot of truly awesome, high-detail terrain in that box (it's a great buy), and this is my favorite piece (or broken pieces).

It was done by painting the ship parts Codex Grey (thinned paint) and the dirty parts Bubonic Brown. The grey was inked with watered-down black ink, the brown parts with watered-down brown ink. A bit of the internal engine workings were painted in Boltgun Metal. The orange parts were done with Blazing Orange watered WAY down. Decals were applied and the whole thing was dry-brushed in bleached bone.

The only thing I wish I'd done (and will never do) is paint the details of the belt and Auspex which are lying next to the crash (you can't see those in the pic here, but you can see them in the other pic further down in this entry). It would have been one of those "little touches". I also could have glued a bit of flock into different area to make it look as if it was being overgrown, and I might still.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usKeith gave me a mat which was like a little plastic net covered in sprigs of these coriander-like plastic plants. He told me they were used for a display, and they even had gigantic pink flowers mixed in (don't get your hopes up; I didn't use those on the table). Basically, I could pluck one sprig off at a time and use it as I wanted to. The grass mat (mentioned below) was the same; a net of plastic grass sprigs, all in discrete bunches. This was quite a coup, and made the creation of the scenery that much more interesting.

I didn't want to just cut out a piece of plastic card and then glue a bunch of plants on, creating a static blob of area terrain. Instead, I glued the fronds to small flight bases so that they could be moved and clumped however seemed fitting. This was kind of a pain in the ass, however; due to the way the individual clumps of plants were, I had to pluck them off, leaf by leaf, and shove them into the hole of the flight base (which was partially filled with green stuff to keep the stems in there). These stupid stems flopped this way and that, and I nearly lost my mind doing this.

Afterwards, I painted the bases Goblin Green and then proceded to add a layer of glue and sand. Finally, they were washed in Brown Ink. I *will* get around to dry-brushing them with Bleached Bone to bring out the individual grains of sand, but... I'm a little Bleached Boned out right now.

What I like is that when the bases are all shoved together, the plants look quite natural in that you can't really tell where one ends and the other begins. You can also arrange them however you wish to create the shape of the area terrain as you wish.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe story about the grass is almost exactly like the story about the fronds, right down to the benefactor (Keith). The difference is that I mounted these on Warhammer Fantasy bases (the little square ones). I did this because, unlike the fronds, these stood up quite straight and tall and could be glued to a base without much hassle. Then, if you pushed the bases together, you'd get that natural look I was talking about.

Like the fronds, I painted the bases Goblin Green, then glued sand, then inked with Brown (also intending to later drybrush with Bleached Bone). Unlike the fronds, however, the little bales of grass kept falling off the bases. I used green stuff and re-attached probably every single one at least once before I was done.

What I like a lot about the grass and the fronds is that I didn't have to alter them at all; they were the perfect color and shade from the get-go. That was nice.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAnyone who plays Warhammer 40,000 will recognize these trees. I have always thought them to be reminscent of Dr. Seuss, and every time I see them on the table I keep wanting to ask if the Marines are from the Star-Bellied Sneetch chapter.

A friend of mine assembled the trees for me, and I would like to wring his skinny neck for the rotten job he did. These are the most unbalanced, tippy trees I've ever seen in my life. For the most part, they could never actually survive in nature (even if there were a helpful Lorax to look after them). The bases of the trees came in two sizes: Unwieldy small, and unwieldy large, and each was equally prone to tipping. I glued the small ones to small clear flight bases and the large ones to large clear flight bases (do you get the impression that I have more than my share of extra clear flight bases?). Like the fronds and the grass, I painted the bases Goblin Green, glued sand, and then inked with Brown (intending to later drybrush with Bleached Bone)... but not before I primed the whole thing - base, tree and all - in black. The palmy-type leaves got a nice slathering of Goblin Green, followed by a wash of Dark Green Ink. Most of the trunks remain unpainted, but I believe I will drybrush them with either Bubonic Brown or Bleached Bone to create a brown-ish bunch of highlights that will give the trunk some texture. I think these trees look really good but, truth be told, I am just glad they're done.

The Tiered Hill
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThis was my first failed attempt at a cliff. I do, in fact, know that several tiered steps that are not directly one over the other make for a very poor cliff, but I was just kind of experimenting. As you can imagine, I did the same with this that I did with the cliff (mentioned above): Cut the foam, glued it together, sealed it, added sand, sealed it some more, sealed it yet some more, sealed it one more time for luck, spray-painted it, added rocks and dry-brushed. I will probably do more with it, but what? I have no idea.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThese ruins, like the Lorax trees mentioned above, are ubiquitous and well-known to players of WH40k. There isn't much magic in how I worked them: I based them in black, drybrushed them in bubonic brown, drybrushed some more with Bleached Bone and then drybrushed just a touch of white to give it the last bit of detail. They're really nice models, actually, and are full of interesting details, so it's no surprise that they take the drybrushing so well. I love how so little paint can really make them look alive; you can almost feel the stone.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI stole this idea from the Games Workshop employees at Bayshore who recently finished a huge jungle-theme table, and added some little jungle critters about. I did the predictable thing: I rolled some greenstuff in my hands, made it all snakey, painted it orange, looked up "coral snake" on the internet, finished painting, shpritzed a bit of Purity Seal on it and then glued it to a ruined building. I then took a blurry photo.

The kids can't get enough of him, though. They call him "Snakey" and they make up stories about him and his life.

The Lone Ranger
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFor some reason I absolutely cannot get a good photo of this little bugger.

As I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, The Lone Ranger is an Inquisitor-scale Ranger that I had sitting on my shelf for a year or more and never assembled (I don't know a lot of people who play Inquisitor, so there wasn't much push to, while I have tons of 40k-scale stuff that needs attention). I finally decided to make him into a giant, noble statue for my new table... and I think he serves best that way. In short, it went like this: Primed him in Black, painted him Jade Green, drybrushed him in Brazen Brass, dullcoated him to reduce the shine, drybrushed just a touch of Shining Gold to bring it back (but in a smaller, more controlled way) and then mixed a bit of Scorched Brown with Brown Ink and ran a few drops down here and there to make it look like accumulated shmutz. The base itself is no big thing; two pieces of foam, painted black (by brush this time, not spray), drybrushed with Codex Grey, then with Fortress Grey, then a bit of White. I pinned the Ranger to the base with a long length of paper clip; it's not the toughest joint in the world, but it's better than just gluing him onto it and hoping for the best. He seems to be on there quite solidly now.

The Table Itself
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe table is, of course, what this is all about.

First, I glued the table with watered down white glue, covered it in sand, proceded to get sand into every nook and cranny of my home and every article of my clothing, let it dry, glued more, added more sand, then sprayed the Brown primer over it. You see, I bought two cans of Canadian Tire reddish-brown primer which I actually thought was just plain old brown (joke's on me; now we're doing Warhammer battles on Mars). After that, I drybrushed with Bleached Bone and lightly glued some flock on to create the illusion of patchy grass. My main mistake was dullcoating over the flock; I thought it'd keep the flock from falling off the table, but it went a little foggy and now I have some white patches on the surface. Oh well. I can't really care that much because I still think it looks dope.

The table itself is a game table I got from a buddy who sold it to me last summer. It's two pieces of wood that don't quite join right in the middle, hence that odd line you see through the center of the playing area.

If you have been following the progress of this table through the weekend, you'll notice that a few of the things I was working on are missing from the final series of pics; namely, the lumpy thing the Ranger was going to be mounted on, the Eldar Shrine-In-Progress and the bridge. Well, the lumpy thing was converted into a garden-variety unremarkable hunk of terrain because it seemed a bit too big for the statue. The Eldar Shrine is going to be completed, but I have decided to make it less sandy and stony than I had been doing, so it'll be back to the drawing board there. The bridge? I sorta let Dora over-ink it with green and brown so... we'll just make a new one. I will probably experiment later with stuff like spires, dragon's teeth stalagmites, bunkers, whatever. Now that I have foam and know how to use it, I'm getting pretty inspired... so I doubt you've seen the last of this kind of thing.

You now have an excellent idea of how I went about making this table. Here are a few tips just to round out the story and maybe help you a bit if you decide to try it yourself:
- You don't need expensive materials. I already had the table (just a piece of 4X4 flat wood) and the foam, but if you have to buy them you shouldn't have to fork over more than $15 for all you need as far as that goes. $5 for the spray paint (more like $12 if you get the latex can), maybe six bucks for some GW paint (which I already had), a buck for a brush from the dollar store and a couple bucks for a big bottle of white glue. Get sand from the playground (make sure you wash it) and use that. There are some people who make specialty tables which require a LOT of materials, and expensive ones at that. If you are one of those people you aren't going to be reading this, so obviously you aren't one of those people... which means you don't need all that pricey crap, especially if it's your first table.
- Don't dull coat the table itself unless you are 100% certain it won't go cloudy.
- You will need more paper towels than you currently have. No matter how many paper towels you've got, it's not enough. Get more.
- Make sure you're familiar with how to do decent drybrushing. You don't have to be a genius at it, but have a handle on the technique. The reason I say this is because drybrushing can really be screwed up and you don't want to have to start again with a four foot square table.
- No matter how careful you think you are, prepare for the appearance of the sand you will use in your project with paper on the floor and a good vaccuum cleaner. You will get sand into places where it doesn't belong, but you can minimize the hassle of it by not being stupid like I was.
- Forget about spray-painting the foam. I went with spray paint to keep the costs down (latex paint by the can is a lot more expensive), but in the end the amount of sealing I had to do on the foam to protect it just wasn't worth the hassle (and it still ate through a lot of foam anyhow). Just get some paint in a can and brush it on. You'll thank yourself.
- Think ahead about how you're going to do your color and stuff. For instance, I wanted the color to match the bases of my models, but I was way, way off. Why? Because I forgot that the first color I laid down on the bases of my models was Goblin Green, then sand, then Brown Ink, then drybrushed Bleached Bone, then some flock. The table got brown, sand, drybrushed with Bleached Bone, then flock. The difference? You can tell by looking at it.
- Clean as you go.
- Put chips and bits of chopped up foam into a paper bag, not a plastic one.
- Remember that as soon as glue hits the table or foam or whatever, it's already starting to dry. Work fast when glue is involved.
- Watch your clothes. I got paint on two, count 'em, two pairs of pants that I didn't really want paint on.

Last, but not least, here are more pics!

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