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"54mm Shell Craters: pie tin mold + Saw Dust + Wood Glue?" Topic

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Sgt Slag15 Nov 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

Got my adult nephew interested in wargaming with plastic Army Men figures, 54mm. Last game we played, we used up all 12 of my shell craters (concrete patching material molded by hand, on top of a CD base, to a crater shape, then painted) for all of the HE shells used across the table surface -- we were short approximately 6-8 craters, and that game only used 1/3 of his garage space…

Next game he wants to play, will fill his 40-foot, square garage (1,600 sq. ft.), on multiple 4x8 sheets of plywood, on top of saw horses. We estimate we will need 30+ craters… Game will have four Howitzers, minimum, along with around 20-30 Tanks (maybe more…). So we will need a lot of HE shell craters to lay on the tabletop where the shells land!

He is a carpenter, by trade, so he has 80-gallon drums full of sawdust, which he thought we could mix with wood glue, to form craters, quick, easy, and damn cheap. I figure we could use aluminum pie tins, for molds. He estimates that they will dry completely within two days' time. Planning to use Black Walnut sawdust, to minimize painting.

Anybody ever done such before? I plan to mold some test samples, and bake them in my oven at 170 F, for 45 minutes, to see if I can speed the drying process. I will mold around 6-8, put them on an old cookie sheet, and then bake them, to accelerate the process, as much as possible.

Any past experiences anyone would care to share, would be much appreciated. Cheers!

uglyfatbloke15 Nov 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

If you're using PVA I won't think heating will help, but if you mix in some plaster and a little brown paint that should speed things up. Be warned, if you mix in a lot of plaster it'll dry really quickly.

Chinggis15 Nov 2017 12:45 p.m. PST

I've read articles and seen pics of people using ali pie tins as moulds or even the upturned tin itself as a crater but the use of sawdust mixed with pva is a new one on me. Sound feasible though. Good luck with it and keep us posted.

Sgt Slag15 Nov 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

uglyfatbloke, PVA is water based, so heating it should accelerate the evaporation. It really works well on The Dip, applied to plastic Army Men figures: 30 minutes, at 170 F, and they are fully cured/dry, ready to game with -- this with the solvent-/oil-based urethane stain.

Like I always say, experimentation is king, Baby! Won't know for sure until I try. I had hopes that someone had traveled this path before me. No matter. I'll give it a whirl, and see what comes out of the pipe, at the end of the line… Cheers!

Kropotkin30315 Nov 2017 3:15 p.m. PST

I have made shell craters out of just pie dishes pressed down in the middle and glued to a base. Then I coated them with poly-filler/ spackle. Then painted and flocked. They set hard.


I sure would like to see pictures of your game. Sounds fantastic.

Sgt Slag15 Nov 2017 4:14 p.m. PST

I've been gaming with plastic Army Men since 1998. Played a huge game with my sons, in our 20x20 garage, on the floor, around a decade ago. Had a blast! This game with my nephew, will be four times the size, and raised off of the floor -- I'm too old to play a floor game anymore.

He's pumped for it, and so am I. will likely pull in two of my son's to play in it, if they're available. We're working on mounting all of the Army Men on 2"-square bases, textured with different colored sands (mottled brown and green patches), and every figure will hopefully be Dip'ed. We will be using different bits and bobs for buildings; cake top trees, hills, and other terrain pieces are planned. It won't be the greatest quality of terrain, but it should be quite fun. Hoping to use between 500-1,000 figures: HMG's, MMG's, LMG's, Bazookas, Minesweepers/Engineers, Mortars, Flamethrowers, and oodles, and oodles of Infantry Men. I'll be throwing in the special types, as well: Snipers, and Paratroopers. Basically I am throwing the whole kitchen sink into this game. I'll likely make up some rocket launchers for some of the Tanks, as well as making some of the Tanks Flamethrowers, in place of their main cannons. I plan to pull out all of the stops on this game… >;-)

It will also feature trucks, jeeps, and APC's, with plenty of long roads, to facilitate grand marches across long distances, with tactical movements being a realistic option, and tactic. We normally do not move Howitzers, as they have such long ranges, there typically is never a need to move them as they usually can reach the majority of the table from a corner. Not this time, they'll have to move to get the enemy into range.

This will be the largest mini's game I've ever played in, for quantity of figures, as well as the largest Army Men game. He and I are both giddy about it. So much to do, before we can set a game date… We hope to do it before Christmas, but that may be pushing it too hard.

I will post photo's, and a write-up, of course. This will be too big a game, not to share with others. Might consider taking it to a convention, next year. Maybe. Doesn't seem to be too much interest at con's, for Army Men figure games, but perhaps if we can do it on this scale of size, it may generate interest. We'll see. Cheers!

Kropotkin30316 Nov 2017 2:37 p.m. PST

This has got to be seen. Looking forward to it. Do you plan to do any aircraft?

Sgt Slag16 Nov 2017 10:23 p.m. PST

Aircraft tend to be too powerful. The ground-pounders just sort of evaporate under them. Besides that, AA rules, and aircraft, are just more complexity than fun, IMO.

My nephew and I discussed it today. We have a lot on our plates, with a convention coming up in January. We will likely table this game until February, or after. We're launching a business together, and this is a serious distraction we can't give time to, right now. We are both itching to play this mega-game, but we agreed, we don't want to rush it, and let quality slip through our fingers. We are not bothering to paint the men, just apply The Dip, and texture their bases. Still we are trying to figure out how many Tanks we will need, and he wants trucks, and so do I, to move our troops across this huge battlefield. In other words, we want to do it right, rather than rush to do it half-baked.

We're going to limit the players in the first iteration, then open it to some local gaming friends. We realized it will take about a day to set it up, two days to fight it out, and a day to tear it down. We will likely need to take some vacation to do it on a weekend, playing Saturday and Sunday.

We hope to play it several times, with variations on the table setup. He has the big shop to play it in, so it is a matter of when he can afford to clear his shop, and we can both take time off to set it up, and tear it down.

It will be delayed, but it will be played… I'll post plenty of photo's when we do it. Never fear, I will share it. Cheers!

gisbygeo21 Nov 2017 3:38 a.m. PST

I have based trees and shrubs using a mix of PVA and sand. The only problem I can see is that the sawdust will tend to hold the water longer, and you may get warping or mould. Good luck!

Sgt Slag22 Nov 2017 10:39 a.m. PST

Went searching for 6-inch pie tins. They apparently come in 3-4 inch models (smaller than I would like), or 9-inch models (too big…). Will be looking for something in the 6-inch range at Wal-Mart, in the next few days. Itching to give this a try. Off on Friday, will likely buy some type of pie tin, and give it a whirl then. Cheers!

Sgt Slag05 Feb 2018 11:02 a.m. PST

Update: We have not had time to work on the sawdust craters. We will be using CD's that are painted brown, for this first game. It is not going to be the full shop size, either. We've ratcheted it down to learn more about what will/will not work for such large games. Also discovered we do not have as many figures based as we had hoped. Still, it will be quite a large game, but we won't be using all of the originally planned troop types. We decided to forego paratroopers. Not sure we will use APC's, either. We will have plenty of trucks to haul troops across both roadways, and open fields.

The scenario will be the Tan troops defending a city, while the larger force of Green troops will be invading. There will be Howitzers on both sides, so the casualty rate will be quite high, until the Green troops get too close for the Howies to fire upon them (only allowed high, arcing fire, no direct line of sight shooting. The Green's will be executing a pincer movement, attacking the city frontally, and from a side. The Tan's will have a minefield on the rural side, to channel the Greens into a choke-point. That will give the Green engineers something to work on. The road into town will be defended by a couple of bunkers -- another opportunity for the Green engineers to try to destroy.

The Greens will have Flamethrowers, and other troops, also capable of destroying/clearing the bunkers. Problem is they need to survive until they are close enough to engage… This will be a meat-grinder of a game. Just the way we like it!

The game will take place on Saturday, the 10th. The rules will be Plastic Wars: Total Annihilation Mk II (under development, currently), which is something I marketed back in 1998, as an introductory mini's game. Play is fast, and casualties are furious, but you never wonder who won. Cheers!

Uparmored17 Feb 2018 11:37 p.m. PST

Sounds awesome! Looking forward to an AAR.

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