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"Mark Luther's Table Technique" Topic


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14 Sep 2021 5:09 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Mark Luther's Table Technique" to "Mark Luther's Table Technique"
  • Changed starttime from
    14 Sep 2021 4:37 a.m. PST
    to
    14 Sep 2021 4:37 a.m. PST

14 Sep 2021 5:10 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Mark Luther's Table Technique" to "Mark Luther's Table Technique"Removed from Ancients Discussion board

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Achtung Minen14 Sep 2021 4:37 a.m. PST

I'm entranced by the 6mm table design of Mark Luther (Microbiggie here on these forums):

link

Is there any good guide to describe how to get from the flat "golf course" I have now to the varied, dynamic, even photo-realistic style of Mr. Luther? I've seen a lot of guides on YouTube for building terrain in general but they all seem to be the "Scatter Terrain" approach, whereas Luther's approach seems not to be a bunch of free-floating terrain "pieces" placed on a flat game mat but rather a layered approach, with many sheafs of fabric, texture, clump foliage, terrain templates and possibly even chalking. I would love to learn this style! Please point me to resources or offer your experiences/insights with what I am dubbing the "Mark Luther" style.

Edit: Seems I was hit by the bug… could an admin please remove the Ancients crossposted forum? It should just be 6mm WWII and Terrain & Scenics.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2021 7:01 a.m. PST

I'd agree. Very nice work, though to me it looks perhaps more stacked than you seem to give it credit for--cloth mostly over boards to leave roads somewhat lower, and sloped hills frequently over the cloth. But always there's a trade-off between quick assembly and take-down with associated flexibility and best possible representation of a single battlefield.

If I were you, I'd take a look at Bruce Weigle's various rules sets. He also works in 6mm--beautiful boards: I might even give them points over Mr. Luther's--and all the rules I've seen have a long chapter on how his terrain boards were constructed.

Microbiggie14 Sep 2021 8:45 a.m. PST

First of all, thanks for the compliments. Second, my tables are not made of game boards and are pretty quick to assemble and take down.
Decide what sort of terrain you want based on the planned scenario and maps and pics of the battle and area. This is really key because that is what you are trying to emulate.
I start with some foam shapes under the ancient, dyed, and resprayed multiple times with cheap paint, bed sheet. I have greenish, brownish, and whitish sheets.
Pull out some fabric that is sprayed colors that match the fields. Arrange them and spray glue them down to the sheet. Then plop the various buildings, woods, trees, fences, wall, telephone poles, etc where they are suppose to go.
Then I use a cheap chalk pastel for roads, slope definition, ditches, exposed dirt, etc. I like using pastels because you can customize your sheet for any sort of road network. And afterwards you can wash it out. Any lines that dont come out can be spray painted over, just adding to the the earthen patina of the sheet. So these 3 sheets can be used over and over again for any battlefield.
The scatter terrain that gets sprinkled over last really helps break up any bland open flat areas. I use a lot of different flocks. Its messy so be mindful of keeping it from getting spewed over the floor when picking up.
I've been doing this for decades, so my stock of scenery items is pretty deep. And I still get to thinking that I need something else on the shelf for a certain look.
As for pick up, that usually takes about 15 minutes, depending on the table
Feel free to PM me.
Mark

MajorB14 Sep 2021 9:12 a.m. PST

Feel free to PM me.

He can't. Only Supporting Members can use PM.

Microbiggie14 Sep 2021 10:18 a.m. PST

Ok Evan, just contact me through the flickr link you posted above
Mark

Mark 114 Sep 2021 4:24 p.m. PST

I have been a fan, and a student, of Mark Luther's table techniques for many years now.

I must confess that my skills (and my tool kit) does not yet achieve, nor even approach, his almost photo-realistic game tables. But my studies (and his very generous help over the years) have greatly improved my game tables.

To wit …

The "before" images:


This is what one of my European tables looked like before I started following his techniques.


And this is one of my North African game tables before I learned my new art.

The "after" images:


Here is a European game table built using my more current skills.


And this is a North African table as I would now create it.

As I said, not to his level. I am but a padawan learner, perhaps never to achieve the levels of my Jedi master. But I really like how my tables look now, even if they can still get better as I build my repertoire.

What I have discovered in my journey so far:
- I did not have the nerve to go with spray-painted sheets as he has suggested. Instead I opted for heavier gaming cloths (tan and green canvas). Use his sheet approach. No sheet, his stuff looks better than mine.

- I went with cut corrugated cardboard to build my elevations. It's what I was using before (on top of the cloth), and it works well under the cloth too. Gives me a bit more nuance in my elevations, although it does make it a bit harder to see the elevations when looking at the table from above. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

- One needs lots of stuff to add. Odd-shaped pieces of cloth: faux fur / teddy-bear cover cloth, corduroy, etc. are cheap from the remnants bin at your local sewing/fabric store. Become a frequent patron.

- Scatter pieces -- can't have too many. Tree lines, walls, hedges, small woods, etc. A forever task to build/acquire more. If you follow my "Recent 6mm Work" thread you will see that I have some scatter pieces on the workbench along with almost every new unit I build and paint. More more more…

It is, after all, as much the journey as the destination. But so far at least, I prefer the countryside I now journey through over the countryside I used to hang around in.

Your tankage may vary.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Achtung Minen14 Sep 2021 8:28 p.m. PST

First of all, thanks for the compliments. Second, my tables are not made of game boards and are pretty quick to assemble and take down.
Decide what sort of terrain you want based on the planned scenario and maps and pics of the battle and area. This is really key because that is what you are trying to emulate.
I start with some foam shapes under the ancient, dyed, and resprayed multiple times with cheap paint, bed sheet. I have greenish, brownish, and whitish sheets.
Pull out some fabric that is sprayed colors that match the fields. Arrange them and spray glue them down to the sheet. Then plop the various buildings, woods, trees, fences, wall, telephone poles, etc where they are suppose to go.
Then I use a cheap chalk pastel for roads, slope definition, ditches, exposed dirt, etc. I like using pastels because you can customize your sheet for any sort of road network. And afterwards you can wash it out. Any lines that dont come out can be spray painted over, just adding to the the earthen patina of the sheet. So these 3 sheets can be used over and over again for any battlefield.
The scatter terrain that gets sprinkled over last really helps break up any bland open flat areas. I use a lot of different flocks. Its messy so be mindful of keeping it from getting spewed over the floor when picking up.
I've been doing this for decades, so my stock of scenery items is pretty deep. And I still get to thinking that I need something else on the shelf for a certain look.
As for pick up, that usually takes about 15 minutes, depending on the table
Feel free to PM me.
Mark

That's terrific, thank you for the advice Mark! I will indeed try to contact you in the coming days—I may have to get a Flickr account first though. I have a lot of questions… just some that come to mind:

1) Are the foam shapes cut from some thin foam and then layered? Or do you take large foam chunks and snip them into a single hill shape? Is this the spongy kind of foam that typically comes in (for example) a model blister pack, or something more dense and rigid?

2) If I am understanding you correctly, you actually glue the field pieces directly to the base mat? Are you able to separate them later, or are they permanently stuck in that configuration?

3) Your buildings are lovely, what manufacturers do you prefer? And where on earth did you get those 6mm telephone poles? It seems like such a small touch, but they really bring the scene to life!

4) Sometimes I see sprawling faint lines, presumably of chalk, that have the appearance of doing a charcoal rub on some paper with a textured object underneath. They are oddly very satisfying and give undulating terrain an organic look. Is that just a matter of putting something hard under the cloth and then brushing the chalk across the cloth sideways to pick out the raised edges? What do you use to do that?

5) There is also a fair bit of texture that looks like it is spray painted directly onto the mat. Is that just a flick of a paint brush or some other technique? Did you intentionally spray paint some flock or wood dust or something to stick to the mat to give it that texture?

6) Please excuse this if it sounds like hyperbole: you sound less like a typical gamer and more like an artist working the canvas. How long exactly does it take you to "set up" a scenario table, from start to finish? You said "pick up… usually takes about 15 minutes." Do you mean to say that this is how long it takes to tear down and clean up?

7) How do you pick up all the flock and pebbles? I've heard some people use a hand vacuum, is that the trick?

Achtung Minen14 Sep 2021 8:38 p.m. PST

And a few questions for Mr. Singer. Your tables looks great—I noticed you transitioned from "hills on top of the sheet" in the earlier photos to "hills below the sheet" in later photos. Are the shapes under the sheet in the latter photos the same corrugated cardboard hills from the earlier pictures? I would imagine that 6mm models are light enough that they cling easily to a slope without sliding down, but do you find this to be the case? Do you have to maintain a fairly shallow hill to keep 6mm models (stands of infantry and individual tanks) stable?

One thing I've noticed about Mr. Luther's tables is that he has many large sheets of roughly cut, seemingly coarse and thick cloth for fields (often in a contrasting colour to the base table)… and these "field" cuts are generally quite large and divide the tabletop into distinct sections (rather than "floating" amidst the space of the base cloth). What is your experience with achieving this effect? I would imagine this is more difficult for desert games, where such fields would presumably uncommon. Have you found other ways to break up the vision so the uniformity of the underlying mat is less noticeable?

monk2002uk15 Sep 2021 5:24 a.m. PST

I use 'hills below the sheet', specifically Hexon terrain. The 'hills' do not have to be shallow. Here is an example of terrain from Gallipoli:

This terrain was even steeper:

I like the look that a battlemat brings, smoothing out the 'steps' in the contours. But I can still check on a specific contour edge if needed by the rules, as the edges of contours are easily located under the mat.

Robert

monk2002uk15 Sep 2021 5:31 a.m. PST

And a closer view of ANZAC troops trying to make their way off the beach in Anzac Cove:

Robert

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse15 Sep 2021 5:56 a.m. PST

All of the above examples look brilliant and really add to the look and atmosphere of the game.

Good work and good ideas!

Dave

Mark 115 Sep 2021 10:43 a.m. PST

Are the shapes under the sheet in the latter photos the same corrugated cardboard hills from the earlier pictures?

They are. But the collection has grown since the "on top of the cloth" days. Any random cardboard box that comes into my household may wind up getting sliced up for a few terrain pieces.

Do you have to maintain a fairly shallow hill to keep 6mm models (stands of infantry and individual tanks) stable?

I would suggest this is one of the selling points of the cardboard approach. In my experience with the cardboard you are substantially less likely to create a slope that is so steep that the miniatures will slide off. It is common on foam cuts to have a slope of more than 45 degrees (ie: an inch (2.5cm) of rise with only perhaps 1/2 to 1 inch of table distance). That would deliberate effort to create with the cardboard. More common will be slopes of less than 30 degrees (ie: using 2 or 3 inches of table distance to create 1 inch of rise). I do create steep slopes, but it takes deliberate effort, as several (5 or more) cardboard pieces need to be cut to fit together pretty precisely -- and then glued together so they can be found together when the time comes to use them.

Through the structuring of the cardboard pieces you can easily create both gentle slopes and slopes that, at game time, may be considered impassible to vehicles or obstacles to movement for infantry. It is also easier to create depressions on your table, as cardboard is readily available in half-table sized sheets that let you raise the base-level buy a small amount and then leave gaps for depressions -- just look at the box your large screen LCD TV comes in to envision a table-top solution for a wadi or riverbed.

One thing I've noticed about Mr. Luther's tables is that he has many large sheets of roughly cut, seemingly coarse and thick cloth for fields (often in a contrasting colour to the base table)… and these "field" cuts are generally quite large and divide the tabletop into distinct sections …

Yep. Hence my comment about "One needs lots of stuff to add." One of the shortfalls of my implementation of Mark Luther's techniques is that I don't have enough cut cloths to achieve the same effect he creates. I quite simply need more.

I would imagine this is more difficult for desert games, where such fields would presumably uncommon. Have you found other ways to break up the vision so the uniformity of the underlying mat is less noticeable?

Two things I have done so far. First I have scattered small bits of old gray-green lichen across the wide expanses. This is visible in the pics I posted of my desert set-up. I really like the look that creates in making an open area seem like terrain rather than just an empty table. Second is to put small elevations here and there, even across the open areas. Ground is seldom actually flat -- it undulates. Then the pastels can be used to highlight some of the undulation -- drawing in darker water scars and small slopes, or lighter raised areas, for example. Now that you see my approach, if you look again at my desert board you can perhaps discern where I've done these things.

One more approach, which Mark Luther does well and I have not yet achieved, is to spray some subtle variations in colors across the table cloth, so that even open terrain looks less uniform. It serves him quite well, and I need to do something similar.

Or so I would think.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Mark 115 Sep 2021 10:52 a.m. PST

If I may, please also allow me to answer one question addressed to Mark Luther, as I know his technique from prior discussions with him:

2) If I am understanding you correctly, you actually glue the field pieces directly to the base mat? Are you able to separate them later, or are they permanently stuck in that configuration?

The technique is to use temporary spray adhesive. It is used to hold cloth-to-cloth so that pieces stay in their correct positions relative to each other when sewing. They stick together, but can be readily separated when desired, and the adhesive washes off in the laundry. It is readily available in any store that sells sewing supplies.

Lay down your base cloth. Spritz spritz on your scatter cloth pieces, put them down, then draw around them with your pastels.

After a battle, the cloth(s) come apart with minimal effort, and they go into the wash, and the pastels and adhesives disappear, so that you can start fresh again when you build the next table.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

williamb15 Sep 2021 1:14 p.m. PST

Bruce Weigle has made many game tables pictures of which can be seen here link


A tutorial on how he makes them is here
link

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2021 4:52 p.m. PST

All I may say is that this must be a time warp.
We've been creating realism on tables for at least 40 years that I know of; not always perfect but customised terrain (not store bought) and 'flexible' materials rather than dicky rods sticking up at odd angles etc. No cardboard hills or silly bare bases either.

These things take you from the 'toys' impression to the modelling side to outsiders.

For those who like those things, good onya…
d

Microbiggie15 Sep 2021 6:30 p.m. PST

Some really nice looking game tables in this thread. And I think it just shows how creative different people can be as they attempt to convey the terrain on which some of our battles occurred.
What I originally was trying to do was come up with a way to do undulating terrain without resorting to one time use, relatively inflexible boards. And one that was inexpensive, reusable and fairly simple to set up and take down.
In the past 7 days, I have done both Seelowe Heights and a Poland 39 games at the Local shop using the same green sheet with completely different road networks and landscape. My 'method' certainly works for me and I am happy to share any tips or advice.
Mark

Captain Pete15 Sep 2021 10:09 p.m. PST

I always love seeing Mark Luther's terrain boards and his great scenarios and AARs as well. I'm always on the lookout for more terrain ideas.

Mark 115 Sep 2021 11:16 p.m. PST

What I originally was trying to do was come up with a way to do undulating terrain without resorting to one time use, relatively inflexible boards. And one that was inexpensive, reusable and fairly simple to set up and take down.

As a humble student I must object! As high as the achievements may rank in terms of productivity, it is the aesthetics that drive the outpourings of compliments and praise.

I managed to achieve the same levels of productivity with my original approach using large felt cloths, tape, and cardboard cut outs. But while productive, my tables always left me feeling kind of disappointed by the aesthetics, certainly when compared to the beautifully detailed gametables I played on from time-to-time … gametables that were usually based on a pre-made tiles and game boards. And I gave much thought to building my own set of game boards, with all the effort, cost, lack of flexibility, and storage and transport issues they entail.

It was the fact that Mark L manages to consistently produce game tables that take my breath away with their appearance ("aesthetic characteristics") even WHILE achieving the "productivity characteristics" that has drawn me into my study of the approach.

Let us not forget that this thread opened with comments on the aesthetics -- AM's search for "the varied, dynamic, even photo-realistic style". I find it almost impossible to even look at one of Mark L's AARs without praising the remarkable aesthetics.

The fact that it is a low-cost, low hassle, highly flexible approach is not to be dismissed, and certainly is of high concern for the practitioner. But for the spectator it is the amazing appearance that results.

I too always love seeing Mark Luther's games and AARs.

-Mark
(another Mark)

Microbiggie16 Sep 2021 7:46 a.m. PST

I haven't had a chance to label these sets, but they are the last two 6mm WWII games I've played.
Really just posting to show how quick it is to do a different game on the same cloth. Germany 45 and Poland 39.

link

link

Mark

Achtung Minen17 Sep 2021 2:23 p.m. PST

Those are brilliant Mark! I haven't yet made the Flickr account but I might as well ask a few more questions here so as to benefit us all from your insight:

I am putting together the arsenal of things I will need, but I am really curious how you achieve some of the effects… particularly in this picture:

link

8) How do you achieve the craggy surface look of the underlying mat? It looks kind of like foundation makeup when it is caked on too heavily… it's the perfect, natural "earthy" look!

9) I have questions about the relative thickness and material of your cloths. It seems as if the fields are made from a thick cloth… are they made of something like a felt? And you have mentioned that the underlying cloth is just an old bedsheet, which I assume would be relatively thin and flexible. The underlying cloth looks like it has some rigidity to it though, so that it forms its own stiff creases at times or doesn't conform perfectly to the foam underneath it. Is that correct? If so, what has caused a thin sheet of cloth to have that stiffness to it?

10) You mentioned that the hills are made of foam under the sheet. Is this hard pack styrofoam, or the soft and squishy and spongy kind of foam? How are these made? Do you make hills in layers of foam, or a single piece?

11) In that same photo, there are scores of tiny bushes in the fields. Are those simply sprinkled loosely over the mat before the game and picked up afterwards, or are they permanently fixed in place? Are they just made of clump foliage, and did you hot glue them down?

Microbiggie17 Sep 2021 4:27 p.m. PST

To answer your latest questions:
That craggy look is just a happy result from years of touch up spray paint. The bedsheet now has the thickness of a painter's drop cloth in places. The fields are mostly textured cloth like felt from fabric shops. Also spray painted in colors that resemble crops. The shapes under the cloth can really be anything sine the cloth lays on top. Some people use towels, plastic containers or books. The bits of flock in the fields are sprinkle on after set up. I fold up the sheet after the game so I don't get all the odd pieces of flock scattering on the floor of the shop. Then shake it out outside. Flock is pretty cheap and that last bit of sprinkles is pretty light.
Mark

Achtung Minen17 Sep 2021 4:31 p.m. PST

Terrific Mark, thank you. Sorry one more, I assume the spray paint is a flat or matte spray paint (not satin or gloss)… is there a certain kind of spray paint that works best? Is it "the cheaper the better"?

Microbiggie17 Sep 2021 5:22 p.m. PST

Cheaper is fine Matt is best but since you're spraying fabric satin works well too You can easily blend colors to get the shade you want also

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