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"Modelling clay suggestions for field works" Topic

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Blackhorse MP21 Nov 2021 9:37 a.m. PST

I'm looking for some advice on "air-drying modelling clay" or putty, to make 20mm ACW field works. The kind of field-expedient defenses the troops could throw up overnight or in an hour or two before or even during a battle. Not the the massive fortifications seen at Washington or Richmond or any number of other fortified locations.

I've not used modelling clay/putty before so I appreciate any input you have to offer. TIA.

bobm195921 Nov 2021 9:48 a.m. PST

A typical quick field entrenchment would be dug with all arisings placed in front so only had to be dug half height. then a felled log placed atop the parapet so you could see and shoot under it while keeping your head protected. I made mine in a "front" and a "back" (the back less high than the front) as two separate pieces so they could be put together when unoccupied and apart so that figure bases could be placed between. I pushed lengths of florist wire into long thin lengths to prevent cracking when drying and minimise breakages in use.

JimDuncanUK21 Nov 2021 9:52 a.m. PST

If US air-drying modelling clay is anything like UK air-drying modelling clay then I haven't found it great for wargames scenery.

It dries in the air, that's fine but you'll have to make sure any unused clay is sealed tightly as it will dry too.

It will shrink and crack which might suit your project and it will even warp a bit depending on what you attach it too.

If I were to make field defenses I would start with a solid base, 3mm MDF comes to mind, keep small in area to minimise any base warping, applying the clay in thin layers and let it dry in between courses. It might separate from the base, let it fully dry and glue it back down.

I would prefer to use household filler, Polyfilla in the UK as it is a bit tougher. Mold it around and over some blue foam.

Best of luck.

Personal logo timurilank Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2021 10:05 a.m. PST

I prefer to use Milliput as it does not shrink while drying.
The two links illustrate its use to build an embankment covered with branches (Hellenistic camp) or stakes (Roman camp)


Your temporary field work might also have tree limbs and stones providing extra coverage.

blank frank21 Nov 2021 10:36 a.m. PST

As an alternative to modelling clay you can make your own papier mache. There are of course lots of recipes for this. My recipe is to use diluted PVA or wall paper paste and toilet paper to create a clay like mulch. It of course eventually dries a lot lighter than modelling clay. But as Jim mentions a solid base is important so as to not experience the dreaded Warp factor.

Striker21 Nov 2021 12:15 p.m. PST

I've used air drying clay to add to mdf & washers for terrain bases but it takes a while to dry. I didn't have cracking or shrinkage and built up any raised areas with foam or scraps. I would use the clay as a thin covering instead of the majority of the material.

Besides paper mache you can find celluclay (like paper mache) at craft stores, relatively cheap. Some water, white glue, and cheap acrylic paint to pre-color it is all that's needed.

14Bore21 Nov 2021 2:10 p.m. PST

Quick set spackle is my favorite for earth works, but then it's free foe me.

William Warner21 Nov 2021 2:22 p.m. PST

Another vote for celluclay. I've used it since the 1960's and have found it easy to work with, relatively fast drying and with a very pleasing earth-like texture once dry. If making field works, I would apply it over another surface, such as quarter-round wooden moulding.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2021 5:28 p.m. PST

I have used an Air – drying clay called Paper Clay. It was hard to work with for me. It starts to dry too quickly to work easily with, then takes a long time to dry completely. It cracks sometimes. And it needs a heavy base. It may be that I just did not get how to work with it.

I am with Striker on this. Add some flock of appropriate colors, colored sand, etc. and you have a realistic textured model.

Ryan T21 Nov 2021 6:07 p.m. PST

A couple of years ago I picked up something called Kinetic Sand. It can be quickly laid down to form earthworks that conform to your terrain. Finish the game and pick it up for the next time you need to fortify your troops' position.

YouTube link

Durban Gamer22 Nov 2021 2:53 a.m. PST

Kinetic sand and Celluclay: always learning new things on TMP!

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2021 6:04 a.m. PST

If you mix the clay, Paint, and glue to together the clay doesn't shrink or crack.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2021 5:00 p.m. PST

I use ordinary modeling clay that I get from the dollar stores. I shape it and then add paint and sand. I also use clay to make sandbags.

Mark 123 Nov 2021 12:00 a.m. PST

I use DAS brand air-drying clay.

Here is a pic of the creation of a platoon trenchwork for my 6mm forces. My figures are based on US pennies.

I kneed some water into the clay to make it reasonably soft and easily formed, and roll some out on a piece of wax paper (to prevent it sticking to the hobby workboard). Pennies are then pushed into it to give me my eventual infantry positions. Then a trenchline is carved into the clay with a coffee-house stirring stick (or perhaps a handy clay working tool if you have such devices).

This assembly is then left to dry for a day.

I then spray the whole thing, top and bottom, with diluted white glue. My intention is to seal it, as otherwise the clay can easily absorb water and become malleable again. Then I paint it an earth/dirt tone (I use cheap acrylic craft paint in a color called "mushroom"), and then paint the trenchline in a color gradient getting darker towards the bottom. This gradient is done by painting the bottom (darker color) first, then painting the next lighter color on both sides, they wet-washing that lighter color before it is fully dray to blend a bit where it goes over the darker color, then repeating that process with one further lighter color.

The purpose for this gradient is to try to give an optical effect showing the trenchline being deeper than the indents that the infantry stands will fit into.

Then everything except the trenchline is flocked and given some bits of talus and shrubbery. Here even the coin-sized indents are flocked, to make them less obviously deep. Now when the piece is not occupied the trench line itself is the dominant visual artifact, and the coin-sized indents are less obvious.

Here a platoon of my Romanian GHQ infantry are positioned in the trenches, ready to provide a stiff defense against the Red Army.

This is the second trenchwork I have created using this approach. The first one was made about 8 or 9 years ago. So far I've had no problems with undue shrinkage while making them, and they have proven to be reasonably durable, although honestly they have not seen much hard service.

Hope that helps.

(aka: Mk 1)

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