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Painting Up the Armorcast Trench System

Trench Starter Set
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10 March 2000converted to new format
5 October 1998page first published

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I thought this would be an easy project, and I was right.

Prepping and Priming

I began by checking the pieces (again) for imperfections, and found very little to fix. Along the bottoms of the dirt mounds, there was a slight lip in a few spots that I trimmed off - but easily something I could have left alone and few people would have noticed. The sides of some of the boards (which support the inside trench walls) seemed unfinished, but then I decided that the boards were supposed to look like that (eroded, rotten boards, right?).

The only recurring problem is that, in the grooves in the grooved metal sheeting, there are occasional "specs." I tried trimming them off, but then decided that since I was going to shade the grooves anyway, the imperfections wouldn't be visible. (In retrospect, I was wrong - see below.)

As per the directions from Armorcast, I then washed the pieces with mild dishwashing detergent and a stiff brush. I used an inexpensive (Wal-Mart brand) spray enamel for a primer coat, choosing flat white as my color of choice.


Looking back, I did everything in the wrong order...

  • I painted all of the dirt area with Americana color Sand (DA4).
  • I then painted the interior (wooden floor, posts, corrugated metal sheets) with Apple Barrel color Burnt Umber.
  • Then I painted the corrugated metal areas with FolkArt 667, Gunmetal Gray.
  • I applied black ink (Citadel Shadow Black) diluted with water as a wash to the interior.
    waiting for the Brown Oxide
  • I finished off by painting over the dirt areas with Apple Barrel color Brown Oxide.
  • everything was protected with a protective coat (Testors Dullcote).

What I didn't mention was that, due to this really bad sequence of painting steps, I had to do a lot of touch-ups - gunmetal paint on the wood, and everything where it slopped onto the sand color. What I should have done was:

  • paint the corrugated metal areas with Gunmetal Gray
  • paint the interior with Burnt Umber
  • apply black ink as a wash to the interior
  • paint the dirt with Sand
  • paint over the dirt with Brown Oxide
  • spray with protective coat

Why I Did It This Way

Gretchin manning the finished trench set

First let me say a few things about "magic paints." As I've said before, I'm particularly happy with the technique of using Americana Sand as a base for "dirt," followed by Apple Barrel Brown Oxide. What I like about the Brown Oxide is that, like many Apple Barrel paints, it is "runny" enough to make an excellent heavy wash (adding just a touch of water).

Another "magic paint" for me is also an Apple Barrel color, Burnt Umber. Like the Brown Oxide, this color can be mixed with water to make a wash of any kind of consistency desired. Over white primer, this can be anything from aged greyish wood (very light wash) to dark creosote-soaked timbers (no dilution). I used a "medium" wash for this project.

Why the ink wash? Two reasons. First, I wanted to achieve a dark and muddied look with the finished trench, and the black would tone everything darker. Second, I found that the fine scribing in the wood needed something to make it more visible, and the ink worked well to settle into the crevices and make them distinguishable. (The black also settled between the floor boards, leaving the space between the boards suitable dark and "deep.")

Final Thoughts

Gretchin guarding my carpet

This was a quick-and-easy project, and I'm comfortable with the final result. Some have told me that dirt isn't brown, but it is on my tabletop. :-)

My only (minor) regret is that I didn't clean up the "grit" in the corrugated metal grooves. What I thought was that the grit wouldn't show up since I was doing a "dark" interior, but I forgot that any metallic color (such as gunmetal) acts to highlight imperfections.