As I’m on a bit of a Pacific terrain building high at the moment I thought I’d make some Bamboo jungle sections for our Bolt Action table. We’ve been talking about what sort of terrain we want on the table for a while and have decided that it would be nice to have some areas that not only block LOS but are impenetrable to everything bar tanks. Having looked at a few images of Bamboo forest online this would seen to fit well and will make a nice change for trees. Model bamboo suitable for 28mm gaming is easy to come by if you don’t mind waiting a few weeks for delivery. I picked up 200 pieces of plastic Bamboo on eBay for less than £10 (not even worth thinking about making your own at that price). When they arrived they were even better than my expectations, being made from nice green flexi plastic in four different lengths. The two longer lengths even have wire running through them to keep them straight.
The first thing I did was to make some bases for my Bamboo sections. I want a range of different sizes and shapes so that they blend with the table nicely (a whole set of regular size and shape bases look a lot less natural), but they have to be strong and allow the Bamboo sections to fit into them securely. For jobs like these I always keep a sheet or two of blue foam handy, it’s a lot denser than regular white polystyrene foam which makes it harder wearing and slightly heavier, perfect for this job. I cut the bases to random shapes and sizes using a hot wire cutter (a sharp knife will do just as well), taking care to keep the depth of the foam enough to glue the Bamboo stems into. Once they have been cut a quick rub down with some sand paper to get off the sharp edges and they are ready for stage two.
Each Bamboo stick is fixed to the base by gluing it into a hole in the foam. I made the holes first with a cocktail stick as this was easier than trying to push the bends plastic into the foam directly. The holes were made randomly to give a more natural appearance the the finished piece. I then did a trial run of each piece to get the right mixture of lengths and to make sure that I’ve added enough holes to give the density of Bamboo I’m after (don’t worry if you make too many holes , they can be covered in later).
Next I remove all the Bamboo pieces before gluing them back in place (it doesn’t matter if they go back in the same holes as the test fit, as long as it looks good). To fix the Bamboo sticks I didn’t use regular glue but instead used Silicon Bathroom Sealant, this stuff is good for soft plastic as it grips well and it has a little flex which will make the pieces more resilient to handling. For my first try I put the sealant on the base first but this made finding the holes almost impossible. So for subsequent bases I put some sealant in a tub and dipped the ends of the Bamboo into it before pushing them in place. I then left everything overnight to set.
I want my Bamboo to look like it’s growing out of sandy soil, so I’m not going to paint the bases (you can if you like of course). Instead I’m going to glue on a thick layer of Calcium Sand (you can get a big bag of the stuff cheaply from pet stores that sell Reptiles), I find this is good for basing as it’s a nice even size fixes nicely when glues (some sands don’t seem to hold to glue as well in my experience). The bases are given a nice thick coat of neat PVA glue before being covered in the Calcium sand, then left overnight to dry. Once thoroughly dry I need to make sure any loose sand is fixed in place, the best way I find to do this is to give them a good coat of watered down PVA (50:50 works well), this will help to cement the sand in place.
Now for some leaf litter, every good jungle has a mix of fallen leaves and stuff on the ground and it will help to break up the look of my bases (plus hide any areas where the blue foam is showing through). For this I started by gluing some mixed herbs onto the base, these do a good job of looking like pieces of fallen leaves and other jungle detritus (and they make your models smell nice 🙂 ). This is a good chance to cover up any pieces of blue foam that are showing through or areas where the sand is looking a bit odd.
Once this has all dried it’s time for some plants. For these I use a selection of plastic aquatic plants I’ve accumulated from aquarium shops and eBay over the years. Simply snip odd suitable pieces leaving some stem if possible, make a hole in your base and glue the stem in.
I’ve still got a few more pieces to finish but these should make a great addition to our Pacific gaming table.