20 April 2014

DIY Hex Space-Mat: the Rematch

Two and a half years ago, I tried to make my own space-themed hex mat with 2 inch hexes.  As this previous post describes, the attempt was abandoned after the methods I chose produced poor results after long hours of tedious work.

DIY hex space-mat and scratchbuilt spaceship
Recently I purchased a copy of the legendary Starfire and decided I would like to play this game with miniatures.  I also am hopefully zeroing in on a final set of homebrew rules I will be happy with and I grudgingly realized hexes just make space games flow faster.  So I needed a hex mat.  Again.

I decided just to buy a mat, but I wanted 1 inch hexes to maximize the 4 ft x 4 ft playing surface I have set up in the rec room.  I soon discovered my primary choice of vendor didn't offer hexes that small, and the most popular vendor that did has a reputation for slow mat production.  So once again, DIY seemed to be the only option.

I used my black vinyl space mat as the base.  The vinyl takes acrylic paint really well, so I just painted over all the old mistakes with black craft paint.

The poor results during my last attempt were due to general sloppiness.  I decided to do it right this time.  I clamped down all four corners using 3 inch C-clamps, ensuring the mat was taut.

The next improvement was to make a proper hex template.  I bought a polystyrene "For Sale" sign at the local dollar store (pack of two signs for $0.75!) to use as the template.  The sign is very thin but rigid enough, about the same thickness as bristol board.  I drew up the hex pattern in Powerpoint and printed it directly on the white backside of the sign with an inkjet printer.  Next I took an awl and punched small holes at the hex intersections.  Finally, I took a power drill with a small bit and made nice round holes at each point (as shown in the picture).

Hex-mat template: 7.5 x 12 inches

Now I'm in the process of using the template to make the mat.  I tape the template down at the corners and simply load the tip of a 1/2 inch brush with blue craft paint.  I lightly dab the bristles straight down on the holes and in about 1 to 2 minutes I've finished that section.  Moving and re-taping the template along with cleaning the brush and mixing more paint extends the time between cycles to about 10  minutes.  Since the template is only 7.5 inches by 12 inches, it's taking a while.  I'm approximately halfway done.

The picture below shows the results and I'm very pleased.  Some clean-up of individual dots will be required, but the mat will definitely suffice for my purposes and is dirt cheap.  Despite the tediousness of painting the pattern, the use of the clamps and a plastic template is keeping the likelihood of induced error to a minimum.  Eight more square feet to go!

A bit of touch-up required