24 February 2015

Outsourced Custom Space Hex Mat

4' x 4' vinyl; 1.5'' hexes; US$35.00 

If you've read this blog you know I've made a couple of attempts at hand-painting a hex pattern on my DIY space mat.  I'm not admitting to being a quitter, but let's just say I took an extended tactical pause on both of those attempts.

In the meantime I used a custom vinyl banner company to make me a hex mat for 1/600 scale jet combat.  Since that turned out so well, I decided to employ the same company (Build-A-Sign) to make me a space mat.

As before I took an internet image (NASA public domain) and put it in Powerpoint on a custom 48 inch by 48 inch slide.  Powerpoint's built-in shapes allowed me to create the hex overlay; I colored the hexes blue and set the transparency at 85% (I think).  Since the NASA image was humongous, it had enough dpi to survive the blowing up to 4 foot square with minimal blurring.  Unlike my air combat mat which has 1 inch hexes, the hexes here are 1.5 inch each.

What I really like about the mat (besides the $35.00 price tag), is how subdued the hex pattern is.  The pattern shows up much easier in the picture above than in person.  Close-up at the game table the hexes are visible enough to allow game-play, but from across the room the mat looks like an expanse of deep space.

I've retooled my game Greater Space Battles and hope to get some play testing in on this new mat.  If work allows...    

23 February 2015

Hand Carved Spaceships

…Or "Spaceships in my Backyard"

I've always thought spaceships should have curves to them.  The ships that really inspire me are those from the science fiction book cover illustrations of the 70s.  Unfortunately most of the miniature ships I make are blocky, due to the limitations of the construction methods.

All of the bad weather has left a bunch of fallen branches in our yard, including some nice straight tulip poplar pieces.  I've read poplar is good for carving so I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a try.

I've certainly not produced a work of art, but I'm strangely drawn to this ship design.  It's spartan in detail, but as I've noted on this blog before, the panel lines my other ships display are totally inappropriate for the scales they supposedly represent.

The true measure of the design will be apparent after I mold the wooden master and cast replicas in pewter or resin.  Obviously in order to make it look like a 300 meter long star-voyaging vessel and not a whittled toy, I'll need to get the surface extremely smooth.  I've used 120 grit sandpaper and got the ship feeling buttery smooth, but the woodgrain is still very apparent, as the picture below shows.  My previous experiments with wood revealed however that three coats of wood glue should make a shiny, plastic-like shell that I can sand down even smoother.

I'm ordering some Alumilite HSIII silicone in order to eventually make those molds.  I've found 10:1 RTV silicone to be temperamental in the cold months however, so while I wait for Spring to come I'll have a little time to carve a squadron or two.

~50mm long