I hit Lowe's for a 4'x8' sheet of 1/8" Tempered Hardboard ($8.48 locally), all tempered means is that unlike non-Tempered hardboard both sides are smooth. 'Regular' hardboard is smooth on one side, and has a very rough almost dimpled texture on the other side. Now, having picked out the board I then preceded to make a big mistake... I had a Lowe's employee cut the board on their panel saw... never... never... NEVER again will I do that. Absolutely NOTHING came out the right measurement after cutting... lesson learned: buy the material, go to my father's garage, use his table saw.
Now, using hardboard has some really good upsides, but it does have some downsides as well. Hardboard is reasonably light and for its thickness and has good rigidity. It accepts sanding, painting, and gluing well. It can be formed into curves (this leads into and is also part of the biggest downside). On the other hand, moisture can play havok with hardboard. Humidity can warp it out of a flat shape into a curve. Spill water/soda/tea/etc on it and the spot can come apart in a fibrous mass if it isn't cleaned up VERY quickly.
Hardboard is also useful for the fact that it can be cut with saws or even utility knives, and it is quite reasonably priced at hardware stores.
Next on my list of materials on hand, foamboard (3/16"). Your typical Wal-Mart or arts and crafts store carries this stuff at various prices. It's usually pretty cheap. It has some upsides, but the downsides can be a show stopper if you haven't had the chance to use it enough to learn how to deal with them.
On the upside, it's VERY light, which makes storage more of a bulk issue than a bulk and weight issue. It's very easy to cut doors and windows into with just a hobby knife. You can glue it together with Elmer's white glue (PVA glue), and since that is pretty cheap too that's a great thing. Unfortunately the biggest problem with foamboard is the card on each side of the foam. Water soaking one side of the foamboard will cause warping as it dries, and even worse is if you use PVA on the flat surfaces as it contracts as it dries. Painting can have similar problems as well.
Ways to deal with this are to wet both sides of the board and clamp it down as it dries to make sure it 'cures' flat. Another way is to use a spray primer from about 16-18" away and put a thin coating of primer on both sides. Lastly is my way of doing it... flat spray varnish. I spray any buildings I make from roughly 12" away with spray varnish, let it dry for about 30 minutes, then hit it with spray primer. Now, before I do that there is one extremely important step... sealing the foam... I use white glue at 50/50 with water to thin it and brush it along the exposed foam. Let it dry for a few hours, then my varnish trick.
Up on deck now... plasticard. The be-all-end-all of some terrain builders. It's usefulness rests entirely on your ability to cut, sand, bend, heat, score, yadda yadda yadda. Basically it's only as useful as you can make it be. It comes in a large variety of thicknesses, which allows it to be used for a vast number of applications in terrain making from walls to doors to windows (with clear types). It is also possible to get plastic tubing, rods, I-beams, and other shapes from various manufacturers (Plastruct, Evergreen).
The real downsides of plasticard come in the form of price and your skill using hobby tools to get what you want cut from it. Plasticard can be found 'cheap' through most hardware stores plastic yard sale type signs, but if you want it with patterns (diamond plate, corrugated, etc) or in specific sized sheets then the price can take a rather drastic increase. It is possible to find hobby suppliers that sell it at 'lower than retail' though, but it can take some work to find one. Other than the cost a persons skill with a hobby knife/scalpel/hobby saw becomes a big factor with plasticard, additionally patience is a necessity, as many light cuts tend to work much better than a couple of heavy cuts.
Just a few examples of some of the materials I'll be using for my next terrain project (not all, but most is shown). And yes, my kitchen table has become a massive 'dumping ground' of terrain building material... just glad it has been so nice outside lately so I can get things moved outside to work on.
|A scroll saw makes things SO much easier... luckily I have nearly permanent access to this one.|
Well that's all for now, I'll have part 2 up tomorrow evening. Feel free to comment!