Thursday, 24 November 2016

One method of making a stream

Recently I posted on the AMG Forum a few photos of "My next engagement", which will be the third in our series of test games of the Rank and File rules with a view to refighting Quatre Bras with 28mm figures at 1:20 scale. Here is quick look at the (fictitious) terrain ready.

It includes a rather lazy looking stream and I was asked by one of the members to do a "how I did  it" so I thought putting that on my blog might be of interest to a wider audience.

Some of you will have seen this stream before as it has featured in a couple of my games earlier this year and I'll have to ask your indulgence as I made it back in April and I'm having to rely on photos taken at the time as a memory jogger on the process.

It all started when Kevin devised a map for Test game 2 and I got to thinking about how to do the stream as I was a bit disenchanted with the home made one I had been using, on and off, for about 20 years. I had in store some hardboard strips I had prepared years ago and never got round to doing anything with them.

First of all I laid these down on the table to make them approximately fit Kevin's map. There is a little branch making a millrace.

You can imagine that they were once a single piece of hardboard marked into lengths and cut out. Then with a very sharp craft knife the sides were chamfered to leave about an inch wide flat top and sides sloping down to table level.

Now I'm going through a phase of being irritated by joins in terrain so I decided I wanted to minimise that this time by sticking the pieces together and then reinforcing the joins underneath with masking tape. Then I lightly glued them down onto paper to prevent paint spills on my table top. When it was finished I hoped to remove it as intact as possible and place on top of a books-and-cloth terrain.

Basic undercoat with any cheap water based household paint in some earthy colour
When dry I painted the flat course of  the stream with a
rich brown acrylic
Before the brown had dried completely I went over it with a deep green
(tube above, effect below)

And again while wet, highlights of acrylic white to emphasise the water flow
Below is the branch for the mill in close up
To make the shiny water effect needs at least 3 coats of gloss varnish.
I use the same varnish as on some of my acrylic paintings as it does not take
 too long to dry - even so, be patient
Get a nice even shine that reflects the light
When dry it is time to do something on the banks, and each to his/her own taste on this. You will notice I have prised it off the paper and transferred it in long but manageable sized pieces onto a large piece of cardboard, as this stage is messy. Below are some of the main ingredients I used.
Acrylic Large grain structure gel, some texture - in this case a pot of cheap green
 granules bought at Hobbycraft, and paints of your choice, all put on with an old brush
Be careful to keep your hard earned glossy water reasonably clear of the mixture
I can't remember if this photo is of a lighter colour or just better lighting!
I think it is different as it leads into the next process.......
Some time ago I had scrapped an artificial Christmas tree. I used a lot of it for fir
trees (now long sold) but had evidently kept a lot of the trimmings.
Along with a lot of other kinds of "vegetation brushings" from my store cupboard
(some of it from making La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont no doubt) this was sprinkled
and pressed into the wet acrylic structure gel and paint mix
I appear to have added more dyed sawdust or static grass mixes as the intention is that
 none of the glossy structure gel will still show through. Wait for it to dry thoroughly,
 shake everything off, dry brush with lighter colours if you are not happy with it.
Spraying with matt varnish is a good way of sealing the mess but you will have to
 mask the glossy stream while you do it, or revarnish the water.
Because my stream originated in pieces it was relatively easy to use a sharp knife to cut it at strategic places for moving, and I've since cut it again so it's more like your conventional river sections, allowing some flexibility. At this point though every modeller will know what they want to do with it, but for completeness here's what happened next.

I laid the contours with cardboard, local newspapers and "The Radio Times"
and left a gap either side of the steam so I could put in bushes near "water level"
Now you can see why I wanted to be sure I had the right shape when I made it.
I used a bit more varnish to help seal the few splits I had made in the production process.
Close up near the water mill...........                 
...........and now the bushes have been added for the full battlefield (though some of the buildings got swapped before we played).
Finally the action of our Rank and File test game 2 - The battle of St Metard, is well under way. This was fought by James and Kevin over two days in late April.


  1. The stream looks great, Chris. Thanks for posting this very useful guide. Now, how did you get your table to float in space? Uri Geller techniques? : )

  2. Thanks Jiminho. Just thank Adobe Photoshop for the levitation, I didn't think you'd want any more shots of the clutter beneath my table!

  3. That does look good Chris, I think giving it lots of vegetation on the banks really does make it look like a stream

  4. Looking very good Chris and a fine instructional on the stream! Looking at painting up some rubber ones of my own shortly.

  5. I do like this stream, excellent job, and thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks everyone for your appreciation, glad it was useful. Ironically I've gone back to my old river for my next battlefield as it needed to be slightly wider.

  7. The stream is just amazing, Chris. I have a similar task in college now. And I'm very inspired by your guide. Feeling like I do not have time for anything. Neither for study, nor for projects, nor for work in the mastergrades. But I'm trying. Putting together a college list is among the most essential measures in college planning.

  8. Bianca
    Glad it was useful, good luck with your project. You might find this post of help too, and may be inspired by the ones on either side of it - building Hougoumont gardens was my biggest challenge so far