Terrain Tuesdays – Building a Bunker



By: Kitbasha Jay

For the last few weeks I’ve been showcasing various companies that manufacture terrain. This time I’m going to show you the terrain I’ve been building. I landed a commission a few weeks ago to build a jungle 40k table. Today I’m going to take you through the prototype terrain piece I’ve constructed for this table step by step.

I will be building 2 large bunker pieces for this table. Each will include dense foliage and sand bag emplacements. These pieces will absolutely be featured in terrain tutorials on our Youtube channel in the coming weeks. Until then I thought I would give you guys a taste of things to come. So let’s get started.

We begin by constructing the skeleton of our piece. For this I decided to use foam board. There are other materials I would recommend for the bases of terrain pieces other than foam board. Since I no longer have access to power tools that can cut expanded PVC or masonite board I decided to use foam board because it is easy to shape. Don’t worry, we’ll be adding layers on top to both strengthen the piece and prevent it from warping.

The next step is to cut the walls for our bunker. I believe I cut the side and back walls 1 3/4″ high. This way I figure even a Ogryn size model will be able to fit within and still fire out the front. The front walls I cut 3/4″ high so that a Space Marine or Imperial Guard figure can still see over. Once I had plotted out where I wanted my walls to go I used the cut offs from these pieces to create a staircase at the back of the bunker to create the illusion it’s dug into the ground. All the wall sections and staircase were assembled using a hot glue gun.

I then covered the entire bunker with spackle. This seals in the foam board to prevent warping and peeling once we begin to paint it. It also will create the illusion of a similar texture to concrete once it is painted.

After that I build up a hill on the outside with spackle. At first I used air dry pottery clay but found that once it dried it began to warp the piece and the clay began to crack, especially where it was thin. I scraped off what I could and built it back up with spackle. Something like Dap or Polyfilla will do the trick. As you can see in the pictures I did not cover the entire piece. I would suggest covering the foam board completely, which I did after building the sand bags before I put down the glue and sand.

So word to the wise, don’t use air dry clay to build up the hill. It would be much better to use something like milliput. Or you can just use layers of spackle on top of each other. This is where you guys get to learn from my mistakes. If you want to stay on the cheap side just use spackle. You may have to do many layers but the finished product will be just as nice as any other material. Especially since you want to cover the entire piece with spackle anyway to prevent the foam board from warping once we put down PVA glue and sand.

What we will use the air dry pottery clay for is building our sandbags. You can also use materials like milliput or green stuff but the air dry clay is a much less expensive material and will dry nice and hard making it durable. I achieved the shape of the bags by rolling the clay into a snake and then flattening it with my thumb. Then with a knife I cut 3/4″ rectangles and pinched the corners to create the illusion of a sand bag.

Then you just have to stack the sandbags however you feel necessary. Make sure that when you place a row on top of another you give them a little press to make sure they stick to the row below. Not too hard though because you don’t want to ruin the nice shape you have created. I left these for a day to dry and then after they had hardened I painted the bags with PVA glue just to make sure that the stacked rows would never separate from each other. Better to be safe than sorry. Also this will stop the clay from absorbing the paint. Once you apply liquid to the surface of the air dry clay it will begin to soften up again. The PVA just ensures this will not happen once I apply the water based acrylic.

The final step in constructing the piece was to add some jungle trees. These were done by simply going to my neighbourhood park and gathering fallen sticks. After collecting all of the sticks I intended to use for the entire table I left them for a week to dry out.

If you don’t want to wait for them to dry you can always place your sticks in the oven at a very low temperature to evaporate all of the water out of them. This can be dangerous due to the fact that wood, especially when dry, wants to singe and burn in the oven. For safety sake simply lay your sticks out in the air at room temperature for about a week. With no weather getting at them they will dry out completely. This ensure that once you paint on top of these sticks they do not rot or decay underneath your beautiful paint job.

I then chose where I wanted to place my trees and glued them in place with a hot glue gun. Once they were where I wanted them I painted them with 2 coats of PVA very similar to how I painted the sand bags. This will not only strengthen the sticks but also prevent them from absorbing the paint too much. Also it seals in any bark that I left on them and if they are cracked anywhere it will make sure that these cracks don’t crack any further.

Once these were dry I finished covering the rest of the foam board base with spackle. Again this should have been done before we constructed the sand bags and the trees. This piece was intended as a prototype for the rest of the terrain I will be building for this table. This is why you need to do a prototype. This way you learn from your mistakes on one piece instead of having to fix errors on every terrain piece. Luckily for you guys, I made the mistakes for you. Don’t do what Donny Don’t does.

Once the entire piece of foam board was covered in spackle and the sand bags and trees are painted with PVA and both have dried we can paint the “ground” with PVA glue and apply our playground sand. I also put sand on the floor inside the bunker and on the roof to make it look like it’s been buried over time.

I would suggest going to your local hardware store and buying a big bag of playground sand for this. Using the sand that they sell in hobby stores is going to be way too expensive. For bases it’s fine but for a large number of terrain pieces it will cost you an arm and a leg. The playground sand cost me less than $6 Canadian for a big bag.

The very last step once the sand has dried is to take an empty spray bottle. Fill it with a mixture of 2/3 PVA glue and 1/3 rubbing alcohol. The alcohol has less surface tension than water and will permeate the sand much better than a water/PVA mixture. Take this mixture and spray the entire piece with it. This will make sure that the sand is sealed in and is less likely to flake off in the future.

Tomorrow we will go through the process of painting and decorating this piece. I know that Tuesday is our usual terrain day, but there is simply too much to cover in one post. So take your time and build yourself a sweet bunker. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to paint it beautifully and make it a terrain piece to be proud of.

Until our next Encounter!

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