Yet Another Hill

 I got a cheap 30-watt foam-cutting hot wand from China a few days ago, and tried it out by carving up a foam off-cut into another hill.

The metal wand — the bit that heats up — is about 200mm long, and is somewhat flexible. It works OK, though it doesn't really get quite hot enough to cut easily through the insulation foam I use. I haven't tried it out on expanded polystyrene foam, which it's probably intended for — that stuff is even more temperature-sensitive.

It was a lot easier and less messy to sculpt the 50mm foam sheet into a layered hill suitable for little army men to stand about on than it was to do the same thing with a knife. The stuff I use is designed not to poison everybody in the vicinity in the event of a fire, so the fumes aren't much of a problem.

It's not a precision tool though. I wouldn't want to try using it to cut up foam into regular geometric shapes, but for semi-random hack-and-slash work it's fine.
I tried out using 5-minute epoxy mixed with acetone as water-effects resin to create a boggy area at the base of the hill, in behind some boulders and bushes. It wasn't particularly successful, but I think I know how to improve the end result another time, and I'll give it another go.

The boulders are pieces of pine bark that I nicked from a local playground some years ago. The bark is quite a dark brown in its natural state; I've just given them a couple of layers of dry-brushing to finish them off. I like using it for rocks; the texture is reasonably convincing, and it's much lighter than actual rocks.

A couple of days later...

I've re-done the water in the boggy patch, and it's a considerable improvement over my first attempt. This time, in addition to the 5-minute epoxy, I used a tiny drop of sepia ink to colour the "water" and a lot less acetone that before. Being more viscous than the first lot, I had to tease each blob out around its perimeter to blend it into the surrounding groundwork. It does create something more of a meniscus than with the very liquid first mix, but it's more controllable overall and creates deeper pools, which gives me some nice tonal variations.

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