Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I'm all about that base, bout that base, it's Tectonic!

Tectonic Craft Studios Decktread 25 mm Base Crowns

Defensive Bunker
Defensive Bunker
While at the NOVA Open, I picked up a Defensive Bunker ($35) from Archy Dan at Tectonic Craft Studios to build up as terrain for my Astra Militarum army. I provided a picture of the bunker here and will provide a step-by-step building process and a separate post for painting.

After spending some time talking with about the kits he had for sale and being back and forth a few times, he threw in two sets of the Decktread 25 mm Base Crowns ($4) as an intro to some of his other items. Dan offers Hulkplate and Shatterscape crowns in 25 mm and the Decktread  and Hulkplate in 40 mm ($5) as well. I immediately took them back to the This Is Not A Test demo table and started playing with them.

Assembled Decktread

Decktread Painting

Unassembled Decktread
The Decktread is made of laser-cut medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Five base crowns come with each of the cards and have a variety of patterns etched onto the tops. There are a number of bolts, edges and a couple have metal edges. The two photos (Assembled and Unassembled) show two different pattern styles

While at the NOVA Open, I immediately popped one set out and decided to play around with them. The laser cut is just enough to hold the base crowns onto the card. A little pressure and they popped out cleanly. I decided I would paint a couple up to see how they took paint and looked.

Base Paint - Reaper MSP HD Field Grey
For these two base crowns, I used Reaper MSP HD paints. I started with a base layer of Field Grey. Since the decktread pattern is burned into the MFD, there are lots of little spaces and levels within each set of cuts. To try to add some depth to each of these spaces, I made a very simple wash of the Military Grey paint.

Wash Layer - Reaper MSP HD Military Grey
After the wash dried, the bases did not have the pop of real diamond plate steel. Usually there the plate is elevated which creates light and shadow differences. Since these crowns are laser cut what would ordinarily be an elevated point is floating in a cut space.

Dry Brush - Reaper MSP HD Concrete Grey
To get this better texture, I decided to attempt to brighten the surface a bit by applying Concrete Grey with a dry brush technique.

Dry Brush - Concrete Grey/Weathered Bone
While this brought the color up significantly, it still did not seem bright enough for me. I followed the first dry brush layer by cutting the Concrete Grey with equal parts Weathered Bone. This brought the color up significantly to make it nearer to actual diamond plate steel.

Natural vs. Primed Study

Primed Crowns
When I got home and started unpacking everything and reviewing, I wondered if priming the pieces with an all-purpose primer (I used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer) would make a difference. I had a little concern that the MDF may be too absorbent and cause issues with painting. I have larger pieces to come and wanted to make sure there was no difference.

Field Grey
I tried to follow the same process from start to finish, but some differences became quickly apparent. After the primer dried overnight, I applied the Field Grey base layer. For the bolts, I used Citadel Citadel Color Boltgun Metal. The yellow on the plate cover is Vallejo Model Color Flat Yellow. It took a few layers to get the yellow smooth and bright enough.

Secret Weapon Soft Body Black Wash
The white primer covered the plate very well, including the areas cut down into the MFD plate. As a result of this coverage, the primer was apparent after an initial base coat. Since I had created the Military Grey wash just by watering down the paint, I decided that I would have to divert from the original painting plan. I decided I would need a more composed and slightly darker wash on the bases. I selected the Secret Weapon Soft Body Black wash. This is a great product and stays at the right consistency and does not break like many of the Citadel washes do.

Final Base Crowns
Following the black wash, I did a double layer of the dry brush technique, but went much lighter with each layer. While doing the initial dry brush, I discovered that handling the based too roughly with the dry brush can cause the small elevated pieces in the center of the tread cutouts can come off. If you take a look at the Final Base Crowns photo, you can see the little bits of wood that were knocked off. Since this happened at the end, I was forced to go back and add some additional wash to the affected areas.

All-in-all these offer a very affordable alternative to custom resin bases. Based on the work that I have completed, I do not see any reason to prime these bases. I did not notice any quality differences between the primed and natural and there is some extra work necessary for the primed bases to make sure none of the prime color shows in the end. Perhaps if you can find an appropriately tinted primer than you won't have to be so diligent. If you decide not to prime, use the paint without thinning the first layer, you have less absorption on the first layer. I'll continue to play with these and some other MDF pieces of terrain and continue to evolve my techniques to share with everyone.