Tuesday 26 November 2013

Alternative basing materials experiment: tea?!

As the title of this post suggests, I have recently been experimenting with alternate basing materials to the traditional sand. Having grown tired of photographing my painted miniatures against the backdrop of bits of paper or my cluttered modelling surface, and reading this post over on Realm of Chaos 80s, I thought I might have a crack at making a small display board that would also be able to be used for some small-scale skirmish wargames. I didn't, however, fancy covering the whole thing in sand, as the entire thing would be like a giant sheet of sandpaper, and likely take a layer off of any miniature or bodypart that had the misfortune to accidentally come into contact with it... 

I'm sure that I read somewhere that Dave King uses dried tea in his basing, but all a quick skim of his blog gave me was the urge to buy some of his Bederken Miniatures. Forging onwards though, I decided to conduct some experiments to see whether tea is a viable option for basing wargames miniatures...

I enjoy that ours is a hobby that often leads to odd jaunts like collecting the contents of used teabags in the name of science. Point one in tea's favour - it's essentially free, as it's a by-product of my wife's excessive tea consumption. I mean, you could probably skip the next few steps and just use the tea straight out of the bag, but this way you get a nice cuppa out of it (and can make jokes about your hobby being the reappropriation of an essentially renewable resource)...

Which is why every time that I've found myself at home for the day in the last couple of weeks I've been bunging a tray of used tea leaves in the oven. Gas Mark 2, check on them every half hour and give them a bit of a scraping and turning over with a spatula and eventually you get this:

Some dry tea (and a nice smelling kitchen). Some of it is still a bit clumpy, but that's nothing a bit of shaking and crumbling between thumb and forefinger can't sort out (and in future, I'll probably put my dried tea through a sieve to sort out the more unruly lumps). Whacking the lot of it into an old margarine tub, I was ready to begin testing it's suitability as a basing material. My main concerns were how well it would take paint, and how to attach it - would it be better to do the traditional 'glue and dunk' that you would with sand, or would making a glue and tea paste be better? There's only one way to find out...

Step one was to label up some tester bases (40mm, the ones that don't fit into War of the Ring bases as mentioned in this post) and apply some tea:

Excuse the somewhat slapdash finish on these, they were quick and dirty, like all good science should be. And yes, I was struck by the ridiculousness of spending all that time drying out tea only to moisten it into a paste again... Leaving them to dry overnight, the 'glued on' base looked a little precariously attached, whereas the 'paste' base had dried to a fairly solid finish. I then set about giving them the usual simple paintjob I give all my bases. Step one, (after the traditional black gesso undercoat) is a base coat of Codex Grey:

They look fairly similar at this point, but with the application of the next step, a wash of watered-down Vallejo Smoke, we can see that the 'paste' base has dried a little clumpy:

And the other steps (Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, Bleached Bone) confirmed my suspicions - although the 'paste' base was the best attached, the 'glued' base takes paint a bit better.

For comparison's sake, here's a picture of the two experiment bases alongside a traditional slate and sand base:

All things considered, I'll probably end up using the 'glued' method when I make my board, but give it a second coat of watered down glue to make sure it stays stuck down. I'll probably mix in a little of my usual sand and grit mix to give it a little variety in texture too.

One concern I have is using biological material in my basing - what if it rots away? Presumably drying it out and then coating it in glue and paint will prevent this, but I'll let you know in a couple of years if this isn't in fact the case.

So, we're ready to start building a display board at some point in the future, having acquired a cork board:

Although given my easily distracted nature, don't expect to see anything posted up in the near future! The more eagle-eyed of you might have noticed that there are in fact two cork boards in the above picture, but only one of them is destined to end up keeping miniatures off of the floor, the other is for my wife - she plans to hang it up on the wall stick pins in it, like some sort of fetish, the weirdo...


  1. Interesting comparision between the different techniques. Adds another option creating various textures for your basing.

    You need to have a word with your wife - using a product for its original purpose? Very odd ;)

  2. Hello its been a few years did your minis ever develop 'Nurgles' rot?

    1. The board looked like it was going to go a bit funky, but I think it was because it wasn't fully sealed (see the post a couple after this one for what happened during that build). The two test bases have held up fine though, even after being stored in a damp garage for a while...