Cuttin’ More Card!

Having got my two Paraguayan chatas built and painted I’ve gone back to building more scenery items, this time fortifications. Progress has been steady but nothing’s got painted, so this is an in-progress post again.

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d painted the chatas because I wasn’t happy with the fortification that I’d started after I’d built the boats. The picture above shows a view of it from the front, the intention being that it would be a raised artillery redoubt with infantry trenches in front of it (and again, for the Paraguayan War – the circles around the front represent base sizes for individual infantry figures).

The next picture shows it from the rear, with a ramp up to the gun level and a powder store and shelter underneath. I decided I didn’t like it because it was too high, but too difficult to trim down due to all the supporting bulkheads inside. So it’s been consigned to sit on a shelf in the hope that it’ll quietly go away!

Having got the chatas and their crews painted, I’d also had more time to reconsider the Paraguayan fortifications I needed. These fall into two types really, artillery emplacements and infantry entrenchments. The infantry entrenchments need to be able to represent either quickly constructed trenches or rifle pits, or more permanent trench lines. I decided to design the infantry fortifications first, build a test model and then move on to the artillery emplacements. Since I’ve got some Ironclad Miniatures 15mm field fortifications to paint at some point, I decided to make my own fortifications fit in with them as far as size goes. This means they’re lower than I’d normally have gone with, but they’re essentially representative anyway so I’m not too bothered about that.

I went with mounting board again for these models. Each trench section consists of a base, a vertical rear wall and a sloped forward surface, with wooden dowel used to represent horizontal tree trunks and cocktail sticks for the smaller diameter trunks/timber used to hold the horizontal trunks in place (with the basic trench form and wood bits shown above and below).

Everything is fixed in place with white PVA glue. Using mounting board for the base and adding the vertical rear wall and front sloping face makes the basic structure very stiff and it resists warping during construction and painting really well (whereas foamcard is not as resistant to warping). Not shown are two triangular “plates” used to close the ends and make the basic structure more robust. The rear vertical wall then had four lengths of dowel glued in place and vertical lengths of cocktail sticks spaced along it to represent the posts used to retain main timbers in place. The non-timbered surfaces were then covered with Vallejo white pumice mix ground texture (shown below – I use the white mix because it’s quite coarse and drybrushes up well when painted in Humbrol dark earth, which is the colour I’ve always used to represent earth on both scenery and figure bases).

I chose the length of this piece so that it could be used to cover the frontage of one infantry battalion in line formation, with the trench and an unpainted infantry unit movement tray shown below. I’ve since made two more lengths of trench and consequently trimmed the ends of the base on this piece to leave less of a base overlap (which looks better when the entrenchments are laid end to end).

Having got the first length of trench built, the next thing to do was plan out the artillery emplacements (shown below), a quick sketch on the left and the properly measured/aligned bases on the right.

I opted for a smaller artillery emplacement than the original design, based around a single heavy gun mounted on a traversing carriage (the guns in the photo are HO scale 3-D prints from Shapeways). Rather than incorporate infantry entrenchments on the same base, I can use the smaller lengths of trench laid in front of the artillery positions for that purpose. I also decided to build two emplacements, each mounting one gun and being mirror images of each other. I’ve also incorporated a shelter/storage area in the design – it’s marked “MAG” on the plan above, but the Paraguayans generally constructed their gun positions with magazines well to the rear and usually well-protected, so some form of shelter is maybe more appropriate.

Once again the base and walls are mounting board, with construction being the same as for the small length of trench (shown above). The low gun platform was added from foamcard with mounting stiffeners around the sides. After the basic construction, the next step was to add all the timber components (shown below).

This took quite a bit longer to do than the small trench, with quite a few different lengths of dowel to cut. I used a matchstick to form the frame for the entrance to the shelter (and you’ll notice that this is not the same emplacement as in the preceding picture).

After that, it was a case of slapping on the ground texture again (shown above)!Β  After making the first one I thought that the roof on the shelter looked a bit unsubstantial, so I added foamcard squares to the tops of both shelters and slapped on some extra texture to build it up! I used a piece of card dragged across the texturing on the gun platform to even it off and leave a level surface for the gun and crew to stand on.

The first emplacement is shown above and below.

Having got both of these done, I then added another two lengths of trench, giving me three in total. Progress on the whole lot is shown below.

Whereas I’d normally keep going with making stuff and add more trench lengths, I’m now going to try and get these bits painted, otherwise they might not make it into the Season of Scenery challenge! I’ve still got quite a bit of scenery planned, but I didn’t want it to turn into a two month “build loadsa scenery” challenge followed by a “paint all the scenery you just built” period of several months!


  1. Those are really nice. And relatively simple. Even unpainted they look great.
    I need some field fortifications, and so I think I’m going to steal your concept for the trenches.
    Really impressed!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks mate, glad you like them! πŸ™‚ The trenches don’t take all that long to make and you can break down the process into making the card structure, adding the dowel and then adding the texture (and of course painting them)!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent work on the trenches and gun fortification John. I really like the first piece of scenery you had started, if you raised the ground level in front and did a sunken trench in it would it still be too tall ? Just a thought as I’d hate to see all that work go to waste.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ That first piece would have had a trench in front and around the diagonal side – this might have looked better on a larger base where I could have sloped the ground to it gradually, but I limit my scenery items to a maximum A4 footprint for storage. To be honest, even 10mm off the bottom would probably make it look much better, so I could mark up some cutting lines and give it a go, being careful round the ramp (it’s not stuck down on its base). The doors in the back don’t need to be there either. Surprisingly, it didn’t take that long to make, probably only three or four hours over a weekend – I find making scenery quite absorbing, so even though it didn’t work out it probably did me some good!

      Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you! πŸ™‚ As I’m sure you’ll agree, you can never have too much cardboard! I’ve had issues in the past with card bases warping so I try and allow for that in construction. For larger bases, I’ll add an extra under-layer around the edges and chamfer all edges and this leaves them flexible enough to bend down if they need it. Items like these fortifications are quite resistant to bending because of their “bulkhead” type construction. In the past I’ve tried PVA all over, including underneath, and using MDF bases, but even they are not immune to warping (although they can’t be straightened out, whereas the card method I use usually can)!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ Drawing it out first gets me the most of the way there, but I usually then tweak it a bit if it needs it. These are not going to look spectacular when painted, given that they are just earth and wood, but it will be nice to see them finished I agree!

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Great work John.
    What I find really interesting is that you can see all the work you’ve put into the design – all the marking out etc. – and it helps to get an idea of how it all comes together.
    Can’t wait to see everything finished and in action πŸ˜ƒ

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks Matt! πŸ™‚ They match up quite well with the Ironclad Miniatures bit I’ve got with the exception of the latter having more of a pattern engraved into the wood, which will no doubt disappear after a couple of coats of paint anyway.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Lord Commander! πŸ™‚ I flagged a bit with the “cutting and sticking wood” phase but they’re ready for painting now at least. Since these are bigger items I’m going to have to spray them, so need to wait for an opportune moment, but I’m still busy making other bits in the meantime!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. An excellent bit of engineering there, John! πŸ™‚ I think the trenches look great and honestly, you could rig up something fairly similar for a great looking WWI game. I look forward to seeing them painted up as I’m confident they’ll look great in the end πŸ˜€

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Jeff! πŸ™‚ I realised when I was doing them that they’d probably do for both WW1 and WW2 as well. so I’m not going to add too much to them after painting in the way of grass or foliage. Having had decent weather today, they’ve now got a coat of dark earth paint on them!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. John I am LOVING this WIP as the engineering and design alone are spectacular. Great tutorial and mounting board stuff is something I must do sometime. Very authentic and excellent scenery additions to Dave’s challenge.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Some nice scenery you built; I’ll look forward to seeing it painted. I think it is a good plan to bulid some, paint some, build some more, etc. rather than build everything and than paint everything. Breaking things up sounds like it would be less tedious and more fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sorry John, way behind as usual, my excuse is that I glimpsed them and said they cant be real !!! Oh enough of the bullshit excuses! grand mate, I have to say the way you approach a subject is so clear and precise and that is why you produce such excellent things, If you saw my planning you would choke on your chuckles!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pat! πŸ™‚ Of course, I could just present the bits that seem to go right, to make you think it all runs smoothly and is well thought out! Despite what you say, no-one could produce dioramas like yours without having quite a bit of planning behind them!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are right about the planning I suppose I do a lot but it’s only in my headπŸ€”I very rarely do I put it down on paper , maybe I should and then I wouldn’t end up with so many rejected bases And buildings πŸ˜…πŸ˜…πŸ˜….

        Liked by 1 person

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