An aspect of the hobby I find rewarding is the craft side, namely painting miniatures and constructing terrain from plaster mold pieces.
Here is a “how to” on constructing a modular dungeon set with a single mold, using the kinds of crafting materials that are available at craft stores and big box retailers.
1. Selecting the mold
I purchase molds from HirstArts. For this exercise I chose one of the least expensive. Cracked Floor Tiles, Mold No. 203 is an excellent choice as a starter. It costs $29. You can use it to create 1-inch dungeon floor pieces. It’s versatile: The smaller pieces can be used to create some three-dimensional structures as well.
Cracked Floor Mold makes 10 1-inch tiles and assorted smaller ones.
I learned to cast from the instructions here. I use craft-quality plaster, which is available at the local home supply retailer, but can also be purchased from a craft store in a $5 jug. More durable molds can be obtained using dental plaster.
You will find that your first couple of attempts may not yield “picture perfect” casts. Don’t be discouraged. Like with anything, the more you do it, the better the results. Keep your spoiled tiles. They make great rubble for dioramas and other terrain effects.
3. What’s the game plan?
I will be constructing a modest floor tile set, one that’s modular so that you can construct a dungeon level with several rooms. I’m using these Dungeon Tiles from Wizards of the Coast as a model. (However, I’ve also planned out my terrain building with quick sketches on graph paper).
Constructing such a set will require about 250 1-inch squares, which means I’ll need 25 castings of my mold.
Yes, that sounds like a lot, and it is. Rarely do I make castings for a specific project. Rather, I devote one morning a week during the warm-weather months to mixing plaster and pouring the molds. I’ve got a spot under a shade tree behind my house where I set up an old card table and my molds. Counting mixing, pouring, setting, removing the casts and cleaning the mold, I average about 1 set an hour. I do about two sets of several molds I own each time, then set the pieces out in the sun to dry. By devoting the warm months to making casts of all the molds I own, I then have stored away the hundreds of pieces I’ll need for building terrain during the cold weather months.
That’s a lot of tiles for this project.
4. Cutting out mounting boards
I use a thin foam board — poster-sized pieces can be obtained for under $4 — to mount the tiles. But I’ve found that cork and cardboard works well, too. (However, I’ve found the cork tends to crumble after repeated use and the cardboard starts to bend under the weight and pull created by larger tiles). The foam board retains its rigidity for large pieces.
I use a straight edge and knife to cut out bases for the sizes I will need.
Everything lines up. Is it time to start gluing?
In Part 2, we start assembling and gluing the castings.