First of all, a big shout-out and acknowledgement to friend and fellow blogger Scott Lesch who inspired this newest project. Recently Scott posted to his blog I Like the Things I Like his fantastic conversion work on Safari Plastics army wall tents (here). His work quickly had me rummaging around the wood pile.
I had been thinking about making or buying wall tents as well as dog tents for the toy soldier table. Always looking to do things on the cheap, rather than buy tents from Safari, I decided to try and make my own.
The primary material I used was Sculpey which I've worked with a lot over the past thirty or so years. It's a poly-form plastic modeling clay that's very easy to work with and oven bakes to a permanent hardness.
Step one was to make a wooden armature to drape the Sculpey over.
Off to the scrap pile I went to select some nice pine leftovers. On the bandsaw I cut the pieces to dimension.
Five pieces were stacked, glued...
The next step found me at the disc and belt sander making each plane perfectly smooth.
The table saw was the next operation where I cut the sloping angles of the tent's roof.
Then I started the laborious process of rolling out Sculpey. This took a lot of time and elbow-grease.
The foil-wrapped armature is at the upper right and the rolled-out Sculpey is ready to drape and shape over the wooden support.
Guy ropes were added at this stage. At about this time I knew that the finished product wasn't going to look a good as the Safari Plastics product and that the time and materials already invested dwarfed what one of the store-bought tents would cost.
Still, I soldiered on.
Into the oven; 275 degrees for 25 minutes.
Next I made a base on which to mount the tent. I pressed the now firm tent into a base of Sculpey and used an old toothbrush to make a grassy texture.
I put the two components together and added a pole and tent pegs and popped the whole thing into the oven for another 22 minutes.
Now, all baked and hard, it was time to paint. Pegs, ropes, tent pole, canvas, and grass were all painted with craft acrylics.
And this is the result. When compared to the job that Scott did, this is a pretty poor cousin. Nonetheless it was a fun and instructive exercise, it got me out to the shop (which is always a good thing) and I now have a pretty serviceable wall tent for the troops.
I concluded that time and expense would keep me from doing this again, so I decided to make use of the wooden armature as well.
Here's the finished product. Most of my scenics are made of wood so this fits right in. The base is a salvaged piece of plywood which I cut on the band saw with a nice organic shape. I applied a very thick base coat of green paint and liberally sprinkled sawdust over it. When the base coat was dry and the sawdust locked in I gave it all a two-tone green overcoat. I drilled holes for the guy ropes and the tent pegs and glued the whole thing together.
The side-by-side shows two very different approaches and, though nowhere as cool as Scott's, it was still a satisfying day and a half project that left me with two serviceable wall tents.