Thursday, 30 January 2020

Old Man Willow

This originally appeared on 2016

Materials, Equipment and Paints Used:
Garden Wire
Cardboard Tube
Masking Tape
Wire Cutters
PVA Glue
Cork Tile
Model Railway Willow Trees
Black Paint
Java Tester Pot Paint
Barely Black Tester Pot Paint
Nutmeg Spice Tester Pot Paint
Elysian Green
Green Flock
Tea Leaves
Dried Herbs
Dead Leaf Litter
Woodlands Scenics Extra Course Talus

As they listened, they began to understand the lives of the Forest, apart from themselves, indeed to feel themselves as the strangers where all other things were at home. Moving constantly in and out of his talk was Old Man Willow, and Frodo learned now enough to content him, indeed more than enough, for it was not comfortable lore. Tom's words laid bare the hearts of trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers. It was not called the Old Forest without reason, for it was indeed ancient, a survivor of vast forgotten woods; and in it there lived yet, ageing no quicker than the hills, the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. The countless years had filled them with pride and rooted wisdom, and with malice. But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow: his heart was rotten, but his strength was green; and he was cunning, and a master of winds, and his song and thought ran through the woods on both sides of the river. His grey thirsty spirit drew power out of the earth and spread like fine root-threads in the ground, and invisible twig-fingers in the air, till it had under its dominion nearly all the trees of the Forest from the Hedge to the Downs.


Old Man Willow was a great willow tree of the Old Forest; he was the root cause of much of the Forest's anger and hatred toward the trespassing of the walking things that pass through there. He may have once been an Ent who had become tree-like, but was more likely a Huorn, as the Old Forest was originally part of the same primordial forest as Fangorn. He had great power within the Old Forest, and was able to direct all paths to him.

Tom Bombadil had power over Old Man Willow, and checked the evil in him as much as he could, or was willing to.

Old Man Willow casts a spell on the hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin), causing them to feel sleepy. Merry and Pippin lean against his trunk and fall asleep, while Frodo sits on a root to dangle his feet in the water, before also falling asleep. The ill spirit then traps Merry and Pippin in the folds of its trunk. Sam and Frodo attempt to burn Old Man Willow in order to release their friends, but Old Man Willow communicates to Merry, who is still inside his roots, that if the burning does not cease, the hobbits would be squeezed in two. They are saved by the timely arrival of Tom Bombadil, who 'sings' the ancient tree to sleep. Whether or not Old Man Willow is truly evil remains a mystery. It is possible that he represents the anger and bitterness of nature toward those who try to destroy it.

This article shows how to make Old Man Willow, the technique presented here could of course be used to make generic trees for your table top. As he does not appear in the movies I based him on two of my favourite art pictures of him.

The Wire Armature

To make the basic armature take 10 pieces of garden wire and tightly wind the pieces together.  You will need 10 of these to form the main tree shape.

Loosely wind these together then take another single strand of garden wire and wrap it around about an inch and a half from one end and cover about one third of the strands. Cover the wrapped wire in a card tube and then cover this in masking tape scrunching it up slightly as was done in the Woody End Tree Hollow article.

The Face

The face was added in Milliput and was sculpted quite crudely as I am not sculptor and it is meant to be a tree after all. I also used the Milliput to fill out the area between the roots and the end of the trunk. To get the face I looked at the above two art pictures and then used a pen to draw roughly what I wanted the face to look like before applying the putty.

[header]The Bark[/header]
Next a mixture was created using 2 parts Polyfilla, 2 parts PVA glue, and 1 part water.  This was then 'painted' over the trees roots, trunk and branches.  During the setting time, a bark texture was scored into this mixture.

The Base

The base was made from a cork tile, but any suitable basing material will work.  It is cut to size and the edges angled off.  Small balls of screwed up newspaper were then tape to the base using masking tape.  This is built up until the tree rests on the base comfortably.

Once happy with how the tree sits on the base, it was then covered in modrock.

Painting and Flocking

The tree and base were undercoated in black paint. For this project I purchased tester pot paints from a store in the UK called Wilkinsons. They are only a £1 and come in a large variety of colours. Most DIY shops sell them.
I drybrushed Java on first, then Barely Black, followed by Nutmeg Spice. I then watered down some Elysian Green and painted this in random places on the bark to be moss.

The base was then painted Java and once dry the main tree was glued using PVA to the base. Several pieces of Woodlands Scenics Extra Course Talus were glued using PVA on various places around the base which was then flocked using a mix of tea leaves, dried herbs and dead leaf litter. The edges were flocked using the same mixture that I used for the rest of my gaming boards.

The Leaves

At this stage you may notice and important thing missing from the Willow tree, the actual distinctive Willow leaves. I purchased 10 OO gauge model railway trees. They came from a Chinese seller on eBay and only cost £4.  Once they were delivered all the branches were cut away from the trees and then these were twisted onto Old Man Willow's branches using the wire ends that had been left exposed.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Mountain and Cavern Pieces

This originally appeared on back in 2013

Materials and Equipment:
Extruded Polystyrene (1 ½” thick)
Cork Bark
Modelling Sand
PVA Glue
Craft Knife
Hot Wire Cutter
Grey Paints
Brown Paint
Rotting Flesh Paint
Graveyard Earth Paint

Still it was not very far to go, and before long they came to a big rock standing out into the path. If you stepped behind, you found a low arch in the side of the mountain. There was just room to get the ponies through with a squeeze, when they had been unpacked and unsaddled. As they passed under the arch, it was good to hear the wind and the rain outside instead of all about them, and to feel safe from the giants and their rocks.


With the recent release of The Hobbit game and with a large portion of Fellowship of the Ring games taking place in Moria, gamers need some cavern and mountain styled terrain.  This article shows you how to easily make various pieces that are perfect for such needs, from a mountain side with a removable piece revealing a door way, a modular hill that can be arranged in many different ways, a rocky platform and various heights of rock formation.

The Rock  Formations

These come in five heights and  I made two of each height (actually I made three of the two tiered one).  The simplest is the one tier piece.  These are made from a 3” by 3” piece of polystyrene.  Taking a craft knife or hot wire cutter, pieces are hacked off at random.  Take the hacked off pieces some bits were shaped and then glued using PVA glue, in various places on the main part to give a nice rock like formation.

The two tier piece is made in much the same manner except two 3” by 3” pieces are glued together first.  For the other tiers an extra piece that  was 4” by 4” was added.

The Rocky Platform

This was made from a large piece of polystyrene that was shaped in to the desired platform shaped and the edges then bevelled.  In places smaller platforms where added to the sides.  Like the rock formations above, off cuts where then shaped and glued on in various positions to break up the finish.

The Modular Hill

Taking a large piece of polystyrene, it was divided evenly in to four quarters with lines clearly marked out.  Starting room the centre 10” was marked out along each of the horizontal lines and 6” along the vertical.  A hill shape was then drawn out making sure that it was within these marker points. This way no matter how the hill was arranged it would line up nicely.

The hill was then cut out and the edges bevelled. The edges were shaped to give a rock like surface.  The hill was then cut along the divider lines. You may have to arrange the pieces in different ways and make sure the bevel cuts line up, if they don't make some adjustments until they do.

The upper part of the hill was made in the same way as the lower once the pieces a line up this can be glued into place.

The Mountain Side

The mountain side was made from a sheet of polystyrene that was 1' high and 2' long.  It was dived up into two equal halves.  The top edge had pieces cut away to give a rocky type finish.  In the middle at the bottom a doorway was marked that was 3 1/2” wide and 3”  high. This was then cut out.

A second similar piece was made this time not has high as the first and was glued into place over the top of the first.

A third even lower piece was made.

Before this was glued into place, a 6” section was measured out 3” either side of the centre line.  This was then cut out and kept to one side.  The remaining two sides were glued into place.

Off cuts of polystyrene and pieces of cork bark were glued in various places to give some texture and formation to the mountain side.

Modrock and Sand

All the constructed pieces where now covered in modrock, this plaster on a roll and is used by model railway enthusiasts when they construct rock mountain sides so it is perfect for us.  It is best to work in small areas so small strips were pre cut.  Each one was then soaked in warm water and applied to the surface.  Then using fingers, the plaster was smoothed out to cover the holes on the plaster roll.  Once all were covered they were left for 24 hours to set.

Next on the platform, hill and mountain side PVA glues was applied in places and modelling sand sprinkled in place. Once more this was left to dry completely.


As normal for projects all the pieces where undercoated in black. Then they were heavily drybrushed in a dark grey mixed with a small amount of brown (think Codex Grey mixed with Chaos Black in a 50/50 mix then some Bestial Brown mixed in).  The brown breaks up the uniform of the grey, and adds some warmth to the tone.  Once dry a light drybrushing of a medium grey (75/25 Codex Grey to Chaos Black) was done and  finally for the greys a drybrushing of a light grey was done (100% Codex Grey).

Then just alone the edges and parts that stick out the most a very light drybrushing of  Rotting Flesh was done, and finally an even lighter drybrushing of Graveyard Earth.


Making these pieces will give you enough terrain to set up scenario 3 in the Hobbit Game.  There will be a future article showing how to make Durin's Door, the West Gate of Moria, that will slot into the middle section of the mountain side.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Rohan Palisade Fort

Originally appeared on back in 2017.

Materials, Equipment and Paints Used:
5mm Foamcore
Thick Cardboard
Wooden BBQ Skewers
Square Balsa Rod
Duct Tape
Air Drying Clay
PVA Glue
Metal Rule
Sharp Craft  Knife
Cutting Board
Textured Paint

The sun was already westering as they rode from Edoras, and the light of it was in their eyes, turning all the rolling fields of Rohan to a golden haze. There was a beaten way, north-westward along the foot-hills of the White Mountains, and this they followed, up and down in a green country, crossing small swift streams by many fords. Far ahead and to their right the Misty Mountains loomed; ever darker and taller they grew as the miles went by. The sun went slowly down before them. Evening came behind.


A palisade, sometimes called a stakewall or a paling, is typically a fence or wall made from wooden stakes or tree trunks and used as a defensive structure or enclosure.

It seems appropriate that Rohan would make use of these to protect it's outlining villages from attacking Dunlending raids.  They are relatively quick to build and make use of wood that is readily available.

This article will take you through the steps to build a palisade fort that you can use to surround your Rohan villages and make you games more interesting to play. Note, this article does not show how to make the Rohan buildings shown in the photos, only the palisade walls themselves.


There are not historic palisade forts still standing as the wood has long rotted away but there are lots of information about them online and also pictures of recreated forts that can be searched for.


Cut a piece of thick card that is 12" long and 2" wide, and then a piece of foamcore that is 12" long and 1" wide and using PVA glue these two pieces together.

Cut another strip of foamcore that is roughly 1/2" wide and glue this next to other piece of foamcore, using two skewers as spacers.

Next you will need to cut lots of skewers to size. You will need to types, a pointed ended piece that is 2" long and a short flat ended piece that is 1 1/2" long. You will need a lot of these. A tip is that you may not have enough pointed ends in the pack of skewers so you can sharpen pieces to give you enough pointed ended pieces.

Using PVA, glue these into the slot that has been made. You will need about five pointed pieces and six flat ones. Keep repeating this pattern along the wall section.

Using either balsa wood or thick card (which I used here) cut a piece that is 12" long and 1" wide.  Using a ballpoint pen score a floorboard pattern into this and glue on top of the foamcore.

Using clay, model a bank onto the front part of the wall. You will need to make sure that all your wall pieces match up and fit together well.

You will need six of these wall sections and two shorter sections that are 6" long.


The corner pieces are made in much the same way as the walls above. Cut a piece of thick card 2" by 2". Draw a curve from one corner to another and cut this out and add a little piece of foamcore as the picture below shows.

Add in the skewers as was done for the walls above, remember to add a piece of foamcore separated by the wide of a skewer.

You will need four of these corner pieces.


The gates themselves are made from two pieces of thick card that are 1" by 2". Add a piece of duct tape on one edge and fold it other to the other side, creating a hinge.

Next the front of the gate needs to be covered in pointed skewers 2 1/2" long and the back with flat tops 2" long.

Next cut a piece of thick card that is 12" long and 2" wide. Cut out two pieces of foamcore that are 4" long and 2" wide and using PVA glue these to either end of the card. Like with the walls, glue some spacer pieces of foamcore to the base.

Cut two square pieces of balsawood rod to about 2" long and 1/2" wide and then cut them in half vertically. Taking the two halves, glue them back together with the duct tape hinge of a gate in-between them.

Next glue these into place on the base.


Before undercoating, paint the clay banks in any colour textured paint.  Once this has dried undercoat all the pieces in black.

That banks are then painted in a dark brown such as Rhinox Hide and then drybrushed with Steel Legion Drab.

The wood (both the floor and the wall are drybrushed using Rhinox Hide and then Karak Stone.  The tips of the pointed skewers are painted Ushabti Bone.

Apply some PVA to the front of the banks and then cover in the same flocking material as you use for main gaming boards.