Quick and Dirty – Old CD’s into Scenic Monster Bases

Okay, who here does NOT have a stack of old CD’s laying around?  If you don’t, you are under 20 years old or entirely too tidy.  I have a stack of these tucked into a back drawer to use for basing smaller terrain pieces, hanging outside windows to keep birds from crashing into them, drink coasters, and even for a very dangerous game of catch (seriously, this can hurt you!).  However, probably the best use for these derelict storage media is as scenic bases for larger models.

Many larger models don’t come from the manufacturer with bases and I think that this makes it harder to tie the models visually to the rest of your force.  Good basing gives context to your models and that helps the entire group of figures look like an army.  This is especially important when your force might not have uniforms or insignia or a regimented paint scheme.  Also, it annoys me to no end that I might spend $200 on a really nice resin piece (I’m looking at you Forge World) and then having no base to mount it on.  This means 1) I’ll be handling the model by the painted surfaces and 2) the bottom edges of the model can get dinged and nicked as you move it along the table, and 3) a visually stunning pose might result in a very “tippy” figure that will crash over – breaking the model and your heart.  The long and short of it is that you should base your larger models.

07_MG_9954-01

The Golden Daemon winning Greater Daemon of Nurgle above was based on used CD’s.  The CD base was then inset into a larger scenic base that helped to frame the model and give it some context.  The extra space offered by the base gave me some room to create a vignette – to visually tell a story.  This added detail can help draw the interest of viewers and get them to spend more time examining your work (pro tip – the longer the judges are looking at your model, the more likely you are to be recognized for your work).  The base has no impact on gaming as the model didn’t come with one.  We still measure to the model.  I just make sure to confirm with my opponent BEFORE the game starts as to how we will play the piece.

So, as most things in our hobby, there are good and bad ways to do things.  I’ll start first with some don’ts.

  • DON’T base your model on a single CD.  They are too flexible for holding any weight.  Also, the edge will be too thin for you to pick up easily from the table.
  • DON’T glue or paint directly on to a CD.  The surface is too slick for real adhesion.  It truly sucks to get done painting a great base only to have the finish to peel right off.
  • DON’T paint on a labeled surface.  Labels must be removed or they may peel up later or even have their inks bleed through into the painted layer above.
  • DON’T try to cut CDs with clippers or cutters.  They are brittle and made of layered materials with various properties.  At best, you get a lousy edge.  At worst, it shatters and you get cut.
  • DON’T throw CDs at others.  Seriously.  I have the scar to prove how bad an idea this is.  Just because I used to jump out of airplanes doesn’t mean I haven’t got SOME sense.

Now, here is how you DO want to proceed.

My recommendation is that you use 3 CDs for a base.  Just one or 2 is too thin.

Warhammer 40k Forge World warhound titan basing 01

To be able to glue the very slick faces of the disks to each other you will need to roughen up the surface.  I just lay a sheet of medium-coarse sand paper (100-200 grit) on a flat surface that I have covered with old newspaper and rub the CD on that.  Putting the paper on a tabletop is preferable to holding it in your hand.  Varying the pressure or angle can give you uneven results as well as getting funky-colored dust on your hands.  This means a poor join when gluing them together.  No fancy technique needed.  (Be sure to wear a mask at this stage.  I’m not completely sure what all is in the dust but I am sure that it doesn’t belong in my lungs.)

Warhammer 40k Forge World warhound titan basing 02Warhammer 40k Forge World warhound titan basing 03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just apply light downward pressure and use a swirling motion.  I go ahead and sand both faces of all three disks.  The glue for your basing material will need something to hold on to.  Also, the bottom surface IS going to get scratched during game play.  Get it over with now and you’ll never notice a difference later.

Now is the stage where you decide what you are going to do about the hole sited rather obnoxiously in the center of your new base.  If the model or some bit of scenery will completely cover the gap, you are great.  Move on to gluing.  If not, you can glue a thin but sturdy piece of plasticard or cardboard (cereal packet for you Europeans) over the hole.  Placing the patch on the bottom means that  the finished piece will wobble.  A patch between layers means the layered CDs will bulge or gap.  Stick to the top.  I have tried plugging the hole with Greenstuff and even wood filler.  This turns out to use a wasteful amount and the plug is prone to popping out later.

The next stage is assembly and gluing.  Dryfit the three pieces together and see how they line up.  Guess what?  They likely wont align exactly.  Despite what you might think about “standardization” amongst interchangeable media, there is some slight variation in size between brands.  For most situations the slight unevenness wont be readily visible once the edge is painted (you DO paint the edges of your bases, don’t you?).  If the difference bothers you then you must have a bit of the old obsessive compulsive going on – like me.  Once the pieces are glued together and have had a chance to set you can sand the edges.  I make quick work of this by using a Dremel tool fitted with a sanding drum.  If you really want to go all out, you can sand the edge to a bevel like your smaller bases.  For gluing, I just use cyano-acrylate (super glue) dabbed in a couple places around the center hole and then a good solid line right at the outer edge.  Be sure to have a couple small clamps to hold the drying pieces together.  A brick or other heavy object placed on top will hold them together but may not ensure the edges dry with no gap.  A firm wrapping with packaging tape might do in a pinch as long as it is the kind that will not leave sticky residue behind.  You can use an epoxy for this application but I hate cleaning up the dribbles that squeeze out.  Whatever your adhesive, let the adhesive cure for the full time.  And, unless you have accelerator, let your super glue cure for at least an hour.  You want to make sure the piece is stable and set before you begin to sand or texture your base.

To decorate your base you can let your imagination run wild.  Anything you put on an ordinary base can go onto one of these CD bases.  Sand, gravel, rocks, bits, bodies, gubbins… whatever.  I glue down heavier items first with super glue.  The plastic bits and your sand and gravel can go down next with the same white craft glue you use on regular bases.  If you don’t want a completely flat surface, you can use wood putty to build up bulges and ridges.

Warhammer 40k Forge World warhound titan lower assembly 03

For larger raised areas I tend to use pieces of sheet cork.  This is the material that bulletin boards and drink coasters are made of.  I get packets of 4 10″x10″ sheets for a couple bucks at a local craft store.  I found it in their stationary and scrap booking area.  Breaking these sheets into chunks and then stacking them can give better height to your model, break up what would be an overly flat surface, or just to add visual interest to the whole piece.

DSCN9003

I drizzled white glue onto this disk between the cork patches.  This creates an irregular, fluid-looking surface that I later painted up to look like flowing lava.

DSCN9009

The choice of painting the base before or after mounting your model is completely up to you.  Because I tend to paint my larger models in sub-assemblies, the models tend to be mounted after painting.  However, some pieces (like the feet of a titan) could use a foundation during their construction as well as something to hold while painting.  Make mounting your model to the base a part of your project planning.  Take a few minutes to visualize how you plan to assemble and paint the piece so that the mounting process wont cause damage to either the model or base.  Also, if you are going to use pins to reinforce the attachment of the model to the base (PLEASE DO THIS), drill down through the base with it resting on a sturdy, flat surface.  You don’t want to stab through the base and into your hand or slip and scrape off the basing materials and paint.  Also ensure that the surface below the base is protected from the drill bit as it passes through.  I use an old kitchen cutting board the I got at a salvage sale.

Items you will need:

  • 3 old compact disks
  • medium-coarse  sand paper (100-200 grit)
  • super glue or epoxy
  • dust mask
  • clamps, a couple bricks, or tape
  • white glue
  • basing materials: sand, cork, plasticard, gravel, bits, … go wild.
  • Dremel tool with sanding drum (optional)

Model makers have gotten better in recent years about including appropriate size gaming bases with their larger models.  However, there are still many times when a model needs or would be better served by having a scenic base.  If you have hands steady enough to cut perfect circles out of wooden sheet with a saw, you can make your bases out of that.  For me, I’ll keep recycling my old CD’s as needed instead of adding them to the landfill.  I hope that this helps some of you.  Feel free to share and comment.