Well, this is taking me longer than I thought it would. At the time of writing I've finished a rough cut-out of two hill panels. I still need to add in more detail and fine-tune some of the rocks, but in overall I'm quite happy with the results.
I started out with taping the borders with masking tape. This will keep the plaster from falling off the sides. I then mixed up some wall plaster and placed it on the hill sides, like this:
It takes a while to completely dry on the inside
It's easy to cut the plaster while it's still a bit wet, but after it has completely dried you will need something sharp and hard to cut through it.
The perfect moment to try out my brand new dremel set my wife gave me for my birthday. The set has various bit attachments, each having a specific purpose. I tried a couple of them, but quickly discovered the dremel not to be very effective for cutting large chunks. Besides generating too much noise for me to work at night, it pulverizes the plaster, filling the already dusty room with even more dust.
The little dremel that could
I used a set of modeling tools instead. They allow me to use different techniques, each having its own unique effect on the plaster. For example, breaking off pieces of plaster creates a more natural effect than cutting it straight with something mechanical. I'm planning on using the dremel for adding in the details. It's much more suitable for that kind of work.
Modeling tool set
Below the results so far:
The smallest of them all
Grand canyon inside out
Two hill panels put together
Although it takes much longer, I like the process of moulding them. It's actually quite soothing, almost like meditating. Just me and my tools and a large blob of plaster to shape as I please.
Aligning the corner was surprisingly easier than I thought it would. Just place them together and duplicate it.
I'm planning on using Styroplast on the hill-sides and the Foam Coat for the flat areas. But, before I can apply these materials I need to do some preparation work and various tests to get familiar them.
First, I continued with the river panels. Using a sharp knife I carved out more detail into the river borders, then I sanded the whole panel and poured modeling plaster into the river. Not too much, just about 3 mm thick. The plaster functions as a ground surface and helps to smooth out the borders. It also allows you to put some stones in place, like this:
When the plaster completely dried I sanded it again and made sure all connecting points matched. At this stage the river panels are ready for the Foam Coat. I'm planning on combining the Foam Coat with Latex wall paint and various stone materials to create the required surface. Normally the Foam Coat dries within 10 minutes, adding Latex will extend the drying time, furthermore it allows me to apply a thicker layer without wasting the three pounds of Foam Coat.
As for the hills, I wasn't quite sure yet on how to make them. I knew the basic shape and size, but didn't want to cut-out the cliff-sides with a knife or foam cutter. So, while working on the river panels I tried out different tests with plaster. If you combine the foam with plaster you can mould all kinds of intricate details into the plaster with some simple cutting tools. So, the plan is to put blobs of plaster on the hill-sides, mould the cliffs out of it and put the Styroplast over the plaster to give it a rock hard surface. Something like this:
Having worked out which methods to use for the hills, I started out by cutting the foams boards. I glued these together with Foam Fusion and created two pieces of 40x40x4cm and two pieces of 40x20x4cm. I placed them on the panels and outlined the initial shape of the hill with a marker, then I cut them out with a foam cutter and sanded the entry points of the two hills, like this:
As you can see I've cut out the sides of the hill in a 45 degree angle. This will serve as a bedding for the plaster. Maybe I'll remove some more foam later, a curved angle would be better than a straight one.
Just like the panels, the hills get a wooden border for protection. Incidentally, the hill border is a bit smaller than the panel borders. This has mainly to do with the fact that I ran out of materials than anything else. In this case only the hight and length are important. I made the hill borders a bit shorter than the actual hills, the plaster will straighten this out in the end.
Don't mind the markings, they're incorrect
All four hill panels with hill borders in place
The plaster takes awfully long to dry. When it does, I'll take you through the process of the actual moulding of the hills. After that, we're on our way for some serious foam coating.