Cellulose Ridges and Hillocks

1:72 Scale Modelling Techniques

Cellulose Hillock

Unpainted cellulose ridges with gently sloping sides, and enough level surfaces to stand figures and vehicles on securely. The small ridge in the foreground has a maximum elevation of 1.2 metres. It is not high enough to hide a vehicle, but it provides carriage-down anti-tank gun firing positions behind its crestline. The ridge scales out to 12.6 meters in length, and just over 6 meters in width. Placed in small groups, with areas of flat ground between them, these ridges break up the lines of sight on the miniature battlefield. The models can be painted with cheap water colours or poster paints. The surface of the dried cellulose mush is textured nicely, and it only needs to be drybrushed to add highlights.

Cellulose ridges mounted on a wargame terrain module

Small cellulose ridges may be used to create wargame terrain modules with naturally rolling hills. These waist-high mounds with minimal slopes are hardly noticeable to the table-top general, but if a Lionel Tarr Periscope is used to determine line of sight, players will be surprised to find that many of their anti-tank guns and infantry fireteams are in ambush positions on reverse slopes. The Scimitar tank shown here is offering his lightly armoured underside to a prone infantryman on the opposite side of the ridgeline, who may fire an amour-piercing hollow-charge Energa rifle grenade into it. This same opportunity would never present itself on the perfectly flat wargame tables we normally fight over, where even prone infantrymen are spotted at great range and eliminated or pinned by enemy fire for the remainder of the game.

Tools and Materials

  • Old Newspaper
  • Large Bucket of Water
  • Plastic Foil
  • Water Colours
  • Poster Paints

Cellulose Mush

The ridges and hillocks are made from old newspaper. The New York Times Sunday Edition provides enough material for 10 small hillocks. It is important to separate the black and white newsprint from any glossy colour inserts. The glossy paper has been waxed and waterproofed, it does not dissolve properly and it will ruin the cellulose hills.

  1. Find a flat and smooth concrete surface with a southern exposure. Concrete garden tiles are ideal, they may be moved into the sun to speed up the drying process.
  2. Get an old 10 or 15 litre bucket and fill it with water.
  3. Separate the different sections of the sunday paper, and pull out any glossy colour inserts.
  4. Tear the sections of the paper into 30 mm strips, and drop them into the bucket.
  5. Let the newspaper soak for 20 minutes, stirring and kneeding the paper occasionally.
  6. Take two to three hands of the mush and slap it onto the concrete tile.
  7. Sculpt the hillock, adding more cellulose mush if necessary.
  8. Press down on the hillock with both hands to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Doing so will also eliminate any air pockets between the mush and the tile. The hillock should have a thick and firm consistency.
  9. Flatten the slope so that miniatures will be able to stand on it.
  10. Leave in the sun to dry for three or four days. Cover the hillock with plastic foil at night to keep out rain and dew. The hillock should be completely dry after about four days in the sun, and it will be as hard as an egg carton. The edges should separate easily from the concrete tile.
  11. Using a knife or spatula, pry the hillock off the tile carefully.
  12. If the underside is still moist, place the hillock on another warm tile to dry out further.
  13. Trim the edges with scissors.
  14. Paint and detail like other terrain pieces.

One advantage of cellulose hillocks is that they do not warp easily. The extended drying process causes the center of the hillock to rise slightly, pulling the edges down and planting them firmly on the ground. The mush hardens like clay, but it does not break when dropped. Holes may be drilled into the material to accept model trees or telephone poles. Curved or L-shaped ridges should be reinforced to avoid warping. Build a simple frame from sturdy plastic or aluminium rod, and apply the cellulose mush over it.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Modelling Techniques