I`m working on a series of models for a `Hobbit` project this winter for a Grade 5 class. It involves modelling Hobbiton and Dale in 28mm scale, so there`s quite a few buildings to make up. I started off using balsa for the wall sections, and was a bit frustrated, first at the cost, then and the challenges of cutting it, especially in circles.
I was walking through Michaels craft store getting some paint, when the idea struck me to use those thin sheets of foam that the use for a miriad of craft purposes. Its a fraction of the cost, and doesn`t have a grain to impede cutting like the balsa does. Any texturing you want can be done in after, and stabiity can be added
by either using interior braces from cheap popsicle sticks, or by mold casteing as I do.
So thats my brain storm for the day. Now I`m making good progress and spending way less.

The foam sheets also work as a quicky plaster mold. Cut the negative image into the foam, stack up several layers to get the correct thickness, glue with PVA and cast the next day. Generally I can get 2-3 casts before the foam gets all bent out of shape.

Example: http://chicagoterrainfactory.wordpress.com/2007/10/06/display-board/


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