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To begin the Lava Falls you need to cut out a piece of 1 inch pink foam to a size of 2 feet by 2 feet. Then use a marker to draw the initial layout on the foam base. Next I used my Freehand Router and sled to cut out the lava bed. You can cut out this lava bed using razor knives, it is just more time consuming. Now use a ball point pen to draw in the stones on the path. Continue tracing the lines and it will leave a deep impression. After that, use a razor knife to carve the stones out a little bit more and get rid of the jagged edges from the pen. Now when you paint the foam, it will retain most of the detail.

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Now that you have a good base, take a piece of 2 inch thick pink foam and cut it to shape using the scroll table. Doing this again, I would cut this piece first and then use it to trace the back side of the lava pool on to the base. In this order, it will be much easier to match up the hill to the edge of the lava pool. Now that you have the bottom layer of your hill, you use a foam sculpting tool to give parts of your hill a little bit of a slope. Note that where the lava is actually falling, it will stay pretty much flat, so you won't need to do much sculpting there. Now you can trace it on to the next piece of 2 inch pink foam. Continue sculpting, tracing, and cutting until you get the hill as tall as you would like. I did five layers of 2 inch foam for my hill. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do for the cave entrance, so I left a lot of foam in that area to work with.

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Now that you have all your mountain pieces cut, use a hot glue gun and glue the bottom three layers together. Make sure the front edges line up so that you have a nice smooth slope for the mountain face. Now turn the mountain piece on its side and use the scroll table to cut out the tunnel. You could possibly use a long fine tooth hacksaw blade to perform this if you don't have access to a scroll table. Next you need to glue all the remaining mountain pieces together. You should now have your 2'x2' base foam and a big mountain piece that fits nicely against the back edge of your lava pool. Now using your foam sculpting tool, continue carving out the mouth of the cave until it is the shape you want for the entrance. I left a flat area above the cave entrance for a small 2" plastic skull. I found the skull in a bag of skulls on ebay. This may be a difficult piece to find, but you could also sculpt one out of foam, sculpy, or something like apoxie sculpt. Once you have your skull, paint the entire thing with a nice layer of pva glue and then coat it in sand. Set the skull aside to dry and move on to the next step.

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You will need to create doors that fit snugly in the tunnel you carved into the mountain. Get a piece of 1/2" foam and place the back side of the mountain piece on top. Now trace the back of the tunnel on to the half inch foam and you should get a good outline for your doors. Depending on how straight your tunnel is cut, you may need to cut these doors slightly larger, or trim them down to fit snugly in the tunnel. Drill two vertical holes for the wooden dowels to push through the foam. These will be used as hinges to mount the doors so that they can be opened. In order to keep these from tearing out the foam, glue washers to the piece of foam around the hole. This should stop the dowel from tearing through your mountain foam when the doors are pushed open or closed.

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Trace the side of the bridge onto a piece of half inch foam. Now cut another piece of half inch foam to about the same size as the first. Now you can cut both pieces at the same time using a scroll table. Trace the arches onto the side of a piece of 2 inch foam and cut out the center of your bridge. After running an encounter on this terrain piece, I would probably cut the slope of the bridge a little less. Mine is a little too steep for a mini to stand without tipping over. You could also use stairs here instead of a slope, it would definitely make playing on the bridge a lot easier.

Glue your bridge together using hot glue. You can use pva glue or something similar, but hot glue is fast, easy, and plenty strong. Using the same ballpoint pen technique as before, draw the brick pattern onto your bridge. Make sure you get the bricks underneath the bridge, they will be quite visible from the side once you're done. Now draw the tile pattern onto the floor of the bridge and cut the grooves deeper using a razor knife. I have since purchased an engraving tool for this purpose and it makes carving much easier.

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Up next is decorating the doors. Using 1/8 inch craft foam, cut out some patterns that you would like on your doors. These can be glued to the door as you go. The door handles are small jewelry jump rings purchased at a craft shop and then glued to the door. Use something small and round to push into the foam to create the dimples. At this point you will want to paint the doors as you have much easier access to them before installation. Once you're happy with how they look, you're ready to glue them to your dowels. I contemplated pushing the dowel through the center of the door so that it would be hidden from view, but I was worried that it would tear through. Even if I was able to get it through in one piece initially, opening and closing the doors would more than likely tear them apart. In my next build, I may try drilling through the door and lining the hole with a straw or something to strengthen the hinge. I ended up wrapping some wire around the dowel to give it a little detail and make it look a bit less plain. To get the pieces together, you will have to have the door dowels fed through the top mountain piece, and then line the bottom dowels up with the holes in the base. This part is somewhat tricky to pull off while using hot glue to glue the pieces together. As long as you get a good bit of glue around the edges you should be fine.

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Now that your terrain piece is glued together, you need to trim the dowels to be flush with the top of the foam. Glue your skull into the enclave above the door where your dowels were sticking up. You are now ready to coat the mountain in drywall spackle. You can find spackle at any hardware store for a few bucks. Using a palette or putty knife, coat the entire surface of the mountain with about 3/4 to 1 inch of spackle. Make sure you get a nice thick coat so you don't burn through it in the next step. Using your knife, you can now make some strata lines in the rock if you would like. Personally, I found it hard to cover up the uniformity of the lines and I'll just leave it alone on my next piece. Now you have to play the waiting game. This amount of spackle is going to take a few days to completely dry.

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This next step I found to be extremely fun, tedious, and tiring all at the same time. Get a variety pack of wire brushes. I found mine at Harbor Freight for about 4 bucks for a pack of 6. Do this outside, or in a well-ventilated area that you don't mind getting extremely dusty! Now take one of the wire brushes and rub horizontally back and forth against the spackle. It may take a minute to bite into the dried mud, but once it does you'll feel it begin to carve. After about 2-3 minutes of work, blow the dust away and check out your new stone detail. Use this technique to texture the entire surface of the mountain. As you are carving, throw in some diagonal strokes to break up the uniformity of the texture. It was quite a rewarding experience seeing all the detail appearing on the surface. As Bob Ross would say, just have fun with it!

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Now using a vacuum, canned air, compressed air, or lung power, clean all the dust from your terrain. Heat up 1 cup of water to just below boiling and mix in 1/2 of a cup of wood glue. Using a large brush, paint the entire surface of the spackle with the solution. Put on 3-4 coats, letting it dry 10 minutes between each coat. Now let it dry for a few hours before moving on to the next step.

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The next step is to apply a base coat to the entire model. For the first coat use a matte charcoal black acrylic paint. Use a big brush and make sure to get in every little crack. The next coat should be a rusty dark brown. For this color, use a somewhat heavy dry brush to coat about 75% of the surface area. You really only want to keep the dark black in the deep recesses. The last coat should be a light gray ash color. Do a very light dry brush to get highlights on all of the details. This coat should really bring out the surface texture you created with the wire brush. Make sure you don't go too heavy on this light coat, you don't want the mountain to look gray, you just want it to highlight your details. I also used this same color scheme for the bridge across the lava pool.

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For the lava pool, you will need to mix enough plaster to just about fill the lava pool. Mix in some sand to give the plaster a rough texture. It may not come through in the lava pool, but for the edges of the pool, it works quite well. Pour the plaster into the lava pool. Shake the entire piece back and forth in rapid little movements to make sure it levels out and fills the entire pool.

Now take small round wooden balls and push them into the plaster. If you move them back and forth as you press them into the plaster, it will fill in the gaps and leave a nice seamless edge. I used wooden balls and oval glass gems from the craft store, but you could use other things such as marbles to create the bubbles. The bubbles will be smaller in the hottest areas of the lava pool. As the lava cools, the bubbles become bigger and less active. Place the bigger gems and wooden balls around the outer edges of the pool and the smaller ones toward the center. I tried creating surface texture in the plaster, but it was a bit too thick and drying too fast to accurately create the texture I wanted. I ended up using an acrylic gel to create ripples and detail in the surface of the lava pool. Use the excess plaster from the pool to create a build up of cooled lava around the edges of the lava pool. The paint job on the cooled lava is just a wash of a gloss black acrylic paint mixed with water. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the cooled lava and let it dry. Where it is thin it will have a somewhat dull matte finish, but where it pools up it will dry shiny. This technique created a very realistic cooled lava effect.

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I highly recommend practicing this technique on a throw away piece of foam before trying it on the real piece. Once you get a feel for how the plaster flows, then move on to the real thing. For the lava flows you will need to create another batch of plaster. Mix in a good amount of sand to give it a nice thick texture. Now prop up your terrain piece so that where you are pouring the lava has about a 30% decline. You don't want it to be completely horizontal, but you also don't want it to be vertical either. Having one person hold the terrain while the other person pours the lava will work very well here. The person holding the terrain will be able to vary the angle of the piece as you're pouring to make sure it doesn't all just slump down into the lava pool. While pouring the lava, shake the container of plaster up and down to help give it those gloopy ridges in the plaster. You can use your finger and tap the leading edge of each blob to help it flow down the mountain and create a realistic flowing texture. Let this flow of lava set up for about 10 minutes before pouring the second flow. Repeat the lava flow process for the remaining two lava flows, and then let the piece dry for 24 hours.

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Base coat the lava in a nice bright yellow to give it that deep hot glow. Add a bit of red to your yellow paint to create a slightly darker yellow orange color. This part may take a little practice, and you should probably do a test run on the practice lava flows from the previous step. Using a dry brush technique and a wet brush, dry brush the heads of each lava flow and then use the wet brush to blend it back into the yellow. Doing this, it should create a smooth gradient from bright yellow to yellow orange. Next, switch to straight orange and use the same technique to blend it back into the yellow-orange. Now add a bit of red to your orange and again use the same technique. Each time you darken the color, apply less and less paint to the lava. This should end up giving you a very nice gradient from red to bright yellow. Repeat this process all over the ridges of the lava but only go up to orange-red or orange based on how cool you think a specific area would be. Once you are done, use the same technique to paint the lava pool. The bubbles in the lava cool to a dark black/red prior to popping and falling back into the lava pool. Use a dry brush technique to paint the tops of the bubbles a shade of dark red-black after you finish the dry / wet brush technique. The edges of the lava pool will be darker as the lava expands and cools.

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Use a rough rock to press in some texture to the ground surrounding the lava pool. Push hard enough to get some nice cracks in the surface. You probably have some pink cracks in the surface of your model from the rock texture. Use a dark brown and black wash to fall into the cracks and texture. Once this is dry, dry brush the ground with the same rust color used on the mountain followed by the light gray dry brush. Go a little heavier on the gray dry brush for the ground as there would be a bit more ash buildup down there. Now paint a few patches of glue here and there and pour some black and rocks onto the wet glue. Let it dry and then give the rocks a bit of a dry brush of dark rusty brown. To finish the bridge spread some pva glue into the cracks on the floor bridge stones. Pour the same black rocks from the other area into the cracks and let it dry. Dry brush the bridge pathway and the stones leading up to the bridge a light gray color to finish off the piece. If you would like to take the piece a bit further, add some static grass to the stone patches on the ground as well as some light reflections from the lava onto the stone.


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