Tutorial – Making Hedgerows and Bocage
This is a brief tutorial on how to make scale Normandy Bocage or Hedgerows for your miniature tabletop wargaming.This is just one of many ways to make Bocage.It may not be the most “realistic” but we think it’s a decent, and very attractive addition to any mix of scatter terrain, especially for a WW2 themed game.
To start, what is “bocage”?
From the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bocage);
Bocage is a Norman word which has entered both the French and English languages. It may refer to a small forest, a decorative element of leaves, a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, or a type of rubble-work, comparable with the English use of ‘rustic’ in relation to garden ornamentation.
The bocage form of the word came to English notice during the Second World War. It refers to a terrain of mixed woodland and pasture, with fields and winding country lanes sunken between narrow low ridges and banks surmounted by tall thick hedgerows that break the wind but also limit visibility. It is the sort of landscape found in England in Devon. In Normandy, it acquired a particular significance during the Battle of Normandy, as it made progress against the German defenders difficult. American personnel usually referred to bocage as “hedgerows“.
The 1934 Nouveau Petit Larousse defined bocage as ‘a bosquet, a little wood, an agreeably shady wood’ and a bosquet as a little wood, a clump of trees’. By 2006, the Petit Larousse definition had become ‘(Norman word) Region where the fields and meadows are enclosed by earth banks carrying hedges or rows of trees and where the habitation is generally dispersed in farms and hamlets.’
There is much debate and discussion amongst the wargaming community about how to make “proper” and realistic looking bocage.We don’t really want to get bogged down in those details.
For the purposes of miniatures, our bocage consists of an earth bank with an overgrowth of hedges and/or trees growing from them, typyically used to define farm fields and separating fields from roads in the Normandy countryside.
For the purposes of making Bocage you will need the following list of materials;
·1/8 inch thickness MDF (MDF = Medium Density Fiberboard)
·Hot Glue and Hot Glue Gun (Optional but recommended)
·Skewers or Toothpicks
·Paints – Black (primer), Brown, Tan, Gray
At first glance this will seem like a LOT of steps and a LOT of work. Relax! It’s really not that hard. The majority of the time involved in this process is waiting for things to dry!
This WILL take more than a day if you want it to work properly.If you don’t allow your glue or paints to dry completely things can go a bit wonky.
Step 1 : Making the terrain pieces Base
NOTE : Depending on the scale you are creating your bocage for, the dimensions will vary.For our purposes we will be creating bocage in 28mm (1:56) scale.
Cut a piece of MDF to approximately 50mm (2 inches) wide by 300mm (12 inches) long.Cut all 4 corners to a 45 degree angle, approximately 1/3 of the distance in from the edges (so as to leave a flat section at each end).
This will create your base for the bocage.
Suggestion : Chances are you are going to be making multiple pieces of bocage for your game table.In this case you’ll likely want to cut out MANY bases at the same time.This will ensure they are all the same (or very similar) size and shape.I would also suggest you make several shorter pieces (in the 150mm/6 inch length) for tighter areas of your game table.
Pro Tip : The reason we suggest MDF, and not some of the other more commonly used base materials (such as cardboard!!) is that it will have less of a tendency to warp when painted.You can also use materials such as Plasticard or any other non-warping hard (but thin) material if you wish.
Pro Tip : The reason for the 45 degree chamfers on the ends of each section is for placing your individual scatter terrain pieces together.If all of your scatter terrain pieces have this angle on them you can put them together at any variety of angles and have your terrain butt up against one another, rather than leaving a gap!
Step 2 : Creating the base of the Bocage
You will need to create a raised area on each piece to represent the underlying earth banks.
To do this;
·Lay a variety of strips of styrofoam insulation along the length of your MDF base.
·Cut out a range of heights and shapes on the styrofoam
·Glue the styrofoam pieces to the MDF bases
·Let this dry overnight
Suggestion : Make sure to vary the height, width and shape of these styrofoam pieces from one terrain piece to the next to get a wide variety and more visual interest when using multiple bocage together on your table.
Pro Tip : “Tacky Glue” works great for sticking small bits of styrofoam to MDF (or to each other).
Pro Tip/Warning : DO NOT cover the surfaces to be glued together with glue completely!Because styrofoam is non-porous it will not allow air to get in between the surfaces to dry out the glue. Us lines or a V pattern instead and make sure you allow enough time to dry (overnight is best).
Step 3 : Priming
Once the glue has dried and your styrofoam earth banks are in place you will need to prime the entire terrain piece.For primer we suggest using diluted black acrylic paint either brushed on or sprayed on with an airbrush.
Allow this to dry completely before continuing.
Pro Tip/Warning : Aerosol spray paints will dissolve styrofoam!Do not use a spray can to prime your styrofoam pieces!
Step 4 : Flocking the base
Once the primer is dry it is time to flock your base.
Coat the lower sections (bare MDF without styrofoam) with a layer of diluted (50/50) PVA glue or “Scenic Cement”.Sprinkle fine gravel/ballast on top of this and shake of the excess.
When this is dry (yes, we have a lot of waiting time allowing things to dry!), coat the styrofoam sections with the same diluted PVA glue.Cover this area with your grass flock and allow it to dry completely again.
You will likely want to paint the ballast/gravel at this point.Personally I use a coat of diluted brown acrylic, followed by a light dry brushing of tan.I then pick out a few of the larger stones and paint them with a few different shades of Grays and browns to add some interest.
Step 5 : Adding the Hedges
At this point you will be creating the main feature of your bocage, the hedges themselves.
Use a few small pieces of your skewers or toothpicks (round preferably) and poke them into the top of the styrofoam in a few locations (make a few of them straight up and down, make others on a slight angle).These will be used to add even more height to sections of your hedges.Pull them back out of the styrofoam, add some glue to them and put them back into their holes.Allow this to dry before continuing.
You will now use yourhot glue to start adding clump foliage to the tops and slightly down the sides of the base and up the newly added skewers.Cover the top of your base completely with clump foliage in this manner.
Warning : When sticking the foliage to the base with hot glue be careful!It is, after all, HOT and can (and likely will) burn your fingers.If possible you may want to wear latex (or non-latex/nitryl) gloves at this point to keep the hot glue off your skin.
Optional : At this point you may want to add some trees to a few of your bocage sections.Most of the pre-made model trees have a pointed base to them that you can stick into the styrofoam with some glue.This should be enough to secure them in place if you’re careful.A few trees here and there (1-3 per section, but not on ALL of the sections) will add a lot of variety and interest to your game board.
Step 6 : Sealing the piece
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps and everything has dried completely, you’re ready to seal it all in.At this point I suggest using diluted PVA glue again and soaking the clump foliage with it.To do this, dip a brush into the PVA glue and dab it onto your foliage liberally.You can also use a spray bottle to spray the diluted PVA over the entire terrain piece.
Do this several times, allowing the glue to completely dry in between coats.This should provide your piece with a slightly hardened finish and allow it to withstand clumsy hands better.
Another option (which I would use in addition to the above) is to coat the entire piece in a varnish/laquer to add another hard top coat.
AND YOU’RE DONE!
You now have one (or several if you do them in an assembly line like I do) piece of Bocage scatter terrain, ready for game day!