3D Battletech Hexmap - Jungle Ruins
@ Munin - Thanks. Smile
I've been wanting to do something like this for a while. This project gave me that final push.

@ Nelmarticus - Welcome! Glad to have you with us. My favorite part about sharing my projects here on TG is all the community support. Sharing ideas. Encouraging each other.

@ Caleb - Oh, don't worry. It's going to get messy soon enough. These are my "before" pictures so I can look back and remind myself what it used to be like. Big Grin

OK, back to building!
Welcome back sir! I so envy people who are able to get their workspace this neat and tidy. I look at these pictures and feel inspired then o look out at my own garage and get pit off. One day!
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Wow, that garage workspace! You must be feeling great after organizing it like that. The fume extraction unit sounds like a great innovation too. Thanks for posting the pictures of that workspace, it's one of a kind.
All right. Time for some boards.

I have settled on a standard design for the bases of my Battletech boards. They are slightly larger than the official paper maps (which are themselves the size of four 8.5"x11" sheets of paper in a 2x2 grid). Instead of 17" on the short side, my boards are 24". This lets me make maximum use of sheet goods like plywood and it just so happens to make my hexes have one inch sides. This is slightly larger than the standard hex bases used on Battletech miniatures so that there is room for terrain details like trees or rocks around the perimeter of each hex without getting in the way of play.

I make my boards out of 1/4" thick luan plywood. The plywood is lightweight, smooth on both sides, dimensionally stable, and cheap. All great properties. To stiffen the boards and provide a handle and means for bolting the boards together, I make frame of 1x2s on edge. Everything is pin nailed and wood glued together.

For this project I need six bases.

The holes on the sides are so that the separate maps can be bolted together into one rigid larger map. This is useful for conventions or gaming stores where these maps may span more than one table that might not have perfectly matching heights. Bolting the maps together also keeps them from shifting relative to each other when they are inevitably bumped during play. (Their combined weight and friction also helps resist movement when jostled.)

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Arranged like this, the six form a super large map.

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I wanted to really make the frames of my bases strong. Usually I just rely on a couple of pin nails in each corner, but this time I supplemented them with some corner braces. Not only will this make the frames rock solid, but it will help with my ideas for shipping them when I'm through. (More on those ideas later.)

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With the bases ready, it's time to mark them with a reference hex grid.

When I started making my first map, a friend printed out a full-sized hex sheet at my desired scale on a large-format printer for me. I used that to make a Plexiglas template with holes drilled into the corners of each hex.

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After securing my template to the top of one of my boards, it was time to mark the hexes.

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Our friend the scout trooper reported for duty. After working in the arid desert (Stackable Pyramid Project and Capstone Puzzle Room ), our scout trooper was looking forward to some time in the tropical jungles.

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After grabbing the proper tool. scout trooper aided me in marking the holes by standing at the top of each line I was working on so that I wouldn't get lost.

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With the first board marked, scout trooper inspects our work.

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Now to do the next five boards. Smile
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(06-14-2017, 05:58 PM)ableman33 Wrote:
Quote:I figured that would probably be the only way to do it from scratch. It still seems like the initial line would be a bit of a chore. Good job.

Actually, since the Move tool is really good about snapping to locations you indicate, arranging the original hex line and then linking together the lines into a full board took less than a minute. Smile

Seriously, for a free tool, SketchUp is amazing.

Happy building everyone!

One of the best things about Sketchup aside from being free is how easy it is to use. I have tried other free 3D modeling programs that required complex keystrokes to do some of the simplest things. 
Man how I have missed the Epic scale Ableman projects. Cool
OK, all the boards have the hex grids marked.

Now it's time to start working on my foam layers!  Smile

Another nice feature of SketchUp is its "Section" tool. This lets you make slices through your model to see what the cross sections look like. This is particularly useful for me because I can just slice through the middle of each layer to see what shapes of foam I need to cut.

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With these, I can now start using my template to mark my foam for cutting.

Back to building!  Tongue
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I used to use a lot more steps to cut out my foam pieces for my terrain.

I would use my plastic template to create poster board pieces the exact shape of each foam piece, being careful to use a straight edge/ruler to connect the dots precisely and a metal straight edge guide and X-acto blade to cut them out. I'd then use double-sided tape or loops of tape to secure the poster board to sheets of foam, then use the edges of the poster board to guide my hotwire to cut the foam as perfectly as possible.

But I realized that since I am eventually texturing this foam to look more organic and natural, that level of precision is completely unnecessary for most of my projects. (If I was going to do something mechanical or constructed-looking where I did need super-crisp, perfectly-straight edges, then I would use the poster board guide technique.)

Instead, for projects like this one, I use a much simpler and faster method.

Using bits of tape, I lay out each shape on my plastic template. Then comes the fun part, sliding my template around to find the best fit with the already laid out pieces to make maximum use of my foam. (I'd like to say that I was an awesome enough of a designer to think ahead and make it so that my layer pieces fit together nicely, but I don't give it a thought during the initial map design process.) Once I have my chosen spot, I then prick through the holes along the border of each shape with a super fine permanent marker to lay out my pieces directly onto the foam. Once that's done, I remove the template and connect the dots on the foam with the marker freehand. When I'm through with all the shapes, I simply cut along the lines with my hotwire freehand. Done. Smile

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I do have one particular challenge when laying out my pieces onto the foam.

I bought this foam years ago as a large bulk purchase from a commercial building supplier. (The Gulf Coast is too warm for regular hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowes to carry the 1-inch thickness foam I need, but commercial builders still need greater thicknesses.) Unfortunately, the manufacturers weren't thinking of terrain makers when they set their tolerances. All of my sheets are only half flat. Split lengthwise, one side is nicely flat, but the other half has a gentle S-curve running through its length. That means that if I cut any large pieces from the wavy side, the foam will always be curled enough to leave a gap when glued to wood or other layers of foam. A bit of a bummer, but something I can work around so long as I'm mindful and none of my pieces are more than about two feet wide at their narrowest dimension.

I've finished laying out all of my larger pieces. I'll make the little bits as I need them rather than take the time to lay them all out now.

Off to cutting foam! Big Grin
To cut my foam, I use a modified hot wire setup using some parts from the Hot Wire Foam Factory.

I have one of their Crafters Scroll Table Kits. The arm of their table is actually a large leaf spring that keeps the wire under tension as is expands when heated.

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This table served me well enough for a while, but it had two limitations. Firstly, it was small, and my projects quickly outgrew it. Secondly, the table is made of relatively thin plastic and can bend under pressure, causing cuts to not be square if that is critical.

So, I created my own hot wire cutting table. I got rid of the arm completely by switching to suspending everything from a chain attached to the ceiling. The chain has a a spring and a turnbuckle at the end. Attached to this is a long loop of heavy gauge wire with links on the end. This wire hooks up to my Hot Fire Foam Factory power supply. By attaching different lengths and thicknesses of cutting wire between the links, I can vary the speed and amount of material I can cut through.

I pass the hot wire up through the table, connect the top link to the turnbuckle/spring arrangement, and tighten everything up. (I just bump the table bit by bit until everything is square.) I tighten the turnbuckle until the spring is engaged. When the wire heats up, the spring contracts and takes up the slack.

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When melting foam, even the tiny bit when cutting it with a thin wire, protecting yourself from fumes is key. I used to just open my garage doors and use large fans to circulate the air, but that wasn't enough. Spending $20 - $30 on a chemical respirator was one of the best tool purchases I've ever made. (Scout trooper approves. He has been protected all this time by his helmet filters, which comes in handy when the mess hall is serving beans again...)

I've also rigged up an exhaust vent that draws fumes away and blows them out of the workshop through an old cat door using some flexible duct work and a recycled pottery kiln blower.

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The box on the end of my fume extractor is good for when I'm working in a small area. I can just place it beside my work or even clamp it to the edge of the table. But when cutting large sheets of foam, it proved unworkable to keep it near the wire.

So I grabbed the hose from my shop vac and rigged up an extraction hose.

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This worked great, especially when I would finish a long cut and the residue on the wire would start to smoke before I could wipe it off. I could see the smoke getting sucked up the pipe and off to the outside.

To make the hose even more efficient, I rigged up a shroud to bring the suction right down to the cutting surface using a scrap of cardboard tube. Now it's pretty much perfect.

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I have all my large pieces cut. Only a zillion or so little bits to go. Big Grin
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All right. All the foam cut.

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Next up, dry stacking and then securing everything in place! Big Grin
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