Stackable Magnetic Pyramid Terrain
(07-24-2015, 08:24 PM)ableman33 Wrote: I used some plastic cups to get a feel for how these layers will look stacked up.  Each gap is a little taller than it will be in the final version, but it's close enough to get an idea.

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While I originally was thinking that these cups were going to be about an inch taller than the planned gaps, they are actually quite close to what I am thinking of doing now.  It will make the pyramid more dramatic while still being playable at the table (albeit while having to stand when playing in the top few layers).

The current plan is for the interior spaces of the trays to be 3 1/2 inches tall.  With the 1/4 inch thick floors, that would make the spacing between each layer 3 3/4 inches, almost exactly the height of the cups shown.  That should give lots of head room to preposition most larger figures.

I'm still thinking things over though and might trim the headroom a bit.

The big debate in my head is between making each "step" 1 1/4 inches tall, which would result in the above measurements, or making each step 1 inch tall which would give 2 3/4 inches of clearance inside and make each level 3 inches tall.

Using 1 inch steps would be true to the horizontal scale, but I need to decide if 2 3/4 inches of headroom will be enough.

Either way, I'll need to commit to one or the other before I can do my next step.  Smile
Bigger is better.


I saw go for the 10' ceilings, increases property value.
Ever resourceful, scout trooper retrieved his head while the wookie was sleeping off consuming the entire charity picnic cupcake buffet.  Ready for duty, scout trooper reported to the construction site.

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Constructing the original pyramids took decades and tens of thousands of laborers.  With modern imperial engineering, scout trooper figures he can get it done in a few hours.  A week tops...

The first step was to trim down the 1x4s that are going to form the inner walls of each tray and provide stiffness to the trays.  I decided to drop the walls down to the lower of the two choices discussed previously.  Not only would shorter walls allow me to keep my vertical scale matching the horizontal (1 inch = 5 feet), but lower walls will be easier to see over and reach over during play.  A not inconsiderable plus given that our main play table is a pool table with a sheet of plywood on top which already makes the players feel a little bit like they are sitting at the grown-up table without booster seats.

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After cutting these trimmed down pieces to the proper lengths, it was time to make the frames.  Wood glue will provide the main strength of all the joints, with pin nails holding everything in place while the glue dries.  I have a set of corner clamps that can hold two pieces of wood at 90 degrees which make constructing these types of frames SO much easier.  Not only do they hold the wood at the proper angle, but they keep everything solidly together while I nail or screw the joints.

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Once each frame was built, it was glued and pin nailed to its corresponding base.  The reason the frames are recessed back from the edges of the bases is to make room for the steps that will fill in the slope.

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The bottommost base was made out of really warped plywood.  The frame did a good job of flattening it, but there was still a little waviness in spots.  Hopefully this will flatten out over time as we add weight, or at least prove not to be a issue.

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A little bit more work and all the frames were complete.  A few drinking straws taped together give a feel for the uppermost tip which will have to use special construction techniques later.

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Once the glue dries, it will be time to add the metal layers to the interior floors and start working on the outer steps.   Smile
Glad to see the trooper recapitated (wow - that's even a real - in the dictionary, word)

What are you using to cut your wood? Table saw?

Those 90° clamps are really helpful. All clamps are really helpful. You know what I want for Christmas? MORE CLAMPS!!! even though I have over 100 already. You can never have too many!
@ SethDrallitoc -

I totally agree about never having enough clamps.   Big Grin

To answer your tool questions, I used a table saw to rip the boards narrower, and a compound miter chop saw to cut them to length.  A bit overkill on the chop saw, but it's what I have. Smile  It's a beast with a 12 inch blade capable of cutting through 6x12 lumber.  My students used it when we built our outdoor classroom together, teaching them practical life skills while working on 1 to 1 scale modeling.  Tongue
[+] 1 user Likes ableman33's post
Massive! Looking good Ableman.
Finally, I get to work on this terrain again.  Rolleyes

Before I could progress any further, I needed to sand down all the edges and corners.  Once that was done, I cut some asymmetric notches out of each base.

When making the notches, I was careful to have them line up with the 1-inch grid we will be using later over the entire pyramid.  One notch is 1x2 and the other is 1x4.

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I attached the removed tabs to the top of the layer beneath with glue and pin nails after placing the upper level on top to use as a guide.

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Once the glue had dried, the tabs fit perfectly in place.  These will keep each layer from sliding around and will help lock the whole structure into a single unit.

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I then repeated these steps for each tray.

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Next up, covering the tray floors with metal!   Big Grin
The bases of each tray are going to be covered in thin sheets of ferrous metal so that terrain pieces with magnets on the bottom will stick to them.

I could have had pieces of sheet metal custom cut for each base, but that would have cost me $20-$30+ per tray.  Instead, I used some 8"x8" square pieces of flashing for sale cheap at Home Depot.  I experimented with these a bit when messing around with my magnetic Battletech hex board project.  Back then, I used 3M Super 77 spray adhesive to hold my test samples in place.  While that gave great adhesion and instant bonding, I had great difficulty getting my test pieces to line up.  The glue stuck instantly, and I was not able to shift the pieces at all once they two surfaces had touched.

Knowing that I would need to be placing lots of pieces into precise places for this project, I decided to experiment with using PVA glue (Elmers).  Normally I would have been concerned about the glue underneath away from the edges not drying since there wouldn't be any exposure to air (which is why I don't use PVA glue between the layers in my foam projects).  But this time around I would be gluing sheets of metal to bone-dry luan plywood.  Given enough time, the wood should absorb all the water in the glue and let it evaporate into the air.

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Because my vertical walls are only 3/4 of an inch thick, and the final walls will need to be 1 inch thick to match my grid, I needed to leave a 1/4 inch gap all the way around the walls.  I made a 1/4 inch thick guide for my pencil and traced around the edge of all the trays.

The topmost tray has a an exposed metal floor that is exactly 8 inches square, so I was able to just drop in a single piece of flashing and be done. Smile

For the first two trays, I tried pouring glue directly onto the bottom of the tray and spreading it around with a brush before adding the metal.  I ended up using WAY too much glue.  The metal pieces floated around and slid all over the place.  I slopped up some of the excess, and the glue did eventually dry making a great bond, but the pieces of the second tray were a serious pain to line up.

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For the rest of the layers, I dipped my brush in the glue and painted the back of each piece of metal with a modest amount of glue.  This worked much better.  The glue was still "slidey" enough for me to maneuver the pieces as needed, but it took some effort, and after just a minute or so, the wood had absorbed enough moisture to make the glue tacky enough to hold the metal pieces in place for the next piece to slide up against them without shifting.

It was at this point that I came across two problems.  

Firstly, when I cut the flashing down to smaller pieces, my sheers left a slight upraised edge that either stuck up and was sharp, or lifted up the metal slightly when it was faced down.  After a few moments' thought wondering how I could "iron" down these edges, I came up with a quick solution.

The head of a hammer is made up a much harder metal than the flashing.  I Just laid the flashing down on the concrete floor and rubbed the hammer over the upraised edge a few times while pressing down firmly.  It took almost no effort and the edges were nicely flattened.

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The second problem was more troublesome.  It turns out that when the factory cut the flashing, they did not make the sides exactly square.  I could have shaved down every piece to make the corners exactly 90 degrees, but I wanted the joints to line up with my 1-inch grid in case they showed through.  That would mean I would need to carefully trim each piece down to 7x7 squares, which would mean that I would need to cut a lot more times.  And all of that was assuming that I could cut lines straighter than the factory.

In the end, I decided that the slight gaps that would be left behind by the unsquare flashing would be something I could live with.  I do plan to cover the metal with a grid of tile pattern later, so I should be able to disguise any problems.

After that bit of angst, it was just a matter of taking the time to cut and glue down pieces.

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The last layer needed no cutting at all.  A nice coincidence that made the end of the gluing more pleasant.

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Once I was done, I had five metal floors.  (The topmost floor will be special as it will have a cut-away trapdoor center.)

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I had worried that the added metal might make the trays too heavy, but the amount of flashing used was so small that the added weight of the steel was hardly noticeable compared to the the wood.

The edges of some of the pieces did stick up a bit as some of the flashing was not perfectly flat.  Once everything completely dries, I'll try securing these spots with drops of super-glue.

The bottom layer is huge.  Scout trooper looks lost in the middle of it all.  (While he feels at home surrounded by all the flat steel, it still needs a coating of proper imperial gray to be complete in his mind.)

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Even though the flashing is thinner than the recycled magnetic dry erase boards I used for my Battletech terrain, it is plenty thick enough for magnets to hold on to.

Here you can see one of my rough-and-ready D&D ships sticking to the flashing.

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It uses only cheap ceramic magnets glued into recesses in the underside to hold it in place.

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To show what this will look like in use, I grabbed some of my other foam wall pieces, each with one or more similar ceramic magnets in the base.  The idea is that the game master will be able to create the dungeon ahead of time and transport it without having to worry that all her work will slide around.

While these walls were made super fast for a different set of terrain, the ones that will accompany this set will be much nicer and in an Egyptian theme.

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The magnetic terrain will all be short enough that the layers above will easily fit, with enough of a gap that the game master will have the option to use pieces of foam core to cover the dungeon in a fog-of-war effect that is gradually revealed as the players explore.

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Next step is either to line the walls in preparation for putting down the floor tile pattern, or to work on the exterior steps.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to get much more work done this weekend due to other commitments. Sad

Here's hoping for more work time during the week.  Big Grin
Looks great so far! What are you going to do with the exterior steps?
(08-09-2015, 01:16 PM)SethDrallitoc Wrote: Looks great so far! What are you going to do with the exterior steps?

Extruded polystyrene foam cut to look like the stepped outsides of the modern Egyptian pyramids,  though there will be patches where the original sloped marble exterior will remain not having been looted yet, including the top.

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