Building a 15mm Scale Redoubt

By Martin Soilleux-Cardwell.

I needed five small redoubts for my Fontenoy game. They only had to have the capacity of a single skirmish stand (a battalion in V&B) with an internal area of 1.5" square. They had to be fast to make (I had a tight deadline), look good, hold the wargame stand properly (nothing bugs me more than pretty terrain with figures that are supposed to be defending it, perched on top of it), and must not take up any more external table space than was absolutely necessary - my Fontenoy game had a limited line between two towns and I knew this space was tight even without three overscale forts along it.

I ended up producing five redoubts in about three evenings (total maybe 12 hours work) from raw materials to fully painted and game-useable.

Materials:

  • Artists mounting board or other stout card at least 1.5 mil thick.
  • A large box of matches - cooks matches are best as they are longer than smokers matches.
  • A wargame stand as a template.
  • Wood or paper glue.
  • 'Polyfilla' or other plaster-in-a-tube / plastic wood type paste.
  • Paints.

Tools:

  • Pencil for marking out.
  • Sharp knife and straight edge.
  • Cutting board.

Er...that's it.

Method:

1.0    The Base

1.1     Start by marking out a 2.5" square on the mounting board. Being conscious of the lack of space, I had for these works, I tried using a smaller area to begin with but the bulk of the palisade and the space required for the earth banks, meant that after a bit of trial and error I gave up on pieces of card 2" and 2.25" square. By the way, I have personally never gone metric - if you are a millimetre person then you'll have to convert these measurements yourself - sorry.

1.2    Cut out your square.

1.3    Place a wargame stand in the middle and mark around it with a generously wide line. The square within this line is inviolate and no part of the model should be allowed to intrude into it if you want your wargame stand to lie flat and be a loose fit. Place the base to one side.

Stage1.jpg (22649 bytes)

2.0    Making the Elements of the Palisade.

2.1    Pyromaniacs Corner. Strike and then immediately blow out 22 matches. Rub the used heads off on a bit of rag. You can let some matches burn for a few seconds to produce tapered beams if you want. Chop 7 of them up into 1/3rd lengths. If you want corner reinforcing verticals in the palisade you'll need to burn and chop up 2 more matches. When you break them, don't worry about getting a clean break - the torn ends can be made to represent roughly hacked timbers.

2.2    The fiddley bit. Take 5 matches and lay them parallel on your cutting board. Place three cut pieces perpendicular to these (one in the centre and one more toward - but not at - each end). Make sure the three verticals are flush at one end with the lowest horizontal timber and stand proud of the upper one by a small amount at the other. Glue in place. Repeat three times. Now you have your front and side palisades. Place to one side to dry.

2.3    The even fiddley-er bit. Take 5 cut pieces and lay parallel, then lay and glue one cut piece perpendicular right at one end (not some distance in as with the main walls). Glue as above. Ensure to make these two as mirror images of each other, not duplicates as I did at first (doh!). Now you have your rear wall palisades which will leave an entryway in the middle when finished. Place to one side to dry. Ensure your work looks something like the picture below and if it does, go and have a beer or cup of tea while the glue dries. It's important at this stage that the palisades should stand up unaided - if they do the verticals are doing a proper engineering job of holding them up and are not simply decorative - the flush lower edge is the key to this and it will make a stronger model. Don't panic if they don't stand, wait till they are dry and take your modelling knife and trim down any bits of the verticals which are pround of what will become the bottom. By now you will have noted that you need to have an idea of what is top and bottom, left and right, of your assembled palisades. Do what I did and lay them out in a square like this:

Stage2.jpg (25442 bytes)

3.0    Palisade erection.

3.1    Beginning with any of the three main walls, coat the bottom well in PVA wood glue or children's paper glue ('Bostik' is quite strong enough) and slap it on the base just *outside* your penciled square. Check nothing crosses that line! Repeat with palisades two and three until you have a hollow three-sided bunker. If you have used cooks matches, you'll find that they exactly join and leave a space inside just big enough for a 1.5" square plus the space taken up by the vertical support posts. Clever eh? Don't worry about gaps or whatever - these can be filled with putty later. Keep your wargame stand nearby and every few minutes slot it in the structure as it begins to take shape so that you know it's gonna fit.

It does not matter if the thing is quite ramshackle. The Fontenoy redoubts were thrown up during a single night and I wanted something that looked a bit rushed. If you are modelling more carefully built redoubts you can tart them up with head logs (ACW), or gabions.

3.2    The entryway. Glue in place your two rear part-walls with the verticals at the opening. What you now have should look quite a lot like this:

Stage3.jpg (31850 bytes)

4.0    Diggin' the Dirt.

4.1    Once the whole assembly is dry (I took a 24 hour break at this point), apply your putty, 'Pollyfilla' plastic wood or whatever you normally use. You'll find that if you go into a DIY or home improvement shop their putty designed to fill small cracks in plaster is a lot cheaper than practically the same stuff sold in model shops. I have got through exactly three 10" tubes of this stuff in about 25 years of wargaming - and done some home repairs with it in between those essential modelling jobs...cost per redoubt - basically zero. How you shape your earth banks is a matter of taste but I found a more pleasing effect was achieved if you used less, left the top horizontal beam of the palisade mostly showing and kept the angle of the earth quite shallow with respect to datum. Loose earth isn't stable at more than about 30 degrees anyway. One of my redoubts came out with banks at about 45 degrees and it just does not look right. Also at this stage you can squidge bits of putty into any cracks or gaps left in the joints of your walls; just like the home repair use it was designed for, this stuff works wonders on crap DIY jobs. Shape the banks to leave a passage way at your rear entrance (ooh, er, missus) - you can just see what I mean in the next picture. That is it for texturing although if you want to add an earth floor you can brush in some texture paint inside as I did, plus tidy up the little bits the coarser putty didb't quite fill first time around. For these finer texture jobs I use white texture paint sold in DIY shops for painting house exteriors - it comes with a fine grained material in it and is again a LOT cheaper than the equivalent texture paints sold by modelling shops - I won't mention any trade names. A litre tin will last you your entire wargaming life.

Leave to dry. I took my second 24 hour break here. Note that in the sample I photographed for the illustration below, I used one where I had added a couple of corner reinforcing verticals at the front.

Stage4.jpg (32718 bytes)

5.0    Painting.

5.1    Well I'm not going to teach you grannies how to suck eggs - just use the time honoured technique of a darkish undercoat working up to lighter levels then a pale dry brush on top. The appearance is enhanced if you make the timbers a quite distinct colour from the earth and then finish those raw-cut timber ends with a light cream colour. I wanted a reddish clay soil effect to enhance the look of fresh turned earth.

5.2    Tarting up. You can flock around the edge of the finished redoubt if you want to blend it into the surrounding green table but I didn't bother. Ta da!

Done1.jpg (54079 bytes)

And no sooner do you build a redoubt than in go the squatters: a battalion of Seven Years War Austrians prepare to see off all-comers.

Done2.jpg (46805 bytes)


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