Making Rice Paddies

One of the important aspects of this hobby I feel less skilled for is building stuff.  I’m always amazed when my friends are able to create.  One of the best parts of working with Mark Waddington was the man could build ANYTHING.  Well that, and he’s just one of my favorite people.  Those who can imagine and build buildings, a town, a waterfront, my hats are off to you.

Me, I usually just buy stuff, so my boards are boring and sterile.  But the for the Philippines, I simply have to have terrain bits and lots of it.  I’ve built my bamboo forests, there will have to be jungle terrain.  And one other important feature of all Southeast Asian campaigns whether it’s the Philippines, Indochina/Vietnam, Malaysia or Burma is the rice paddy.  If people live near your battlefield, rice paddies are a must.

There are lots of different approaches to take.  This is a link to the paddy project on the Tactical Painter blog.  His approach looks great, but I have different plans.

One important difference is I want to make rice paddies for 28mm.  I also chose some different materials.  That doesn’t mean my way is better, it’s just my way.

Paddies 1

These are all the materials and tools I used to to cobble together the four paddies after cutting the 12″ squares in half with my jigsaw.

I started with craft plywood for the bases.  I buy it from Michael’s, and it’s easy to get.  It’s 1/8″ thick, so thin enough to work with.  It comes 12″ square and I divided those in half, two sheets to make four 6″ X 12″ rice paddies. I built an elevated border around each paddy to represent the path that most grunts had to walk along in Vietnam, and figured they were probably the same in the Philippines. I used basswood strips.  I like basswood better than balsa because it’s sturdier and less porous.

Paddies 2

My carpentry skills are about as bad as they come, but I decided to miter the edges of the basswood sticks that form the edge of the fields. Made some mistakes, but it worked out in the end.

I actually invested in some stuff for this project.  I bought a new razor saw for my X-Acto gear, as well as a miter box.  I actually cut the 45 degree angles because . . . well just because.  Made a few mistakes along the way, but it all seemed to eventually work.  I glued everything down with Elmers wood glue and let it sit for a good long time.

Paddies 3

I used lightweight spackling compound to form the slopes and fill the joints on the paddy fields. I left it to dry overnight before sanding.

The next step is to fill gaps between the basswood and create a slope down to the growing area.  I couldn’t quite decide what to use.  I considered using modeling paste that I use for my bases.  It dries fast, and because it is acrylic, dries hard.  I decided to use lightweight spackling compound instead.  It is a little harder to work with, but easy to sand.  I didn’t worry about keeping straight lines along the edges from top to bottom.  Those slopes wouldn’t be perfect.

I finished applying spackle and let it dry overnight and into the following afternoon. The next step was sanding most of the rough edges. I started with fine sandpaper, and moved to my Dremel tool’s sanding discs.  It went faster and achieved my purpose.  It also allowed me to even up the outer edges of wood which I didn’t manage to get entirely straight with my jigsaw. After each paddy was sanded, they were sprayed with Testor’s Flat Olive green as a base coat.  They were left to dry overnight.

Paddies 4

I sprayed each field with Testor’s Olive Drab. It’s what I had and it’s a good base color. After that I mixed Vallejo Yellow-Green and White to create a contrasting color for dry brushing the edges. Then I created an even lighter version for further contrasts.

The next step was dry-brushing the the paddies.  I wanted to lighten the slopes and tops while darkening the paddies themselves a bit.  To lighten I dry brushed using Vallejo Yellow-Green, lightened with some Vallejo White. I used a large flat brush.  I did two coats, the second lightened even further.  A final round of dry brushing used a little bit of Vallejo Burnt Umber to darken up the middle of the paddy where the rice would be planted.  It was fine for it to be splotchy.  I just wanted it to darken up a little bit and provide a good contrast with lightened edges.

Paddies 6

A final step in the dry-brushing was to use Vallejo Burnt Umber in the middle of the fields. I was just looking for a splotchy, irregular darkening that would show through the gloss gel I’d use over the top.

I followed that up by adding some turf and tufts by Army Painter.  I put the groundcover in random areas, to allow the dry brushing to show through.  After each paddy was completed.  I sprayed each with dullcoat twice.  I wanted to be sure to keep everything in its place.

Paddies 7

I flocked the edges irregularly and applied tufts. I tried to let the dry brushing show through where possible. I wanted an irregular, natural look. Then I added some tufts. I sprayed each paddy with Dullcote twice, to keep things in place. Note: It’s critical to do this before applying the clear gel medium or it will flatten your shiny surface.

Because the paddies are wet, I needed to show the shining surface of the flooded field. There are so many great products available now, from simple clear varnishes to liquid epoxies.  I took a middling approach and brushed all with Liquitex Super Heavy Clear Gloss Gel Medium. Again, I applied it with a large flat brush.  It took about half and hour to paint it on all four paddies.  Then I listened to Steely Dan’s excellent Aja from 1978, and applied a second coat.

Paddies 12

I used Liquitex Gloss Gel Medium applied with a wide flat brush to create the water effects. I did one coat, making sure to get in the crannies of the slope I’d created, then did a second coat of just straight strokes covering the swirls I’d made the first time.

Paddies 8

Voila!! We’re ready for the terminal stage.

Paddies 13

Leadbear’s excellent tufts. 140 of the small tufts per box cost about seven bucks US. They are the best of the tufts I’ve worked with.

To represent the growing rice, I decided to use tufts.  I didn’t want the tufts to be too tall, for fear putting figures on them would just smush them.  I also wanted something easy.  Tufts are a lot easier than attempting to clump together static grass in a pool of clear Elmer’s so tufts were certainly an answer. I’d seen a blurb on Facebook from a friend that he’d recently purchased tufts from Leadbear.  Another friend showed me his considerable collection of Leadbear tufts, and I was impressed.  It happens that Leadbear also has a Facebook page, so I decided to give him a try. Leadbear is Barry from Australia.  He’s a great guy.  His range of products is considerable.  Prices are inexpensive and the shipping isn’t bad.  I’d received my order in August, but hadn’t used them yet-because I always use up what I already have.

I used the 4mm green tufts I’d ordered.  I thought I would keep them in tidy rows.  Great idea.  The tufts themselves were great.  They were irregular in ways those by others I’ve tried aren’t.  They are super sticky in the ways that others aren’t, so no glue.  I hope I don’t regret it later. Of course, because I’m old and half blind, my straight lines and tidy rows wander a bit, as I expect they might in real life.  I used up some two and a half boxes of the three I purchased for the four sets of fields.

Paddies 10

Paddies 11

Done. I think I worked on these over three days. It did require some patience and waiting time, but I feel like it was worth it.

That’s it.  I’m happy with the way they look.  It’s always fun to make something.  I’ve had the materials to do this for some time.  I didn’t feel like painting figures this week, so this was needed and enjoyable diversion.  It did require some patience, which is so unlike me, but it’s one less thing to do later at then end of this project.

4 comments on “Making Rice Paddies

  1. Dean says:

    Very impressive scratch-built terrain, Kevin. That’s a lot of grass tufts!

  2. Pete S/ SP says:

    They look great- I’m in need of more myself so it has given me some ideas.



  3. Anonymous says:

    These are really excellent. Thanks for the inspiration

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