Building Stuff...well mostly my Shuttles

Hello Readers,
Looking back through the older posts on my blog I noticed that in the first year or two, I would post a batrep / episode and then provide some “in process” shots and small building explanations for any new scenic elements at the end. Since I stopped doing that for some reason, this post will be a catch-up.

Design Philosophy
I wrote about it at length here LINK, but to sum up: Table space is at a premium, and I personally enjoy “bathtubbing” the heck out of the gaming surface.  I would be perfectly happy using 3 skyscrapers to represent a city in one part of the board, and then transitioning to a river and rural farms. But of course my “personal” preferences are tempered by my gaming group, the rules and scales we play, what caught my eye that day, and other random influences.

In the end, I usually gain some on the table footprint issue, and I usually compromise on the bathtubbing end.  A “city” table is a city, a “desert” table is an oasis and a few dunes, etc.

I’ll talk about flyers, since I just did a giant campaign with them (and you guys have been asking).
I will kitbash the heck out an existing model if a suitable model exists, like my 2 Ork fighters into Thunderbolts, and that process is relatively straight forward,

BUT if needed, I will start from scratch.

My main material is MDF
The good
1. It’s durable and strong for gross structure components
2. It does not show wood grain
3. It joins well with superglue and hot glue

The bad
1. It’s wood, I cannot cut it with a hobby knife
2. 3mm MDF sometimes looks a little too chunky

I MUST have 2 power tools to accomplish my builds
1. Small table saw
2.  Mounted Crosscut saw

A couple of months ago I acquired a Belt Sander.  It is a great addition, but my 3 shuttles (and ALL of my buildings) were completed without it, so I would classify it as a “nice to have”.

While we are on the subject, other “nice to haves” are:
1. A dremel with sanding wheel, cutter, and router
2. Mouse Hand Sander
3. Jigsaw
4. Hot Glue Gun (although superglue and accelerator work just fine, options are always good)

The Process
After thinking about how to describe my process, I realized I operate as sort of a manual 3d printer. I look at what I’m trying to build in MDF layers from the bottom up.

I’ll go through building the Shuttles as an example.
The shuttle’s gross construction was layered in MDF templates like this:
(Now, you will notice in the final models, I used wooden blocks for the payload and cockpit sections on 2 of them.  My instructions are written for the way I finally executed the build on the 3rd shuttle.  I should have done this for all 4.  The visibility of wood grain on the final product drives me crazy. My only excuse is that every build is a learning process, and it took me 2 tries before the dim lightbulb in my head went off.)

The downward wingtip canards were done just by angle cutting a thin strip of MDF, then using the crosscut saw to cut the correct length.

After that, I found 1.25” garden hose nozzles for $0.75 each at Home Depot for the engines.  They simply rest on the engine shelf and are superglued to hold them in place.

I built 4 of them and I wanted to vary up their appearance, so I used a couple of different configurations. I changed up the size and shape of the tails, on one of the shuttles the payload area is removable, one shuttle has two engines, and I used cardstock windows on 2 of them versus actual plastic bits for the windows on the others.

I am sure all of this could be done with foamcore or other hobby knife friendly materials. My method just happens to be where my hobby journey has led me.

I am not going to go into such detail on the Marauder build, but it was done using the same method. Gross construction is simple strips of MDF in layers, then griblies until it sags under the weight.  The main wing sits much higher to accommodate the 4 engines, and the cockpit is stolen from a Valkyrie. I am very happy with how there is an illusion of a complex (almost undulating) fuselage.  The dive (atmospheric entry) brakes are dozer blades from a Leman Russ sprue and I think they add to the heavy “brute force” appearance.

I hope this little tidbit triggers some ideas to help you with your own gaming environments. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can expand on any concepts.



  1. Thanks for the how-to. They look very good for such a simple process!

  2. Thank's for posting this Will as I'll be using it in the near future, just a bit busy at the moment which you shall see shortly.

  3. Thanks Guys,
    It was a weird moment realizing that I work like a 3d printer. :)

    Can't wait to see what's in store Frank.


  4. I keep meaning to give MDF a try. Or maybe HDF. The shuttles are great little beasties. Very good design. And I keep meaning to build myself a few shuttles or dropships and at least one spacecraft. The Lace Rock Gang need their Firefly, as it were. Great post. Thank you. I love your narrative stuff, but the how-to can be inspirational. Thank you!

    1. Glad you liked it.
      I don't really know why I got out of the habit of doing these kinds of posts. I have a couple more already in the works.

  5. The shuttles look great, I'm impressed!

  6. I find this highly inspirational. I first thought it was foamboard, not MDF, I'm quite curious about the whole process, I love your work here!!

    1. I started down the MDF route a long time ago when I used to own a store, and that meant any scenery had to be very durable.

      These days, my constructions don't need to be so tough, but I am so used to working this way, it's just easier to keep going rather than change to foamboard, or cork

  7. Excellent just what I was looking for after seeing the aircraft carrier. Graveskul is going to get some new scenery in 2017! LOL Thanks for posting this.

    1. Thanks for looking back, man!
      It's great to be a useful blog.
      Makes my day.


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