Welcome to the Tinker-Shop

Welcome to the Tinker-Shop, the little corner of this blog dedicated to crafting projects and displays. Some of the posts here will be about the process we follow to make a piece of terrain. Some of the other posts will be just to show off some other work that is a one shot item or something that there is a lot of already in the crafting sphere. Not all of the techniques are original to us, and where it is necessary the proper links will be shared and credit is given where due.

This post is about the tools that we use most often. If something is used for a specific job it will be added in that post.


The first thing you’ll need is a marking device. These are pretty self-explanatory, as they are used to mark where you might want to cut, glue or engrave something. I recommend a pencil, marker, and pen. All of these can and will be used to mark measurements and designs or whatever. However, a pen can be used on foam to engrave a symbol or pattern for stonework. This is also why I suggest a pencil, this is easier on dollar store foam board and does not leave a groove where you might not mean to.


Next thing that is important is a measuring/straight edge device. These are handy because they keep things exact. Not just knowing what size things are, but also keeping lines and cuts straight where they need to be. It is highly recommended to have a metal ruler so that your knife doesn’t cut through it, adding grooves and making your lines wonky.


The third tool type you will need is cutting devices. You don’t need a whole lot here to be productive. I mostly use expandable knives with break off blades (I make good use of both the 9mm and 18mm sizes) and scissors. A hobby (Exacto) knife is useful but not necessary.


Possibly, the most important item you will need is some sort of material to work with. Cardboard is a very useful thing to have and you can get by with just this and the materials above along with paint and brushes for almost anything you want to make. Nearly everyone in the hobby uses double corrugated cardboard in their projects, though normal works just fine and defiantly has its own place for use.

Another popular material is foam. The two most common used in what we are going to do are expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene(XPS). EPS is probably the most common thought of item when  the foam is mentioned. It usually comes white in color and is comprised of many little balls (this is how I remember it is expanded) and is generally more pliable. XPS is more rigid than the EPS and often comes in either blue or pink for a color.

There is a kind of the third option that a lot of crafters use and that is dollar store foam board. This material is popular because it is a mix between the two foams mentioned above, but very thin. It comes in many colors and has a paper on each side making a kind of sandwich. This particular brand is used because the paper peels away easily, exposing the foam to be used in whatever manner desired. Other brands can be used but the paper is much more difficult to peel off. Also, it is much less costly.


Another important tool we will be using is something to adhere two pieces together. A hot glue gun is an affordable and quite a handy option. In fact, this is probably where I would start. I recommend a dual heat gun with a metal tip because it gives the most option while only having one item. The thickness of the stick is nearly irrelevant. You can often get more work in a single wide stick, but you can buy a lot more of the thin ones for a similar price. In the end, it doesn’t hurt to have one of each, but it is not necessary.

There are many types of glues that I have seen people use in their videos. There is PVA/Elmer’s white glue, tacky glue, e6000, and so on…I personally use wood glue for my stuff (I have a gallon of it that I hardly even used from when I was able to do some woodworking). A lot of this is a personal choice, but certain glues have somewhat specific uses and react in undesired or interesting ways with some materials.

Paint and its accessories are additionally good things to have. A person can get by with very basic colors and accomplish many things, just ask The DMG Info. Although if you are like me and want as much consistency as possible there are very cheap options on the market to build a good supply.

This is probably a good place to end this post. There are a good number of other things that we use, but they are not required to make most things.

Cave Tiles

Today’s adventure is cave tiles made from expanded polystyrene foam. I’m going to take the time to apologize for the lack of pictures on this post. It was kind of a last minute decision to make it.


I start out by drawing my basic shapes on the foam and get it all laid out. I don’t usually have a specific shape in mind for any individual piece, but by laying them out I can get a sense of how to shape things as I go along. Doing this also keeps me from being limited by space restrictions by the board dimensions.

The next step is to cut out your pieces. The most useful knife to use here is an extendable break off utility knife. Make sure you have a fresh blade, as a dull blade (even a slightly dulled blade) will tear the foam rather than cutting it. To be fair, though, sometimes that torn look can add an element that you can’t get otherwise.

At this point you can shape it down with the knife if you want, adding a bevel to the edges and carving or scooping out gouges for a more rock-like look. I usually just bevel the edges and do the detail work in the next step.

Now I take some kind of heating element, a heat gun or some sort of fire spewing device (a blow torch, a dragon, or if your boring a lighter) and lightly go over it to give it shape and definition. I have gone to using a heat gun, this creates an interesting formation with the foam as it seems to make individual balls melt more rather than whole sections.


You could also take this time to make valleys and specific craters or what have you in the foam. Once that is done (depending on the method used) you can go straight to painting using craft store acrylics (my process outlined below), or you can cover it with patching plaster. I recommend using the plaster if you are going to take a heat gun to it as the effect of the heat gun makes it difficult to paint on its own. The plaster will take a few days to dry. (Note: this is not the strongest substance so I do not recommend trying to crush it)


Once the plaster is dried to your liking (I gave it about a week) you can go ahead with the painting process. (Note: if you water down the paints it will get into hard to reach places better and will make your paint last longer) I give it a base coat in black, then go over it with whatever you want the main color to be (I like my caves to be dirt colored) with a heavy dry brushing. The number of coats can be whatever you feel looks best to you. I had to do two on these because the brown and black were so close. Then I did two coats with a lighter shade of brown using a less heavy dry brushing. I finished this part off with a typical dry brushing with a light brown that matched my scheme best. I would like to add that when I do my dry brushing for highlights I always stroke from the top down, it makes the most sense to me to do it this way, and as long as you are consistent with all your pieces it will look good.

The final stage is something that I borrowed and adapted based on the materials that I have, from Black Magic Craft. He uses a spray on lacquer finish, but I don’t have spray on so I use the brush on stuff left over from my woodworking that I had to put aside for the time being. I can’t say to any comparison here because I don’t know how the spray on ends up but I am satisfied with my current results. Anyways, enough rambling, I apply a coat or two of this stuff, usually using the satin to keep the glare down. In the future, I plan to add a coat of matte finish paint to break the glare down even more. I will put up a small post for that later to let you know how it turns out. Give it about 24 hours to dry and then you can start playing on it.

Creating Spell Effect Area: Cone and Line

This is our process for making clear areas of effect for spells that are a line or cone, specifically in this case for us acid breath and fire breath.

you’ll need:

-permanent marker

-cutting tool (plastic cutter* pictured)

-ruler preferable metal edged so you don’t risk accidentally cutting into the ruler

-clear plastic (clear acrylic pictured)

-sand paper (not pictured)

-clamps (not pictured and optional it just helps keep the plastic from slipping)

*I purchased the plastic cutter for this project because it is the tool designed for it. I found that I didn’t get as good of results as I felt I should have and ended up using a box cutter.


The Process: The Line

Remove plastic cover if there is any. Measure out for desired spell effect area, in this case, a 5 foot by 30 ft range, with 1inch equaling 5ft.


Using the ruler as a guide score the plastic along the line several times. Depending on the type of knife you are using you might have to score more or less, with the plastic cutting tool I had to score it 7-9 times and with the box cutter only 4-6 times.


Brace the plastic on the edge of a flat surface, I just use the edge of the table and apply pressure until it breaks. It should break pretty easy if you are having to apply to much pressure stop and score it a few more times until only light pressure is needed.


If you are having to apply to much pressure and force you could end up breaking it and run the risk of cutting yourself. Like this:


Use the same process as above to bring it to the desired length.


Use the sandpaper at an angle to clean off the bur and smooth out the edges.

Optional step very lightly score the points marking 5ft (1inch) and fill in with the marker.


Before you can measure your cone you have to know the range, for the cone we are making its 15ft which is 3 inches using the 5ft is an inch measure. The range gives you your end width based on our interpretation of the rule. So this cone is 15ft (3in) long and 15ft (3in) for the width at range (the furthest point). For measuring out the cone mark the width at the widest point, so in this case 15ft (3in). Mark it the same way as the line and use the same scoring and applying pressure to break process.


Then measure out the length (range) again in this case 15ft (3in). Use the same marking, scoring, breaking process as before.


Then find the point of origin for the spell (the midpoint of the width side) and mark it for the start point width in this case 5ft (1 inch). Make lines from the outside corners of the point of origin width to the outside corners of the width at range making the cone shape as shown below.


Then use the same scoring and breaking process to make the cone. Sand off the burs, smooth the edges and add the optional 5ft marking lines.


And there you have it two DIY areas of effect.