Sunday, September 18, 2011

Step by Step: How to Make Mediocre Sandbags Slowly

Hi, I needed sandbags to line the walls of the trench table I've been working on.  I wandered around the Youtube and found several videos showing the use of Sculpey polymer clay.  I thought I'd try it and tell anyone listening how it went.

1. Roll balls of the Sculpey into thin long rolls.  The beer can pull tab is for scale.

2.  Squish the Sculpey down with a flat surface, above and below.  You can see I didn't squish it much.   If your rolls where too thick you'll have unmanageable large sandbags.  Most sandbags I see available for purchase or in sci-fi dioramas are way too big.  Sandbags are actually not very big; soldiers need to be able to fill and move them all day; large and extremely heavy bags would wear the troops out quickly.  I wanted my bags to be about as wide or just wider than a model's foot is long.  I picked a large GW model as the foot model, so the bags wouldn't look silly.

3.  Press cloth gently into Sculpy to give the sandbags texture.  I pretty much ignored the sides and and only pressed on the top.  I figured out quickly to match this step with the squishy one.  I used an old worn out t-shirt (that I was wearing).  Made nice thread marks, too big to be realistic, but looked nice, if they were really that small you wouldn't be able to see the texture.

4.  Chop the sandbags into sandbag size chunks.  Longer than wide.  Use a rounded edge cutting tool.  Flat cutting tools don't round the bag edges.  I used the handy beer can tab.

5.  Repeat steps 1-4 numerous boring times.

6.  Ignore the fact that the bags don't have the little openings where sand is poured in and tied shut.

7. Bake in the oven as directed on the wrapper.

8.  Panic, because you were distracted playing Fallout and didn't remember to check on them on time.  They're ok though.  Drink a victory beer after burning your self pulling them out of the oven and picking them up to look at them too early.

9. Spray paint the bags burlap for up until recent time sandbags.  Today bags aren't usually burlap; they're woven plastic.  Colors I've personally seen are desert tan, olive drab, dark green, and ACU pattern camo.  I picked a dark tan, thinking I'd stain it to burlap color.

10.  Curse, because you didn't use primer and the crap paint you used isn't sticking to the sculpy well.  It's also to glossy and now you'll have to dullcoat or dust the bags.

11.  Try spray painting the bags again with the same crap paint.

12.  Curse some more.  Because only some of them are covered.  The paint isn't sticking and now it looks too thick.

13.  Go inside and drink beer.  The paint isn't drying fast.  Drink alot of beer, the cure time is forever.

14.  Check on the bags.  Curse, they are still tacky and one of the cats has found them and some are contaminated with hair, a bunch are sticking together, and some are completely missing.  Guzzle the rest of your beer and chuckle to yourself that the cat has little tiny sanbags stuck to it.

15.  Throw the smelly sticky batch in your toy army man room and work on something else.

16.  Two days later check on the little pieces of poop and curse.  THEY ARE STILL TACKING.

17.  Say screw it and dip them anyway.  The stain or dip will settle in the the fabric marks and give it a nice textured look.

18.  Curse, you brown stain has turned black since you last used it.  Someone has broken into your house and turned your brown dip black.

19.  Make a brown wash with some cheap craft paint.  You've invested too much time and money into this project and should have bought some on the internet.

20.  Come back a day or two later and realize they really aren't that tacky anymore.

21.  Glue them to your terrain.

22.  Curse, because they don't really mold to the terrain you're attaching them too and they're so small and fidgety you're getting covered in glue.

23.  Victory beer!  Sure you only attached half of the ones you wanted to but it looks good enough.

...or just do what a modeling vet told me to use later.  Use self drying modeling clay.  Screw Sculpey.

Tools you'll need:
Several packages of Sculpey (makes hundreds of sandbags)
flat (NO SATIN) spray paint or just hand paint with acrylics
stain or dip or wash
case of beer

Here's a couple preview pics of the trench table.  First is some homemade barbed wire and second liquid in craters.  The lighting in my lair is poor.

- love, Baconfat


  1. James: Excellent stuff - you are the master terrain guy. Posted pics of your awesome trench board on the WAB Corner. BTW, we need to come up with a way to use your Vauban fortress! Best, Dean

  2. Love the tutorial. I'll have to try my hand at it soon.


  3. Great tutorial and great trench board. does a body good!