I scouted out Home Depot with EV yesterday and found they had both reasonably sized pieces of hardboard and pink insulation. I went back this morning to get some supplies. I got a 2'x4' piece of hardboard, a 2'x8' piece of pink insulation, some Liquid Nails, and an extendable utility knife. I had been planning on getting a hot wire foam cutter, but after having watched a couple videos on Youtube I decided to give a knife a shot. While not going bargain basement on this project, I do want to save money where possible, and a $3 knife instead of a $20 (at least I'd expect) hot wire cutter fits that bill.
Costs incurred so far, with rounding for nice numbers:
$8 - pink insulation
$6 - hardboard
$3 - knife
$4 - Liquid Nails
EV had been skeptical that I'd be able to fit the hardboard into my car. I pointed out that I have a Matrix and can fold the seats down, but he told me he had issues with a station wagon. We agreed to have a difference of opinions. Much to my delight, not only did the hardboard fit easily, the pink foam fit all in once piece. A bit of photographic evidence.
I have access to a jigsaw, so I picked that up on the way home. My assembled materials:
I knew there was a folding work table hiding somewhere. A bit of rummaging produced it, and a bit of head scratching got it set up. There are these plastic clips that fit into holes around the top of the table to hold materials. Unfortunately the holes were spaced in such a way that I couldn't hold down both sides of the hardboard, so I made do as best possible.
There was a lot of vibration when cutting, but it went well enough. I drew a line on the hardboard, then attempted to cur it out as best possible. My first attempt:
I had this idea to make two corner islands that could fit together to make a side island. With that in mind, I cut the other half of the island. I must have flipped the first island when marking where to start the cut because the two halves didn't match up properly. I had to flip one over, hence the different textures.
I didn't want to start with too many since this is my first attempt at making terrain, so I cut a final base in a standard anywhere-on-the-board style.
The edges were fuzzy and a little rough, so I took a file to them to smooth them out. I rounded the edges a bit while I was at it. It doesn't show so much in this picture, but they're a lot smoother and less jaggedy after the filing.
I decided to do the standard island first. I traced the base onto the pink foam, then went at it with the knife. I cut the rough shape from the larger sheet, then trimmed it down once I had that piece free.
I wanted to have a sloping beach side and a cliff side on this one, so I started working it with that in mind. I made the long curving edge into the beach, while the more wavy side became the cliffs. I cut the foam on an angle, taking out small slices and trying to keep the cuts as neat as possible. Despite my best efforts, the piece quickly became somewhat ragged, so I took the file to it too. I would have used sandpaper, but I didn't have any and didn't want to go out to get some. The smoothed islands, plus tools.
A shot of the front, beach side on the base. I wanted to have a ring of base around this side to have some water on the base, or maybe a more gradual transition to from island to beach to water.
And one of the back. I ran the file vertically along the back here to put some erosion style cuts into the piece, which again don't show up so well. I wanted this side of the island to come closer to the edge of the base to reinforce the sheer cliffs.
I was surprised to find that Liquid Nails packs their product like potato chips: half the package is air. Once I got past that, I ran a bead around the edge and scribbled it across the middle, smearing it here and there.
Then I put the foam on the base and pressed. It felt a little springy, so I put a weight on it.
That's a mostly empty can, but it still added some nice weight. I left the piece to dry, and it has been for an hour or so now. EV was advocating covering the whole thing in Elmer's glue, and I've seen other recommendations of drywall spackle (which I checked out at Home Depot, but the smallest one was a 12 pound tub), texture paint, and Polyfilla from the UK. I have no idea what the American equivalent of Polyfilla is, and I don't really want to get a huge thing of spackle, so I'm considering either glue or texture paint. I saw a similarly huge container of texture paint at Home Depot, but I'm wondering if I can't find it in more reasonable sizes at Michaels or AC Moore.