Friday, February 13, 2015

The Fur of the Bear that Bit You II: Finished DIY Gaming Mat

It's finally finished. I'm a little embarrassed that such a simple project took this long, but the important thing is that my gaming mat made from teddy bear fur (wip post here) is finished and ready for action.

The most grueling part of this process is trimming down the fur. Even ordering the shortest pile, I found that the fur was too thick to be able to place miniatures on reliably, especially when I factored in the extra stiffness that paint would give the fur.

The solution? Yup, go at it with a pair of scissors. If you feel like throwing an extra $15 at the project, you could invest in a pair of clippers—but that's just not where I was at. Furthermore, I found that the scissor treatment gave a rather uneven 'tufty' finish that appealed to my idea of what a matted, unkempt field should look like. And for all the tedium, I found that four evenings working at it for about a half-hour each while I watched a t.v. show saw the job done. I would recommend wearing a mitten or similar on you scissor-hand to prevent discomfort.

I took a couple of WIP pics of this stage, above and below. It's a little hard to make out, but in the image above, the trimmed section is at the bottom. In the one below, it's to the right. If you look very carefully, you might make out the difference in the fur's texture. Untrimmed, it's very smooth, trimmed, it's rough and wavy.

Unfortunately during the painting stage, I temporarily lost my camera. Luckily, however, the process is literally as easy as taking some very thin acrylics (like, skim milk consistency) and rubbing them all over the fur one patch at a time with your hands. (I used rubber gloves, but don't let me tell you what to do.)

I used a selection of three dullish greens, some brown and some yellow. I'd splash on one or two colors and then run through it with my hands until it was spread through the fur. If it needed more variation or there were portions without color, I'd splash in some different colors and repeat until I was satisfied. Once I'd covered the whole mat in this manner, I hung it up to dry.

Above is the finished, folded mat. There's no beating this thing for portability: It's light, packs small, and does not wrinkle or curl.

Here it is laid out. I put a couple of small plates face down on the table to serve as low hills.

Here's what it looks like with some scenery on. Of course, once I had it dressed up, I couldn't resist taking down my collection and organizing a little scene...

A desperate coalition defend the standing stones from dwimmer-beasts

The odds seem insurmountable.
The lines converge. Ruin is nigh.

Evil Majickers raise reinforcement from the barrows.
The doomed defence looks to be overwhelmed...
...but for the horse-thegns of the north who ride upon the wing!

The dwimmer-beasts falter...

...the horses scream...

...the hill trembles....

...and something watches from the barrows.
Got something to say? Tell it to the turf.


  1. Well, now you've gone and done it. Now I'm going to have to get my self some teddy-bear fur and make myself one of these. I tried using a high quality printed image on a large roll of paper, but this looks fantastic and doesn't roll up on itself. What would you say the whole thing set you back in terms of time and money?

    1. Glad you like it!

      Let's see. If I recall correctly, the fur was about $13 per yard (3' by 4' section), so I believe I only got one yard. The paint was from the Americana line of acryllic craft paints, available very cheaply at Michaels here in Chicago. (The one near the Belmont red line usually has a good selection.) I got three different greens for about $1.50 each. I already had the yellow and brown and a pair of scissors, but even if you factor those in it comes out to under $25.

      Time is a whole other issue. Trimming the fur down is a very time consuming step if you do it by hand. A lot of people recomend the beard-trimmer route, but it makes the grass a little too regular for my taste. So that meant I spent perhaps 3 hours total trimming the fur by hand, and then another 45 minutes to an hour smearing the paint into it.

      If you follow the link at the top to my WIP post for this project, it has a bunch of links to the resources I used in putting this project together. Hope that helps, and let me know how it comes out if you decide to try it!

  2. This is fantastic! Amateur hour is rapidly becoming one of my favorite blogs. I, too, would be curious as to what your overall cost was for this project, all in. Also, even with the significantly trimmed pile, do you find that the miniatures are in danger of toppling or don't feel secure?

    1. On level ground , the miniatures stand up just fine. However, top-heavy figures are trickier to place on hills, so you have to be careful what you use to make the hill's shape. One of the plates i'd used turned out to have too steep a curve for some figures. It would probably be worth making some custom forms out of foam or paper to use as hills.

      Also, this is not a good surface for rolling dice on, so it's helpful to have a separate die rolling area (the lid of a board game works well.)

  3. Huzzah!

    Thats a really effective looking gaming surface and the mini display you've put together really looks great!

    All the best!