Anyone for Tennis?
As part of the build project for the Far East, I recently put together a very nice Sarissa Colonial bungalow which will sit on the outskirts of my fictional outpost of Palang Karang. However, I did feel that the poor old DC would be likely to drink himself to death at the club if no other means of recreation were found, so I decided that a tennis court would be a nice addition to the bungalow. To some degree this was a nod to the battle of Kohima where the tennis court at the Deputy Commissioner’s bungalow was the scene of desperate fighting (and is today retained as part of the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery) but more of a case of simply wanting to add something eye catching and a bit fun.
I am slightly embarrassed to present this article as, to be honest, there is nothing clever at all about the build process; the tennis court is just a flat bit of turf. However, there was one technique that I thought worked well and also I discovered a new material which I thought was worth highlighting.
Firstly, the material. In the past I have tended to base all of my terrain on MDF or hardboard. Both are good when kept rigid by something like a building glued to them, both tend to warp if they have nothing to keep them flat. Clearly a piece of lawn was going to be perfect for warping and a raised edge would not blend into the terrain as I was keen for it to do. So I needed to find some material that was thin and that would not warp. A big shout out here to a YouTube terrain builder called “The Terrain Tutor”. The gent concerned is called Mel and is a very clever chap who is also very helpful in that he not only builds terrain for commissions but also shows us all how to do it on his YouTube channel. You can find it here: The Terrain Tutor and well worth a look it is. The wide range of videos includes some excellent advice on paints and aerosols as well as just building terrain.
I mention this rather smashing channel as it was here that I first saw EPVC. It would seem that this stuff is basically the PVC plastic that they make windows out of but in sheet format. I must admit that I had difficulty finding it under the name EPVC, but I found it in abundance on Amazon when I searched for PVC sheet. Now, I say I was first saw this stuff on the Terrain Tutor. That isn’t quite true. When Mel mentioned it a small light bulb went on in my head. I HAD seen this before used by a couple of pals of mine who had fields made from this stuff. I had admired it on their tables and was impressed by how it retained its shape and, more to the point, flatness. Was this the same stuff? I decided to buy a couple of sheets to try it out. Five quid later I had two A3 sheets delivered to my door and it was one of these that I would use here.
The first job was to work out the size of the court. We have a slight conflict here in that 28mm buildings are 1:56 scale whereas Chain of Command uses a ground scale of 12″ = 40 yards which is 1:120. In that scale a 36′ by 21′ court would be 3.6″ long by 2′.1″ wide; in other words quite ridiculous. In the end I went with a court 7″ by 4.25″ which is roughly about 1:60, so a slightly undersize 28mm scale court as that just looked about right with the bungalow. To make this I cut the sheet to 9.5″ by 6.6″ to allow room around it.
The first job was to chamfer the edges so that it would blend in as much as possible with the terrain. I used a sharp craft knife which did the job with ease. The usual caveats apply here for health and safety reasons so OBVIOUSLY my advice is to not do this job yourself but hire in a professional edge trimmer with suitably checked edge trimming certification. What have we become?
Next, I wanted to get a slightly uneven surface so it looked real. Normally I use sand for open ground, but I wanted this to be a smooth surface, pounder flat by much use on sunny Sunday afternoons that never seemed to end… a job for Polyfilla.
Quick drying, as always. I slapped it on with a bread knife and then polished it to a semi-flat surface with a wet finger. Easy. Nothing to see here, move along please.
Two coats of dog poo brown were then followed by…
…a dry brush of choc chip and then…
…Picnic basket. That was the first stage completed.
Next I decided to mark up the tennis court. I was in two minds originally. Should I grass the court and then do the lines or line it first. I thought back through the mists of time to my days on the rugger pitch and it was clear in my mind that where the lines were marked no grass grew. The result was that the lines often looked as though they were below the level of the grass, especially when viewed from the vantage point of having my chin on the turf while the scrum collapsed on top of me. So, with this thought firmly in my mind I went with the markings first.
To do this I created a template from a sheet of paper. Drawing the tennis court markings I then cut this out and painted around it.
Once the outline was done, I cut bits off the template to then add the other lines a section at a time. Like this.
Now, you may note that the lines come out a bit irregularly when you try to paint around a template but one can simply go over them once it is all done to get a more regular width. However, this is not really an issue as we are going to dump half a ton of turf on top of it.
I used 2mm static grass for the turf. This took a tiny bit of case as I put PVA/water mix of about 3:2 ratio onto each section with a paint brush. Clearly I avoided the lines at this stage.
It was then a simple case of adding grass on a section at a time.
I added grass all around the court but not right up to the very edge which I then covered with my usual mix of flock and and static grass to allow it to blend in with the rest of the table. Here it is complete.
I am still in two minds about a net. As it stands it will store very easily. A net would add something but it would also be highly likely to break or, even worse, require a ridiculous storage box of its own. I may make a separate net that can be dropped on it. I may not…
Anyway, that’s the lot. Once again, nothing clever, but I think that’s the point; this is a nice addition to the table that we can all make without much cost or effort and certainly it was not a skilled job. As with everything I make, there is usually a ‘cheat’ in there that makes the end result look better than it really is and adding the lines first was what makes this piece work. Also, the flatness of the PVC sheeting is really first class and I will be using more of it in future.