Making Roman Tents

My local club had recently showed some interest in naval war gaming and I put out a request looking for some 1:2400 scale ships or a good set of rules. Joe Saur, a fellow member of the Society of Daisy Yahoo group, was kind enough to send me his scratch built Cold War Mediterranean fleets for free. Feeling indebted to him for his kindness I offered to scratch build something for him in return. His request was for some Roman tents.

Joe found some pictures online and I made some paper templates based on them.

I pulled out some two inch thick foam insulation given to me by the Petit brothers and the other tools required for the task.

Poof! That was easy. I just hacked away with the blade and viola I was done!

Okay, I lied. The bottom line is you will need to cut the foam into the shape of the tent you desire. I *finally* opened my band saw which had been sitting in the basement for the last ten years collecting dust. I know everyone doesn't have this wonderful tool available to them, but I wanted to knock these suckers out accurately and fast.

With the foam forms finished (say that five times fast) I next set about preparing the tent cloth. First I cut out the templates I had created earlier. What you see are the picky details of the tent design I was going to attempt. I later decided to cheat and just go with a simpler pattern by trimming the fiddly bits off.

I decided tissue paper was going to be too delicate, but figured tissues would be strong enough to survive the wetting process. I laid out the tissues in a stack and marked them using my templates.

I first tried cutting the tissue with an exacto knife but it was impossible. I found a good sharp pair of scissors was just what the doctor ordered.

As you can see with my templates I had two pieces of tent material for each form. One would provide the walls and the other the roof. You'll notice here I've trimmed off the overly detailed parts from the template.

Next I mixed white glue with warm water to the consistency of thick cream. It needs to be thick enough to offer a strong shell when it dries, but thin enough to allow the natural texture of the tissue to show through. (No one tell the wife I used her bowl!)

I then took the wall portion of tissue and dipped it in the glue solution and wrapped it around the foam form. I repeated the technique with the roof portion.

I then let the tissue pieces air dry. Here you can see another great use for a cookie cooling rack.

Once the tents were dry I sprayed them with a black matte base coat. Note the glue solution was thick enough to protect the foam underneath from melting due to the spray paint propellant. Next I hit the dried tents with an orange spray paint. Unfortunately the paint quality sucked and the tents didn't have the nice dry brush technique finish I was looking for.

Another effect was the paint propellant finally managed to soak through the tissue and melt some of the foam. A positive effect was it made the tents sag like real fabric, so I take it as a good learning experience! I hit the tents with some brown textured paint to reduce the garish color and called it good enough. Fortunately Joe had real low standards and was very pleased with what I sent him (at least he faked it sufficiently).

Cheers & enjoy!

© 2011, Gabriel Landowski