Sunday, March 07, 2010

Warmachine Terrain Project: Water Tower

In the steam-powered Iron Kingdoms, water and coal provide the fuel for war.  I set out to make a simple water tower terrain piece for my WM games.  There are many great tutorials out on the internet for making water tower terrain such as the great one at Terrainthralls.  That being said, I wanted to make a couple of modifications to the stuff I've already seen to create a simple little project using easily acquired materials.

Step 1: Snack Can Slicing
For the first step you'll need a cardboard snack can that you can cut in half(I used a Slim Jim's can- short Pringles cans, etc. would do the trick too). I used a small x-acto saw but there are many ways you could cut it...
Step 2: Creating the Water Tank
Creating the tank was very easy.  Just use small craft sticks(coffee stirrers) and cut them to size.  Make sure you use the half of the container with the solid, metal bottom.  Then use white glue to apply them to create the wooden structure of the water tank.  Later I will add styrene(cheap $1 "for sale" sign plastic is perfect) rims around the 'barrel'(see later pictures below). 
Step 3: Crafting the Roof
For the roof of the water tank I cut out a disc of styrene(yard sign).  Make the sure the disk is wider than your tank because when you "dome" the roof into a cone shape, you're going to lose some width.  Cut a slit from the edge to the center...
To create the dome shape overlap the disc a bit where you made the incision and secure with super glue(or white glue if you pin it).  After that is firm you can cut plastic strips that will run from the perimeter to the center.  I finished off the piece with a simple thumb tack on the top and 'rivets' cut from styrene with a leather whole punch.
Step 4: Placing the Water Pipe
For my water pipe, to give it that 'alternate universe" Iron Kingdoms feel, I decided to have the water pipe come from the bottom of the tank rather than from the front like a classic water tower.  My pipe, as you can tell, is a simple 'bendy straw'.  I cut a small hole into the tin bottom with a utility knife(you could use a drill mind you)...
Step 5: Building the Base and Putting It All Together
The base is a simple frame using balsa wood and craft sticks- you create any simple structure you like.  Now typically the 'stilts' of water towers are higher, but I wanted a short, stunted look- as my water pipe protrudes from the bottom of my tank...
In case you are wondering, the water pipe just threads between the frame pieces.   I used super glue to affix the roof to the water tank and white glue to attach the wooden frame to the tank.  

Step 6: Added Bits and Details
Now for the fun of making this look like something.  Cut strips of styrene to add metal frame reinforcing rings around the tank.  Add some rivets to complete these rims.  
For some detailing of the base and pipe I did a couple of little things.  First, I cut rectangles of styrene and creased them, applying them as reinforcements on the joints in the wooden frame...adding rivets to complete the 'rickety' look.  The pipe was modified by inserted a smaller plastic straw from a juice box(At the time I actually asked one of sons to drink one so I could have the straw).  I inserted the smaller straw into the other one and used modeling putty to create a flexible bladder where the two join.  Finally, I strung(glue on) some cheap jewelry chain to the bottom of the can, added a metal(soldering wire) hook to the end of the pipe- creating a rest for the pipe so it wouldn't hang down freely when not in use.  A small piece of sprue made a spigget for the end of the pipe..
At this point you could attach the whole thing to a terrain base and texture and flock it but there are two areas of thought on this.  First, an 'unbased' terrain piece can fit any terrain or ground cover on your battlefield.  If you flock a base(with spring grass, snow, etc.), then it could look out of place on some types of terrain.  The other philosophy is that a terrain piece always looks more 'finished' with a nicely decorated base.  You'll have to decide.
And here is the finished, painted piece...
For a quick video tour of this project go to the video below...


  1. Wow, that is a very nice terrain piece, especially for how simple it is. Thanks for the tutorial.

  2. You're welcome, and thanks for the kind words.

  3. I think I'll head out to the shed later and gather supplies to build a water tower. Great tutorial.


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