Sunday, 14 June 2015

LXXXVII. The Cemetery Project vol.7

John Singer Sargent: Graveyard in the Tyrol, 1914

After a month-long hiatus, I'm back with the most important and the most obvious type of cemetery terrain: graves. I wanted a mix of different types of grave markers in terms of shape and material, and a mix of different ways of basing (single, row, area). This is what I've done so far:

John Sargent's watercolour painting (above) made me start thinking about ways to make wrought iron crosses.
I was afraid they would be too easy to break, but it turns out they don't fall apart too readily. The balsa crosses put together using PVA are sturdy enough, too.

Single graves with wood and metal crosses. All scratch built.

Single graves with stone markers. The first marker was made of plaster, from scratch; the second one is a plaster copy of a Zenit Minitures grave marker; the third is from the Garden of Morr set.

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Grave crosses can come in a myriad of shape varieties, sizes and materials.  Below you'll find half a dozen representative step-by-step examples I've prepared.

Materials used:

  • PVA glue
  • superglue
  • balsa: 1mm, 2mm
  • plastic fence
  • pins
  • metal rings
  • paperclips
  • card
  • paper
  • plastic tubes 

1. The most basic form of a wooden cross; 2mm balsa.

2. Wooden cross with a wooden roof. Starting from the basic shape, I added extra detail with 1mm balsa.

3. This one has a metal roof, and a plate on its front. Both are cardboard, carefully cut with a scalpel and glued into place with superglue.

4. This iron cross was assembled out of parts of a miniature railway fence, with addition of a cardboard circle and a metal ring to keep the parts together. The bits were glued with superglue. I blended them together with PVA.

5. This one has parts of another kind of fence. There's also a roof made of card. The extra four decorative swirls are ordinary printer paper covered in superglue, carefully set into place with a pair of tweezers.

6. The final example uses thin paperclip for the basic cross shape. The decorative elements on the tips are slices of a tiny plastic tube (these tubes are used in fishing, for keeping the float in place on the line).

This was good for a start, and I've learned some things through experimenting. I have six individual graves and three of these bases of grave markers in a line, but for a decent-looking cemetery I'll need at least twice as many.

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Another thing I made in the meantime is this crucifix:

This is the first of the several shrine pieces I've planned. But more of them and more about them (including how to make them, of course) in my next post.

As promised in the previous post's comment section, here is a group shot of all terrain pieces I've done in the Cemetery Project so far.

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And finally, I have a recommendation for you: books by László Adóba. Four of them arrived recently in my club's library, and I must say they're fantastic. They are all clear and very well written. The photographs are of good quality and the explanations are easy to follow.

Building Dioramas: Stone objects may be the most useful one for what I'm currently doing. This is the table of contents:

Chapter I: Flower holders
Chapter II: Tombstones
Chapter III: Fountains, waterworks
Chapter IV: Equestrian monument
Chapter V: Mausoleum
Epilogue and preview

The author uses things like cardboard and polystyrene for his tombstones, which is something I haven't tried yet. There are instructions on building several different examples of fountains, which will definiely come in handy at some point in my terrain project.

Building Dioramas: Accessories teaches you how to make a whole array of different things: chairs, bookcases, bathtubs, lightbulbs, chicken roasts, pots, cutlery, iron fence, benches, curtains, a pool table complete with balls and cues...  Table of contents:

First chapter - Furniture
Second chapter - Miscellanous objects
Third chapter - Bathroom equipment
Fourth chapter - Food and tableware
Fifth chapter - Objects made of iron
Iron crosses in Chapter five of the book. I've picked up some useful tips here.

The other pair of books, dealing with terrain&vegetation and urban scenes. Dirt, mud, rocks, trees, flowers, grass, bricks, cobblestones, roofs, doors, windows...


  1. Great to see you back, Ana! Those wrought iron grave markets are amazing and your attention to detail, as usual, is unrivaled. I've never seen anyone tackle that style of gravestone and the fact that you made them all buy hand is commendable.
    The cemetery terrain looks great together and I really like the autumn feel the colours give to the pieces. That may not have been intentional but it's what I get from it.
    I'll have to check out those books at some point. Can't wait for your next update.

  2. A lot to see, Ana. Great work as always. The finished markers capture the look of the Sargent watercolor very well.

  3. Beautiful work! And thanks for the book tip!

  4. This project is inspiring. I'll be reading through the previous stages and eagerly awaiting the next offering from The Garden

  5. Your are killing it with this project. Such a beautiful graveyard

  6. I can't get over how beautiful this looks. Inspiring stuff indeed.

  7. Wow, great work! Those iron and wooden crosses are very realistic looking. A whole graveyard of these will be pretty great. Are you going to fix the elements in place on a board, or will they be scatter terrain? If you went with fixed then you could have "site specific" details like fallen leaves under leafless trees, although it limits playablity...

    it seems like you could also do some of this with bending small wires, although it probably gets pretty fiddly at the end. (and soldering/gluing little wires is no fun)

    1. Thanks! The terrain pieces will not be fixed to a board. Although a themed, diorama-like board with everything fixed would look way more awesome, individualy based terrain enables me to change the layout for each game. Also, by selecting different pieces from my terrain pool I will be equally able to represent a small rustic graveyard that belongs to a village or a part of a larger graveyard in a town (or anything in between - according to my needs for a particular game scenario).

      Yes, the metal crosses could definitely be done with small wires. In fact, for the ones in the book Adóba used plasticard and thin soldering wire, with glue to hold them together.

  8. Sargent is a master, I thought they were model crosses photographed against a watercolour background at first.

    Adoba's books are quite nice. I would also recommend Per Olav Lund's book published by Canfora
    Not as tutorial oriented as Adoba's but incredibly inspirational.

    1. Indeed. That watercolour is really something.
      Thanks for the book recommendation!

  9. This is superb. Thanks as it inspired me to make my own cementry:)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad my work was an inspiration.

  10. Amazing gravemarkers, I'm surprised the first ones are based on real life, I've never seen grave markers like that before.

    And once again, thanks for the tutorial.