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Flames of War and 15 mm WWII Wargaming

Scratch Built Trench – Angle Section

Straight trenches are fine for the tabletop, but who doesn’t want a bend once in a while?  In fact, German strongpoints as described in Grey Wolf require them.  They’re small and fiddly but not really all that hard to build.

Angle Section of the Scratch Built Trench

Angle Trench

Angle Trench

When I originally conceived this project, I had in mind about a half dozen or more different shapes of trench sections that I wanted to build.  After a bit of reflection, and trying to lay the things out in my drawing software, I came up with a much simpler plan.  Instead of trying to make each piece the appropriate eight inches in length, I’ll make simple pieces for the turns and deal with the fallout.  (If anybody complains about me having an extra inch or two of trench I’ll just block off one end of the line and call it even).

While it is possible to create this piece with the layout and trace method don’t bother.  The diagram at the right has all the dimensions you need.  I did forget to put the angle measurements on there.  The point is a 45-degree angle, and the corners between the 1.25″ lengths and either of the long sides is 90-degrees.  Sorry, I’ll try to go back and fix that later.

Step 1:  The Base

This base is a bit tougher than the straight section.

With the Right Tools:

The first thing I started doing as soon as I was out of school was buying my own tools.  The net result is that I can set the miter gauge on my table saw to 45 degrees and cut these parts out all day long.  Assuming I did not have a table saw, this is how I would cut these bases.

Using a protractor, measure a 45 degree angle from one of the corners of your 3-inch base stock, and draw a 3-inch long line.  Now draw a line perpendicular to this line towards the closer of the two edges.  If you have measured correctly, this line should be 1.25-inches long, and it should intersect the edge of the base stock 1.25-inches from the other corner of your base stock.  Accurate measurements are always better, but this isn’t a moon rocket we are building here, so don’t sweat it if you are a bit off.

Without the Right Tools:

So long as you have a straight edge and a pencil you can measure this part out.  On your 3-inch wide base stock, measure 3-inches down the side and draw a line creating a box 3-inches on a side (three sides are the edge of the stock and the fourth is the line).  Now draw a line connecting two of the corners.  You now have the basic wedge shape.

Measure 3-inches from one of the corners of the stock and mark the spot on the line you just drew.  Then measure 1.25-inches from the second corner and mark the spot along the edge of the stock.  Connect the two spots and you now have the outline of the shape.

A Word of Warning About Cutting the Stock

Always remember that your cutting tool has width.  As an example, you could have 1/8-inch wide teeth on a table saw blade.  When cutting along a line, it is important to cut along the outside of the line such that the cut piece is of the proper dimensions.  Forget this and your pieces will not fit together properly.

In the second method listed above, although you have drawn a 3-inch box and bisected it, you may not have the proper sized piece left over once you make your cut.  An Xacto knife through plasticard may be okay if you cut straight down the line, but a wood or card product cut with a saw will have lost some material.  You need to use your judgement to determine if this is a problem for you.

Step 2:  The Berms

Angle Trench Berms

Note how I butchered the berms at the point and how they are completely different sizes. It makes no difference on this piece.

The berms are a pain on this piece.  you could miter them so that they fit together snugly, but don’t.  It’s not worth the effort and I know, because I tried it.

Cut two pieces of your triangular berm stock 15/16-inch long.  It is better to err on the side of undercutting than over cutting, so anything more than 7/8-inch will work just fine.  These pieces are for the outside bend of the angle.

Angle Trench Puttied Berms

Don’t worry about making a mess of this step. You can always fix it later.

The inside bend berms are much harder to cut because they are quite small.  1/8-inch is about the right width, but a large amount of variation is permissible.  If you cut these too wide, you can always lop off a small bit where they intersect and just force them to work as nobody will notice once you cover them with putty.

Unlike the straight trench technique, go ahead and glue the berms to the base now.  Make sure that you will have enough room for the retaining wall posts and a standard infantry base before you glue the berms down.  If your bases don’t fit, you’ll be annoyed every time you use the piece!

I recently began using Woodland Scenics Foam Putty wherever I needed spackle, putty, or any other such material, and this is a perfect place for it.  Fill the gaps between the berms with your choice of filler.  You may need to make multiple passes to get it filled well, but when you’re done your angle trench should look like the piece to the right.  Don’t sweat it if you’ve made a bit of a mess of it at this point as you have multiple opportunities to make it look better.

Step 3:  The Retaining Walls

Angle Trench Wall

Angle trench’s retaining wall (with a basecoat of paint)

I’ve posted two different ways to build the retaining walls for the straight trench, but the original scratch built trenches method is better for the angle trench.  If you haven’t read my post on the beauty of stop-blocks for making repetitive cuts, do so now.  You will save yourself tons of time if you use the technique described.  There is no short cut for this piece, but it doesn’t take very long in any case.

My retaining wall standard consists of 10 5/8-inch tall posts of 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch balsa stock, and retaining wall planks of 3/4-inch long, 3/16-inch by 1/16-inch planks.  To do an angle trench requires 5 posts and 8 planks, plus 4 custom cut planks.  Before you cut the planks to length, knock the corner off of the stock using the edge of a hobby knife.  This will insure that there is a bit of a gap between the two boards which will make it look better when painted up.  Using the aforementioned stop-block technique, I cut these pieces in bulk ahead of time and just dip into the stock when needed.

To build this wall I started with the outside berm’s wall and glued one vertical post at each end and one in the middle.  Then I just glued the planks in between the posts and done.  Fast as can be.  For the berm wall at the inside of the corner, I glued the two posts at the ends of the berms and then cut the planks to fit between them.

Since painting and ballasting these trench sections is done with the same technique regardless of the piece’s shape, all of the finishing instructions are in a single post, linked below.

Continue to Painting and Ballasting the Trench

The Finished Product

Okay I know.  It’s kinda annoying to have to link out to get the ballasting and painting method and then pop back here to see the finished result.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

In any case, when you are done your angle trench should  look something like the photo to the left.

Using the Angle Trench

The angle trench is simply to enable you to put a bend into your trench system.  Two of them, along with three straight sections, will enable you to build a strongpoint, as pictured below.

Note, of course, that you have slightly more trench than is technically permitted under the rules, and your opponent is justified if he points this out.  If he persists in forbidding the extra length, you can solve this two ways: block off the end of one trench and state that it is not usable as trench or have a shorter straight section in your stock to make up the difference.  I would personally remove one inch of trench for each angle, to stay strictly below the “proper” amount.

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