Watchtower Tutorial – Part I – Build

Overview

This is the first piece of scenery I’ve built since getting back into the Warhammer hobby, and the main reason is because it’s the most versatile. Despite being a Wood Elf player, I wanted to build a watchtower so that I can use it in the eponymous scenario from the Warhammer Rulebook. In addition, towers look great on the battlefield and, if you build them right, they can be reused in all sorts of other scenery in a modular fashion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this tutorial, I’ll be walking you through how to build a watchtower out of chipboard and card stock. One of the things I noticed is that Games Workshop scenery is fantastic, but in order to have 10 pieces of it, you’ll be handing over between $300 and $500 of your hard earned cash and you’ll still have to assemble and paint the scenery. I hope to be able to show you how to build high quality scenery without breaking the bank.

I’d like to thank my kids who helped me make the tower and who either posed for some of the photos or took photos of me (or rather, my hands) in others. They are aged 9 and 7 and this level of project is definitely fun for them too, if they enjoy any kind of craft.

Watchtower - Complete

I’ve divided the tutorial up into a several sections, and Part I focuses only on building the basic structure. By the end of Part I, you’ll have two simple card towers, ready for decorating (Part II), painting (Part III) and basing (Part IV).

This photo should give you some idea of the size of each Watchtower – without a base it is about 18cm (7in) high. The two figures you see there are Wood Elf Glade Guard which, like the tower, are ready for painting and basing. For those of you who don’t play Warhammer, those miniatures are on 20mm bases and are about 28mm (1.1in) tall. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.

This tutorial assumes you’ve never built any of your own scenery before, and so it may be a little slow-paced for some. Feel free to just skip through the pictures in that case 🙂

What you will need

  • Chipboard in a 30cm (12in) square
  • PVA glue
  • Old / cheap brushes
  • Craft knife
  • Scotch tape / Cellotape
  • Pencil and ruler

In case you have none of these things, you can get all of them in your local Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michaels. These stores are very similar, very feminine (so don’t be intimidated) and they always have coupons that you can download from their website to give you a minimum of 25% of your purchase (my wife got a coupon in her e-mail today for 60% off any one item).

It’s generally not a good idea to buy these things from a hobby store or Amazon, because the hobby store needs to mark them up and Amazon doesn’t actually sell stuff like this – a lot of it comes from their third-party sellers (check out the “sold by” label) and as a result the prices and quality can vary widely.

I bought a chipboard and card set (10 sheets of chipboard, 10 each of black and white card) for $10 at Jo-Ann (Colorbok Board Basics) which is mostly used for scrapbooking. The chipboard is great quality for scenery though. I also bought a big bottle of Elmer’s Glue-All at the same time, and my craft knives are from this X-Acto set (again – check the price at your local craft store as the 25% off coupons can make the purchase cheaper than from Amazon).

Stage 1 – Scoring the Tower

Watchtower - Build Stage 1aTake a sheet of 12″ x 12″ chip-board, and mark vertical lines at 3″ intervals with a ruler and pencil (I find it helpful to have guidelines before I start using the knife).

Then score along those lines using the blunt side of the craft knife along a ruler to do this, and then score again gently with the sharp side.

Watchtower - Build Stage 1bYou are aiming to score just deeply enough to make it easy to fold the board as shown here. Make sure you score (and cut) on top of a cutting mat or other protective surface. Do not (as I have done) cut up your table surface and then have an angry wife or mom throw things at your head.

After each score, pick up the card and gently fold it away from the direction of the score (in this image, I’ve scored along the top of the card). Bend it no more than 90°.

Watchtower - Build Stage 1cOnce you’re done with all three scores, you should have a piece of board that looks something like this. Obviously this is too large for a Watchtower, so cut it crosswise in two equal pieces (i.e. cut horizontally across at the 6″ point). This will give you enough to build two towers. Alternatively, you can keep it tall and use it as part of a larger castle.

Stage 2 – The Two Towers

OK, I couldn’t resist the Tolkien reference. This stage is pretty easy, but I’ve laid it out in pictures to show some simple techniques to make life even easier for yourself.

Watchtower - Build Stage 2a

Layout the first 6″x12″ piece of board so that it curves up, with the 6″ end nearest to you and measure out a piece of tape just slightly smaller than 6″.

As you can see, my daughter has just pulled tape from the dispenser until it matches the length she needs.

You’re going to join the 6″ ends to each other, so stick the tape along that 6″ edge so that 50% of the tape is on the card and 50% sticks out.

Watchtower - Build Stage 2b

Then lift up the board and wrap it around and stick the two ends together. Put your hand (or a paintbrush, or your kids hand) inside the tower to press on the tape firmly so that it sticks well.

Get another piece of tape 6″ long and tape it along the join on the outside. This will create a join that’s strong enough to take the roof of the watchtower as well as stand up to regular game play, and be easy to paint.

Watchtower - Build Stage 2cWhen you are done, repeat with the other piece of card and you’ll have two simple towers of chipboard.

In the next stage, we’ll add a roof that your miniatures will be able to stand on in order to take pot-shots at passers-by.

Stage 3 – The Roof

Take another piece of chipboard and cut it in half, and half again.

Watchtower - Build Stage 3a

You should end up with two squares that are 6″ x 6″. Inside one square, mark a border with your pencil that is 1″ in from each edge, and use your craft knife to cut out the squares that are formed in each corner.

Make sure and keep these squares in a safe place as we’ll use some of them later for adding detail to the tower. In the next part of the tutorial, we’ll use two of those squares to add a wooden trapdoor in the roof section. If you click through the image above, you’ll see the lines that I drew to mark out the squares.

Watchtower - Build Stage 3b

Score along those lines in the same way you did for the tower. Flip the board over and fold up along your score lines to 90° and then tape each corner with Scotch tape both inside and out, just as you did for the towers you created. You should then have something that looks like a small box without a lid.

Repeat this process with your other 6″ x 6″ square to make a roof for your second tower. From this point on in the tutorial, I’ll give instructions just for one tower – assume you should just repeat the process for your second model.

Stage 4 – Assembly

Watchtower - Build Stage 4aWatchtower - Build Stage 4bThe final step is to glue these two pieces together to make a the watchtower shape. Flip your roof upside down and place your tower on top of it and then mark around it with a pencil. You don’t really need to measure here, just eyeball roughly where the center is (and remember that in mediaeval times, measurements weren’t exact).

Watchtower - Build Stage 4cSpread glue liberally with an old brush, making sure you cover both sides of the lines you’ve marked out. (I actually spread glue right to edge of the roof, because I take this opportunity to add sand – see Part II of the tutorial for more info on this). Place your tower upside down on top of your outline and let it dry.

Complete

Watchtower - CompleteAnd that’s it! You’ve built a working Watchtower (or two!) that is as yet undecorated, unpainted and unbased, but in a pinch could be used in a battle if you really need some scenery. Part II of the tutorial deals with how to decorate your Watchtower and get it ready for painting.

Please leave any questions or feedback in the comments. It would be cool to see photos of any you build!

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