I've been putting together some terrain for my Death in the Dark Continent project. A quick internet search for Matabele/Zulu type huts came up with quite a few resin cast ones. Very nice but a bit pricey (ranging from £6 to £15 each). Having already shelled out quite a bit on a Zanzibar slaver army, explorers and Matabele tribesmen, I wanted to keep my costs down. Next logical step was to make my own. So here's how.......
I bought several polystyrene balls, some plaster of Paris, foamcard, and air drying clay from the local craft shop. Then some hessian sheet and a small hand towel from a bargain shop. All this set me back about £10 and would provide enough for six huts (two large and four medium - a complete village). I started by cutting the balls in half.
Next I cut out some foamcard bases, leaving an extended bit at the front for the entranceway. I PVA glued the dome sections onto the bases and left them to dry for a while.
I cut the hand towel into small rough squares, making sure I snipped off the stitched edges and any embroidered logos.
Then I took the air drying clay and created the entranceways. I started by rolling them into small sausage shapes then flattening them out, then bending them into a small porch.
Again, I put these aside to dry for a while. I created these in the kitchen on a hot day, so everything was drying pretty quickly.
I grabbed a small plastic tray and mixed the plaster of Paris, making sure to fill the tray with water first then add the plaster (this and continued stirring stops it from going too lumpy). Too much water and it'll take ages to dry. Too little and it'll set in seconds!! I made it slightly thick but pourable. Even then I had to move fast due to the warm environment.
I soaked the small bits of towel in the plaster mix, then draped them over the polystyrene domes. Moving and shaping them as I did so. These began to dry within about 15-20 minutes, and were solid within two hours.
I did an undercoat of Tamiya Desert yellow (beware of aerosol on polystyrene!! Any exposed sections will melt due to the adhesive - you can use just artshop acrylics straight from the tube and use a large brush to apply). I next took some watered down dark brown and washed the huts - this brought out the towelling texture quite nicely!
I painted the curved wooden entrance, then added flock to the base.tooke may be happy to leave the huts like this, but I wanted a little bit more detail.
I cut up sections of the hessian sheet and stretched them out a bit to increase coverage and make them seem a bit more ragged. I then soaked them in watered down PVA, draping them over the roof of each hut. I used an old brush to add a bit more PVA to fix them in place properly. I then left everything to dry.