Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tutorial: Cheval de frise

If you happened to read my previous post, Tutorial: Floors and Rails, you may remember that I had several 2" toothpick ends (the sharp bits) left over from that project.  Even though I didn't have anything specific in mind when that occurred, I knew I could use them to create some additional tabletop terrain. 

I had the image of a cheval de frise (chevaux de frise is the plural form) in my mind, but I didn't know what they were called.  I called my friend Kenny, who almost immediately sent me a picture of what I was looking for.  A little web-fu and I had the name.

For those who are interested in the trivia tidbits and historical parts of wargaming, the cheval de frise was originally conceived to counter cavalry charges.  It was soon discovered that humans didn't like them, either.  They were used up to and during WWII, when barbed wire replaced them as an effective infantry barrier.  During the ACW, the South used chevaux de frise quite extensively, especially when compared to the Union.  For us, these can be used for fantasy, medieval, sci-fi (with barbed wire on top) and modern conflicts.  A truly multi-genre piece of terrain!

What you'll need:  Toothpick ends, a round or square craft stick (I used a square 1/4" x 36" stick from either Hobby Lobby or Michaels), white glue (I like Aleene's Tacky Glue), a drill (optional), a work area you can drill on (optional), string/twine (optional) and a sharp razor blade.

Step 1:  Cut the ends off your toothpicks.  Here is the brand I used.  You don't have to be that fancy, but you do need round toothpicks.

The toothpick in this picture still has its head on it, but a quick snick from a razor blade cures that!

Here's where you can choose one of two ways of creating a cheval de frise.  I'll mark them "a" and "b".  The "a" options will feature drilling.  The "b" options will not. 

Step 2a:  Starting 1/4" in from the edge, mark a drill hole in the center of the wood every 1/2".  Flip one side and repeat the process, but alternate the marks so that you have a mark every 1/4".  A 4" piece will have 15 "shafts" when it's all finished.  Obviously, a round dowel rod will be very hard to drill in this manner unless you have a clamp of some sort when drilling.

Step 2b:  Mark the wood as in 2a.  Instead of dots, make straight lines to use as guides when gluing on the 'shafts'.

Step 3a:  Drill straight through the wood at your dots.  Be sure the drill bit matches the diameter of the toothpick!  Too large a hole and the toothpick will fall through.  Too small and the toothpick won't make it through the hole.  Slot the toothpicks through the holes on both sides, making sure they're even and at the length you want.  Put a dab of glue on the bottom side of the shaft/crosspiece junctions (i.e., the 'dull', not pointy side), as it won't be seen on the table.  Let dry.

Step 3b:  Smear glue along the marks on one side of the wood.  Set your toothpicks in place, making sure they're even and at the length you want.  Let that side dry, then repeat the process on the second side.  You may have to hang the piece off the table to accommodate this part, as your completed row will get in the way.  Again, let it dry.  If you want to look really authentic, you can simulate the 'shafts' being tied to the crosspiece by looping and gluing twine/string around the junction of each shaft.

Step 4:  Depending on how you want your pieces to look, you can paint, stain, weather, etc the wood to suit your needs.  My pictures feature 'raw' wood versions, as I haven't decided how I want them to look.  Blacken the ends to make them appear like they were fire-hardened?  Paint them in a gray-brown to show they've been around a while?  Leave them in the 'nude' to indicate they are new works?  Oh, the possibilities!

Voila!  Chevaux de frise!  Be careful!  These suckers are SHARP!!!

As always, I hope this tutorial helps you create an awesome table! 

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