(Apologies for no pictures – will be added later!)
“Flock” is the name given to artificial grass and other materials meant to simulate outdoor ground cover. Usually made from coloured fine sawdust, it is used to cover areas of scenery, and to coat the base of models, to better blend with the terrain.
There are many retail flocks available, from Model Railway shops, general craft stores and, of course, Games Workshop, but it is also possible to make your own!
It may surprise you (unless you read the opening paragraph!) to hear that coloured sawdust can be made by taking plain sawdust and adding a colouring!
First, collect some sawdust. I suggest your local carpenter or woodworker – take a small carrier bag and ask if you can have some! They are usually pretty cooperative. you may even strike up a relationship, the better to get custom-made bases or small wooden off-cuts for decorating scenery!
Pour about half an inch depth of paint into an ice cream tub, and water down a little, until thin but not translucent. Add more paint if it gets too thin. Do this slowly, so as not to have too much paint!
Gently pour a generous amount of sawdust into the tub and stir. After a while, it should be evenly coated, and starting to clump together. Pour a little more sawdust in, and keep stirring. Repeat this, adding small amounts of sawdust, until it is becoming dry, harder to stir, and not clumping together. Err on the side of slightly too much sawdust.
You now need to leave to dry thoroughly. Spread out the material on a baking tray or similar, and place in a warm, draught-free area and leave for a day or more.
Once dry, pour into a clean ice cream tub, and stir, removing any lumps or large clumps that you find. The remaining flock may be sieved to separate coarse from fine.
Another way to make flock is to use water filters. After use (far too expensive to use new!), carefully open a filter block and remove the spheres inside (the ones I used had a mesh that could be cut out, and the spheres poured out). These may well still be damp, so they will need to be spread out on an absorbent surface and left to dry.
Once dry, they can be applied directly to your model, and then painted if necessary. The type I used had a mix of black and white spheres, which looked quite effective without painting. Others are pure black, which can work, or you can colour them with browns or greys, to suit your environment.
Sand can also be used, and has the advantage of containing different sized grains, giving a more natural look. Again, this can be used in its natural colour, or painted. One of the most effective pieces I have seen used sand to form the texture of snow, painted in white and light blue.
You will have to experiment to find which method suits you, and which textures you prefer, but whichever you choose, it will almost certainly b better than a flat painted wooden base!