How to make model sacks and sandbags

This cheap, quick and simple technique for making sandbags and sacks works for any scale and war game and requires little to now model making skills.

You can of course buy ready-made model sandbags from war game and model specialists. Tamiya, Italeri, World War Gaming, Jarvis, Green Stuff World and Ratio all do them in various sizes.

But for a couple of recent projects I needed quite a few and so decided to have a go at making my own and save money for other things.

After a few failed attempts trying to sculpt them in Green Stuff and rolling Milliput, I tried modelling clay and with a bit of experimenting am very pleased with the results.

how to make model sandbags

This is how the clay looks after working through the first 4 four steps below.

5 steps to making model sandbags

  1. Squeeze off a small blob of your preferred modelling clay (I used this, a 1Kg pack will make hundreds but it can also be used for lots of other small model jobs) and shape into a thin rectangle. The size will depend on the scale you’re working in. For 1:76th scale that I frequently work in, this will be roughly the same at about 10mm by 6mm wide and 6mm deep, scaled down from a typical sandbag size of 76cm by 46cm. For 28mm war game miniatures, the dimensions will be 10mm by 5.4mm.
  2. Press the rounded end of a paint brush into the middle of each side, so the seem to corners poke out.
  3. With the same brush, poke the top very gently in different places to create am uneven surface.
  4. Roll the clay on its ends so the the underside of each edge appears recessed.
  5. Now leave to dry and then paint.
    I use Vallejo Dark Sand 70.847 for the basic colour and the apply Army Painter Dark Tone Wash – 1136 – once the Vellejo paint is dry. Finally, dry brush Vellejo Sand Yellow 70.196 to pull out surface highlights. For military applications, replace 70-196 847 with Khaki 70-998.

I’m very pleased with the results. They work well as sacks of foods around loading bays and flood defenses on model railways and sandbags for trench support walls, bunkers, barricades and tank armour in war games — Warhammer 40k or WW2 in particular. (If you want to shape them to wrap around tank plating, they can be pressed into the desired profile before drying, before step 5 in the above how to steps).

I make these in job lots, shaping 10 or 20 before moving on to painting them in a production line style approach and can turn out a large number in about half an hour.

If the clay cracks while drying, simply wet it with some water and slide your finger over the area to heal the crack.

A possible improvement could be using a a very fine mesh pattern to imprint on some of the surfaces to give a hessian-type texture but that’s for another day.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on and any improvements in the technique you come up with.

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