Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dwarven Forge: Filling in the Bow-tie Connector Sockets Tutorial

Even if you've only considered throwing your lot in with Dwarven Forge, you may have encountered the older sets that have little bow-tie connectors to knit the dungeon together. Dwarven Forge is beautiful stuff on the whole, but the ties are just plain unsightly and unwieldy. I never even considered actually using the ties as I build-on-the-fly rather than set up the dungeon ahead of time and don't have time to fiddle with little ties, and those empty little empty sockets are a blemish that I notice in-game.

And filling in those tie sockets is one of those projects you mean to do but don't get around to… Except I'm pleased to say I did get around to it back in January and here are the results. The pic shows a partial set but I got a whole basic set done. You can also click through for full-size pics if you like.

Dwarven Forge filled in bow-tie sockets Dwarven Forge filled in bow-tie sockets

Sorry, no fancy step-by-step photos here but I do have the steps, paint formulas and a wip shot for you in case you're considering trying this. Be advised there are no easy shortcuts here and you're in for a few hours of work. Definitely have an audiobook at hand.

Step one, I filled in the sockets 2/3 full with pre-mixed concrete patch. Anything archival will do, and you could honestly just skip this step and go right to the DAS clay if you prefer.

The stuff I'm talking about:

Pre-mixed Concrete Patch

Step two, I filled in the remaining space with a mix of DAS airbake clay and white glue. I used the spatula end of a basic sculpting tool and my finger for this. When this was dry I carved the lines between the stone slabs back in with a box cutter and did some detailing with a sculpting needle. You can see I used terracotta DAS but white would probably leave your fingers less colorful.

Here's what DAS looks like in the package

DAS Airbake Clay

And here's the sculpting done and the painting yet to come:

Dwarven Forge filled in bow-tie sockets

The last step is painting over the patched bits. I use cheap craft paint, brands Delta Ceramcoat, FolkArt and Americana. Just a quick aside, my local Michael's no longer stocks Ceramcoat and I'm getting a little nervous as certain of my colors run low. Let me know if you have a source for these in California. Maybe Jo-Ann fabric and craft? Anyway, here's the process I used:

  1. Base coat: 50/50 mix of Ceramcoat Charcoal and Americana Charcoal. The Americana is very brown and the Ceramcoat very blue-grey. Mixing the two is a good match for the Dwarven Forge floor base color.
  2. Then do several progressively lighter passes, adding the following to base coat mix. I do the lighter passes a little splotchy but not quite a dry-brush technique.
  3. Add FolkArt Raw Sienna and Ceramcoat Hippo Gray. The dark brown-gray + Raw Sienna = greenish and the Hippo Gray can pull it back toward Neutral as needed.
  4. Then add Americana Light Avacodo. This color is the closest match I've found in a single paint to the green tone in the Dwarven Forge.
  5. Add Ceramcoat Mudstone or a light neutral of your choice. Ceramcoat Territorial Beige may be of use somewhere around here too. I tend to have a number of paints on my pallette and feel as I go.
  6. Wash of base color. That's a thin wash made with opaque paint and lots of water. This is important as it brings the colors together.


  1. That's some really amazing stuff. If money weren't an obstacle, I would love to make some Dwarven Forge dungeons of my own.

  2. Nice work on the color matching. Try Hobby Lobby for your paint resupply. Just bring the old bottles so you can match the colors. They had a wide selection of Americana, not sure about Ceramacote

  3. This is a fantastic blog! I've been painting modern Reaper figures for about a year, but I recently "inherited" 9 boxes of unpainted Grenadier AD&D and Lords series figures and your blog helps a lot with how to approach these vintage figures, plus history, thoughts and other research. Excellent stuff. Will read all your entries and enjoy them. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, glad you like it and good luck with your own projects!

  4. Also, if Dwarven Forge really knew what they were doing, they would put the connectors below the floor surface so that when snapped together you never saw the joint. Personally, I don't use these because I don't actually game anymore, but I do own several Hirst Arts molds and make my own blocks to use as diorama parts, etc. People often use the Hirst molds to make their own custom modular dungeon pieces, and I think if I was to get back into gaming I'd go that route so I could make them EXACTLY the way I wanted them.

    1. That's a great idea about the underside connectors. Dwarven Forge quickly learned the errors of their ways, and it's only sets from their first few years that have the bowties. What they found is the pieces are so solid and heavy there is little danger of them scooting around during play, especially if you use a felt mat underneath as I do. As for Hirst Arts, yes, you get flexibility but you have a ton of liabilities as well and having done some extensive analysis I found Dwarven Forge is a bargain by comparison. With Hirst Arts you have to design your pieces, make a substantial investment in molds and materials, invest an enormous amount of time (enormous, as in plan on a thousand hours or more of grueling manual labor).... and in most cases the results I've seen are inferior. Plaster, even dental plaster, is delicate and impermanent. You've got to paint it yourself and most people lack the skill. And then there's the texture of the Hirst Arts as well. The fieldstone and egyptian walls look pretty good, but the Gothic texture just isn't up to my standard of quality. So yeah, you can have them just how you want them, but be prepared to pay... and pay some more. ;)

  5. As someone with a large set of DF, that is 10 years or more in age. I love the stuff, but the bow-tie connectors were always a pain. I will have to get around to filling in some of the pieces eventually, but its not a major priority. I tend to find I can ignore their presence. But will freely admit they do look better having been filled in.

    I think it was one of those ideas at the time that sounded great, but in practicality, it did not work. Thanks for sharing the info on how you went about it. There is another guide over on the DF forum. But its from a while ago and needs to be searched for.

    1. Hi Goose, thanks for your thoughts. Yeah, it's funny my info is kind of redundant considering the original tut Stephan made years back. I didn't realize until I went back we used the same DAS clay, even the same color. Oh well, as you say, maybe it's helpful to keep the project on people's radar, though it's not hard to find the original with a search.