Industrial Smoke Stacks

This Hobby Blog goes over how to make Smoke Stacks for an industrial themed "forest." Forest terrain is abstract and usually represented by an oblong grassy base and a couple modular trees, but it can represent any terrain that is difficult to travel in and has limited visibility. With this in mind, I came up with the industrial stacks, suggestive of an underground factory or mines. The stacks billow smoke to provide concealment, and loose wiring and scraps can be seen to impede movement.

Materials List

  • Formula P3 Modeling Putty
  • Formula P3 Clippers
  • Formula P3 Hobby Blade
  • Formula P3 Sculpting Set
  • Formula P3 Super Glue
  • Formula P3 File Set
  • Jigsaw
  • Rotary Hand Sewing Punch
  • Various gauges of plastic tubing
  • A collection of odd shaped bottles
  • Plasticard strips and sheets
  • Hardboard
  • Wire or plastic mesh
  • Base guitar strings or springs
  • Floral wire/armature wire
  • Gears and cogs

  • Rather than show you how to build the exact same smokestacks I built, I will instead focus on the general tools and techniques used to build industrial pieces.

    The Base

    To emphasize playability, models need to be able to move over every surface of the forest. So the base will need to be flat with minimal detailing. Begin by using a jigsaw to cut hardboard into rectangles. Gently use sandpaper to remove the teeth from the cut, but do not bevel the edges.

    Create a rim of plasticard strips. This needs to be at least as thick as the mesh you have chosen, so you may need to build up several layers of plasticard. Add rivets to these strips using the rotary hand sewing punch.

    Cut your mesh to fit and glue it down.

    Smoke Stacks

    A smoke stack can be as simple as an unadorned plastic tube, but it can also exhibit interesting shapes and intricate detailing. I will show you general techniques to producing something a bit more appealing than your average industrial smoke stack.

    A strong foundation for a smoke stack is an oddly shaped bottle. Desirable features include: tapering, ridges, workable plastic, and shapes that would be difficult to produce out of plastic tubing or putty. Undesirable features include: wavy organic lines, embossed logos/lettering, cap threads, and anything that makes it look like a bottle. For this piece nothing should be thicker than a large base (50 mm) at any point. File off any mold lines using the Formula P3 File Set.

    Using a fresh blade in your hobby knife, cut the section you want. This may be the whole bottle.

    Close off one end with a cap. A base or a large gear works well for this. If you use a base, use the rotary hand sewing tool to punch rivets along the rim.

    Use strips of plasticard to build a structure of metal supports. This completes the basic structure for any smoke stack.


    After constructing the main stack body, it's just a matter of adding details. This step can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Of course, the more effort you put into these details, the more impressive the overall result will be.


    The Privateer Press parts range offers many useful accessories for constructing industrial terrain. Here is a small list of parts I find particularly useful:

    Mule smokestack
    Ghordson Basher boiler
    Deathjack chimney 1
    Extreme Destroyer bombard muzzle
    Darius steam cannon
    Thunderhead tubes
    Storm Strider rails

    Spend some time searching though the catalog and keep notes of what catches your eye. In general, look for cannons, smokestacks, and various odd widgets. My personal favorite is the Ghordson Basher boiler.

    Secondary Stack

    One option is to add a secondary stack. To do this, choose a thin piece of plastic tubing and cut it in half at an angle. Then glue the tube back together with the angle in it and attach it to the main stack.

    Splayed Stack

    To create frayed edges, first cut large triangular nicks into the end of the tube using Formula P3 Clippers. Then, using a heat gun, soften the plastic in a well-ventilated area and gently fold the fringes outward. You can also add smaller nicks and scratches using a hobby blade.

    Wires and Cables

    Bass guitar strings or small springs make for an excellent cabling effect. Drill holes where the cable joins the stack to create stability. Adding a small plate of riveted plasticard helps integrate the cable into the body.


    To create a thick rim, glue a smaller tube inside of a larger tube. Then fill the gap with modeling putty. This also works if you attach a larger tube around a smaller tube.


    Mesh creates a visually tactile surface.


    An easy way to do billowing smoke effects is to use a can of expanding insulation foam. First attach a wire armature to the interior of the stack. This is the path the smoke will follow, so curve the wire slightly. Then spray a small dab of foam onto a disposable palette (such as a paper plate), and use a thin rod to gently apply the foam in clumps along the wire. When the foam starts to get stringy, that's when you should spray a fresh dab. You'll want large concentrations of foam at the base and at the tip, connected by fading trails. After the initial foam has dried, go back and apply another layer to solidify your shapes. It is important to cover the entire armature.


    Metal and Rust

    The metal areas with less rust were overbrushed with Pig Iron and then heavily drybrushed with Cold Steel.

    The rust is done after the metal and is applied for contrast and weathering. Create a 3:2:1 mixture of Bloodstone, Brown Ink, and Umbral Umber and apply it almost as a solid coat to all the rusty areas. If some metal shows through, that's okay. Now use this same mixture to paint lines of dripping rust. Mix Khador Red Highlight into the previous mixture until the orange overpowers the brown and then add lots of water. Apply the mixture sparingly around rivets and recesses. Finally, lightly drybrush the area with Cold Steel just enough to bring up the rivets and edges.


    Basecoat the glow with Ember Orange. Then add increasing amounts of Morrow White to blend towards the center. The very center should be almost white. Paint the grate with Thamar Black and paint the rim to be rusty.


    This smoke is based Thamar Black and then successively highlighted with Bastion Grey, Menoth White Base, and Menoth White Highlight, getting lighter towards the top. Paint the underside with Heartfire to represent the glowing furnaces from beneath.

    Conclusion and Contest
    For this contest, we want you to use the techniques shown in this blog to create your own industrial-themed forest terrain. It doesn't have to be smoke stacks; let your imagination run wild. Pieces will be judged on neatness, creativity, playability, how well they fit the blog, and most importantly, how well they fit the Iron Kingdoms.

    Send in pictures of your finished terrain, and the best piece will win the nine smoke stack pieces with bases shown in this blog. Entries are due by the end of the day January 1st. The winner will be announced the week following the entry deadline. Send your photos along with your name and address to:

    Entries don't have to be exact recreations of the terrain in the blog, but should be along the same lines. The idea is to inspire you to make your own Iron Kingdoms terrain that will suit your gaming board aesthetics and faction themes. Readers can enter as individuals or part of a group.