Fantasy Carts

For the town of Stadtheim I found I needed a lot of props to make it feel more alive, and less like a ghost town. Fantasy carts ready to be laden with goods are an easy way to add a little life, and only take a few minutes to create.

A quick Google Images search for ‘medieval cart’ rendered me a few ideas:

Here’s an example of one I created previously:

To make your own you need only a few tools and materials:

  • Balsa wood (I used 3 thicknesses, 1mm, 2mm and 4mm)
  • 2 pins
  • Styrene strip (optional)
  • Styrene discs (optional)
  • Knife (sharp, but expect balsa to blunt it quickly)
  • PVA Glue (wood glue/white glue/Elmer’s)
  • Superglue
  • Steel rule
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Something round (I used a 10pence piece)
  • Pencil

First of all I sliced off a piece of the 4mm balsa to make a strip, 2mm by 4mm. This was then cut into three lengths, 2 at 65mm and 1 at 36mm. Please note all dimensions are flexible, alter them as you wish to adjust the proportions of your cart. I just wanted to give some figures for those who would like to follow along.

Next take the 2mm balsa and cut a piece 28mm by 30mm. Now using the pencil score in the planks. Be careful not to go right through the wood. I had the planks running the same direction at the 30mm length.

Now the fun part. Take your knife, and whittle one end of the 65mm pieces to a thin cylinder (I won’t tell you to be careful because I always find that part of tutorials incredibly patronising. If you chop your finger off it’s your own damned fault!).  I started my handles about half way along the beam.

Now assemble the main frame. Turn the flat piece upside down and glue the beams in position along the edges, running the same direction as the planks. Then in the middle of the flat piece glue the small beam.

Now set this assembly aside to dry.

Move onto the wheels. Take the 2mm balsa and place your circle marker. Then cut around this. I did it in a rough shape to start with then sanded the piece smooth. The reason I love balsa, it’s so easy to work! Don’t worry about them being perfectly round, this is a peasant cart after all.

Once you have both pieces cut then again score planks on using the pencil.

Now take the 1mm balsa and cut 6mm wide strips. Glue them equidistant from the edges of your wheels on the planked face. Then turn them upside down and trim the excess. Obviously this is easier if you let them dry first!

Take the two pins and poke them through the centre of each wheel.

Now get your cart assembly, put glue on the end of the lateral beam and carefully push the pin into the centre. This will form an axle of sorts, but mainly it will hold it snugly in place whilst the glue dries. To get mine in I used the bottom end of my knife, which was flat, as a small hammer.

I hit a minor stumbling block as the pins end to end are longer than the beam. This means they have to overlap, and if you’re unlucky like me they’ll bounce off each other and pierce the beam.

No problem, just grab a small piece of the 1mm balsa we used earlier and glue on a cover. Mishap covered up.

Once both wheels are on flip the cart over and it’s looking something like.

As I wanted this to be a hand cart I wanted to have it freestanding, so I added a couple of legs. Just two small lengths of 2mm balsa glued on the inside of the beams. It took a couple of attempts to get the length right, but the cart now stands up almost level.

You could stop here, but I wanted to tidy a few things up on mine. First I grabbed some strip styrene from the nice people at Evergreen, making modeller’s lives simpler for many years! I applied superglue to one side then pulled the strip all the way around the circumference of the wheel.

When the ends met I simply chopped off the excess with my knife. Then, being a 40K modeller as well, I went to my rivet reserve. These are small pieces of plasticard chopped into discs with a leather punch. There are other ways to make them, but that’s always worked for me. I have also made use of plastic confetti (on the Stadtheim Brewery for instance). Two different sizes where glued over the pinheads to create a hub.

And the build is complete! I’ll paint the styrene as metal, and the wood I’ll probably just colour using wood stain like I have the rest of the Stadtheim accessories.

How miniatures scale up with the fantasy carts
Fantasy carts complete

In total this build took about 30minutes, though I’d suggest leaving drying time in the middle for the sake of your sanity.

Good luck making your own fantasy carts!