Spotlight On: Andy Slater

Spotlight On: Andy Slater

Andy Slater is the owner and operator of TerraGenesis, a table-top scenery and model terrain resource site and community. Based in the UK, TerraGenesis has been around since 1997 and is a great place for terrain enthusiasts to exchange tips and show off their projects.

Hot Wire Foam Factory: Do you think the Hot Wire Tools have helped you to become more creative in your terrain building?

Andy Slater: Obviously you’d like to hear that they have but I think it would be pushing it say that. What they have done is to make some jobs easier, and more fun.

HWFF: Can you tell us how it makes the jobs more fun?

AS: It’s hard to define, and to explain. It’s like the joy of writing with a good pen that glides across the paper rather than some piece of junk that holds you back. If you’ve never used a good pen you just won’t understand what I’m talking about and if you’ve never used a hot wire cutter you probably won’t get what I’m saying either… until you try it.

If you need to shape foam and you don’t have a hot wire cutter then you have to use saws, knifes, sandpaper, etc. It’s laborious and makes a heck of a lot of mess. With a hot wire cutter, there’s no mess but there’s also something intriguing about the way the way the wire ‘glides’ through the foam rather than you having to cut, cut, cut. Hot wire cutters are the kind of tool that you find yourself WANTING to use.

Since ‘discovering’ hot wire tools, I’ve made things from foam (and plan to make more) rather than in the media in which I might previously have worked; because I know that it’ll be easier and more fun to work in foam with the hot wire tool, than in wood, paper mache, plaster, etc. I’ve also found myself ‘doodling’ with the tools i.e. cutting shapes in foam for no particular purpose other than that it’s just fun to use the tools… like doodling with a good pen, and I know I’m not the only one who does that. In contrast, I doubt that anybody, ever, found themselves doodling with, for example: a saw.



HWFF: Which tool is your favorite, and why?

AS: The Hot Knife…although it’s not necessarily the most useful for terrain making. I like the fact that you can plunge the hot knife into the middle of a sheet and make a hole. You can’t do that with any other foam tool. For terrain making the Freehand Router or the Scroll Table are probably more useful. It all depends on whether you’re making natural things like rocks and hills, in which case you want the Freehand Router to carve blocks of foam, or man made structures, in which case the Scroll Table will help you cut the shapes you need out of sheet.


HWFF: What is your crown jewel project, and do you have photos?

AS: The most recent thing I’ve made is usually my favorite / most prized piece. If I didn’t feel that way I probably wouldn’t bother. A lot of people say things like “I wouldn’t have the patience,” and they’re not talking about waiting for glue and paint to dry; they’re talking about not having the patience to spend hours fiddling with something. You don’t need patience when you’re inspired (except when you have to wait for glue to dry). When you REALLY want to make something, you get absorbed by the project and the time flies while you’re doing it. Of course when you finish it, unless something went wrong in a big way, it’s bound to be your favorite / most prized piece…until you get inspired to make something else. Unfortunately, with the way this year has gone I haven’t made anything in ages and I’ve actually forgotten which was the last piece I made. Quite a few examples of past projects can be seen at

HWFF: How did you first get into gaming?

AS: Ha ha. I’m not into gaming. I’ve been making models and doing arty things for as long as anyone can remember and terrain making has a particular appeal to me… but I’m not into trains. Plus, I don’t have space for a railway layout. After railway modeling, wargames terrain is probably the best ‘excuse’ for making terrain models. The thing I like about wargames terrain is that in wargaming, if you have a table where everything is fixed, the players soon get to know where the strategic advantages and disadvantages are to be found. So what you really need is a table that you can change around. Hence the terrain really needs to be constructed as small, movable units. The fact that this makes them easy to store away when you’re not using them is an added bonus.

I wouldn’t mind having a go at wargaming, and I have had a few games, but I’ve not yet managed to find a conveniently located bunch of like-minded folks with whom to play. Folks I have found in the past have either not cared too much about terrain (my passion), paying close attention to the rules of the game (I like strict enforcement of rules when playing), or have lived miles away.

It might seem odd that a guy who runs an on-line community about wargames terrain isn’t actually a player, but you’d also be surprised how many of the TerraGenesis members DON’T actually play, or rarely play, wargames. We just like making model terrain.


HWFF: So, technically you are a modeler?

AS: As opposed to a gamer, yes.

I’d SEEN the stuff in Games Workshop, even way back in my teens (I’m 45 now) when they were selling other peoples games rather than just they’re own, but the whole gaming and figure painting bit didn’t really grab me. I much prefer making stuff from scratch. I didn’t really pay it a lot of attention until I was setting up my shop in Whitby and a friend’s son asked if I’d be selling Warhammer. I did a bit of research and found there was a market for it locally so I stocked it… and hence came to get a better understanding of what it’s all about. From there I got to looking at all the stuff from other companies too. I do have a small mountain of unpainted lead figures, but it’s the terrain making side of it that has the most appeal to me.