Aztec Temple Columns and My New Love for Chinchilla Dust

When one considers the Aztecs and their empire, what does the historical record say about which visual images struck the Conquistadores in 1519 with awe? Colorfully costumed and tremendously fierce warriors? Eagle Warriors? Jaguar Warriors? Montezuma II and his palace? Untold amounts of gold and silver? Perhaps their quite bloody reputation for human sacrifice, slavery, and occasional cannibalism? The magnificence of the city of Tenochtitlan and its amazing architecture? Probably all that and more, at least in what I have read.

As I shared in my last post – I am working on terrain/buildings for the period as part of “Mark’s Aztec Building Challenge Contest”. These buildings are either resin or MDF. I originally thought that I would start with the resin buildings and then move onto the MDF ones. To do that, I wanted a good primer on the resin – and the manufacturer (Acheson Creations) recommended a Rustoleum primer. This meant spray painting with the rattlecan outside safely – or doing it unsafely inside the house and provoking my lovely bride to commit several felonies upon my person due to the fumes. Well, I can’t visit her in jail during a pandemic – or from the grave – so I decided on the outside option.

However, despite one beautiful Massachusetts day in March where we saw the 70’s (that’s the low 20’s for you metric folks), it has been in the 40’s (4-9 for you metric folks) and rainy. Neither are good for outside. So, flip the order, and onto the MDF.

My experience with MDF is very limited – all I have done before is some MDF barriers that I did back in 2017. And they were not my best work IMO. All of my MDF in the challenge is supposed to be made of stone. MDF does not look like stone of course. It’s manufactured from wood dust and glue. So, what to do? First, I watched a smattering of YouTube videos on MDF kits. The best one said to wipe down MDF with a damp microfiber to clean prior to painting which was very important for paint to adhere!

I also reached out to a couple of friends – Buck Surdu (of Buck’s Blog) and The Imperfect Modeler (TIM) to seek their unbridled wisdom. Both were great – and TIM opened my eyes to a new (to me) and amazing hobby tool that I wanted to share with you all as I am in love with it.

Chinchilla dust.

Yes, I had never heard of it before either. I have a 26 year old cockatiel, no gerbils or similar. You find it in the pet store – apparently gerbils and chinchillas and similar beasties bathe in dust, not water. This stuff is very, very finely ground pumice. A bag cost me $22 , and I think its a lifetime supply! Based on TIM’s recommendations and advice, I planned to try to use it to create a stone-like look. I hoped to accomplish this by using it over a watery PVA application.

As I had two kits of the ones called “4 Temple Columns“, I thought I’d start there as it would enable me to experiment and learn for the rest of the MDF. I broke the kits into two attempts – with the first being painting and dusting the MDF on its sheet and then assembling the kit. The second attempt would be to assemble the kit first, and then dust up and paint.

The two unopened MDF kits. I decided that I would not need the columns stacked up as the single columns were sufficiently tall enough for my needs.
After wiping the kit off with a wet microfiber cloth, I had this.

As stated, my first kit attempt was to paint and flock in situ as it were. I applied a watery PVA coat to the MDF, and then lightly spooned on or pinch-applied the chinchilla dust. I tried removing excess with a reusable Testors plastic cheap brush. I did this in a plastic tub so as to minimize the mess (and avoid unnecessarily ticking off the wife with the unannounced arrival of a new beach in the cellar). This was a bit time-consuming and not very efficient I found.

Here you see the MDF sheet with the chinchilla dust bag in the back. The watery PVA glue was applied with a cheap brush, and the chinchilla dust was applied with a tiny sculpting spoon or my pinched fingers. I tapped off or brushed off any excess.

After the glue had dried, I used my cheapest airbrush (my Iwata Neo) to paint the sheet with Vallejo Model Air “Sand (Ivory)”. When that was dry and basically cured, I dry brushed the sheet serially with three colors: Vallejo Model Color “Dark Sand’, then Citadel “Ushabti Bone”, then DecoArt “Buttermilk”. I wanted to get some depth of color this way. Then I painted the idols’ faces (all paints are listed at the end of this post as references too). The main challenge I had was not to let my paints be too thin, as they could easily run via capillary action to unwanted parts of the models. Happily, the chinchilla dust is so porous that it grabs paint easily.

The MDF sheet after dry brushing the three colors over the base coat.
Here you see the idols’ images painted. I wanted them to look well-carved but painted with primitive paints.

After painting all of it, I used Army Painter “Light Tone” over the whole of both sheets.

After the wash application.

Now, it was time to assemble. the directions were easy enough – but I discovered three issues. One was that I wasted a lot of paint and effort on parts I would not need. Second, that assembly would be complicated (just slightly) by the added thickness of the painted/dusted MDF. That was easily dealt with by an Exacto blade. Thirdly, the brown (laser-burned) surfaces of the MDF would not be the same texture and color of the rest – hardly a way to look like stone. These were the surfaces I did not get to paint by leaving the pieces of MDF on the sheets. I needed to touch all of those areas up after assembly and leaving to let the glue to dry overnight.

Assembled and left to let the PVA used in assembly dry overnight.
All the brown areas needed touch up to match the rest of the pieces!
I added more chinchilla dust and repeated the previous process with paint and wash. I needed an easier way!
First group completed.
Close up of example from the first group. I would later tone them down a bit more.

Going forward, I saw opportunities to address the shortcomings from the first go -around.

First, I would assemble first, and then apply the chinchilla dust, paint and wash. This would limit the need for so much touch up. Second, I got a small spray bottle and a cheap salt shaker from Wal-Mart to respectively apply the watery PVA glue and the chinchilla dust more easily. Both were huge improvements for round two.

Round two – let’s assemble FIRST.
An example after the chinchilla dust application put on a plastic plate with poster tack in my spray booth.

I used the exact same order of paints and washes as before – and then went back afterwards with “Light Tone” to get better blending on all of them. A few bonuses here around chinchilla dust – it is so porous that it traps a lot of the paint and the wash – and it dry brushes great. You will use more paint too. Varnishing was unnecessary – a big plus!

So here are the final results:

This is a shot of the first four Temple Columns that I completed.
Here are all of the 8 Temple Columns. I used a different design top for the second set. The lighting here is making the tops look too shiny – see next shot – they are fine.
Here is a top view. The first set tops ironically looked less “seamless” than the second set.
Here you see the columns with a couple of 28mm Conquistador arquebusiers for scale comparison out of the booth.

I did use a new setup for photos here – got some black fabric to put in my spray booth, binder-clipped it, and add a flashlight – et viola. My previous Sonoran Desert background would not have worked well. I probably need to put a filter over the spray booth light next time as the light was too bright – even with editing.

It ain’t pretty, but it works.

So that’s my March 31st completion. I am hoping to add any next April-completed pieces to Ann’s “Paint the Crap You Already Own” challenge.


Remember to follow my blog and enter my contest! The entry window closes on midnight EDT (US East Coast time) on April 10th, 2021.

And always, I invite your feedback on this post! Thanks for taking a look!

Miscellaneous details and references for those interested in that sort of thing:

Previous posts on games, units, and other projects for my 16th Century Spanish Conquest supplement for Feudal Patrol™ – “Civilizations Collide”

  1. Aztec Temple Columns and My New Love for Chinchilla Dust (this post)
  2. Mark’s Aztec Building Challenge Contest
  3. Game Aids and Tools for Feudal Patrol games using the Civilizations Collide Supplement
  4. And the Winners of “Mark’s Conquistador Contest” are…
  5. Conquistador Cavalry. 24 figures total: Outpost Wargame Services #CON5 “Conquistador Cavalry in light armour 1” (4 horses & 4 riders); Outpost Wargame Services #CON6 “Conquistador Cavalry in full armour” (4 horses & 4 riders); Eureka Miniatures “Moving Horses” #100ANM05 (8 horses used as casualty markers).
  6. Conquistador Falconet and Crew (Artillery). 3 figures total: Outpost Wargame Services #CONA1 “Falconet and Crew”.
  7. More Conquistador Sword and Buckler Men. 8 figures total Outpost Wargame Services #CON001 “Sword and Buckler Men”.
  8. Conquistador Sword and Buckler Men (Wargames Foundry). 18 figures total in three blister packs: Wargames Foundry #SB015 “Swaggering Swordsmen”, #SB016 “Brutal Sword and Buckler Men”, and #SB017 “Bold Bladesmen”.
  9. Perro de Guerra (Conquistador War Dogs). 13 figures total: Outpost Wargames Services #CONS6 “War Dogs” (8 war dogs); Eureka #100CON13 “Dog Handler and Dogs” (1 dog handler/pikeman and 4 war dogs)
  10. Conquistador Foot Command, Crossbowmen, and a Couple of Officers. 11 figures total: Outpost Wargames Services #CONC1 “Conquistador Foot Command” (a leader, a banner bearer, a drummer, and a bugler); Eureka #100CON04 “Crossbowmen” (5 crossbowmen); and Eureka CONC1 “Conquistador Officer” and an unknown SKU officer (2 officers)
  11. Merciless Adventurers (this post) – Wargames Foundry #SB014 (6 Conquistadores with arquebuses)
  12. Audacious Arquebusiers! – Wargames Foundry #SB012 (6 Conquistadores with arquebuses)
  13. Mark’s Conquistador Contest – for my loyal blog followers!
  14. Montezuma and Chieftains – Wargames Foundry #AZ011 for Feudal Patrol – 6 Aztec figures (Montezuma, 4 Chieftains, 1 Warrior Priest)
  15. Aztec Shock Troops – Cuachic Warriors aka The Shorn Ones – 8 Aztec cuachicqueh warriors
  16. Tloxtoxl and the Priests of the Great Temple, Wargames Foundry AZ021 – 2 warrior priests, 1 priestess, 1 priest, 1 leader, and 1 signaler
  17. Civilizations Collide – The Wars of the Aztecs, the Inca, the Maya, and the Conquistadores is now available as a FREE Download for Feudal Patrol™ – plus a Feudal Patrol™ review!
  18. 18 Aztec Novice Warriors for Feudal Patrol Walk into a Bar – 18 Novice Warriors
  19. Aztec Warrior Priests (painted as Tlaxcalans), Ral Partha 42-302, circa 1988 (this post) – 6 figures – 6 Tlaxcalan Warrior Priests
  20. Tlaxcalan Novices, Elite Warriors, and Command Group – 18 figures – 8 Novice Tlaxcalan Warriors, 8 Elite Tlaxcalan Warriors, 1 Tlaxcalan Captain, 1 Tlaxcalan Conch Blower
  21. Tlaxcalan Archers – 8 Veteran Tlaxcalan Archers
  22. Aztec Game for Feudal Patrol across thousands of miles – via Zoom!
  23. Aztec Snake Woman and Drummer – 1 Aztec General, 1 Aztec Drummer
  24. A June and July Jaguar Warrior Frenzy (plus some Aztec Veterans and a Warrior Priest to Boot) – 3 Aztec Veteran Warriors, 17 Jaguar Warriors, 1 Aztec Warrior Priest
  25. Doubling Down – Aztec Veteran Warriors – 24 Aztec Veteran Warriors
  26. Aztec Arrow Knights, Ral Partha circa 1988 – 6 Aztec Arrow Knights
  27. Aztec Eagle Warriors from Tin Soldier UK – 6 Aztec Eagle Knights
  28. Aztec Novice Warriors and a few Frinx – 12 Novice Warriors


  1. Elmer’s PVA Glue
  2. Poster tack
  3. Plastic Plates
  4. All Living Things Dry Dust Bath (chinchilla dust)
  5. Vallejo “Flow Improver”
  6. Vallejo “Airbrush Thinner”
  7. Vallejo Model Air “Sand (Ivory)”
  8. Vallejo Model Color “Dark Sand”
  9. Citadel “Ushabti Bone”
  10. DecoArt “Buttermilk”
  11. Army Painter “Light Tone” (wash)
  12. Vallejo Mecha Color “Off-white”
  13. Vallejo Model Color “Red”
  14. Americana “Kelley Green”
  15. Craftsmart “Black”
  16. Citadel “Yriel Yellow”
  17. Americana “Vivid Violet”
  18. Vallejo Mecha Color “Turquoise”
  19. Vallejo Game Air “Red Terracotta”
  20. Citadel “Contrast Paint – Iyanden Yellow”
  21. Craftsmart “Bahama Blue”

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