Pound stores are great
There's one of those pound stores near me, and they have all sort of goodies in them. All sorts of little cheap bits of stuff almost purpose-designed for the wargamer! The home-decorating-cum-DIY section of mine has cheap packs of disposable knives, glues, and today's groovy feature: black sandpaper.
Black sandpaperWeirdly, not everything in my local pound store costs a pound, so to reassure you, this does. It's a pack of sixteen sheets of sandpaper with a variety of grits: 4 each of coarse, medium, fine and extra fine. The dimensions are 11 9/16" (27.8cm) by 9.1" (23.1cm). So for a pound, you could, if you were really efficient, cover an area of 111.2 by 92.4 cm, i.e. about a yard and a bit (a metre) a side.
Things you could do with black sandpaper
Make a modern roadThe obvious thing to do with black sandpaper is to make modern (or far-future) tarmac roads. So grab yourself a ruler, pencil and scissors. Flip the sandpaper over, grab a vehicle, and decide what size you want your road to be, from motorway (highway, freeway, Autobahn, if you will) to sleepy country lane. Just measure out the width of the roads, and you can then cut the sheets up with scissors. Bob's your uncle. You can just lay it on the table, and it's good to go.
Make a city block or a townGet yourself a bit of paper, and sketch out a rough plan with corners, straight sections, T-junctions and what have you. Save yourself hassle by grabbing your existing buildings, and using them when planning your (sub-)urban area.
Knocking it up a notch
Age your tarmacThe obvious thing to do is add a bit of weathering. Grab a brush you don't care about too much, and drybrush a spot of dark or medium grey onto the tarmac. Remember this is sandpaper, so it will pick up the paint very easily, so use a light touch.
Add road markingsYou can use what you have where you live or, if you'll be using this road for the future or SF settings, pick something totally different. White lines, yellow lines, red - down the middle of the road, at the edges. You can paint them on with a brush or use a stencil and spray them on.
Base your roadsThis sandpaper is cheap as anything, so if you choose not to base it, you won't really be losing out. That said, if you don't want to worry about the edges curling up or getting ragged, then you'll want to glue the sandpaper to a base. This will help keep it from getting damaged. Any basing material is fine. All I'd say is that if you haven't one this before, then do make a test piece first. The last thing you want, if you're trying to stop your roads from curling up over time, is to find out that your base is water soluble, and you've used diluted PVA, with the result that they curl up while drying.
PavementsIf you're going to base the roads, you might want to add a pavement at the edges. This can also help protect the road from rough handling.
Road paraphernaliaRoad signs, traffic lights, telegraph poles, bridges, railway crossings - there are all sorts of things you can do.
So what does this stuff look like?Here are a few pics of the pack I bought.
If you're wondering why this post looks so different, have a gander at this blog.