Model Miniatures - Home
-- MAKING SCENERY --
-- WORLD WAR TWO VEHICLES --
Painting plastic figures
Converting polystyrene figures
Painting darkskinned figures
German WW2 infantry
Painting swords and axes
Dark age shield patterns
Painting 25mm faces
Basing 25mm figures
2mm scale figures
Useful modelling tools
How to waste money
By crikey! Just look at the wealth of choice!Cheap and quick pine trees Oak trees Lichen and moss trees Palm trees Cypress trees Orchard trees Dead/winter trees Tree stumps Trees made from nails
Making scenery: PINE TREES
These aren't the most impressive trees individually, but they are so cheap and quick to make, that you can put hundreds of them on the table. In large numbers, they look good.
These are made from old artificial Christmas trees. I found both types abandoned, behind houses in Newcastle. Luckily, I am never without my Leatherman pliers, which have wire cutters on them, and I was able to cut myself a lot of trees. Each tree is the end of one branch of an artificial tree. One of the two trees I found smelled strongly of dog piss, and so I washed the cuttings thoroughly with shampoo, before working on them.
Cut the tree slightly longer/taller than you want it to be. Trim the artificial needles at the bottom/root end of the tree off. Wrap masking tape around the trimmed length and paint it brown, to represent tree trunk. Bend the end of the wire (which forms the cores of the artificial tree's branches) into a right-angle.
The tree can now be based. I cut out blob-shapes of card, and took blobs of air-drying clay (such as Das) and set the trees in the blobs, on the card bases. The bend in the wire gives the clay something to hang on to. The clay does not stick to the card very fastly, so when the clay had dried, I made the join stronger with PVA glue. Next, I mixed up some wall-filler (quite runny), including some brown poster paint in the mix (remember that it will always dry a paler colour than you mix), and painted the bases with this, using it to fill any gaps. When this was dry, I glued on some wheat flock with PVA in uneven patches. Trees often have patches with little or no greenery under them, where the trees have shaded the earth. Since the tree bases are never likely to match what they are standing on perfectly, I prefer them to look a bit too barren than a bit too lush.
These trees can be trimmed to a point, like the large example on the left, or left untrimmed, as on the right.
These are very easy to store, because they are so robust. One can just chuck them in a box on top of each other. I use these more than any of my other trees because of this convenience.
Incidentally, the needles on the type illustrated on the left, make very good aerials for model tanks (see my Churchill models).
Making scenery: OAK TREES
These are pretty impressive trees individually, but they take a while to make, and are a bit tricky to store.
The core of the tree is a bit of real tree. I found some twigs which branched much like a large tree, and collected them. The tiny twigs and masses of foliage are made from rubberised horse hair. This is something which used to be used a lot for stuffing furniture. Today, fire-proof foams are used instead, but some modelling shops have it, as I think do furniture restorers. A visitor to this page e-mailed me to say that he had tried coconut hair, which is the modern successor to horse hair for stuffing furniture, and that it worked fairly well as a substitute. Rubberised horse hair is still better, though, if you can get it.
The core of the tree is attached to the base by shoving a bit of wire into the bottom of it, and bending this wire into a coil which holds the tree up. This coil is then taped down to a card base, and covered with wall filler, then flocked.
The rubberised horse hair is a variegated pale brown, but can be sprayed black before attaching to the tree. I'm not sure how important it is to spray it black, but many people insist on this stage. Glue pieces of the horse hair to the tree, leaving artistic gaps, then trim the pieces to make them look less square. The hair comes in sheets about one and a quarter inches thick, and when you cut it, tends to end up a bit too square, so some teasing and trimming is needed to hide this.
Glue flock, of the sawdust kind, to the blobs of horse hair, with lots of PVA. When the glue is dry, shake and brush off the loose flock, and spray with matt varnish, which helps a bit to hold the flock on, though some loss is inevitable over time. Store in a dark place, to avoid the flock's fading.
Making scenery: LICHEN and MOSS TREES
These are very easy to make, although they tend to be a bit fragile.
The core of each tree is made from a branching section of twig. On the left, you see a tree whose foliage is made from a mass of moss, found on the ground in a park. Amazingly enough, this is still green after several years. I store it in a dark box.
On the right, you see a tree the foliage of which is rubberised lichen, sold in most model shops (though not tremendously cheaply). Stick the lichen on the tree and hey presto!
Making scenery: PALM TREES
These are the most time-consuming of the trees I have made, but they look jolly nice, though I say so myself.
The trunk is a curving twig, with bark which isn't very rough.
Attached to the top of the trunk, are many lengths of gardening wire. These are lengths of steel wire, enclosed in a green plastic ribbon. Some of these ribbons are cut with little slits down both sides, all at an angle, and these you can see at the top, representing young new branches. The main branches are made much wider, by sandwiching them with transparent book-covering film. The book covering film is then cut (I found scissors to be better than a knife) with lots of slits, all at an angle, and then painted with acrylic paints, a dullish green. The plastic film gives the leaves a sort of dull shine, which looks quite realistic.
The branches are held firmly to the tree by a blob of sculpted Milliput epoxy resin putty, into which I have embedded some fronds of brown plant matter, which I found on a pavement. I'm not sure what it is, but it resembles the covering fibres of a coconut.
Because of the curve of the trunk, and the weight of the branches, I found it necessary to weight the base with bits of lead around the bottom of the trunk. The trunk is dry-brushed grey. Palm tree trunks are more grey than brown.
Trees presented below I didn't make from scratch, but I include them on this site because the way I got these may be of some interest to wargamers who need lots of palm trees. The above method is time-consuming, whereas these trees can be made ready for the table pretty quickly.
Here you see some cake decorations. I imagine that people use these trees for cakes topped with pineapple or something else tropical. I have clipped down the top of the brown plastic central stalk (it stuck up rather high and conspicuously), and I have painted the top of the stalk green to hide it. The trunk has been dry-brushed grey (difficult to see in this photograph). The model trees have been based by me, by cutting little nicks in their bottom tabs (designed to be poked down into a cake) to give the Milliput putty something to grip onto, setting the trees into small blobs of the putty on card bases (sealed with universal adhesive to stop them warping), then when this was dry, covering the base in a thick plaster mix, adding a couple of bits of texture before this was dry (you see here some cat litter stones and plastic plants), and dry-brushing the result with very pale paint. The trees come in pairs, like this, with a single tab as the base, so I cut the pairs into singletons, and based them in various formations, some singly, others in twos, threes and fours. I bought these on Ebay, and I have reason to believe that these are commonly available in cake decoration outlets in the USA, but might be very difficult to get in Britain.
Here we have a plastic tree that came in a packet of cheap plastic dinosaurs. These can occasionally be found in pound-shops (Everything's a Pound, Poundstretchers, Poundland etc.), so with two in each packet they work out at 50p each, which is better than most trees made commercially for wargamers. I've put a little blob of Milliput, sculpted and then painted green, to disguise the top of the stalk. I've painted the trunk brown and then dry brushed it light grey, and based the tree. Such trees are easy to store – you just bung them in a box all together. They are robust enough.
I have a problem, though, with this type of palm tree. I have the same problem with near enough every model palm tree I've ever seen, no matter by what method they were made. I don't think trees like this actually exist. Whenever you see a cartoon drawing of the classic desert island – a little dome of sand with a single palm tree in the centre – you see this kind of tree. It has a long thin trunk, and at the top an umbrella-shaped formation of fronds. I have visited countries where palm trees grow. I have been to botanical gardens where they have many kinds in green-houses, and I always keep an eye out when I see photographs or film of palm trees, and never once have I seen a tree like this. I strongly suspect that they are merely an artistic convention. Actual palm trees have quite thick trunks, typically, and their fronds grow upwards, or in all directions, forming a sort of ball of fronds at the top – never sideways only, as here. If any visitor to this site can produce a genuine photograph of a real palm tree that looks like this, I'd be interested to see it.
Making scenery: CYPRESS TREES
These look great on tables representing Greece and Anatolia.
The trunk is a stout straight twig, with the right sort of bark on it. The mass of the tree is made from dish-scourer pads, laminated, sprayed black, and then flocked with very dark green sawdust flock.
The flock I used left green stains over everything if it got at all damp. Annoying.
Cypress trees really are this neat, and there is no need to make them look ragged. Even after careful trimming, the borders between the scourer pads are still visible, but we have to live with these things. Besides, real Cypress trees do have dark breaks in them, running up and down, though admittedly not quite like the lines you see here.
Making scenery: ORCHARD TREES
These look good in neat rows.
The trunks and branches of the trees are branching twigs. These twigs were cut in winter from hedges which had been cut flat-topped many times. Such twigs are strong, thin-limbed, much-branching, and ideal. Most of the trees should be about the same size for the orchard-look.
The foliage is made from tiny pieces of plastic foam, dyed green. I bought a packet of these from a model shop. Paint lots of PVA onto the branches, then cover these in the foam pieces. When dry, knock off the loose bits, then paint more glue over what you have for a second coat of foam pieces.
Making scenery: DEAD or WINTER TREES
For that winter/gothic/shell-blasted-look.
The trunks and limbs of the trees are branching twigs. As you walk about, in your daily business, keep a look-out for suitable twigs. I'm sure I don't need to tell you not to cut them from the plants of those who would mind your doing this.
This is a very obvious construction method, and very easy, but I'm surprised how few people use it.
Making scenery: TREE STUMPS
I originally thought I'd make one or two tree stumps for use as cover in 25mm dark-age skirmish games, but they were so simple to make, that I made quite a lot, and they are useful for marking shell-smashed forests in World War Two games as well.
First, get your twig. I found mine lying on the pavements of Gosforth. The bottom right one you can see was a thick straight one, and was useful for creating the effect of a large tree that had been sawn down. The top right one you can see was a gnarled thing with interesting bark, and creates the effect of an old tree that has died. The one on the left was a thinner one which I snapped, and creates the effect of a tree that has suffered some terrible blow. This could be from artillery, or perhaps you could paint a section of it black to suggest that lightning had done the work.
Next, make one end of your twig flat. I used a hacksaw for this, although a couple of the twigs snapped cleanly enough without the need for sawing.
Next, cut a piece of card for the base, and squirt a load of brown acrylic mastic (see river section) onto it. Cover the whole base, thinly at the edges and thickly at the centre. Squish the flat end of your twig down into the thick mastic, and with a tool spread/sculpt the mastic into a pleasing earth-like effect. While the mastic is still wet, add any decoration you might like. In the picture above you can see tufts of green garden twine used for clumps of long grass, a small horse hair and flock bush, and small twigs used to create the effect of tree roots on the surface of the ground.
No glue is needed. The mastic will do that job. The mastic dries fairly quickly. These really do not take very long to make at all.
Making scenery: TREES FROM NAILS
I didn't make these myself. A fellow from the Tyneside Wargames Club did, and I thought them worth a mention.
Here we see three trees after a hard afternoon's offering cover to 15mm scale Napoleonic soldiers. These three stand on bases made from two-pence coins. To these (not to H.M. The Queen's face of course) are superglued long screws. Around these screws are wound lengths of stiff steel wire to create the branches. These are then glued on to the screws for extra strength. The whole lot is then painted black (dark brown might have been better). When this has dried, sponge flock is glued to the tree skeleton. The base is flocked with grass-effect flock, and the lower trunk painted brown, and the result you see here. Several glues were tried for attaching the sponge flock for the foliage, and a spray-on Evo-Stick was preferred, even though it had wicked fumes.
Here is a second type of tree. The main trunk is a long nail, glued to a tuppenny piece. Many roughly-round ragged pieces of corrugated cardboard have been torn into shape and spiked onto the nail and glued with PVA. This has created the bulk of the tree. The result was then sprayed black, and then sprayed with glue and the sponge flock added. Simple and solid.
You may notice tiny wisps of white in these photographs. These, alas, are the result of long years of games played where cotton wool has represented musket smoke. The stuff gets everywhere.