Tuesday 26 May 2015

Scenic Stuff - Small Trees

My first scratch-built trees!

One of my ambitions with my 'one day I'll...' wargaming world, a world of glacially slow movement towards nebulous goals, is to have beautiful battlefields, as much like movable dioramas as I can manage. To this end I have heaped upon myself, in addition to the myriad other fractured paths I'm following, the task of building bespoke a forest of trees.

To achieve this I thought I'd better tap into some experience and expertise, i.e. read online and/or buy a book. So, after a fair bit of online research, I got this one:

I'm very glad I did, because, whilst this isn't a perfect book, it's certainly what wanted and I needed, and has really helped me achieve results I'm reasonably pleased with right from the get go. So, whilst I haven't exhaustively documented the building of my first pair of trees in my mooted forest, below are a few pics of some of the stages so far.

My first two trees were made, I think, from electrical wire, which I stripped out of some old discarded leads. Little bundles of copper wire were twisted around themselves in groups of three or four strands, and theses sub groups - the bigger branches with their bifurcating offshoots - were twisted together in groups of four or five. 

The final twisted grouping was the trunk, with the first set of twists making the larger branches, and the individual wires the smaller branches. I drilled small holes in some free thin circular MDF bases I acquired free at one of the several wargames shows we've recently attended, and cemented the trees in place using superglue.

The trees were then 'painted', first with a dilute mix of PVA wood glue and water, and then with a mix of 'artex' type powdered plaster, with more woodglue and a little water. The plaster hardens to form the white trunk and branches above.

Below are the trees after they've been sprayed in a black base-coat. The Adler Young guard figures are just there to give an idea of realtive scale. These first small trees are really being made for my 6mm wargaming battlefields, althought they'll probably also double as smaller shrubs/bushes, etc, in the larger scales.

A lick of acrylic paint gives the first hint of how these might ultimately look. At present they look, to me, pretty horrible. I've decided that individual strands of copper wire as thin as what I've used here are too thin. My next sets of trees will use different and thicker wire, so as not to wind up so delicate and easily damaged as these have turned out.

Standard Milliput and some scenic sand was then used to model the bases for more interest. These two trees were totally ad-libbed, shape-wise. The one at left looks a bit like a fruit tree (some nice vintage apple variety, perhaps?) in an orchard, whilst the one on the right is like a small garden tree, with the branches starting higher up, and a more compact,dense and evenly spread canopy.

You can't really see this in the pic below, but next I sealed the scenic sand onto the base with a mix of PVA and water. The pic below was angled low so one can see the different shapes of the two trees better. Sadly this was taken on my iPhone, and the damn thing focussed on the backdrop rather than the trees!

The bases painted in acrylic brown. These will be gone over again later, in several different shades and washes, before grass flock etc. gets added.

And finally, although they aren't quite finished yet, I added some 'clump foliage' I used different types and shades for each tree. The small 'garden' tree on the right was fairly easy to do, whereas the 'apple' tree was damned hard work. I used PVA to attach the foliage.

I'll probably be working more on the trunks and branches, using paint to develop them a little (perhaps even adding some splattered lichen to the apple tree?), working up the bases, and then finally coating the entire thing in a coat or two of aerosol matt lacquer.

Anyhoo, all things considered, I'm pretty happy with these. Especially for a first attempt. I hope with time I'll get better, and - crucially - much quicker! I've learned several things, as a result of which the next batch will have slightly simpler armatures, and be made from thicker more resilient wire.

I've been collecting photographic tree reference - arboreal portraits, I guess - and I plan to try a series of more specific trees. If I can, I'd like to develop a formula, for speedy production, so as to work up a good number in as short a space of time as poss.

And as soon as time allows, I'll do a comparison shot with some of the more easily available commercial alternatives, to show why I'm going to such bother!