Monday, 15 February 2010

HOW-TO: Making Scenery Trees


How-To: Create Your Own Trees

One of the most effective scenery items you can add to your layout are trees. The main problem you're going to have is getting enough of them to make your layout look realistic. Even on a small layout, (several square metres) you're going to need dozens of trees to get a decent effect. Remember, the more realistic your track looks, the more fun it will be to race on.

You can purchase readymade trees from a number of companies (Faller, Woodland Scenics, JTT, etc.) but the realistic looking trees can be very expensive when you are looking at purchasing dozens or even up hundreds if your layout is as large as mine.


Let's face it, you'd rather be spending your hard earned dollars on new slot cars so you need a price effective way of producing mass trees. This is where making your own trees can save you money.

There are numerous ways of making model trees and some are better (or more realistic) than others. I like to make my tress and life-like as possible so I'm prepared to spend a little more to that end. As I describe this simple method for making your own trees, I'll also talk about some of the materials you can substitute to reduce the cost of the process even further.

What you'll need

I'm a huge Woodland Scenics fan and just love their trees; the only problem is that a single large tree (10+ inches) can cost as much as $AU25. Even small trees (approx 3 inches) will set up back around $5-$6. Fortunately Woodland Scenics provide us with a method of acquiring there fantastic trees for a fraction of the cost (around $1-$1.5 each) by building our own.

The above photo shows the Tree Armatures you can purchase from Woodland Scenics. At around $AU35 for 44 (4 to 6 inch tree) per armatures they are great value. In this case I'm landscaping an alpine theme on my track so have chosen pines trees, Woodland Scenics also provide other types of tree armatures which you can view below, (images copyright Woodland Scenics).

Cost Saving: I've seen guys use sticks from trees or shrubs in the backyard very effectively as armatures.

The best part about making your own trees is you get to tailor their colouring. The last thing you want is to have 50+ trees on your track that look exactly the same and are the same colour, not very natural. Woodland Scenics make all kinds of different foliage (size, texture and colour) so you can achieve variation in your trees.

I like to use 'clump-foliage' as the pieces in the packet are large and can then be ripped into smaller desirable sizes depending on your trees. Woodland Scenics also make a produce called 'Foliage' (smaller lighter pieces) which is more suitable for trees however it is almost double the cost so I use clump foliage and rip it into small pieces myself.

Note: Clump foliage is versatile as it can also be used a bushes on your track, just ripe a few pieces to size and glue to your layout with a little craft PVA glue.

Below is a photo of the tree armatures, each one comes with a base although you don't need these as it looks more life-like if the tree is drilled into the surface of your landscaping.

Step 1 - Armatures

Remove the small circular tree base from the armature and discard. You will notice that the armatures are very flat and 2 dimensional. Using your fingers twist the trunk of the armature to create a realistic 3 dimensional tree truck. In the photo below you can see the 2D armature (bottom) and the 3D armature (top) that you are trying to achieve.

Below are some more examples of how your armatures should look.

Step 2 - Foliage

Get yourself a large dish or tray, I've used a disposable foil tray which cost around 50 cents or nothing if you raid the wife's cupboards as I did.

Rip the clump foliage into smaller pieces that suit the style of tree you are after. You can mix different colours of foliage in this step if desired. For example you could put some light green, yellow or orange foliage in with the darker green to give the effect of autumn trees or even some small red or orange pieces to give the effect of fruit or flowers. Pick an appropriate armature style (see armatures styles above) if you're doing fruit trees, etc.

Below are some of the different colours you can get in clump foliage, (images copyright Woodland Scenics).

Cost Saving: You can use coloured foam (even colour it yourself with food dye) or green scratch pads ripped into small pieces instead of clump foliage.

Step 3 - Glue

Once you have twisted at least a dozen armatures you will need some craft or PVA glue. Empty some into a container and using a thick brush apply the PVA to the armatures generously.

Detailed in the below photo you can see how I have applied the craft glue, do not apply the glue to the tree trunks.

The next step is important, leave the glued armatures at dry for 10-15 minutes. The PVA glue should start to go clear in the areas that you have applied it thinly. This means the glue is well applied with the armatures but still sticky enough to apply foliage to.

Step 4 - Appling Foliage

While holding the armature in one hand, use the other hand to apply the clump foliage to the glue section of the armature. You may have to press on the foliage in order for it to get a good contact with the PVA glue. Rotate the armature in your hand while applying the foliage evenly until the entire armature has foliage.

I wanted my pine trees to be quite heavily vegetated but you can apply much less and still get a very effective looking tree. Using less also means your clump foliage goes a lot further. I purchased a large bag of clump foliage for $AU15 and produced 30 trees even when applying it a thickly as you see in the photo below.

You will need a stand of some type to place the trees on till the PVA glue completely dries (approximately 1 hour). Just get yourself a scrap piece of hardwood (or pine) and drill small holes to accommodate the trees base post, (see above and below).

So how do they look on the track? Pretty good I think and at just over a dollar per tree that are great value and let us get on with the serious business of buying more slot cars!

Step 5 - Foliage Highlight Detail (Optional)

Note: Even though I haven't done this with my trees there may be some of you that may wish too, ie if you are landscaping a winter themed track.

You can add another layer of colour and texture to your finished trees at this stage. Water down some PVA glue and pour into a water spray bottle (remember to clean the spray head with clean water after use) and gently spray the tops of your trees.

Using your fingers, sprinkle some Woodland Scenics fine or blended turf onto the desired areas as vegetation highlights. If you have used dark green clump foliage you would use a lighter green fine or blended turf. If you're feeling adventurous with your track you might even want to sprinkle some snow onto your trees to create a winter themed track - Great for rally tracks!

Below are some of the different colours you can get in fine and blended turf, (images copyright Woodland Scenics).


Find this useful, check-out ManicSlots' How-to page by clicking the below link for more useful slotting tips and tricks.

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2 comments :

DEMO said...

Great work, thanks for sharing.

Embrague said...

My next job....gardener.
Perfect How-to. AAA+