Nearly Arundel



More scenic work - and one way of tree modelling

Posted Wednesday, 24th November 2004 at 22:35:08

Work has continued on the scenery. Most of the lifting baseboard now has the various grasses etc in place although these have not yet been coloured and much remains to be done.

I always said the entire layout was a long term project - and I wasn't kidding!

A considerable amount of time has been spent making trees. A photograph of a nearly finished wire frame for a small oak tree can be seen in Gallery 2. I have included this unfinished picture as it gives some idea of the techniques used. Hopefully it will be joined by a picture of the finished article within the next few days.

Again, I will give some detail of the techniques I use. The first thing is that I always try to model an actual type of tree (at least in the foreground - background afforestation can use quicker cheating techniques). On occasion I will even model a specific individual tree - certainly at least one on this layout will be such because it is unusual and fascinating (a large tree, partially uprooted and blown over in the "Great Storm" but which nevertheless continued to grow and thrive with its trunk horizontal!)

In any event to model types of trees a good tree identification guide is invaluable - especially if it includes details of the winter appearance showing the details of branch structure etc.

I use the time honoured technique of using twisted wire strands - in my case salvaged from old electrical appliance cable. The length of the wires needs to be at least twice the finished height of the tree. Enough strands are twisted together to produce the approximate diameter of the trunk ( a little less to allow for later texturing.). Since the individual strands are very fine the small Oak in the gallery used 720 strands. (No - I didn't count them - just the number of strands in one piece and multiplied by the number of pieces!). A moderately large Oak would need at least twice this many.

The strands are twisted tightly together around a short length of 1/16" steel rod to produce the trunk. The steel rod protrudes about half an inch below the bottom of the tree and is very useful when it comes to "planting" it! At this point I dribble a little Cyanoacrylate glue around the trunk about half an inch above the bottom of it. I then hold it firmly twisted while this sets which only takes a couple of minutes (holding the glue free zone of course!).

At the point where the first branch should be separate out enough strands to make the correct thickness and similarly twist them tightly. The branch in turn is subdivided in the same way until finally it is divided at the ends into individual twigs. This process is repeated until all the wire has been used constantly referring to the tree picture to ensure that the proportions of branches are correct.

At the base of the tree, if appropriate, some short root sections are made also by twisting a suitable number of strands together. By the time this is done most of the twigs which you made earlier will have been bent and twisted out of desired position so the next job is to tease them back into place. The trunk and main branches are then covered with a thin film of some sort of filler to disguise the twisted wire and give them a more realistic texture. I used a mix of cellulose filler and grey cellulose primer and applied it with a moderately stiff brush. After this has set, the whole thing is sprayed with grey cellulose primer.

This is the point at which the tree can be seen in the photograph. The tree can then be sprayed an appropriate base colour (almost always some shade of grey - they are very seldom brown) and this can be textured by dry-brushing with other suitable colours.

Finally, foliage is added. I coat all of the twigs with a 50% PVA solution and sprinkle an appropriate colour scatter - note, again, this should be one of the modern foliage scatters (or "clump foliage") which have more body. For a tree in spring one application of a light green will represent a tree in which the buds are just bursting or a single application of autumn colours will represent a tree where a proportion of leaves have already fallen. For full summer growth a darker green is used and after the first application has dried the foliage is sprayed with the PVA solution and another layer applied. This continues until the right depth and density of foliage is achieved. IF you constructed the original wire frame correctly this will give a very good representation of the tree.

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