Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quick and Cheap Terrain - Trees

I'm too cheap to buy the commercially made gaming trees, and find them a bit too coifed and static for my liking anyway. So whenever I'm out and about in natural surroundings I'm constantly on the look out for likely bits of flotsam that I might be able to turn to my advantage. One of the tougher things to find are small bits of foliage that can serve as armatures for trees, and often I've resorted to the Woodland Scenics armatures. 
But once in a while you get lucky, and when I was in the Azores this summer I came across a small dead bush, an evergreen, I think, that had these intricate little branches. 
I snapped off a few and brought them home and then left them sitting around, looking for inspiration. I bought a couple of cheap bags of moss at the dollar store and tried draping that in the branches but it was looking clunky. So I went rummaging in my bag of flocking materials and came across some Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf Yellow Grass I had bought years and years ago and never found a good use for. That, I thought, might have some potential.

So here is a small forest of poplars, probably late fall, or maybe even early winter still with leaves. Good for some Russian Front scenarios or even Europe, and something different from what I have now as far as trees go. All of these took about 2 to 3 hours to pull together.

1. Armatures

I carve out irregularly shaped bases from black foam core, bevel the edges, cut cross-shaped holes in them, and then put a dab of white glue on my twigs and push them in. Allow to dry.
As I mention above I got lucky in finding these twigs this summer, but there are things out there in the wilds that will do just as well. Often the roots of bushes and trees, dried out, can work well, as the roots often mirror the above ground part in miniature. Cedar roots especially, as a first class model maker friend of mine once pointed out, are convincing. The trick is to find something with enough twiggy stuff going on to create a useful armature.

2. Flocking

I dump a small bag of Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf Yellow Grass (thinking at the time that I could probably get the same effect by taking a piece of foam and putting it in the food processor!) into a tray. I then sprayed the upper parts of my tree stand with Elmer's Spray Adhesive and quickly dump it in the tray, piling on the flocking and making sure the branches are well covered. I shake off the excess and set it aside. There's no reason one couldn't use a different colour of flocking for spring trees, or mid-summer. The key is to get the right coarseness.

3. Flocked Trees

Here they are flocked. You will notice that I glued some larger bits of twig as fallen trunks onto some of the bases, but mostly I like to space these trees so that a stand or two of infantry can fit between the trees, (vehicles not so important, they shouldn't be roaming around in the woods!!) so I keep the bases pretty uncluttered.

4. Flocking Bases

I then take a big old paint brush and brush white glue over the base. I place the stand of trees in a tray with my ground flocking and cover up the base, again dumping the excess. For these I'm using dried green tea leaves, crushed up - again, too cheap to buy much of the commercial stuff and I like the texture and tone of green tea for a forest floor. (I drink a lot of green tea!)

5. Finished Trees

Here are the finished trees. As I say, this group took two to three hours to pull together - maybe even less, as I did it in bits and pieces over a couple of days.

6. Trees in Situ

Here are some of the trees incorporated into a scenario set up.

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