A Tree Grows in Normandy

I didn’t spend much time on wargaming stuff this week, but was somehow very productive. That’s a good equation, in my book!

I think it's pretty nice that this AB squad conveniently breaks down into a fire element and a maneuver element.

I think it’s pretty nice that this AB squad conveniently breaks down into a fire element and a maneuver element. (ignore the bridge-it’s only accidentally in the photo)

I’ve completed my third and final US infantry squad for playing Chain of Command. Now I can field a platoon of US infantry, and a platoon of Panzergrenadiers, with a few choice support elements on each side. I do have some vehicles to paint up, plus a ton of terrain yet to be done (accursed bocage!).

Trees, meet Bocage, Bocage, meet Trees.

Trees, meet Bocage, Bocage, meet Trees.

I have made some progress on the terrain front-I’ve taken Thomas’s suggestion and made trees out of found twigs and the air filter material I used to make my bocage. They’ve turned out nicely, I think. Which just goes to show, you should always take Thomas’s advice; I mean, just look at his blog!

These particular twigs are from the shrubs in front of the house. Conveniently, we were trimming off the dead stuff from the shrubs because it’s spring and time to work in the yard, and I very quickly had a ready supply of 20mm scale tree trunks and branches. And they were already dry!

Here’s the process:

  1. Gather twigs with multiple ‘branches,’ hopefully going in multiple directions so that the end product has lots of volume.
  2. Cut squares of air filter material for each tree, then shape, tease, tug, shear, and otherwise deform into a ragged mass.
  3. Test fit your ragged clumps of air filter material to the branches, adjust until you have a vaguely tree-looking mass.
  4. Take your clumps of air filter material out to the garage, or other place where you can spray paint without being disturbed by the wind (air filter material is VERY light).
  5. Spray the air filter clumps with a dark brown paint. This will take some doing, as the filter material is very porous. Just take your time and do multiple coats over a few days. You’ll need at least two coats, but three or four would be better.
  6. I mounted my trees on needles. This lets me use them freely with my foam play-mat backed gaming mats, and they also fit nicely into my bocage, which is constructed of polystyrene insulation. I used a 1/16″ drill bit to hollow out a place in the “tree trunks”, filled it with superglue, and shoved in a needle, pointy side sticking out. You can easily cut down the needles with a pair of wire snips, but shield your eyes when you do. Give the super glue time to fully cure before trying to stick the tree into anything.
  7. Now you can take your trees and stick them into a scrap piece of polystyrene insulation (or other stickable surface). Get a hot glue gun and glue your brown filter clumps to the branches. Let it dry (which will take about 2.5 seconds) and clean up the inevitable hot-glue spiderwebs.
  8. Go back out to the garage with your trees and mounted filter foilage. Lightly ‘dust’ the foilage with a light tan spray paint. This is just to give the filter mass a little volumetric definition (I just coined that term). It’s a subtle thing, but it does help.
  9. The next step is easy, but messy. Spray down your trees with watered-down white glue. I sugges holding the trees upside down by their trunks, and spraying them one at a time. You want to avoid wetting the trunks with the glue for reasons which should be obvious. Holding them upside down will let the glue pass through the filter material and give more surface for the flocking to adhere to.
  10. Speaking of flocking, hopefully you have some coarse flock in various colors, because now you’re going to sprinkle your soaking wet filter material with flock. I never use a single color of flock by itself. I always mix up at least two colors. I will vary the amount of each color I use to give individual trees their own character.  For instance, I might use 60% dark green, 40% burnt grass on one tree, and then reverse the proportions on the next. In any case, make them look like trees. Sprinkle, carefully place, dip, and smush the flock onto the filter material to suit your tastes.
  11. Spray the tree tops with watered down glue again.
  12. Let everything dry, then clean up the trunks, as you’ll have some random pieces of flock stuck to them. At this point the trees will still be shedding flock like crazy. Continue to spray with glue, and let dry, until you’re satisfied with the amount of shedding (I’m not sure it’s possible to get the things 100% stable).

The process sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually very quick, and uses materials that are either cheap or (probably) already in your arsenal of wargaming terrain making materials. Hopefully the narrative explains the process sufficiently, but if anyone wants me to, I could put together a photo tutorial without too much trouble.

Depending on how you plan to use your trees, there is one potential downside to this method-your trees won’t have roots. Of course, there are a multitude of ways to make tree roots, especially if you’re doing a more conventional type of basing that doesn’t involve poking things with inch long needles.

 

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Comments

  • Thomas Nielsen  On 05/11/2014 at 12:06 pm

    Looking real good Arkie! And thanks for your kind words :)

  • 40kterminatus  On 05/12/2014 at 4:39 am

    That bocage looks very impressive and so are infantry. No pressure on me now to come up with some decent looking bocage of my own :)

    • arkiegamer  On 05/12/2014 at 6:48 am

      Thanks. Don’t worry-it’s easy to get a good result (but it does take forever).if only it didn’t take so many linear feet of bocage to properly populate a table!

  • daggerandbrush  On 05/12/2014 at 6:01 am

    Very nice result. I think the trees really look realistic and in terms of cost I’d say this is the best way to go. I am still a big fan of MiniNatur foliage nets, but they do cost a lot, so no way you could do a project like your bocages with them.

    I really like the effect you achieve with using different kinds of clump foliage. The finer the stuff the better it seems. The tut is also very clear and I might revisit the foam method. I just have to find a solution to make the stuff stick better. Copious amounts of glue do seem to work for you. I thought one might be able to use the method for depicting moss for such trees, too: Soak the foam in a bucket full of PVA, water and maybe some green paint. Apply the paste to the tree amature and let dry, then drybrush. Should be rock hard, but might lack a certain something.

    However, I am looking forward to see the final table full of your excellent terrain.

    • arkiegamer  On 05/12/2014 at 7:05 am

      Thanks!

      I haven’t used those foliage nets you’re talking about-our local model railroading supplies are pretty much limited to Woodland Scenics offerings, so I don’t have any way of checking out the good stuff, aside from being brave with my wallet and ordering online.

      That’s not clump foliage I’m using, by the way. It’s a Woodland Scenics product called “turf.” In particular, I use various tones of “coarse turf” for the bulk of the flocking, with a sprinkle of “fine turf” to add some detail. The air filter material is voluminous, yet dense enough to provide a good armature for the turf to adhere to.

      After three gluings, my trees foliage is becoming fairly stable, but it still sheds a little if a tree is given a vigorous shake. I may buy a spray can of art fixative from the local art supply store and see if that helps. Hairspray might do the trick, too.

      I hadn’t heard of that moss technique-sounds intriguing, and like a good experiment for tree making. I’d like to see the results if you give it a try.

      Here are those types of “turf” I’m using. I’m not sure what the equivalent is in other brands, but it’s a finely chopped tinted foam kind of material.

      http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/category/CoarseTurf

      http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/category/FineTurf

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