Saturday, August 10, 2013

From Roots To Branches

Given that I'm not modelling a windswept Hebridean island (although there is at least one person who does) Jerusalem is going to need some trees. Now I've never been a fan of ready to plant trees. They are either conifers modelled as perfect cones or deciduous trees that look more like a green ball on a stick. Even the kits for building trees don't really inspire me; the trunk looks very plasticy and the resulting tree is still very regular looking. What I wanted was some straggly looking trees that were all different but similar.

I've recently been reading through John de Frayssinet's excellent Sceneic Modelling book in which he suggests using sagebrush to create very natural looking trees. Now firstly I don't have any sagebrush plants and secondly John models in 4mm to the foot, and so his trees would be a little big for Jerusalem. It did, however, get me thinking that maybe there was something in the garden that would work.

As this year we have had a reasonable summer we have done quite a bit of work in the garden. This has included removing a number of shrubs that had gone berserk at the back of the garden. I'm not entirely sure what the shrub is but it spreads by putting out underground runners and these runners, cut into bits, looked fairly tree like to my eyes. As the roots went into the recycling bin I cut off the bits that looked promising and left them to dry out. Once dry they were microwaved for about 30 seconds to make sure they (and anything on them) were very dead.

So, yesterday, armed with some dead roots, I set about making some trees. This is essentially a simple four step process, which you can probably figure out from these handy step by step illustrations.

Firstly you need to find the appropriate bits of root. Each root then has a pin inserted into its base to allow it to be easily added to the layout; I used some 0.6mm wire that I had laying around and drilled a 0.65mm hole in each root. The wire was fixed with a small dab of superglue and left to dry. Once the roots were ready I added them to a temporary base (just a push fit into a hole, no glue). The tops of the trees were then sprayed with a matt varnish (specifically Winsor & Newton Artists' Matt Varnish). This makes them very sticky at which point I rolled the tree in Woodland Scenics Medium Green Course Turf. I then allowed the varnish to dry before repeating the process at least once to add more body to the foliage. When I was happy with the tree I then sprayed it with varnish again and sprinkled over some Woodland Scenics Green Blend Blended Turf to add a little colour variation. If you ignore drying time each tree probably took less than five minutes to make.

Once the trees are fully dry I then touch up any areas of the trunk where the bark has rubbed off with small dabs of RailMatch acrylic Sleeper Grime which seems to match the trunk colour quite well. A small hole (0.65mm again) is then drilled in the layout and the tree carefully positioned. I'll probably glue the trees in eventually but for now they are just a push fit so that I can remove them to work on the grass underneath and around them. So here is another shot of the front right corner of the layout with the trees in place.


  1. These are brilliant. You are getting very good at this.

    1. Thanks. I must admit to being quite surprised as to how happy I am with how it is all turning out. I'm not particularly artistic (never ask me to pick a colour theme), but with the quality of parts and equipment available I guess it's hard to go very wrong.

    2. Mark, I spent years married. You have to learn pick paint, carpet and wallpaper. You have to appear interested. Ladies love to pick what they have decided upon but if you give your opinion forcibly they think you care.
      Paint is paint. Carpet is carpet but these trees are great.

  2. I agree with Adrian about the trees. I would not have believed how good they look.