You'll find a little of everything here. Genres covered in this blog include (so far) prehistorics, fantasy, old west, swashbucklers, pulp, Blood Bowl, Ghostbusters, gladiators, nautical, science fiction and samurai in 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, 40mm, 42mm and 54mm sizes. You'll also find terrain, scenery, basing, gaming, modeling, tutorials, repaints, conversions, art and thoughts in general about the hobby.

Monday, May 7, 2007

BIG trees made easy

Trees are one of those things that's hard to find at a good price or difficult to make and make it look good ("good" being a subjective term of course- many of us are perfectly content with green scrubbrush scraps glued onto a shaved pencil, and there is nothing wrong with that.)

But I prefer BIG trees. I want them to be at a more realistic scale. I want them to tower over my miniatures and remind the warriors that nature may be just the setting, but is still very much in control. (And when people can see the tops of the trees in your game from clear across the convention floor, they're gonna come see what's up.) Of course, trees can be too big and simply dominate the field. It's up to you to find the balance that works for your needs.

So let's start by going to our local hobby mega-store (Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Ben Franklin here in the states) or maybe your local floral shop and pick up a few choice plastic floral stems. There is a plethora of choices out there. The stems I have pictured here are from Hobby Lobby and are under the "Natural Brilliance" brand. These cost $4 each, but some stems can cost as low as $1 each (or cheaper if there is a sale.) You can get from one to three trees from each stem depending on what stems you choose and how full or large you want your trees to be when finished.

The great thing about these stems is that they come essentially "pre-flocked." So we have eliminated one fiddly and messy step already! Some stems will have large flowers, some come with buds, others are simply fern leaves. Use whatever suits your taste.

So, let's start by determining the height of our tree and clipping the main stem at the right spot. I like my trees to be about a foot tall. The higher on the stem you clip, the shorter your tree will be, but the more branches you will have available (for making your tree fuller later.) The lower you cut, the taller tree you will have, but the less branches available (unless you devote multiple stems to one tree.)

The picture here shows a side-by-side comparison of an uncut floral stem and one that has been cut. This main stem will be the center of my tree and should have the highest point within the finished tree. So when you're choosing trees at the store, look for ones with tops you like.

Now, clip the remaining branches from the stem. Some floral stems will differ in the number of branches. You can check at the store beforehand.

So, from one my $4 floral stem ($2 due to the 50 percent-off sale), I managed to cut off one main trunk and three good branches all to form the trunk(s) of my tree. At this point, each branch can be its own tree. The more branches you use to form a tree, the fuller your tree will be. But the less branches used per tree, the more trees you will have (though, smaller.)

Now take all the branches you have clipped from the stem and bundle them together. You can use some brown floral tape to hold the bundle together, or you can simply hold it together with your hand for the next couple steps.

This is also your chance to form the basic shape of your tree; rotate some branches, bend others, and/or clip the trunks to change heights of the different branches.

Now get an old useless CD (or whatever you prefer) to be your tree's base. I use a two-part epoxy resin, though you may use any glue that works best for you. In this photo, I have already mixed the resin and have placed my grouping of branches into the "pond" of resin. You'll have to hold your branches with one hand while doing the next step- so make sure you're ready.

As the resin dries, use your toothpick to draw up some of the resin onto and around the trunk of your tree. This will help hold together your branches and stabilize your tree.

Don't worry about the shine of the resin on the trunk, you can easily paint over the it after it has dried.

Stabilize your tree

Use some tall glue bottles or coffee cans (whatever you can find that's tall and heavy) to prop up your tree while the epoxy resin dries. After the resin is dry, paint and flock your base and your tree is ready to decorate your battlefield! (Or Christmas village, train layout or diorama.)

I also use greenstuff and form it around the base of the tree, then I sculpt some rudimentary roots. This adds a little extra detail but also helps stabilize your tree. From here, you can prune and shape your tree as you desire. The more branches you have in your tree, the more you will have to work with in shaping your tree.