Now that the Crisis 2005 has come and gone, I have time to write up a few articles on the terrain for our Arnhem game (as opposed to having all the time taken up by actually building the thing). I intend to write what I hope will become a series of articles on the various techniques and materials I’ve used in building this terrain.
This first article focuses on something I have hinted at before: building the oodles upon oodles of trees that are needed to represent the areas 1st Airborne fought in, over and through in those fateful September days. This is a step by step photo article on how to construct trees using Woodlands Scenics products.
To build the trees, I use a number of Woodlands Scenics products, as seen in the photograph:
The only other indispensable item needed is glue. WS recommend their own glue (of course), but I use standard contact glue ( Pattex Contact glue ). In principle, contact glue has to be applied to both surfaces to work correctly (that’s why it’s called contact glue), but I find that the standard Pattex contact glue (not the transparant one) is tacky enough to apply to only the tree (this is a conditio sine qua non: you can’t apply glue to the foliage material without going insane).
Additional stuff used is some kitchen paper for spillage and some blue tack (which in Belgium is white) to hold down the tree bases (which I only use to hold the trees temporarily — on the terrain setup, they’re pinned directly into the ground).
This is a typical tree armature you get from WS. It has a number of branches, and a little pin on the bottom that slots into a base (which comes attached to the trunk but is easily removed) or that can be pinned into the ground of your terrain setup. The particular tree armatures I use come in about four sizes ranging from a tiny 1/2” armature with two small branches to a 2”, four to five branch fellow.
The armature needs to be twisted and bent into a somewhat convincing tree like shape. This sounds more complicated than it is. In nature, every form of tree shape occurs, so anything will do here, really. I usually try to have branches stick out in three or four different directions.
Also note one inevitable effect of building lots of trees this way: little bits of shrubbery get stuck to your fingers, as evident in this photo :)
This photo shows the result of the tree twisting exercise: a more or less 3D tree shaped bit of plastic. The tree will now be covered in glue (I apply the glue using the tube of glue itself, not using any tools) and dunked in flock.
Once the glue has been applied to the tree branches is when the real fun starts: dunk the tree into the flock. Although the WS instructions suggest to use more than one color of flock, I find that at least for this scale of trees, one colour is more than enough. Anything more than that, even in tiny amounts, just looks awkward.
Cover the still dunked tree in flock and press down on it. This ensures that the flock will have a better contact with the glue and will thus stick better. After that, take the tree out and shake it a bit to dislodge the loosest flock.
This is what the tree looks like freshly out of the flock. This still needs some work. The flock uses is called ‘Clump foliage’ and that has a reason: it’s called that because it clumps. Instead of the tiny flecks of shredded foam we’re used to from other flock, these are tiny flecks of shredded foam that stick together. This is good, as that simulates a tree canopy a lot better and easier, but it also means that if you stop at the current stage, you’re going to run out of flock fairly soon, as you’re taking big chunks of it away with each tree you build.
So, we need to pluck the tree.
This is just what it sounds like: you pluck flock off of the tree until you are left with a more sparse tree. This not only conserves flock, but also makes the tree look better (unless you think that real trees look like a stick with a ball of green stuff on top, in which case you might want to skip this step. But buy more flock if you are so inclined.).
And that’s it: this is what the tree looks like when finished. Nice, eh?
To increase the durability of the trees a bit (I don’t mind some flock falling off — it adds to the reality of the terrain setup — but the vast majority needs to remain on the tree) I spray them with Woodlands Scenics Scenic Cement (which is just thinned down white glue, but as David Black once said to me — ‘Yeah, but it’s premixed and 3 bucks for a big bottle’. He was right.). I imagine you can also use spray varnish or even hair spray.
That’s it: repeat this process several hundreds of times and you have an Arnhem sized forest. Ouch.
The result can be seen in Alan’s post.