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Tiny Tin Men :: Archives

Building a big forest

November 20, 2005 12:00 PM - Posted by Robartes - Category: Terrain

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.

Step one: The materials

The materials

To build the trees, I use a number of Woodlands Scenics products, as seen in the photograph:

  • Tree Armatures. I use the smallest size, nominally 1/2” to 2” in height.
  • Clump foliage. I use three colours: light, medium and dark green.

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).

Step 2: A tree, straight

The materials

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 :)

Step 3: A tree, twisted

The materials

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.

Step 4: Dunking the tree

The materials

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.

Step 5: Press down on the flock

The materials

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.

Step 6: A tree, freshly canopied

The materials

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.

Step 7: A tree, plucked

The materials

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.).

Step 8: A tree, finished

The materials

And that’s it: this is what the tree looks like when finished. Nice, eh?

Step 9: A forest, sprayed

The materials

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.

Comments on this entry

I totally agree with the idea of buying Scenic Cement. It also lasts longer, and is just a bargain. You can also buy pre-finished trees from WS, too. They’re priced okay, but I’ve never been able to get my flock to stay on like they have. Theirs are just more durable than I’ve ever had my own turn out.

November 21, 2005 6:09 PM - Posted by Andy

Bart, where do you get your materials? Do you order them online or is there a shop in the neighbourhood where you purchase them?

November 22, 2005 12:21 PM - Posted by Koen (Heverlee)

Not being able to have the PC and the painting table in the same room I have to rely on the headphones to keep me sane while I am painting. I ought to download somm BBC stuff to the Mpeg player and indulge in some podcasting - a whole weeks worth of the Archers - well maybe not.

My table is located in the attic and for the moment is replacing my gming table so that I don’t get destracted by too much tinkering. I am building about 15 vehicles for my 15mm late war Germans and Brits. I also have another 8 phalangites on the go (only 160 to go), a 16 figure battalion of foundry 1914 Brits, and I have started work on a Red Army for “Triumph of the Will” - all are bases and base coated, and their White opponents are sorted and about to be based up. Unfortunately, well maybe, I have diverted into building a FoW Grenadier company for 1944. As an introduction to historical gaming these rules seem to have a lot to offer, they are simple and bloody, and unfortunately far too full of Boys own adventure type writing, but they do capture the imagination and include a lot of basic tactical advice and tips to get one started - such as how to position ones ATGs to be mutually supporting etc etc. If all else fails and they don’t live up then I’ve a nice Regiment to play BKC with! Cheers Graham K

November 22, 2005 2:37 PM - Posted by graham K

Bart, where do you get your materials? Do you order them online or is there a shop in the neighbourhood where you purchase them?

I get my Woodlands Scenics stuff from EC Scenics in the UK - they offer the full range and offer good service (keep you informed and ship quickly).

They’re at

EC Scenics.

Tell them I sent you :)

November 22, 2005 3:52 PM - Posted by Robartes

Glad to see you tried the WS scenic cement. I love the stuff, especially for bases where I used sand as the main ground texture. BTW, did I mention it’s pre-mixed and only about 3 bucks?

November 23, 2005 8:23 AM - Posted by David

Hmm - looks like I replied to the wrong post! G

November 23, 2005 12:04 PM - Posted by graham K

Woodland scenics products are also available in Belgium from ‘Verschooten’ (Eiermarkt, Antwerpen). They have clump foliage and different kinds of flock and ballast.

BTW I get no pictures in the tutorial - just 404.

November 24, 2005 9:42 AM - Posted by gnomehome