(F) Grass and trees

For discussion of the issues faced when building a model or layout - how to replicate wood, what glues to use, exactly how much weathering can a Gnat take, a good source of detailing accessories - you get the picture, I'm sure.

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(F) Grass and trees

Postby Urban » Mon May 26, 2003 10:36 am

I've always felt that making scenery in smaller scales is easier. Scaling up a reasonable looking HO tree four times makes it look much less than like a tree (unless you also step back four times as far, and that's not what it's about in Gn15). Same with grass and so on.

Anyone have any large scale specific scenery advice to share?

True GnATTERbox
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Postby Harald » Mon May 26, 2003 11:09 am

Two things I have in mind for my plans (not started to build yet):

For 1:35 scale there are lots of "plants" in etched brass -- many of these should be suitable for 1:22,5/1:24 too. Unfortunately these brass plants are not too cheap.

In a store for decorating I found a "department" with artificial plants (you know those silk rose things etc.). The green plants (not the flowers ... don't know the English word) can perhaps be suitable if cut into "smaller plants". These are cheaper too.


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Postby ian holmes » Tue May 27, 2003 5:32 pm

One thing about trees, they come in all different sizes. On Whinny Lane I used "Woodland Scenics" 10" (20') trees in the foreground even going so far as to place them on a small mound to make them taller. They look fine, though they do only come up to roof level of the adjacent building.

The tree backscene, which has drawn many favourable comments, is just a piece of foam core baord with woodland scenics foliage glued to it. It stands up to 18" (36') high.
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Steve Bennett
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Postby Steve Bennett » Wed May 28, 2003 1:33 am

Many of the materials used in smaller scales will work fine, but if you are looking for accent plants for the foreground, a couple of ideas. Brush bristles can be used for longer grasses or reeds, best planted in small clumps. Plastic plants intended for aquarium use show a lot of potential, go for the smaller leaved varieties. Some of the preserved foliage for flower arranging would also work well.

The big problem is when it comes to a decent sized tree and I guess mother nature would be hard to beat here, a branch from a small shrub with a fine bark could well be a good source for the main structure. Something I have yet to try.
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True GnATTERbox
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Postby Pete » Tue Nov 29, 2005 1:03 am

Hi everyone,

Just thought I'd remind you of my experience of building realistic trees in G!

You'll find the article linked to on the front page of www.Gn15.info . . .


I have been experimenting for some time now with welding cable as the basic material for building trees, and believe it's just as applicable in G scale as it is in 2mm, 4mm and 7mm scales.

I used this technique to build the majority of trees on my N scale Tunnel Road and 4mm Pete's Pallets layouts, and I have a garage shelf full of trees in various stages of completion.

The cable I use is (roughly) 12mm in diameter, and once I peel away the heavy rubber insulation, I'm left with a bundle of six separate groups of fine copper wire.

This bundling is important, as it makes branching (and finer branching as you get to the top of the tree) much easier than if you are using separate wire strands.

If you follow this recipe, you'll end up with a neat (little) G scale tree with a 1ft radius trunk, standing a scale 15-17ft high.

You'll need:

* Welding cable (buy a long length to ensure you can make as many tress as possible)
* Heavier-gauge wire (to help hold the trunk in shape below your branches)
* A pot of modelling compound -- a heavy impasto paste made from marble grit (I use an Australian product called Atelier, but I'm sure you'll find a local product in your art supply store).
* A thick rounded artist's brush to apply the modelling compound.
* Spray cans of various colours (I use Testors' greys, browns and some drab greens)
* Various types and shades of Woodland Scenics foliage mat (although you may wish to use some of the delightful European products on the market -- or nothing at all if you wish to model winter/dead trees!)

Now, Let's begin ...

Cut a 9-10 inch length of welding cable, and strip off the insulation.

Take a length of the heavier wire and wrap it around the ‘trunk, starting about 1-1½ in from the base of the tree (this is important, as you want the base to splay out as trees tend to do in real life). Continue this wrapping for 1-1.5 inches up the tree ... or where you want your first heavy branches to start coming away from the trunk.

Start dividing off clumps of wire to form heavy branches of various lengths and height from the base.

Once these are divided, you should have branches ranging in lengths of 1-4 inches.

Keep dividing and twisting these branches (the twisting allows you to maintain and form shape in the branches).

With 1-2 inches of branch left at the top, start dividing these branches further, creating your 'canopy' of lighter branches towards the top of the tree (I have found that about 1" or less of fanned wires at the top of the tree creates a wonderful canopy).

Cut another length of stout wire and insert this into the base of the tree, pushing it up into the bundle as far as you like. Make sure, though, you have about 1" protruding from the base of the tree.

Some of you may wish to hold particularly gnarly shapes in your branches by wrapping more wire around them, a la bonsai fashion.

Now ... Here comes the fun, messy part!

Once you're happy with the shape, size, height etc. of your tree, start painting it with modelling compound. Brush it on liberally using the artist's brush.

While this stuff is reasonably quick setting, there's no need to rush, and about a minute after your first application, you can start shaping in groves, gnarls, hollows, etc. using the brush and other (sharpish or blunt) objects at hand.

Apply modelling compound as far up the tree as you like.

You'll need to give your tree 2-3 applications to ensure you cover as much of the wire as possible (nothing looks worse than an obviously wire tree!)

Then set your masterpiece to one side for at least 24-48 hours -- to ensure the compound goes off sufficiently for painting.

Once you're pleased with your efforts, spray away! I have trees with grey trunks, brown/tan trunks, a mix of both ... and some with shades of green for added effect.

Once this is dry, start applying your foliage material, using white glue to hold small clumps to your fine wire foliage ‘canopy'. Once the glue is dry, you can tease this foliage out to add even more shape.

You may choose to add more material, use different coloured material (to create the illusion of different coloured leaves), or sprinkle chunkier ground foam particles onto this foliage mat (I use cheap, nasty hairspray as a holding agent for this additional foam.

Now, assuming you are pleased with your results, drill a hole in the baseboard, and insert your tree!

Nothing simpler!

With a bit of practice, you'll find you should be able to produce 5-6 such trees in a 2-3 day product process.

Happy tree-making, guys!

PS: I have found modelling compound far superior to plaster -- even when you mix white glue with the plaster. It's a lot more rubbery, and tends to take the knocks, drops and bangs of the exhibition circuit extremely well.

And if you do happen to crack a branch, just dab a bit more compound on . . . It will hold wonderfully. This stuff is GREAT! I am not quite sure what artists use it for, but we can use it for everything from tree building to crack filling.

I guess you could also use it (with some practice) as a wall stucco/plaster effect on G scale walls.

Happy tree-making!
Pete (Less Than Permanent Way) Heininger

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