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15mm Trees (part one)

15mm Trees (part one)


Working with smaller-scale vegetation is very similar to their larger-scale cousins, but with a
few interesting differences. Its all about finding or making suitable armatures and applying flock
to them. Some items make great armatures just as they are, while others require some assembly.
In this first article we will discuss some methods for assembling your frames.
For the bases and tree trunks we will be using a selection of washers and some small plastic
coffee stirrers.
For this example, we will use a common plastic plant that can be found in most craft stores. This
method will work with a wide variety of plants so dont worry if you cant find this exact one.
The plant you select should have as many branching sections as possible, and (hopefully) be easy
to disassemble.
Pull the plant apart into its individual sections.
When making plants for 28mm scale we would have used the individual pieces just as they are.
However, when working in 15mm scale they would just be too big, so they must first be cut
down to size. With four quick clips of the scissors we have now made these a suitable size for
15mm trees.
To make a large bush simply cut one of these in half and glue it to a base. To make a small tree
use a section mounted on a short trunk. For the larger tree it took five of them mounted on a
taller trunk. Depending on what plant you are actually using you may need to modify this
somewhat.
To make the larger trees start by punching a few holes in the side of the coffee stirrer.
The stem of the individual fronds are then stuck into the holes. Make sure that you have enough
of a stem inside the stir stick for the glue to hold onto it. You dont want entire sections of the
tree falling off as you are trying to glue the flock on.
The fronds attached to the coffee stirrer through the holes in the sides are initially placed without
using any glue. Just before placing the final frond in through the hole in the top, glue is squirted
in through the top of the stirrer to cement the fronds in place. The next step is to paint them and
add the flock, but that is the subject for the next article.
15mm Trees (part two)
Now that you have a nice flexible tree armature its time to paint and flock it. Flexible trees have
several advantages over their more rigid brethren. For starters they are very hard to break, since
they tend to just flex and sway in response to things that would break a hard plastic tree. They
also tend to be a little more stable and are harder to accidentally knock over. Soft plastic however
is notoriously hard to paint since most paint tends to chip off whenever the plastic flexes. For this
reason you MUST use a paint that chemically bonds to plastic! This paint has been around for
many years and is very easy to find in hardware stores. The paint sold in hobby stores is usually
designed for hard plastic and wont work. If you are familiar with the Fusion brand of paint then
you already know what we are talking about. A similar paint is made by several different
companies, so look for bonds to plastic somewhere on the label and you should have a suitable
paint. If you cant find the color you want, just make sure that the primer you use will bond, then
use your normal paint over it.

The next step is flocking the trees. The color and coarseness of the flock you choose to use can
have a very profound effect on the way the finished trees look, so make sure you take it into
consideration from the beginning. Because trees are usually very clumpy we use undiluted or
even thickened PVA glue to stick the flock on with. Depending on the type of trees you are
trying to make it is usually desirable to leave some of the armature unflocked and exposed.

The first method is the direct flock. This is simply gluing the flock on to the armature itself.
These trees were made by direct flocking the armature with a fine flock. With this particular
armature it works well with the small bushes, but looks a little odd on a larger tree. If you want
to make alien looking trees for a science fiction game then it works great; if youre a historical
gamer then they probably wont work for you.

The same armature with a course flock applied gives a very different look.
The second method is to apply the flock over an intermediary. Many different materials can be
used as an intermediary. For this example we will use some course flock that we made by tossing
a common household sponge into a blender. Normally I would advise using a more appropriately
colored flock, but using a contrasting color for the pictures gives a clearer image of the process.
The course flock intermediary is first glued into place and then painted before the final coat of
flock is applied.
Here is a comparison of the three trees (made from identical armatures) side by side.
15mm Trees (part three)

Nature repeats patterns over and over again. Does a tree look like flowers, or do flowers look
like trees? Why not take advantage of this and make some really easy miniature trees. If you can
wait for the sales that the craft stores periodically have on these things you can get a lot of them
for very cheap.
This first flower is one of my favorites, since it could be recognized as an easy miniature tree
from a ways away.

We pulled the flowers off of the stems and tossed the rest of it away.
These were as simple as gluing it down to a base, painting it, and flocking it! It just doesnt get
any easier than that!
These took a little more imagination to recognize as miniature trees, but not much!
Same exact process, glue, paint, and flock.
These were made from an aquarium plant and are not technically a flower, but hey its still the
same process. If you look around there are lots of very similar things that make nice armatures
for miniature trees.
15mm Trees (part four)
Twisted wire brush trees are another really great tree to add to your collection. Many readymade
trees are based on some sort of twisted wire brush design. If you look around there is a very wide
variety of readily available brushes just waiting to be made into trees. Many of these can be
purchased at discount stores for a very reasonable price.
For starters we will look at a type of common household cleaning brush. This particular one is
designed for cleaning window blinds with. Almost any brush that is made with a central core of
twisted wire will work for this. Using a new brush is frequently preferable (especially if you are
using one of those looped toilet brushes).
Step one is to cut the brush into tree sized lengths. The size of the brush you start with and the
size of the trees you finish with have a great effect on the cost of the individual finished trees.
Keep this in mind when selecting your brushes since the whole point is to make them for cheaper
than you can buy them.

Next you need to shape the brushes, to do this we used a pair of pliers and some scissors. The
lower trunk was formed by simply pulling out the unneeded bristles to a suitable height. Then,
while using the exposed tree trunk as a handle, shape the tree with the scissors, turning it
between cuts.

The trunk is then glued down to a base, painted, and flocked.


Another commonly available type of brush is the ones used to make Christmas wreaths. These
come in a very wide range of qualities. In this example we will be using a very cheap one for
demonstration purposes. If you need to cover an entire table on a very small budget then these
are the trees for you! This wreath was bought on sale for about $5, and provided enough
armatures to cover an entire 4 X 6 gaming table.
Another benefit of using these types of brushes is that the bristles dont come straight out from
the wire. Instead they come out at an angle, which gives you the option of making the trees with
the branches pointing up or down.
The shaping process is essentially the same as the other brush trees, with the minor difference of
clearing the trunk using scissors instead of pliers since the strands are usually much harder to
pull out.
Once again simply glue the armatures down to a base, paint and then flock.
Working With Plastic Plants (part one)

Working With Plastic Plants (part one)


Plastic plants come in many different sizes, shapes and colors, and are an excellent resource to
use when making gaming terrain. They are very commonly used in aquariums, flower
arrangements, and holiday decorations, just to name a few sources. If used properly they can
make very convincing looking gaming scenery. However, there are a few things that you should
know before you start making terrain with them.
We get a lot of comments from people on our plants and they frequently go something like,
Wow thats really cool! How did you do that? Usually this comes from someone who has a
beautifully converted and painted army. I personally find this amusing since converting a
miniature is much harder than converting a plant. Creating a plant is, in a lot of ways, like
converting a miniature. You can cut parts off of one plant and combine them with pieces from
another to create something uniquely your own. We have a bits box full of plant pieces that
can be used whenever needed. The point is that if you look at crafting plants the same way that
you look at converting miniatures then you will be surprised at how easy it is. Hopefully, you
will find some of these techniques useful when converting your own plants.

The most basic thing you should realize is how you choose to make use of your scavenged
plants can make a huge difference in how the end results appear. In this first example we have
used some clippings from one single plant to make several different looking plants. Even without
changing the color or texture of the plants we have made some very different looking plants. A
very nice plant that is badly presented will look bad, but a well presented ugly plant can actually
look very good. Some of these techniques work well with some plants than others; you may
have to do some experimenting to determine what works with the plants that you have.

By experimenting with different ways of grouping, weve made several different plants from the
same pieces.
Our first example in the picture above is what well call a blanket placement It works well
when your plants are basically two dimensional and you need a lot of them to look like a real
plant. However, it is generally only good for making very low plants. The second is dispersed
placement and it works well when the leaves are big or you just need a more open plant. The
third one is a closely grouped placement and its good one to use when there are few or very
small leaves. The last one is a radial placement and is good for larger plants like trees, or when
the leaves are the only usable part of the plant.

We can turn something as gaudy as this into some convincing green plants. Though, if youve
looking to make an alien jungle, you might want to keep the original color!

When selecting plants to use, anything with small enough leaves will work. Dont necessarily
select them based on color and texture since this is actually the easiest characteristic to change. If
your plants dont look realistic, then fix them by painting or flocking them whenever necessary.
We like to use the plants we find at craft stores since they are usually really cheap, but have the
drawback of looking cheap without touch-ups. Aquarium plants are also excellent to use, but are
usually a bit more expensive.

Painting plants can make a huge difference, even if you dont initially think it is needed.
The biggest mistake that some people make is not bothering to paint the plants. Plastic plants are
frequently made of a very shiny soft plastic that most paints wont stick to very well. However
several major paint manufactures now make a spray paint specially formulated to bond to this
type of plastic. If you use one of these fusion types of paint as a primer then you shouldnt have
any problems painting them with your regular paint. This type of paint can be found in the
hardware section of many stores, and is frequently marketed as being for use on plastic outdoor
furniture. Look for the words bonds to plastic or something similar on the label, and youll be
colorizing your craft store plants in no time!

Flocking your plants is another option. It gives a very different feel depending on what type of
flock you use.

Some plants wont look good even when painted because the scale of the leaves is just too big,
flocking them can frequently change that. Make sure that you consider this when selecting your
plants because a flocked leaf looks very different from a painted leaf. This comparison picture
does a good job of showing how important the flock you use is in the appearance of the plant.
The same plant looks very different when its not flocked verses if its finely flocked or coarsely
flocked. Depending on the plant, you can vary the look even more by flocking only specific
parts.

As a final note; we like to make our plants in at least three different sizes, and we like to make
lots of the little ones. A small plant doesnt tend to get in the way when playing a game, yet still
adds a lot to the game visually. A real forest has plants in all stages of the life cycle, so having
your plants in several different sizes is crucial to making it look realistic. You can read up more
on the importance of size here.
Working With Plastic Plants (part two)

Working With Plastic Plants (part two)


Plant 1

For the first technique we are going to use a plant that already has a nice paint job. This way, we
wont have to paint the finished plants at all. This is also a prefect plant to illustrate our most
basic technique with. We made these pieces using something called scaling-down.

This plant was around $7 at the craft store.

Unless you are making a corn field or something similar you dont want all of your plants to be
the same size, it just doesnt look natural! Basically, any time you cut a plant shorter you are
scaling down. We do this for just about every plant we make. It is very useful for extending your
supply of plants since the clippings can also be reused. Since this plant had such large leaves we
decided to use a dispersed setting when basing them. That means that the stalks of individual
plants are spread out across the base with space intentionally left between each one.
Plant 2

This plant had very nice small leaves but we didnt like
the color, so we simply repainted it. To make this plant we used a closely grouped setting so that all
stalks were attached in groups using one center point (or close to it) on the base.
Since we wanted the larger pieces to be taller than the original piece, we mounted them up on a
pedestal (in this case a coffee stirrer). The pedestal was then concealed with concentric rows of
decreasing sizes and then painted the same as the rest of the plants. We call this scaling up, and (like
scaling down) is a good way to get the most out of your plant supply.
Plant 3

Flock is useful for changing the look of a plant, but in this case the work was already done!

This time we are using a plant that came already flocked. Its very convenient since you dont have to do
any painting and you get the added bonus of a totally different textured plant from the painted ones.
Since the usable portion of this plant (the leaves) is in very small pieces, we used a radial mounting
technique.
To easily get the angles we wanted out of the leaves, we just propped them up with dice as they
dried. The stalks were strong yet flexible, so they hold up well.

The leaves were glued on in stacked rings with the bottom row of each ring only slightly above the
ground, and each succeeding ring getting a progressively higher angle until the final one is sticking
straight up in the air. The number of rings used and the number of leaves used per ring depends on the
size of plant being made. In this case you can also vary the size of the leaf by varying how much of the
tip is cut off.
Working with Plastic Plants (part three)

Working with Plastic Plants (part three)


Making larger plants like trees may look difficult, but its actually not much harder than making
the smaller plants. A tree is just a collection of smaller plants all stuck together. You do have a
smaller range of usable plants to choose from however, so you will have to be more selective in
which plants you use.
One of the easiest ways to make larger plants is to use an armature. In this case we used copper
wire to form the armature but many other materials can also be used. In its simplest form it can
be just a single wire, like the example on the left. The other two are a little bit more complex
since they used seven wires each. Start by bending out and twisting together the wires on the
bottom to form the roots and to give you a good surface to glue onto. Depending on how tight
your wire bundle is, you may have to temporarily hold it together with some tape or glue. Then
spread out the wires on the top to form the branches. The one in the center is intended to be used
with the ring method of attaching and the one on the right is for the tip method.
Many plastic plants come with attachment rings that can be used like the one in the center of this
picture.
Simply alternate between vegetation pieces and spacers until you have reached the desired height
and then insert a half piece vertically into the top spacer. We used small straws (coffee stirrers)
for the spacers but beads or even coiled wire can do the same thing.
Sometimes you wont have a ring to work with just a stem. In those cases we do something we
call tipping. There are many different variations on this method, but this is one of the simplest.
Start by punching a small hole through the side of a coffee stirrer and then insert the stem into it.
These small bushes were made by two pieces being stuck into the side and one in the top.
Depending on the plants you are working with you may only need the one in the top or possibly
as many as five. The number and placement of the plastic plant fronds that you use will have a
very profound effect on the look of the finished plant.
We wanted a very open and airy look to these trees, so we used a very minimal number of both
attachment points and fronds on each tip. By increasing the number of either or both of these we
could easily have achieved a full look.
There are many different ways to texture the bark on a tree but in this example the armature was
covered using window caulk (since it is desirable for the finished trees to still have a fair amount
of flex in them). Make sure that you use the paintable type of caulk or you will have problems
later. Its very sticky when first applied, so I let it sit for an hour or two before smoothing and
shaping. After the caulk dried the tree was then painted and a layer of flock was applied using
PVA glue.
In this picture, the tree on the left was made using the ring method and the one on the right was
made using the tip method. Both methods give very similar results and very complex trees can
easily be made using ether one (or even both) of the methods.
Working with Plastic Plants (part four)

Working with Plastic Plants (part four)


Making your plants in different sizes is very important to making them look realistic. Sometimes though, it
isnt as simple as making a taller version of a smaller plant, or the other way around. If you arent careful,
doing that can lead to plants that dont look quite right. The solution to this is often fairly easy; simply keep in
mind that taller plants needs to be wider at the base than the smaller version of the same plant. The above
picture illustrates our point. Instead of just creating a taller version of the smaller plants, we also built up the
base to keep the proportions similar. Because of this, they still manage to look much more natural.
This closely grouped plant was made by simply cutting the full sized plant into smaller sections.
To make a taller version, simply cut one less section of the main stock.

The following three plants are examples of just some of the many variations of the radial method
of basing weve described in earlier tutorials. In these examples we used a straw with holes
punched in it, cheap plastic beads with hot glue, and a wooden dowel respectively to form a
simple pedestal.
This time we combined the radial mounting method with a closely grouped setting. We created a
central stem by punching eight holes in a straw and then gluing leaves into the holes with the
tops being inserted into the top opening.
Only the leaves were usable on this plant, but it still looks good when plastic beads are used to
make a central stock for it.
We selected a plant with lots of small leaves for this project. Start by drilling a bunch of holes
into your central core. In this case we used a wooden dowel. Resin, plaster castings, or even
actual branches will also work nicely. Basically, anything that you can drill into will work with
this method.

The end tips of the original plant were used for the lower branches and the smaller ones for the
upper branches.
After detailing the trunk and adding some roots with hot glue, we then spray painted the tree.

Applying the flocking is the hardest part of making one of these because its a little time
consuming. We used a cheap paint brush to apply PVA glue to all of the parts we want covered
in flock and then we sprinkle on the flock.
Using the same methods, and some different varieties of plants, we quickly developed a table
that was diverse, but unified.
Tree Trunks from Rope

Tree Trunks from Rope


This is a simple technique to make tree trunks using rope. This tutorial is intended to give you
some ideas and get you started on making your own tree trunks. Start by selecting your rope;
almost any reasonably stiff natural fiber rope will work. We have used a fairly small diameter
rope for this example, obviously a larger diameter rope would give you a larger tree.
Cut your rope longer than the planed height of your tree, it is a lot easier to work with if the
strands of the rope are long enough to hold on to. It is also very easy to cut to length later and
very hard to make it longer if you end up too short. Glue one end of the rope down to your base.
Then unravel the major strands of the rope down to the point that you want the trunk to start
branching out. Glue the strands together at that point so that they dont unravel on you later. In
this example we are making a very small tree so we will unravel the rest of the strands. If we
want to make a larger tree then we would only unravel them part way and then glue them. This
would move the smaller branches further from the trunk of the tree.
Next we cut the strands to length, spread them out and glue the pieces in the middle of the
original strands. At this point, depending on what technique you are planning on using to place
foliage on the tree, you can ether leave it like this or spread the tips out down to each individual
fiber.

The tree should be just barely stiff enough to maintain its own shape and you will need to stiffen
it up. We did this by painting it with a thick coat of PVA glue and then positioned the branches
where we wanted them. If the weight of the glue causes them to droop, then hang them upside
down till they have dried. The PVA glue caused the strands to unravel a little bit but for the style
of tree we are making, but it didnt matter for our purposes. If you dont want them to unravel
because those branches will be exposed, then a few drops of super glue strategically placed
should stop that from happening. We liked the texture of the PVA glue over the rope for our
trunk so we just left it like that. If you prefer a smoother texture for your trunk, then we would
suggest using window caulking to coat the trunk with. It stays a little flexible when dry and
comes in a paintable variety.
To make a larger tree just combine several pieces of rope together. Once the trunk is finished
apply whatever flock you want to on the branches. We used a clump foliage in this example but a
finer grade will also work.