Friday 23 September 2022

You Can't have Too Many Trees

Work In Progress update: the baroque Chateau is all made now and about 2/3 painted, so it should be ready to show you in a week or so. I would venture to suggest you will like it, as it's one of the most elaborate models I've ever done.

Meanwhile, last year a Franco-Prussian War scenario (the action of Poupry) prompted a major increase in the number of trees I needed, and of wood bases to put them on. We'll look at the wood bases next time, but here's some of the trees. I realised my old wood units ( see The Woods and the Trees under the "Terrain" label) were past their best after 20-odd years of being bashed around, so retrieved those individual trees which could be salvaged. Between those and the new ones, I ended up doing over 50 trees for the gaming table in one go. There's not much point showing you all of them, but here's some of the interesting ones. I've explained how I make trees pretty much before, and will do a proper tutorial at some point, so won't explain the basic method again here. 

Most of the trees are individually based, but some have pins fitted into the trunk instead. The pins go through a wood base or whatever, through a cloth and into a blue foam hill or underlying foam sheet. It takes no longer to push them in than to place a based tree in position.

This tree starts from a twig supplied in bulk by Diorama Presepe of Italy, who are in my Links list. I am a bit of a connoisseur of tree-twigs; this one has a lovely branching and re-branching structure, which is what you want.

Another Diorama Presepe twig, but what I wanted to show you here was the nice foliage on the base, which comes from MIG, the military modelling suppliers. Not cheap, but I think it has a lovely fresh look to it.

Several of the new trees used sagebrush twigs as the basis. Sagebrush grows wild in some very dry parts of the world and gives a great branching structure, bark texture and natural colour for our puposes. It's a bit fragile, but a spot of superglue fixes any breakages. The biggest problem is sourcing it, at least in the UK. In the US people gather it themselves, or buy it easily from model railway suppliers. I think the same applies in Australia(?) But us Brits really struggle to get hold of the stuff. I got a small batch from my fellow terrain-builder Herb Gundt of Indiana long ago, in exchange for some of my own treemaking supplies, and have had it in a bag for many years. It seemed high time to make use of it.

This sagebrush job is pin mounted. A nice upright shape.This is as tall as I like to go with wargames trees, because they have to fit in my storage system of fruit boxes. Long ago I learned to think about storage as part of the planning stage of a model (and of my wargames figures) rather than just making something and then worrying where it's going to go afterwards. I just don't have the space for a more happy-go-lucky approach. 

And this last one shows what a good, twisted, knarly, complex shape you can get with this material. One issue is that some twigs need working on to get a reasonably balanced shape, and you may have to start with the trunk at something of an angle to balance the canopy of the tree. In this case too much of the bulk was still on one side, so I think I brass-rodded a smaller twig on to one point to help balance the thing. But the upshot is one of my favourite tree models. 


  1. These really are very nice trees, John. I definitely need to do some work on natural terrain, my main issue is, lack of storage space......

  2. I gather heather stalks, which look somewhat similar to the sagebrush, there is plenty going free up on the moors, but it is time consuming to cut and dry. The best option is to find somewhere the heather has been cut as a fire break a while ago and just gather up the best bits.

  3. Great trees. Even though we have sage growing in some parts of Canada it can be hard to source.

  4. Very nice indeed, and reminds me I need to work on some more trees myself! You really never can have too many.

    Looking forward to the final chateau also!

  5. Thanks guys. Good point about the heather stalks, Mr Fire at Will. I once had some little heather plants in the garden, and looked at them with interest. It sounds as though there is more potential there than I had realised, if you can source the right bits.

    I most commonly use cuttings from box (buxus), which have a very good bark texture, although they don't branch out to an ideal degree. Of course some people get good results with twisted wire, but the time factor puts me off that route. I reckon to complete trees in about an hour each, which for me is quicker than painting 28mm figures. That's doing a batch of ten trees in ten hours, and it would be pin-based ones. Based trees would take maybe another half hour each, depending how much stuff you put on them.