Model trees

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A model railway is not complete without the scenery. An important part of a landscape is the greenery, i.e. trees, hedges and shrubs. In this article I will describe a method to aid you to make your own model trees that are realistic, strong, cheap and easy to make. All the tools you need are a pair of scissors, a brush, a wire cutter and some clamps.

List of tools

-    a pair of scissors
-    a small paintbrush
-    wire cutter
-    clamps, the ones used for hanging the washing on the lines are perfect (and cheap)

List of materials

-    Metal wire, prreferably steel, but copper strands from electrical leads are also OK. I use plastified wire that is normally used for binding flowers.
-    Cotton thread, any brown, white or grey colour will do, stay away from bright colours. Use a thick thread (about 1- 1.5 mm)
-    Single component contact adhesive, like Bison-Kit, Bostik or Walther's Goo.
-    Foliage material, select a few colours from various manufacturers, personally I like Woodland Scenics and Busch, but there are other makes as well.
    Use different colours for variety.
-    Water soluable paint in a brown or grey colour, please observe real trees for an impression of the colour. Always use flat colours.
-    Woodland Scenics 'turf' or ground bark. Similar material is available from other manufacturers.
-    PVA glue or special 'leaf adhesive' (made by Faller).
-    Hairspray
-    Some patience and time

Your trees can look as good as this one!

How to make your trees

First, cut 12 to 18 lengths of wire to a length some 12 to 18 centimeters (4 to 6 inches). Then twist the wires into a basic tree shape (trunk and branches). then apply the adhesive on the trunk and the base of the branches. Wind the cotton thread around the trunks whilst the adhesive is still wet ad allow you tree to dry for about 24 hours. Then paint the trunk and the branches, do not forget the ends of the branches!
Then leave to dry again. Then apply PVA to the trunk and glue brown 'turf' or ground bark to the trunk. Leave to dry once more (24 hours).
The final stage is to give your tree its leaves. Woodland Scenics foliage is an ideal material as it comes in a variety of natural looking colours, it is colourfast and easy to work with. Please follow the instructions on the bag.
You could use foliage of other manufacturers, I would also recommend Green Scene and Busch, the material is very similar.
Finally, spray your tree with hairspray, a single blow from the spraycan is enough. Any more will cause an ugly 'frosting' effect that spoils all your work, so be careful.
An alternative for hairpray is diluted latex. At this moment I have not tried it yet.

To speed up your production it is best to make batches of 5 to 10 trees at a time. This batch size is large enough to make a quantity of trees in a given time, but small enough to avoid getting you bored with doing the same for hours and hours!
Give this method a try, you will like the results!

 Silhouettes of different trees to help you 'growing' your model trees.

If you find this method for modelling trees too laborious, I developed a quicker method which provide good results albeit less detailed. More information in the Quick trees section.

Text by Mark Veneman

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