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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tutorial: Trees

By Jeff "SonBae" Flint

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

"The Trees" by Rush

Over the last few years, I have been expanding my terrain collection. I started off with a gaming mat and some hills from the now defunct  I added a few homemade buildings when I realized you need some place to put your troops. Then I made a bunch of treelines for a tournament. I was also a member of the "Building of The Month" Club Battlefront had for their NW European houses and now for the new Premium, larger buildings. I was also able to get 2 sets of Battlefront's hard to find BB117 Rural Roads from The Warstore. The one thing I haven't been able to track down, and was missing, were trees.

I love Battlefront's Battlefield in a Box Trees. Right now, you can only find the Orange/Yellow Autumn Woods on the BF site or wintry Evergreens. So, the only option was to play games on EBay and deal with price gougers, hit every store I come across or make my own. We tried making some trees at my FLGS, The Foundry, not only was it time-consuming but the results were less than stellar.

Matt from the Auburn branch of WWPD-South (War Eagle!) showed me some trees his group came across: Woodland Scenics Ready Made Trees. These were basically the same trees we were trying make only better, and for a decent price.

Mixed Green

You get 3 sizes and each box costs $32.99 (I got my boxes for just over $25 each from my local Hobbytown USA):

3/4" - 2"  38 ea
2"-3"  23 ea ( I chose this set)
3"-5"  14 ea

They also have an Evergreen Blend in 2 sizes (again for $32.99/box retail):

Now, these trees looked great right out of the box but I didn't want to use single trees on a mat.  I really liked how Battlefront had little bases with 1-3 trees on each base. It also gave me another chance to do a little modeling. But I needed some cheap bases and a trip to my local Michaels was all it took.

Here I found some really neat 2.5" wood disks.  These were $0.29 unprimed and $0.39 primed.  Any shape of size slightly larger or smaller will do. 

Next I assembled the trees with 1-3 trees per base:

The deciduous trees need a little bulking up the clump foliage can come apart pretty easy if they are left like this. To make them more durable you need to give them a Matte Medium (or PVA Glue) wash/shower.

Take your favorite Matte Medium/PVA glue, water it down and then spray it on the trees. You need to get them really good and wet.  If you think you got them wet enough...give them another shot. You might have to do 2 coats. When they are completely dry they will be stiff and crunchy and best of all you wont have little pieces pulling off too easily. This step is a must for the deciduous trees; it wont hurt the evergreens but isn't as necessary.

The last step is to model the base with your favorite basing methods. I used Vallejo pumice then painted that in shades of brown.  Put some rock pathways and layers of grass with tufts and clump foliage to round it out.

Compare:  Woodland Scenics on the Left and Right. Battlefield in a Box in the Middle

The Woodland Scenics website has a nice tutorial on how to make trees. If we use the ready made trees most of the video doesn't apply, but the last step does, they tell you to sprinkle a little Fine Yellow Turf over the trees. If you do this while the trees are wet, the turf will stick and wont fall off later. Word of advice, a little goes a long ways. Also, this step doesn't apply to the evergreens.

Battlefield in a Box Tree
The Battlefield in a Box trees also have a nice plastic mat to show the shape of the woods. We need that as well and Woodland Scenics comes through again!

This is a little sheet of vinyl paper with a grass blend on top.  It comes in multiple sizes from 12 1/2" x14 1/8" ($3.99) to 50"x100" ($32.99).  I grabbed a few project rolls for $3.99/roll and went to work.  These are a little thin and need some stiffening so that they would lay flat and not curl.  Duck tape to the rescue (yet another use!).  I covered the back of an uncut project roll with 2 layers of duck layer going width-wise and another going length-wise.  Then I cut the shapes.

Battlefield in a Box on the Left

Battlefield in a Box on a hill: the one negative with hard plastic
The vinyl sheet conforms to hills better
So cost comparison:

Battlefield in a Box set of trees (2 bases with 2-3 trees stands/per base) $35

1 Box Woodland Scenics Ready Made Trees (2-3") 23 trees ea  $25
1 Box Woodland Scenics Ready Made Evergreen Trees 18 trees ea  $25
1 Box Woodland Scenics Ready Made Evergreen Trees trees ea  $25
5 rolls Woodland Scenics Summer Grass Project Rolls  $25
28 wood discs @ $0.40/ea  $11.20

So for an out lay of just over $100 and maybe 10 hours actual work (not counting dry time of the various glues/finishes) I got 12 bases and 14 Deciduous tree stands and 14 Evergreen stands.  Even if you had to buy the basing materials (roughly $50 in total), you would max out around $160.  This is roughly 6 boxes of the Battlefield in a Box tree sets which would cost $210 if you could find them.


I love the results, the trees really pop on the table. You can go one step further and actually paint the visible lower tree trunk to get rid of the plastic effect. That is additional time I just didn't want to put into the project. I plan on doing some snow covered evergreens in the future to go with those EW Strelkovy troops and I might be painting tree trunks then.  :-)

As always, a special thanks The Foundry in Huntsville, Alabama for allowing me to use their tables and terrain to take these pictures.

SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials.

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