Saturday, November 8, 2014

Making 1/600 scale forests

I've been mulling over 3mm terrain for the past ten days or so and my thoughts have turned to how to model forests. Earlier this year, on, one of my favorite posters gave this tutorial

When looking down onto his finished product, it certainly looks good:
Basically, foilage clusters embedded into latex glue, which he then cured in a warm oven. Great idea! But it's relatively two dimensional, i.e. it has very little height to it. Certainly in comparison to a 1/600 scale tank, it's not nearly tall enough to represent appropriately scaled trees. It looks more like an area of rather large bushes. Another problem for me is that when a unit is "inside" the forest, I would either have to sit it on top of the "trees" or drape the entire latex forest over the unit. Both options seem quite clumsy and aesthetically unpleasant to me.

So, what I want is a forest that has height to it, can be neatly set over the top of my ground units, and looks at least reasonably like trees. Hmmm....

Here's what I've come up with. I cut a small randomly shaped piece of sheet styrene that was thick enough to be quite rigid. I clipped the tips off of some thin gauge 3/4" brads (very small nails):
I then drilled holes through the styrene at regular intervals all the way around the edge and I superglued the clipped nails through the holes thus forming what Mrs. HistoryPhD says is a "Barbie table".
(That one's for you, sweetie.)

I then gave the whole thing a shot of light grey primer and the "table top" got several coats, top and bottom, of a dark green granny paint (Apple Barrel's Hunter Green - it's cheap but it doesn't cover very well), while the "trunks" got two coats of Vallejo London Grey (836), because tree trunks are never actually brown. 

I drilled a hole through the center also, but I discarded the central leg as it made it more difficult to sit the "forest" over the top of a unit. At first, I just drilled holes in the four corners, but it wasn't enough "trunks" to resemble a lot of trees, so I added more. It's not possible to cut every nail the exact same length, but it sits quite stable, so it's not really an issue. Not all the legs are absolutely perpendicular, but then not all trees grow arrow-straight either. This is where it stopped being easy.

The next step was hot-gluing varied shades of foilage tufts to the top and edges of the "table":

On the bottom side, as an experiment, I used PVA to glue the tufts on. PVA doesn't leave a million, extremely annoying, little threads of glue hanging EVERYWHERE, however, it doesn't hold the tufts on worth a damn. Hot-glue, on the other hand, is a literal nightmare!! It holds the foilage on very sturdily, but there is honestly not one surface in our apartment that isn't now covered with gossamer glue threads. Mrs. History PhD has forbidden me to ever use a glue gun again!

So, lessons learned: 1) "Forests" need to be fairly large. This small one that I made as a test platform is a bit tight to fit over the top of a unit. 2) Use fewer "trunks" and spread them out farther from each other. If they're too close together, they look very good as a forest, but it makes it difficult to fit it over the top of a unit. 3) Use an adhesive other than PVA or hot glue (maybe latex "tacky" glue?) and use very small tufts for the forest's bottom side. In future, I may just use coarse flock on the bottom side. I think 3/4" nails are slightly too long scale-wise, but it makes it easier to sit the forest on top of things.

Not expensive to make and I think it looks fairly realistic and it's certainly functional. What's your solution to this issue?

More next time!


  1. Very nice tutorial. I did something very similar following the instructions of another blog. I ended up using superglue. Its sort of messy, but it holds the foliage really well and you can "stack" the foliage on top of each other in layers, giving it a more dense look.

  2. I'll give superglue try next time

  3. I've used Hob-e-tac (Woodland Scenics' glue) for attaching foliage to other things (tree armatures, bases); Aleenes' tacky glue should work too, but not sure how well it'd stick to styrene. Hob-e-tac also has a long working time, the bottle says to not even start applying foliage until it's cured for 15 minutes, so you can do the whole thing without worrying about the glue drying up on you. I've also seen a similar approach to yours where foamcore was the foundation of the woods, though that was for 6mm.

    1. I think the 6mm version was by Architects of War

  4. I've used Aileen's Tacky Glue in the past with pretty decent results. Of course, that was gluing flock to bases and Hirst Arts builds, rather than to other flock, so I'm not sure how well that would work.

    1. Next time I make a forest, I'm going to try a couple of different kinds of adhesive.