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The Craft

How to Make Your Own Trees
by Steve Page



Eye-catching scenery makes a fantasy game come alive. Good scenery does not have to be expensive or complicated. Many good scenery projects involve basic tools, methods and techniques. Let's take trees for example.

Laying out a 4'X4' table for Warlord, for a game set in the Elf Kingdom of Tirithilia could require up to 50 trees to look good, at $2-4 per tree, commercially produced, trees might be out of your budget. Here's how to make a variety of trees for less than $1 apiece. It's easy and fun and remember, all the money you save can go for minis!

Tools
  • Zona saw
  • side cutters
  • pin vise or rotary tool with needle-size drill bits
  • old brushes (for glue)
Materials
  • soft floral wire (approx. 22 gauge)
  • bamboo chopsticks
  • poker chips
  • Woodlands Scenics foliage Clusters (various colours)
  • large washers
  • 1/2''-1" blue styrofoam
  • clay
  • glue (white glue and Super Glue) tacky glue
  • sand
  • flock
  • assorted paints
There are several early decision to make:
  1. Do you want your trees individually based, or in groups? Both methods have merit. Individual trees can be set up in any configuration. Groups are more stable. Single trees will be mounted on washer-weighted poker chips, groups on blue foam "hillocks".
  2. Do you want pines or shade trees? Pines employ chopsticks for the trunks and wires for the branches. Shade trees use twigs.

Let's start with a single pine. We glue two washers to the poker chip for base weight. After the glue dries, select a chopstick and cut it to the length desired with the razor saw. This one is about five inches tall. Use the pin vise or rotary tool to drill six to eight holes in the "trunk". Then use the Super Glue to fasten the trunk into the hole in the washers on the poker chip base. Once the glue is dry, the gaps in the hole can be filled with clay. Next, using an old brush, apply a good coat of white glue to the entire poker chip base, then while the glue is still wet, cover it in clean sand. Allow to dry.

A "twig" shade tree is based identically. Cut the "twiglets" to simulate branches. You now have two trunks ready to paint. One effect you may desire that I use is to spray my "chopstick trees" with grey auto primer. My twig trees I leave natural.

Foliage clumps can be torn to any size desired. Use a tacky craft glue to attach clumps to the ends of the twig or wire "branches". It doesn't take alot of foliage to make an effective tree.

The sand-coated base can now be painted or flocked in the style you prefer. I like to use static-grass on mine.

For groups of trees, dispense with the poker chips and use sections of blue foam drilled with holes for your trunks. Be sure to sand and flock your foam group-base BEFORE "planting" your trees. Also be sure to leave room for figures and your players' hands to move around among your grouped trees. A warning about blue styrofoam, NEVER use spray paint or Super Glue on styrofoam. It WILL dissolve the foam on contact.

If you want added detail, Sculpey can be used to make roots for your trees and also to sculpt small tree-stumps. Small beads can be glued in the shade trees to represent fruit.

Here's a close-up of one of my tree groups, arranged into a druid-ring with a standing stone at the centre.

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