Crafting trees using wire, steel wool, and flock

Brett Simpson sent me a photo of a tree he’d made. I thought it was fantastic and asked Brett for some step by step instructions. So he sent me his approach to crafting trees using wire, steel wool, and flock.


Here is a photo of the tree armature

I’m about to start work, but just briefly here is a photo of the tree armature. It’s just twisted wire with no covering, but I think that with the canopy at this scale it will look OK. What do you think?

First armature

First armature

Below is a photo of the finished tree…

First completed tree

I got the idea from The Terrain Tutor on YouTube — he has a lot of good videos on this and other subjects.

Step 1: Make a wire armature

Take some thin wire (mine is less than 1mm in diameter — it’s hard to get an exact measurement, and I no longer have the packaging). Make a bundle to whatever length is desired (8cm in this case — the bundle winds back and forth 11 times, but thicker trees need more).

Twist the wire with pliers where you want the trunk to go, being certain to leave untwisted portions for the roots and branches. The branch and root sections can then be separated into subsections like so:

Initial armature

Initial armature

Step 2: Make the roots and branches

Next, twist the roots and branches. With the latter it can be useful to further separate the wire sections into smaller branches as seen below. Once you are happy with the rough shape of the armature, snip off the loops that with be at the ends of the roots and branches. The tree will look something like this:

Armature with trimmed roots and branches

Armature with trimmed roots and branches

Step 3: Base the armature

Glue the armature to a base. I cut a 25mm coin sized base from card stock, mixed Araldite directly on top, and sat the tree roots in it. Wait for it to dry…

Armature on base

Armature on base

Step 4: Flock the base

Apply sand to the base using PVA (you may wish to leave the top of the roots exposed) and allow it to dry…

Paint, dry-brush, and flock the model (some may prefer to leave this until after the following two steps).

Armature with flocked base

Armature with flocked base

Step 5: Add a steel wool canopy

Add a canopy using steel wool. This should be quite wispy. If you can see through it, that is good. You don’t need to glue it down, but do be certain to draw the steel wool under the outside edges of the branches.

Canopy using steel wool

Canopy using steel wool

Step 6: Undercoat the Canopy

If you have already painted and flocked the model, wrap the base and trunk in cling wrap. Then apply matte black spray paint to the top and underside of the canopy. Allow it to dry…

Undercoat the canopy

Undercoat the canopy

Step 7: Flock the canopy

Next, apply a spray adhesive to the canopy and sprinkle flock on top. Remove the cling wrap from the trunk and your almost done — the final step is to trim any stray steel wool hairs using scissors (you may also wish to finish the tree with matte varnish).

Flock the canopy

Flock the canopy

Step 8: Ready to game

The tree is now ready for the table.

Ready to play

Ready to play

NOTE:
As you can see, I went with small trees. This was because I am using a 2′ x 2′ table and my regular trees seemed too large. The same method can be used to make larger trees by starting with longer loops. You might want to consider using thicker wire and/or applying texture to the armature with modelling putty or the like.

Happy gaming!

Brett.

2 comments to Crafting trees using wire, steel wool, and flock

  • Steven Thomas

    Personally I would follow Brett’s alternative suggestion and move Step 4 (Flock the base) to after Step 6 (Undercoat the Canopy).

  • Martin JONES

    I am glad I have seen this because although I saw terrain tutor do this a while ago I had forgotten the method. I bought a load of different size Xmas (fir) decoration trees in the sale to convert to deciduous (oak, ash etc) trees mostly in the 1\32 scale for a Napoleonic diorama. The trees were green but had snow flecks and snow bases, I just teased out the steel wool over the small fir trees until I had changed their shape to deciduous. The problem is that the fir trees are cone like without branches. I sprayed the trees a medium green as the diorama is set in June. I am also going to use a different shade of green and brown plastic sprues which look like branches taken from old model soldiers sprues, (long since painted!) and which are suitably knarly.

    This is definitely a cheap way of making a large wood, I used glue on the trees and on the steel wool as I want the trees to last in transit/storage. I have not got around yet to flocking the trees/bases yet. However having seen Brett’s post I may spray them black first. I suppose it’s all about experimentation. As the trees are cone like they are denser to see through so the false branches will break this up. I suppose wire could be used on these trees first. Either way it’s a cheaper method than buying expensive model shop alternatives.

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