Someone asked about trees...

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Dave-the-Train, Oct 15, 2006.

  1. Here's some notes I posted elsewhere with regard to autumn trees... but it includes my way of building trees by unwinding the lattice of thin protecting wire stripped from co-ax and other armoured cables.

    Hope it's useful :)

    Are you somewhere where you can go out and look at the foliage and take lots of pics? This isn't a silly question. I'm going to give you my #1 all time answer to everything but high summer and dense pine foliage though...
    No matter what angle you look at trees you are looking at three things:-
    1. Light passing through the foliage
    2. what is beyond the foliage
    3. the foliage
    But we usually think that we are just looking at the foliage.
    If we were just looking at foliage why would all the world's major armies spend so much time and money on designing camoflage for hiding under foilage? Why would hunters spend all that money on camoflage (before putting on high visibility orange jackets so thet they don't shoot each other)?
    You can get "fall coloured" trees and foliage material from people like Heki. A lot of it is very good as far as it goes. You have to recall that they are making a mass product for a mass market. That may be okay with you. In tht case check out Heki ...and Noch if I recall correctly.
    You need to decide whether you want blobs of foliage or trees with foliage. There is a huge difference. I prefer trees with foliage because I think that the time and effort is worth it for the end result. Blobs of foliage are okay for a “broad brush” image/effect. It is also a useful temporary measure to use foliage blobs to get an idea of the finished scene and to look broadly okay while you take time to do the detailed stuff.
    Putting in foliage can work left to right, right to left, top to bottom etc. You can have detail at the front and blobs behind. You can highlight specific areas with detail… or do the highlight areas first and the rest later.
    The better makers have more than one colour in their trees... but they are usually pretty loud and "just before leaf fall" colours. So the whole thing is pretty much a mass of colour and you will be looking at the colour not the things listed above.
    My view on good fall/any time foliage is:-
    1. Get the scene right without the trees.
    2. Locate the bare trees.
    3. Put foliage on the trees.
    As noted above when you look at trees you are usually looking at a whole lot of other stuff. Much of the time we are looking at sky because we are shorter than trees… obvious but I bet that if you just went out and took pics of trees without me pointing this out you would walk around at ground level pointing your camera upwards. (Coz that’s what I did for ages)!
    Most of our models are looked down to and a few are at eye level. So we need to think about that effect when we model trees.
    Short of hiring a helicopter looking down from any tall building or bridge will help alter our perspective.
    What’s the scene through the trees?
    1. The scene without the trees.
      1. Mud. Not really meaning to teach basics but… if you want your trees to look like trees and not just act as an overall screen you need to prepare the ground as you would for a bare field. Use whatever system of foam or hard shell you usually use with the usual colours in the ground goop so that any cracking won’t show up as a white/pink/blue line.
      2. Similarly you need to think about the lay of the land and any features. If a stream comes out of the woods and under the track it can do so suddenly from the edge of a pile of tree blobs or from a scenicked hillside covered in trees where the stream can be seen through the trees. The thing is that this needs planning and preparing way ahead of the trees
      3. What is beyond the trees? More trees? You might go toward simplified trees; even blobs if it’s deep enough. Buildings? A Fence Line? A ditch and fence line? A road?
      4. What is under the trees? This will depend on land use (or lack of it) and tree type among other things. At the least this means ground cover… grasses, leaf litter, new leaf fall, trodden paths, brambles, shrubs, bushes, saplings, young trees. Plus anything put there by man such as fences, traps, drainage/ditches, sheds, tarpaulins, whisky stills, hides, junked autos, assorted ruins. AND NOT A SINGLE TREE YET! BUT! The trees will look so much better and with less work/less precision… Because your eyes will be seeing all the other things as well as trees… which is what your brain expects to be doing (because that is what it does in real life) so you can fool it into seeing the trees without looking at them.
    2. Tree location
      1. I could drive you nuts with stuff about different species having different patterns of seed fall and predator effect. This only really fully applies to natural forest/woodland that hasn’t been affected by man… doing things like sticking railroads through the land… BUT… the important bit is that generations of trees self-space. That is… young trees cannot compete with established trees within a circle of predator outreach… so all the seeds that fall within the circle don’t get to be trees… they get munched by bugs and stuff. The older trees (up to an age) can defend themselves or survive predation. Then humans come along and decide that they like the look of trees of a type set close together and controlled to height and shape. These may be avenues, scenic features or hedges. They have different visual impacts. Not least… hedges are more blob like because humans choose plants that form dense barriers both to block views and keep animals in or out.
      2. Having said all that the model may want just “random” trees or trees to do a job. The job may vary from hiding inconvenient bits of the real world (like pipe work) to providing a colourful background for the trains via things like scenic blocks at the end of the modelled baseboard. This cuts back to the last section (“1.”) generally the trees will hide things better if they are combined with other things to kid the eye. A pile of “Trees “ will make most of us modellers look to see what the maker is trying to hide…’cos we’re like that!
      3. I can’t really say which trees and where… because it is so specific to what is being represented in the model. Look around your subject area… and notice that if there are any rules there will usually be something that breaks them… the question is how much the rule is broken/
      4. From a modelling point of view it is usually a whole lot easier to at least use some form of “blobbing” first just to get an idea of how many trees and how big they will want to be. Torn up sponges on sticks can do this as well as anything… and they’re a lot cheaper than getting foliage material. Even cardboard cut-out trees or trees drawn on paper and posted on sticks will allow you to work out what you want.
      5. Don’t forget the human impact. Trees are normally kept back from both roads and rail tracks… but that may be complete clearance (possibly leaving stumps) or just pruning the side of the tree nearest the right of way. When a road or rail line is new this may cause hollows in the face line of the trees where the natural tree spacing has been wrecked. As the scars heal and the route matures the gaps will be in-filled with species that grow fast and/or are not predated as described above. A tree falling or being removed is in fact a woodland floor opportunity… sometimes this new growth is a bigger problem for the MoW crew.
    3. Foliage. GOT THERE!
      1. Except for high summer broad leaf and dense pine we spend most of our time looking at a mix of spaces between leaves and leaves. This applies especially when looking up – because that is what we do most of the time – but it is why we’ve only just got to foliage. All that other stuff is always in sight.
      2. Foliage is held up by branches. AAAAGH! This is why creating blobs is so popular… it avoids all the perceived “extra work”. Question is do you want a layout covered in blobs or with scenic trees?
      3. You don’t need vast amounts of tree detail… ‘Cos you are fooling the eye with all the other stuff… which is about to include foliage. (YEAH!!!) The tree you will need is the basic skeleton. You can buy these or make your own, (See 4. below)
      4. I think that a mix of foliage materials is best. What’s in the mix depends on the tree…but… In addition to lichens and scatter material I use acoustic wadding. Acoustic wadding is the fire-resistant, man-made-fibre woolly stuff they pack good quality loudspeakers with to reduce vibrations that aren’t wanted. Most of it is white…BUT… It will take spray paints without becoming a soggy lump… unlike lambs wool or similar materials. You can buy great lumps of the stuff pretty cheaply and simply pull it apart before teasing it out to the density you want. Light passes through it or not depending on both the colour(s) you spray it and how much you tease it out. This means that you can see or hide the main branches as you prefer. You don’t need lesser branches (unless you want them) as the stuff will both hang and stand up as you place it. Lumps of it can also be piled together. Fixing is by spraying a suitable glue lightly.
      5. I’ve previously heard on this forum that you can get an air filter medium in the USA which can be used in much the same way as the acoustic stuff.
      6. Painting… just choose your colours and spray very softly / not too close. The colour holds.
      7. WHAT ID DO NOT KNOW IS HOW LONG TREES MADE THIS WAY WILL LAST. My oldest survivor (of two house moves) is only about 6 years old… but it’s okay. I guess that many layouts don’t last that long.
    4. Making trees… one idea (works for me).
      1. Instead of winding armatures of wire from individual strands of wire I get scrap armoured wire/cable of various sizes, peel the armour sleeve from the structure (carefully so as to not cut myself), chop the armour into random lengths and unravel from the ends.
      2. The lengths need to be a lot longer than the tree will end up tall. This applies the more as a tree gets broader. I’ve only figured it out at random. Early trees tended to finish up either too tall or too short.
      3. A use for trees that come out wrong is fallen or felled branches and trunks. The really bad ones go in the bottom of a tidied up pile or a MoW Gon load.
      4. I try to use one end of the tube of armour wires to make roots. These help to fix the tree in the ground goop and look much better. Depending on the tree type not many roots are usually needed. I’ve not tried modelling a mango swamp…
      5. The other end of the tube I peel back in clusters.
      6. Probably should have said earlier… When the tube of interwoven wires that makes up the cable armour is free from everything else you can both draw t out to change the thickness/density and insert a core of dowel that will become the fixing post into the ground.
      7. You can also put one sleeve inside another and several sleeves inside one outer. Provided you have made enough tree to support it lower down you can insert extra bits higher up. Inserted bits are better to be of reducing sizes of material as they go higher in the tree. A really big tree can start with really hefty armour wire from mains supply and end up near the top with the thin stuff out of co-ax aerial cable.
      8. I tried filling out the flesh of the trees with solder but there is simply too much heat loss to even begin to get anywhere. I suppose that you could try dipping the trunk in molten lead (VERY CAREFULLY) the way that candles are dipped.
      9. Building the tree flesh up with either a resin type glue or stuff like gap filler works best so far. It’s usually very messy and involves a lot of bad language. The effect is good though.
      10. The great thing is that the wires start out woven together so I don’t have to persuade them to stay together which has always been the difficult thing in the oast.
      11. I think that the armoured sheath round some flexible air and hydraulic fluid pipes would also do the job. I knew there was a reason that I was looking at that length of pipe at work yesterday…
  2. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Boy, Dave, it didn't take you too long to feel at home here! :rolleyes: You bring up some good points and I like some of your suggestions. Got any piccies?

  3. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    WOW Dave,jawdrop that was a long post:eek:

    Nice advise given, thanks!!:thumb: :thumb:
  4. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Wow...that's great info!
  5. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    That should be published, that's excellent advice! :thumb:

    I agree with you, how did you make your palms? Those are amazing!
  6. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Absoultly one great bunch of information all in one place. Thank you for taking the time to do this. It covers stuff that I haven't seen addressed anywhere else, and will be most helpful to many of us.:thumb:

    One thing though, I think this should be placed in the "tips and tricks" forum eventually. Let us know Dave if you agree and we can have one of the mods do that for you. This way it won't get lost in the achives. Since it is such a handy reference we can't let this get lost.
  7. As Dr Wayne knows I have a tendency to medium length posts. Thanks for th kind comments. As I'm new I'm finding my way round the forum. Would it be an idea if I posted in the general discussion so that stuff gets seen easily by anyone/everyone and then the moderators shift it over to the hints and tips?

    I have a tiny (?) bit of stuff on ballast and track that I've posted elsewhere... don't know whether people here would want it... could be intereswting digging it out of my chaotic lack of proper filing.

    Anyway, if people would like it let me know and I'll post what I can find.
  8. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    People here are hungry for any helpful information. Ask ten people how to ballast a track and you'll get ten answers, all correct. Please post what you have, it'll be welcome.:thumb: :thumb:

    We'll leave this thread here for a while, I just don't want to see it go off the page though, so if it looks like it is going to, just ask and we'll move it for you. :wave:
  9. Do these pages vanish?

    If so feel free to shuffle anything useful onto other pages if they're worth keeping.

    No pics... don't have a clue how to do them and hate going through the "How to" lists because I always fall into the bit that is left out 'cos "everyone knows you do that..."

    Also... to be honest... a lot of my notes are observation of things we model / I plan to model... if I ever get round to them.

    Most of what I have done has been developing ideas for myself and once I get to know how to do it that's enough for me. I've not been much involved in clubs because of the hours I work (and being bored brainless by people sitting round planning but never doing... I can do that all day on my own. If I travel 20-40 miles to a club I want to be making something or running trains... most meets i've got to since I switched to US RR I've concentrated on the sales tables and building up the stock for my plans).

    Since going US I've been mostly working on weathering the "small" collection of locos and stock I've been building up and working on the "how tos" for scenery while not acually having a layout to put it all on. I'm pretty confident that this isn't unusual... epsecially for those of us who have moved a few times recently:)
  10. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    No, things don't "disappear", they do get pushed down the page as new threads are added or responded to and can quickly go to page 2 or beyond depending on which forum they're put in.

    And as far as the "how to post pictures" tutorials. There should be nothing left out because we assume that "everyone knows you do that". If something is missing, I need to know that since I'm the one that wrote them and I thought I has sufficent detail there including "how-to" pictures. :rolleyes: Check them out right here. There's one for posting pics and one for resizing them if they're too big to upload. If you're still having problems, I can work with you by email as I have with others in the past. :wave: It's not that hard, really...:D
  11. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

    Wow, good stuff Dave.

    There is a simple way to improve those Box Stock Mass marketed trees.
    Heki in particular makes a good pine tree and they are cost effective with a box of 100 costing around 20 bucks. They seem a bit bare to me however

    Heres what I use to improve the looks of these tree's for front of the layout quality.
    A needlenose pliers, 3M super Spray 77 adhesive, A Hammer A Tray and 2 differant ground foam colors in a fine texture. A piece of foam insulation to stick tree in when completed

    Grab the trunk with the needlenose and spray complete tree. Roll in the ground foam and sprinkle some making sure it gets to the inside. Now use your hammer and tap the metal on the pliers while holding tree with it. This will knock off the excess unstuck material.. tap three or four times then set aside

    Using 2 colors you can have Balsams and spruces.


    The N scale trees make great understaory or Landscaping trees and in Clumps are excellent as the fast growers along cuts and road sides...........I hope this helps someone with thier layout. Its been a great method for me!!

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