ScrapYard Armory

A BattleTech weblog

Feb-14-2009

Custom Deciduous Trees

battletech-trees-final

Sometimes a mapsheet just looks bland and boring.  Perhaps it’s time to branch out and try some Battletech miniatures rules.  Or maybe, all you really need is a little visual appeal to add to those maps to bring them to life.

Here at the ScrapYard we’ve gone to great lengths to come up with custom trees for our Battletech games.  You’ve probably already seen some finished ones in the background of recent pictures.  Here is a detailed view of how we did it and how you can make your own.

MATERIALS LIST

  • 26 gauge bare wire (Craft store like Michael’s)
  • Wire Cutters
  • Super Glue (Gap Filling, 5-10 sec drying time)
  • Elmers Glue
  • Epoxy (5-Minute Epoxy is available in many craft or hobby stores)
  • Corks, top of box, pins OR tape, piece of cardboard
  • Primer (Spray paint is easier, but brush-on is ok too)
  • Brown Paint (Again spray paint is easier.  Different shades if you want different color tree bark.)
  • Washers
  • Black felt (Craft store like Michael’s)
  • Shades of Clump Foliage
  • Shades of Fine Turf

Cut Your Wires To Length [pic 1]

Cut between 18-30 wires 2.75″ to 3.25″ in length.  Varying the length will give you different tree heights, while the number of wires effects the thickness of the tree and the number of branches.  Too few wires and it starts to look patchy, and much more and you need a thinner wire or it becomes difficult to twist and makes the wire texture harder to cover.  Just remember that the roots use up about 1/2″ of the wire length.

 

Cut, Twist Trunk, and Twist Roots

Twist the Tree Trunk [pic 2]

With all the wires together, twist a portion of the wire approximately 1/2″ from one end.  Let them splay a little as you squeeze them when twisting as this makes it easier (and possible) to twist them around each other.

Superglue the wires at the twisted location so it doesn’t fall apart while twisting the rest of the tree.  Don’t add too much as you don’t want to drip or run down the wire and end up gluing other sections of wire together.  It will need extra time to dry as it need to fill gaps rather then just hold two surfaces together.  If you can hold the tree twisted tightly for a few seconds without gluing yourself to it, it will dry faster.

Twist the Roots and Branches [pic 3]

Twist 3 or 4 groups about 1/2″  from the end to make roots.

Twist all the tree branches.  I usually just do it in a semi-random pattern.  Often the lower branches stick way out as they do on the right of tree 4 [pic 4].  You can either clip them, or twist them into a loop [pic 5] which allows you to attach a bit more greenery.  Twisting at least two wires nearly to the end makes them stronger.  Remember that it’s the clump foliage that gives the tree volume, not individual wires.battletech-trees-2

Superglue all the main branches for added strength and stability before moving on.

Smooth Out the Wire Texture [pic 6]

To avoid getting glue on your fingers try gluing your trees to a cork [pic 9], popsicle stick, or even a scrap piece of cardboard.

Carefully coat the tree with Elmers.  Wait till it dries and repeat.  I use a toothpick and spread it all around as it dries. You are trying to smooth out the spiraling wire groups so it looks more like a real tree and not a twist of wires.

Take a Break From the Tree to Make the Base

battletech-trees-3Spray paint your tree base, in our case a metal washer [pic 7], with black primer.

Once the primer has dried, glue the washer to a piece of black felt [pic 9 at left] with Elmers.  You can use superglue if you want it to dry faster, but it will soak into the felt so quickly that it will leave a residue on whatever is underneath the felt while it dries. Once the felt is secure cut out the base from the rest of the felt.

Fill in the washer with something cheap.  Epoxy is ok, but not as cheap as old putty, tightly folded newspaper, scrap cardboard, or anything else cheap so you don’t end up filling it with more expensive and loose turf.

Time to Paint and Add the Leavesbattletech-trees-4

Spray on a primer (we used white) followed by the desired main color [pic 9 at right].

Once the paint on the tree is dry it is time to attach the tree to the base.  Mix some epoxy (thoroughly!) on a piece of cardboard or index card.  Apply blobs to the roots and set on the washer. I use epoxy when gluing a wire tree down because superglue has a hard time holding unless one surface is pressed flat against the other and the roots don’t have much surface area to glue down.

Superglue Clump Foliage to the ends of the branches, and maybe a few smaller pieces further toward the trunk.

Coat the base in whatever mixtures of turf you want and your tree is finished and ready for the battlefield.

Some Pitfalls to Avoid

battletech-trees-mistakesTo the right you can see what happens when you don’t mix epoxy in equal proportions.  The epoxy will never harden. To avoid this, squeeze the epoxy in equal portions onto an index card, and mix it with a toothpick.  This allows you to mix in less of one part if you put too much of it on the card and when you use the toothpick to move it from the index card, you only grab the well mixed portion.  I tried mixing it right on the base.

The copper wire pine tree to the right is a good example of what a tree looks like when you have many many branches and a very thin wire.  It bends so easily it gets deformed a lot.  I won’t bother trying to make anything of it.

Since these battles take place on a multitude of planets, environments, and seasons, feel free to use and mix all sorts of wild colors/shapes/turf, etc.

I prefer my Heavy vs Light Woods to be clear.  You can use Forest Green (its darker then Dark Green; almost black) and/or multiple trees of differing heights on a single base to represent heavy woods.
You can use course turf/bush clump vs fine turf to differentiate between open and woods on the map itself when the trees aren’t on that particular hex.

Posted under Terrain
  1. Adam Easykill Said,

    funny enough – my battlefield has been lacking green lately – will give it a go

  2. Paint-it-pink Said,

    Nice “hero’ level quality trees. I’ve not yet gotten around to making “hero” trees, but have been working on improving standard wargame trees through a combination of flocking, adding foliage, and painting the end result up.

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