Tuesday 14 March 2023

Spring of Scenery 2023 - Part 1 : Forest test base preparations

My forests currently consist mainly of small coniferous trees mounted individually on coins.  I do have a box of Woodland Scenics tree armatures and several tubs of flock/clump foliage ready for making some more detailed trees.  Although the results are very good, the disadvantage is that it's quite time-consuming to make them.

My existing coniferous trees.

 A trawl of e-bay provided me with 180 trees for under £20, postage free from China.  170 are a mixture of 4 different styles and colours of deciduous tree.  The remaining 10 were palm trees to bulk out the smaller ones I made from cake decorations for my desert gaming mat.

Now that I have lots more trees, I need to think about how to use them all.  Time to experiment with some woodland!

Although it's nice to have individually based trees, it will be more practical to make patches of woodland with several trees on each.  I want larger forest areas that I can easily drop on the table in one go.  This will also give me the opportunity to add more in the way of ground cover such as bushes and other undergrowth, fallen trees, pools/streams, piles of cut logs and small buildings or sections of ruins.  It will also be easier to define what counts as forest for line-of-sight and movement purposes if there is a base which clearly delineates the edge of the terrain feature. Fiddling around making a mound of putty to help secure each tree trunk used to take ages and with a patch of woodland it will be quicker and easier to build up the base and drill holes into which I can glue the tree trunks.

All those trees take a while to set up!

The occasional Woodland Scenic tree can be added as a focal point as desired, and I will leave some open areas or removable sections to enable me to swap out special features.  My forests will be used for both 15mm and 6mm gaming, so buildings in particular are likely to be made modular so that I can use the appropriate scale for the game I'm playing.  I'm thinking of using the same size hole saw for all, making the special features 100% interchangeable between the woods.

My woodland base is made from 5mm Foamex.  As mentioned previously, this is an expanded PVC, mainly used for sign writing, display mounting etc.  It's easy to cut, very light, pretty rigid in this thickness, and it's waterproof, so won't warp the way plywood, MDF or foamcore can when you use a thick layer of paint or PVA.  It's also something you can often get free if you ask a local signwriter or exhibition display company if they have any offcuts.  Pieces that are too small to be any use to them can still provide bases for several buildings or other pieces of scenery.  One drawback is that because it's waterproof and non-porous, it isn't easy to stick.  PVA doesn't adhere and superglue can peel off, but something thicker like no-nails, UHU or Gorilla glue works very well.

For this test piece, I made one large base, then a smaller section to add on the top.  It was coated in brown acrylic caulk, which seems to stick fairly well and provides a good key for the next stage which was painting with various browns and greens.  Holes were drilled to insert the trees.

Test fitting the trees.

Coming back to this a few weeks later, I wasn't really happy with the look, so I re-painted it with textured paint (sand, ready-mixed filler, PVA, burnt umber acrylic).  This gave a much better result.

Textured paint.

Wilko Nutmeg spice and coffee emulsion tester pots were used to paint over the textured paint.

Base colours applied.

A drybrush of desert sand helped blend the different base layers together and completed the first stage.

Drybrushing complete.

Stage 2 will involve some improvements to the Chinese trees...

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