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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Vagel Keller Posted - 04/15/2014 : 5:48:14 PM

This thread is essentially Volume 2 of my now almost five-and-a-half-year-old thread on the construction of an HO/HOn3 layout, titled "A New Home for the Blacklog & Shade Gap Eastern." Since neither the home, nor the layout, are 'new' any longer, and the thread has reached the unwieldy length of 100 pages, I thought it was time to start a new one.

As with the old thread, "Continuing Adventures" will chronicle the on-going scenery work and final track work on the layout. If you're new to this project, feel free to bone up on our history by clicking on the following link to "A New Home for the Blacklog & Shade Gap Eastern" thread:


We have also begun operations on the layout using the tried and true car card and waybill system, and I started a thread on our adventures and mis-adventures in the Layout Design/Operation SIG Forum, which you can review at the following link:


15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Vagel Keller Posted - 05/06/2018 : 11:00:07 AM
Originally posted by MarkF

Do you have any thoughts on spray adhesive versus hairspray?

Hair spray cheaper but probably not as sticky in the long term ... I should try spray adhesive. Do you use Elmer’s?
MarkF Posted - 05/05/2018 : 09:19:20 AM
Thanks for the tutorial Vagel! It looks like you and I are using basically the same technique. I have been using a spray adhesive for the first application as I happen to have some and figured it would work better. Do you have any thoughts on spray adhesive versus hairspray?

I also do the highlighting you mention with the WS burnt grass and the hairspray. I guess great minds think alike!

Thanks for taking the time to put this together.
Vagel Keller Posted - 05/04/2018 : 9:39:44 PM
Originally posted by Michael Hohn


Now we can add a Stegosaurus to the Mastodon (4-8-0). I wonder, is a Stegosaurus a 2-2-0 or a 0-4-0?

Vagel Keller Posted - 05/02/2018 : 11:28:57 AM
Originally posted by Michael Hohn


Very helpful tutorial.

My wife and I enjoyed visiting your layout and having a chance to talk on Sunday very much. Thank you.


Thanks, Mike. It was our pleasure having you visit.
Michael Hohn Posted - 05/01/2018 : 5:35:40 PM

Very helpful tutorial.

My wife and I enjoyed visiting your layout and having a chance to talk on Sunday very much. Thank you.


Vagel Keller Posted - 05/01/2018 : 4:10:24 PM
Originally posted by MarkF

I tried a few and they turned out ok, but I'll be anxious to see your approach.

"OK" is, as far as I'm concerned, the goal with puff ball trees. I like the "good enough effect" standard adopted by Allen McClelland.

Here are some captioned photos of my method for puff ball trees. First, some logistics.

REMEMBER, I'm planting an Autumn puff ball forest in south-central Pennsylvania; you're color choices may vary by season and region. For foliage I use coarse turf (not "clump foliage"). For these trees I used WS early summer (light green) coarse turf, but I get OK results with less expensive Scenic Express flock and turf of similar consistency and color. The coarse turf is in the clear plastic tub, ready for dipping the hair spray-soaked tree armatures in.

Hair spray is my adhesive of choice - I like aerosol. It's easier to get an even coating on the armature than using the enviro-friendly pump spray. Ozone, schmozone! Unscented. This particular brand claims to be water proof - even better!

The armature material is pre-dyed, fine batting used in the quilting and stuffed animal craft hobbies. I would have preferred gray or brown, but black was all I could find. I purchased three 8 oz. bags from a wholesaler in 1989 for about $8 a bag. We've made hundreds of trees (you could go back thru the threads and count them, if you want) and the first bag is barely 1/4 empty. Here's a photo of the company letter head from my invoice - I don't know if they're still in business, or if this brand is still available:

I ordered over the phone.

As I make the puff balls, I put them on toothpick stuck into a scrap piece of 1" foam. Later, I transfer them from this "tree pallet" to gray stained round toothpicks stuck into the scenery base on the layout. I've found this to be easier than planting the whole tree in the scenery base. The tree pallet for this project holds 17 tree tops; it's visible partly hidden at left by my elaborate spray booth.

OK, let's get started. The batting material, as I said, goes a long way. This clump I'm about to tear off turned out to be enough for a dozen large puff balls:

Here's a single puff ball armature before final teasing out and being clamped by the tweezers ...

... and after being sprayed with hair spray. You want the armature to have a milky color with lots of beads of hairspray; really glom it on!

Now, stick the gooey armature into the foliage tub and roll it around to get the whole surface covered; use your free hand to sprinkle foliage on the underside of the puff ball. If necessary, take it out, respray, and repeat the process. You want a result like this:

The final step, after you've filled your "tree pallet," is to highlight the basic foliage color by sprinkling on WS "burnt grass" fine turf; by taking a pinch between thumb and forefinger and lightly dusting from about 12" above the pallet ... think Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and fairy dust (but not for too long, or you'll ... well, never mind ...).

Over-spray the whole pallet of trees before and after sprinkling the fine turf.

Here is a picture with half of the pallet (the trees in the background - top of picture) dusted; maybe you can see the difference:

I hope this was helpful.
MarkF Posted - 04/30/2018 : 11:20:12 PM
I've been a little tied up with work the past couple of weeks so I haven't made any progress on my trees. I tried a few and they turned out ok, but I'll be anxious to see your approach.
Vagel Keller Posted - 04/27/2018 : 1:25:28 PM
Originally posted by MarkF

I too am now pondering the making of puff ball trees for my layout. I'd enjoy a how-to on how you make yours.

Finally got to it on replenishing the puffball tree inventory today with basic green foliage. 17 trees in about 20 minutes. Here's a teaser on a tutorial to follow in a day or two:

quartergauger48 Posted - 03/08/2018 : 3:08:08 PM
Beautiful landscaping and very nice work'...
MarkF Posted - 03/08/2018 : 10:21:37 AM
Vagel, it's good to see you back at it and here on the forum. I was wondering what happened to you. I'm looking forward to seeing more progress on the railroad.

I too am now pondering the making of puff ball trees for my layout. I'd enjoy a how-to on how you make yours.
Orionvp17 Posted - 03/08/2018 : 09:31:50 AM
Welcome home, Vagel! Good to have you back at it.

Don would be pleased.

in Michigan
tloc Posted - 03/07/2018 : 5:13:58 PM
Glad to have u back at it.

Vagel Keller Posted - 03/07/2018 : 5:00:25 PM
I've been away for another long delay. I did finish the rock face and a basic layer of ground cover on the lift-out access to the track below the trestle at Reed Ravine in late April 2017, but a combination of layout fatigue, Summer activities, and getting into HAM radio in January kept me away from the train room until recently. We've run some trains, from time to time - we opened the layout for the neighbors and their kids over the Christmas holiday - but that's been about the extent of attention to model railroading until now.

Here are a some shots of the project area as it was at the end of April:

Just today, I felt the call to get back at scenery and covered about a foot and a half of the 3D backdrop above the ravine trestle with a combination of home-made and WS puffball trees:

It's good to be back at it.
Vagel Keller Posted - 04/03/2017 : 6:11:36 PM
Originally posted by jbvb

Great! Sorry I can't be in Greensburg

Sorry you couldn't make it; the clinics were superb, as was the modeling in the model room.
Vagel Keller Posted - 04/03/2017 : 6:10:12 PM
The rock work is done and ready for staining and other weathering to blend the stark line between coloration:

The area above the rock face will be covered with various textures of ground foam materials and some and scrub based on pieces of Scenic Express Supertrees armatures.

These images show the results after staining and applying AIM Products weathering powders to further disguise the different shades of gray in the raw rock work due to nonuniform mixtures white plaster of paris and charcoal gray pigment in the different batches.

The first image was made after the stain had dried but before I had gone very far with the weathering powders.

I used Soot, Medium Earth, and Dark Earth and worked the colors in with soft and stiff brushes.

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