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Lee's Improved Commercial Wire Conifer Trees

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  • Lee's Improved Commercial Wire Conifer Trees

    Moderator's Note: The following tutorial was originally posted by Lee ("lac13705") in the Model Railroad Construction area. I have moved a copy of it here for safe keeping. The original thread is still open for discussion and comments.

    Hopefully this thread will be of some use to those looking to model conifer trees at modest cost and minimal efforts . . . . . .

    Modeling mountain conifer forests are often tough because soooo many trees are usually required. There are a number of methods for making nice examples from scratch but the time and patience required for hundreds of trees can be quite trying to deal with. Beautifully detailed commercial examples are available but they are too pricey for extensive use in large numbers.

    I've been using simple methods to upgrade inexpensive commercial wire wound conifer trees for my HO McCloud Railway layout that have mostly been discussed (or at least mentioned) before but without much detail so I thought I would share some particulars and photos from my own experience.

    This methods produces trees that are quite reasonable in appearance for use just beyond the immediate foreground of a layout (where the large numbers are usually needed).

    For most of my tree needs I start with a number of varieties of commercial wire wound types including Cedar Trees from Scenic Express, Pine Trees from Grand Central Gems and others (I'm NOT intending to push any particular suppliers here - just using these as examples).

    For this example I'll prepare a tree from Scenic Express

    Here's a tree right out of the bag. They aren't bad but they suffer from too much uniformity in shape and color, a frequent spiral pattern in the foliage and some often have an unrealistic flat top. It turns out to be pretty easy to fix all that.

    Using a cutting tool such as a Xuron, I start by slimming down the foliage near and around the top so it's a bit more pointy.

    Next I cut out random areas of foliage to help get rid of any spiral patterning and to help give the tree a less uniform shape. Continue cutting out random areas down to the lowest areas of foliage. Again the idea is to achieve some randomness and irregularity.

    These trees sometimes have a number of stray unflocked "branches" that can be too long or too bare. Trim the worst offenders back a little.

    Now rearrange the branches with your fingers to remove any remaining spiral patterning and to give the tree a more realistic shaping around the areas where foliage was removed.

    After checking to see if we are ok with the shape, we are ready for some supplimental flocking.

    Spray the tree foliage with cheap hair spray. Fortunatly the cheapest brands usually make the best adhesives.

    Immediately after spraying, sprinkle on some green ground foam. I like Woodland Scenics Green Blended Turf but other varieties would also be fine. Pick a fine texture color that's a slightly brighter green than the shade of the original tree flocking. The idea is to sprinkle on the foam in a manner to cover the outermost portions of the branches, the trimmed areas where the wound wire shows and other areas that may have become deflocked during our preparation. Don't try to cover all of the foliage because you want the darker original colors to remain for color variation.

    Here's the finished conifer ready for planting. The improvements are subtle but then so is nature!

    Finally, real trees tend to grow in goups so don't space yours too evenly. Here's what a small grove of these trees looks like when planted.

    Best of luck and feel free to add comments and improvement suggestions.