How to make scale model Scotts pine trees. The process described here is for making foreground, presentation grade trees.
The image at the right shows some handmade Scotts pines that I made using the process described below.
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The first step is to look at some trees and take pictures or get pictures from books or the web. It turns out that different stands of scotts pines have different shapes. Here are four examples.
On the left are scotts pines along a roadside. The right shows how they grow in forest stands of many close together or in among other trees such as birch.
The tree on the left is one like a group that are interspersed in a stand of diverse trees. And on the right, these are taking over an abandoned farm.
After doing your research you can decide what the shape of your armature should be. And the pictures should give you a feel about how you add the needles.
Of course, your decision is a function of how you will use them in your scenery.
A recommended step is to make a sketch of a pine that you want to make. It helps you get a feel for how you distance the branches. After you have made a few, it becomes easier and you can skip this step.
With that in hand, we move onto making the armature.
You wrap a fine wire around a wire core. The core wire thickness depends on the diameter of your model’s trunk.
Either copper or steel is fine.
To the left is an image showing wire choices. Scrap electric cable or wire rolls bought at your local building supply, Some people use floral wire.
strip the wire
In this image I am using mm steel wire as the core and mm wire for the branches to make a cm high, HO scale tree.
The process is simple. Wrap fine wire around the core. Make a loop wherever you want a branch.
In this image I have used a skewer with some computer wire so that you can easily see the technique.
Use CA glue to strategically fix the branches in place.
Continue adding wire and making branches. Add CA glue to fix the wire in place.
This shows wire added and primed with spray paint.
The spray paint helps fix all the wires and helps smooth the trunk so when you add glue and sawdust, the finished trunk is rather smooth and easier to make the final bark texture.
You can make large loops into double loops by folding the large loop back on itself and then twisting the two new openings into loops.
You see that done on the lower left of this armature.
As I finish the the armature I will fold and twist most of the loops.
My preference is to use needle pads that I make. You can see how they are made here. Makes Scotts Pines Needles
Because I use the pads, I don’t need that many catch points.
This image shows what my finished armature looks like with a minimum number of catch points.
This image shows a much more detailed armature. An armature like this is used add needles using the complex process or gradually adding fiber followed by flock. I will not cover this process simply because I find it very difficult and too time consuming.
Note, howerer, it shows very well how to twist the wires to shape the branches into complex shapes. Be sure to use CA glue to keep the junctions fixed when you cut the loops.
Brush white glue onto the branches and trunk. Then cover the glue, with the aid of a strainer, by adding a layer of fine sawdust over it.
Let it dry and repeat the process on the trunk area until it is the desired diameter.
You may also want to cover the branches a bit more.
Let it dry overnight.
To save time, I make a batch of armatures and do them all at once. Since birch are typically found where you fine Scots pines, I usually make some birch armatures and do the lot together. See how I make them at Scale Model Birch Trees.
Once dry, paint. The lower trunks will usually be dark and the upper trunk and branches a shade of orange brown. Mix your paints to come as close to the colors on your prototype model.
Once dry, add the needle pads. Tease them to give that openness that you see on the branches.
Glue in place. White glue is fine.
Trim and adjust them to get the look that you like. I trim them with thread cutters.
You are likely to have unflocked edges and some unruly hairs. Spray the entire tree with hairspray and CAREFULLY DIP the edges into flock. Using a slightly lighter color will give you a nice highlighted effect.
Spray with hairspray again and put it aside overnight. When you look at it the next day you will see things you didn’t see before. Adjust, change, rip out and replace and whatever. Spray again.
Your first tree may not be the best. Don’t feel alone. Instead, I will say, “Welcome to the club.”
Let me further say that I trashed about 15 tries before I was happy. Now I have it down to a routine and can pump them out fairly quickly.
I guess the technique that saves me the most time is to batch process. Do all the wire work for a number of trees. Then add the bark. Then paint. Then add the pads.
Develop your technique. What takes forever at first becomes quite easy after you practice “a little.”
I hope that this has helped.