Perhaps the most common trees in Finland are fir, birch and pine (lodgepole pine ie. pinus contorta). While you can purchase all of these as ready made miniature trees you can save a hefty sum of money if you make them yourself especially as you’ll be needing plenty of them to cover the big forest covered battlefields (perhaps term “battleforest” would be more appropriate… )
-wooden barbeque sticks
-artist board (3mm thick)
-hot glue gun
-Woodland Scenics’ Foliage Clusters (FC57 and FC59)
Rule #1: make plenty of trees at one go as this’ll save you a lot of time!
How to make pines and birches
Trunks – The barbeque sticks are usually are quite long and if halved are roughly of suitable length (around 15 centimetres) to be used as tree trunks. Make sure that each bit will have one sharp end. A grinding stone is quite useful for this but a knife will do as well.
Bases – To make bases for the trees artist board is ideal. These trees are going to be top heavy so it is better to make the bases slightly too large. Making them too small will cause them to keel over too easily when you use them. When you’ve cut the bases to nice round and elliptic shapes you still need to cut the edges to make them sloping so they’ll blend better with the rest of the terrain. Gently push 2-3 trunks through each base. Fasten with hot glue or PVA.
Flocking & undercoating – Add some water to PVA to make it a bit runnier and to lengthen the time it takes for it to cure. Add some very dark acrylic paint to the mixture to make it dark. Using a large old brush, preferably a small old house painting brush or some such, apply the glue to the bases and dip into sand to flock them. When dry undercoat these by spraying them black. The reason you need to make the glue dark is that even though the bases will be primed with black spray you most likely won’t be able to get all crevices covered by the paint or if you try you’ll at least end up using unreasonable amounts of spray. So if the glue is of a very dark shade it won’t stand out as much as it would if it hadn’t been tinted. If you want to you most certainly can add little extras like rocks, bushes and other details to the bases to make them more detailed but as these will usually be used en masse we feel that most of these efforts will go to waste and won’t be visible.
If you are making birches after the black undercoat has dried take some paper (newspaper works marvelously) and punch them through the trunks all the way to the base. Then undercoat the trunks with white spray. The paper will keep at least most of the base covered. Touch up the base with black paint if need be.
Painting – First paint the base. Nitpickers might want to go through the base with diluted black paint to make sure everything is covered in black or at least all the crevices are. Drybrush with dark green followed by mid/light green. Perhaps a final drybrush to edges and top spots with some yellow added to light green. If you want to you could also use browns to paint the base and use static grass to make the grass instead o flocking with sand. Perhaps even add some Foliage Clusters for bushes. Only sky is the limit. But remember you’ll be making at least tens or perhaps hundreds of these bases so don’t go overboard with details.
After bases are painted and ready paint the trunks. We suggest you take trip outdoors, leaf through a book about trees or do a picture search with google to see actually which color the real trees are. When applying additional colors to the trunks they will be applied with almost similar technique to drybrushing but as there is hardly any texture in the barbeque stick trunks this technique could better be described as wetbrushing. Just keep in mind that with each subsequent color you need to cover less than with the previous ones. Pine trunks (or at least the lower halves) are first painted with a very dark shade of brown. This is followed by greyish shade of lighter brown. After this approximately the top half or somewhat more is painted with reddish brown with some orange added to it. This is followed by another coat but with plenty of orange in it. This should make your trunks ready. With birch trunks you’ll want first to go through the whole trunk with white and touch up any places that weren’t sprayed white or which got some paint slapped to them while applying the colors to base. For ultra realistic finish paint the whole trunk with off-white instead. Then take some light/medium grey and paint stripes around the tree, especially to the lower parts. Finish with a smaller brush and paint black stripes preferably on top of the grey areas but of course the idea is not to cover all the grey…
Applying foliage – Tear chunks of Foliage Clusters roughly slightly larger than the size of bottle cap. Using the hot glue gun, which is the preferred tool since the glue cures so rapidly, glue these to the trunks. Usually you need to push each chunk through the sharpened top of the trunk to roughly the preferred height. Then apply the hot glue to the spot where the clump and trunk meet and slide the clump slightly lower. If using only one clump or when attaching the last clump just apply the glue to the top parts of the trunk and punch the clump to place.
When making pines use Dark Green Foliage Clusters (FC59) and note that most pines growing in a forest only have foliage in the top third or quarter of the trunk. With birches Light Green Foliage Clusters (FC57) is used and it is applied to roughly to the top half of the trunk. All in all making a little over 100 bases of these takes perhaps a long afternoon (up to basecoating) for one person. Painting takes another and applying Foliage Clusters almost a whole day. All in all such a chore will take perhaps two whole days.
There are other methods of making these trees resulting the foliage being more airy and lifelike but such trees won’t be as durable as with our method. Since we’re making gaming pieces, which should be able to take at least some punishment during play and transportation, no need to strive for even more realistic trees.
How to make firs
Bases are made the same way as with pines and birches but since firs won’t be top heavy you can make the bases slightly smaller. You just make the bases without sticking anything through the artist board. Although it would help if you’d punch cocktail sticks to the top of the bases prior to flocking and remove these after the flocking. This way you’d have nice holes to glue the first into the place and wouldn’t have to worry about sticking the firs through a layer of hardened sand/PVA.
The trees themselves are made from christmas wreaths. Since these tend to be available only during X-mas season you might need to think ahead a bit when making purchases for your terrain. Seasonal ornaments also tend to sell cheaper after the season so if you keep your eyes open right after X-mas you might save a bit of money. Cut the wreath into suitable lengths with side cutters. If the material making the wreath’s “needles” isn’t evenly spread you’ll need to twist each wreath bit so that they look more or less even. This is quite tedious and you might want to devise ways to do this quicker, say, with a bench vice and electric drill. Power tools -you can’t lose! When you’re more or less happy with the spread cut the wreath bits to conical shape. Also remember to cut all the “needle” material from the thicker, lower end from around 1-1,5 centimetre’s length. The firs are now ready and you only need to use hot glue to attach them to bases.