Author Topic: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker  (Read 1593 times)

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Bob

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SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« on: December 22, 2020, 02:47:46 PM »
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Supertrees: Making the trunks thicker.

SuperTrees makes it easy to produce good looking trees in decent numbers at very reasonable cost. But, one downside is that the tree trunks are quite ‘spindly’, being perhaps one scale foot in diameter.  I wanted to produce trees with thicker trunks, at least for trees in the foreground of my various scenes.  I have used two approaches, with the second being superior to the first.  In the first approach, I mixed up some lightweight Woodland Scenics plaster in a small paper cup, let this thicken just a bit, and then used scissors to cut back the paper cup so that the plaster was at the level of the top of the cup.  Then, I dunk my SuperTrees into the soupy plaster and then hang them up to dry.  This works, with the trunks being perhaps doubled in thickness, but there are two problems.  First, you can only dunk the tree as far as the first diverting branch, so only the very base to the trunk is thickened, resulting in a rather abrupt transition in trunk thickness at the level of the first branch.  However, this can be mostly hidden by foliage.  The second problem is that the plaster is brittle, and sometimes fractures or falls off when planting the trees on the layout.  So, I needed something more resilient.  What I am using now is Woodland Scenics Latex Rubber – a good sized jar is about $15 and should last forever for this application.  This product has ammonia in it, so I set up about a dozen SuperTrees in my airbrush hood with the fan on, and paint the rubber on the tree trunk and sometimes the major branches.  This does not take long at all, but a single application thickens the trunk/branches just a little.  So, while I am working on something else, I take a short break every 20 minutes or so and apply additional coats, keeping the brush in a cup of water so it does not harden.  This hand application approach is not suitable for very large numbers of trees, but I think works well for trees in the foreground and so that will be more visible.  Below is a photograph of a SuperTree (left), the same tree after a number of latex rubber coats have been applied (second from left) and then after painting and foliage application (far right).  The end result has a trunk that is between 2.5 and 3 feet in diameter, which is more typical for decent-sized trees. Does anyone else have a technique for thickening these trunks to improve overall appearance?

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wazzou

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2020, 02:55:46 PM »
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Excellent.
Bryan

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davefoxx

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2020, 03:09:51 PM »
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Makes a huge difference.  How many coats was that particular tree?

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ednadolski

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2020, 03:13:53 PM »
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Looks good!   One thing I've tried on twisted-wire armatures is acrylic (not silicone) latex caulk, sometime with some sifted sawdust mixed in, and applied in layers as you've done here.  You can thin it as needed with water, and also mix in some paint to give it a base color.  Seems like it should work for this application too.

Other water-based artist media such as (thick) matte medium, impasto pastes, etc. seem like additional possibilities.

Ed

C855B

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2020, 03:25:27 PM »
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Robyn uses Play-Doh to thicken the core, then heavy-body artist's acrylic paint for final texturing:





Bob

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2020, 03:44:36 PM »
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Thanks all!

Dave - i think this was 6 coats, which sound like alot of work but isn't.  I stand about a dozen trees in the paint booth, and keep the brush and latex jar in the booth as well.  Then, when I am working on something else at the modeling bench, I just take a quick break and put another coat on. Pretty easy.

Mike - I seem to recall your Play-doh approach from a few years ago.  Did you have problems with mice munching on your trees, or am I having a senior moment and thinking of someone else?!!!

Ed - I had not thought of acrylic latex - that is nice and thick, but also super sticky.  If you dilute it some, does it go on pretty well?

ednadolski

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2020, 03:49:47 PM »
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If you dilute it some, does it go on pretty well?

Yes, you'll probably have to play with it a bit to get the right consistency (esp. if you mix in sawdust or such).  It's not going to flow like a watery paint tho.

BTW I usually wear latex or nitrile gloves when working with any kind of acrylics, paints, plasters, glues, etc... it's just less cleanup and easier on my hands ;)

Ed

Dave V

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2020, 03:58:44 PM »
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That's a really great idea!  I imagine it also makes the trunks far less fragile.

C855B

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2020, 04:03:41 PM »
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Mike - I seem to recall your Play-doh approach from a few years ago.  Did you have problems with mice munching on your trees, or am I having a senior moment and thinking of someone else?!!!

Years? Oh, gawd, has it been that long? No, your memory is fine!

Nope - no trouble at all with mice vs. Play-Doh, so that turned out to be an unfounded concern. Everything remains intact. It's not that there were none around; in that time we snagged a handful of mice in the workshop area next to the roll-up door, but no "signs" of any in the layout room. Up in the mezzanine where Robyn had spread out the SuperTree stems to dry we had a minor issue, where the mice apparently liked to "trim" the stems for nesting material. (In all cases the mice were humanely trapped and introduced into a new home in a wild patch of brush four blocks away. Fun to watch them scamper away.)

One foliage test location had issues with what she claimed was marauding beetles spreading the ground-foam leaves around. Plausible because some manner of black beetle is a seasonal thing, but that has diminished in the past two years. Also, I think the "beetles" were more than likely just me re-railing equipment.  :D

Bob

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2020, 05:26:09 PM »
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Hey Dave - you are right. With several coats of latex on the trunks, you don't have to really worry about breaking them.  The latex takes paint just fine, though I think it looks a bit shiny, so then I just brush on some weathering powder which dulls things down, but also gives some color variation.
Bob

peteski

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2020, 05:47:17 PM »
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Hey Dave - you are right. With several coats of latex on the trunks, you don't have to really worry about breaking them.  The latex takes paint just fine, though I think it looks a bit shiny, so then I just brush on some weathering powder which dulls things down, but also gives some color variation.
Bob

While I have no need to make trees (no layout or modules to scenic), I was contemplating how concrete crack filler woudl work for building up thickness of trucks and branches of the SuperTrees?  Maybe someone can try it? I have used it for its intended purpose, and it looks useful for modeling applications too.

This stuff comes in a squeeze bottle and it looks like some sort of water-based viscous acrylic material with some filler mixed in to thicken it up.  I think it would build up really nicely, and probably only one or two layers would be needed.  Just squeeze some of it into a disposable cup, then either dip the trunk in it, or using a disposable acid brush, paint the stuff over the trunk.



« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 05:49:02 PM by peteski »
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MK

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2020, 06:49:48 PM »
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I have used that stuff Peteski, to actually fill concrete cracks.  From my recollection it would work well to fatten up tree trunks.

The only thing I would be cautious about is what kind of paint would adhere to it, not saying it would be a problem.  It dries to a hard rubbery texture.

peteski

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2020, 08:38:14 PM »
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I have used that stuff Peteski, to actually fill concrete cracks.  From my recollection it would work well to fatten up tree trunks.

The only thing I would be cautious about is what kind of paint would adhere to it, not saying it would be a problem.  It dries to a hard rubbery texture.

In my experience (filling concrete cracks) it dries pretty hard (not rubbery),  I spread a bead of it on a piece of paper, and after it dried (it takes few days), it will break when bent.  But it is somewhat flexible before it fully hardens.  But it is also not as brittle as epoxy adhesive for example. There is some flexibility to it. I believe that it is some sort of acrylic resin (not silicone), so there should not be any paint adhesion problems.
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Bob

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2020, 09:17:45 PM »
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Interesting Peteski.  Has someone tried it on SuperTrees?  The latex works great, but does need multiple coats to thicken the trunk sufficiently.  Something similar but perhaps a thicker consistency might accomplish the same thing with fewer coats as you suggest.

wazzou

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Re: SuperTrees: Making the trunks thicker
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2020, 10:31:28 PM »
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What about that stuff that you dip pliers handles in to rubberize the grips after it's hardened?
I'd bet that could be brushed on, provided you knew the solvent to clean it from the brush.
Or thick gel matte medium?
Bryan

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