Birch Forest

John Lambert gets green fingers.

I’d missed out on the bargain miniature Christmas trees from The Works but needed some trees for Zona Alfa. I thought about birch trees, this is how I made them.

Wire Armature
I used wire armatures for the trees and found a tutorial on the Marklin model railway site. I had some thin wire from B & Q Garden section and start by cutting two pieces about 45cm long and folded them in two. I placed the handle of a wooden spoon in the bends and gripping the 4 strands of wire in pliers, rotated the handle to twist the wire. I continued twisting until I wanted to inset a branch. These were made by taking a piece of wire about 20 cm in length which I bent half way. Taking one of the 4 strand of wire, I twist this around one half of the new piece of wire, the second half of the added wire now becomes a strand for the trunk, then continued twisting the trunk until I was ready to insert another branch. I then went back to twist the two wires for the branch until it was long enough, leaving lengths of wire at the end of the branch. The tree canopy will be attached to these. I then continued up the trunk, dropping the number of trunk wires or splitting the trunk into two near the top. The loops at the foot of the trunk are folded out and glued to a base.

The next stage was to get rid of the twisted wire appearance and add some body to the lower section of the trunk. I used Decorator’s acrylic caulk for this, using a wet modelling knife to smooth the caulk and provide texture. I didn’t add caulk to the free ends of the branch. Once the caulk was dry, I painted the trunk pale stone colour, applied a thin pale green wash then dry brushed white. I painted the ends of the branches black. I had a look at our local birch trees, the branches lose thickness abruptly then a mesh of fine branches drop down almost vertically.
I had a pack of black scourers also from B & Q and by gently ripping the scourer, I could get a very thin mesh which I would superglue to the black branch ends

This mesh is pretty robust and ideal to provide the canopy. For foliage, I had some small clump foliage which was just the job. Once the canopy pieces were glued to the branch ends, it was time to add the foliage. I dry brushed the canopy with PVA and sprinkled the canopy with the clump foliage, leaving to dry overnight. The next day, I gently brushed off any loose foliage and the tree was complete, once sprayed with matt sealant.

Tree on left is painted Armature ready for canopy mesh, Tree on right has partial canopy applied. Tree in centre is finished tree.
If you look a photos of Birch forest, the trees are often grouped closely together in stands, I think due to a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. I decided to create stands that would conveniently fit into a storage box. These could be grouped together as dense clumps, or spread out to form a birch forest. I used the same technique as the trees above.

Author: Brigadier Tony

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