Saturday, August 31, 2013

Green Wargaming on a Budget: Making Trees from Repurposed Junk

Burgundian handgunners take cover in the treeline.
      When you're a kid, table-top gaming can be cost prohibitive...let's face it.  As an adult its still cost prohibitive.  Spending $20-40 dollars to get a pack of ten dubious-looking railroad scenic trees is something I don't really want to do.  Rather spend my doubloons on lead.  Thankfully, trees are an easy project with some time, household junk, and a few bucks from the local craft store.

You will need:

Painters or masking tape
White glue
Floral Moss (1 bag is $5)
Blue insulation foam (4x8 sheet is about $16 at a DIY store)

Bases are ready for priming and sanding.
      To start:  Cut your bases and about thirty lengths of coathangers.  Sections of 3-8 inches are good for our scales.  Bind dissimilar wire lengths together with tape, leaving two inches exposed at each end.  The exposed areas will be your branches and roots.  Bend the branches and roots in various directions to achieve a natural look and tape down to the cardboard base.  Now you can sculpt that blue foam into rocks or other terrain features (knolls) under or around your tree.

Primed and ready for painting,
 Cover the base with white school glue and sand.  Add in pebbles or other debris as desired.  The whole must be painted.  I have a 5 gal bucket of nasty oyster latex I found in the basement of my house when I bought it.  Two years later, I'm still using it as a primer for my trees, buildings, and other terrain.

With a base coat, highlights and an ink wash, the trees are ready for foliage.
       Once primed, you can add your base colors, highlights, and inking.  I use acrylic paints from a craft store.  I get similar results to more pricey modelling paints and on this amount of area, thrift is a must.  I used a dark brown for the tree, clay color for the earth.  these were touched up with grey and dry brushed with a flesh base color (light khaki).  The whole was ink-washed with a mixture of brown and black.

Moss on the branches, coarse turf on the ground.
       For adding the foliage, a dab on small amounts of superglue and then thread the moss onto the branches.  Hold the moss in place as the glue dries.  If you use the glue sparingly, the moss will hold, but your fingers won't.

The last piece of moss.
       The moss is on and I will complete the forest floor with white glue and coarse turf (ground up foam).

The Burgundian infantry emerge from the completed "budget"  forest.

The completed forest.  The trees are based in groups of one, two, or three.  Three evenings of work, while watching baseball makes me a forest of fourteen trees.  Easy day-and I still have enough materials to make 140, should the scenario require.  In any event, I think these look a lot more realistic than whats on the market.  


  1. Whoa, those are very nice trees. Well done!

  2. Thanks, appreciate the comment. My seven year old saw them still "in the white" and told me they looked great and he couldn't wait to use them in our next game. That felt good!

  3. Great work and insightful for me. Definitely a long term tree solution that's affordable. Thank you very much.