Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SuperTree Assembly, AKA 'Man Crafts'

Nothing says Appalachian modeling
like a wall of foliage. This is Tony
Koester's old Allegheny Midland--a
great look, but it won't work on the
Dunes Junction!  Photo: Allegheny
Midland Historical Society
The state of the art of model railroad scenery has really improved over the past two decades or so, with miniature trees and foliage textures getting better and better. Early on, I decided that my small Dunes Junction layout would have late-generation scenery textures--no sawdust, lichen, or monochrome blobs of green foam. That's a practical issue, really--the layout is small, and my Northern Indiana prototypes never had walls of mountainous rock of Western layouts or forested hillsides of Appalachia as backdrops. So treelines--as opposed to hilly, forested vistas--and weed fields (coming later) are the order of the day at Dunes Junction.

On top: gigantic SuperSage trees!
On hangers below:
SuperTrees that have been
dipped in matte medium, drying
and awaiting bark-colored paint.
A tree line in front of my photo backdrop was thus my first major scenic texture effort. My tree building adventure took off around five or six years ago when I bought one of Scenic Express' SuperSage starter kits, which contains SuperTree foliage, a few sage trunks, various green foliage and leaf  flake materials, and matte medium.

I broke out the SuperSage kit a month or so ago and one of the first things I discovered is that the SuperSage trees, when completed, are freaking ginormous! After assembling a couple of these gigantic trees--they would be at home on an S or O scale layout, or as a 'landmark' tree in front of a plantation--I realized they would dominate my planned background treeline.  Fortunately, SuperTree foliage can be worked into smaller, less iconic trees, so I picked up a box of SuperTree material and got to work.

My objective was two or three dozen trees, 2" to 4" in height. I carefully separated the SuperTrees (actually a weed from Scandinavia) and removed large, skinny, out-of-scale leaves with tweezers. Then each SuperTree took a dip in matte medium for strength and to seal them.

SuperTrees before leaf flake . . .
The SuperTrees dried on hangers, attached with clothes pins.  Upon drying, I sprayed all the SuperTrees with Montana Gold Manila Dark spray paint, which I found at a local art supply store. Montana Gold comes in a large spray can, and the line includes hundreds of colors, including several good tree bark tones in addition to Manila Dark.

After letting the spray paint dry for a few days, I removed the trees from their clothespins and hangers and stuck them in floral styrofoam.
I sprayed each with matte medium from a pump sprayer and sprinkled on ScenicExpress coarse foliage from the original Super Sage kit. On smaller trees, I used Aqua Net super extra hold unscented hair spray before and after sprinking on the foliage. I switched up dark and medium green foliage for visual variety.

After the first layer of ScenicExpress coarse foliage dried, I sprinkled on a layer of Noch leaf flake, which was included in the original SuperSage kit.  These flakes really add a lot to the texture of the trees, as well as introduce very slight, but noticeable variation in hues.

. . . And after application of leaf flake.
The hairspray, floral foam, and delicate SuperTree material caught the attention of my wife, who noted the un-masculine smells and the 'craft-iness' of my tree making endeavors. She wondered it there wasn't something Martha Stewart-ish about the whole thing.

My reply: "This is man-crafts, dang it!"

The dirt
compart-
ment is
full of
foliage
material!
She was impressed by the first stage of results. Delicate, whispy trees with realistic foam foliage caught her attention.

So did the crumbs of foliage that accumulated under my workspace. Which leads me to that one last  essential tool to tree making: a vacuum cleaner. Best to have one on hand for this kind of project.