Saturday, October 31, 2020

How To Video #1 - Making Foreground Trees

I just posted a 10 minute (or so) video on how I make some of the foreground trees on my layout. 

Here’s a link to the YouTube video:

I tried to be clever and use two cameras to shoot this. My hope was I'd have a close up camera and one for an overall shot. I didn't expect my video editing software to make cutting between those two such a struggle! That's why you may notice the tree dropping out of the frame a few times. But I don't think it's unwatchable. 

I have plans for the next how-to video, but need to figure out the software issues before trying to use two cameras again! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tips of Researching and Building Prototype Structures - now Virtual

I've presented my Tips for Building and Researching Prototype Structures several times - once in person at last year's Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers meet, and twice virtually via zoom - the first time in September on one of the Hindsight 2020 virtual RPMs, and again earlier this month for the local NMRA division. 

Although I'd thought the Hindsight presentation was recorded - I don't think anyone has ever posted it (it's fine if they do, and if you've happened to stumble across that one please let me know!)

The most recent presentation to the local NMRA division was recorded and uploaded to You Tube - you can find it here:

I haven't watched the video - so I have no idea how I sound or how it looks. I was planning to actually record the presentation and upload it to my You Tube channel, but frankly life has been getting in the way a lot lately. 

Anyway, thought some may be interested. 

Let me know what you thought of the clinic if you're brave enough to sit through it. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Crepe Myrtle Foreground Tree 2: Building up the armature

I should start this by saying that although I'm using Crepe Myrtle "tips" as the basis for these foreground trees, those of you north of southern New Jersey are going to have a hard time finding Crepe Myrtles. These plants truly do not like extended cold weather. 

But don't despair. Next time you're down south you'll find these things everywhere from Virginia south to Florida. I understand they're also quite common in southern California. 

Of course you don't have to use Crepe Myrtles - the key is to find something that has a fairly tight branching structure. I've used hydrangeas, and while they don't work quite as well for the process I'm sharing, they're not bad. Another option is to create your own armature from florists wire. That can produce truly stunning results, but can be extremely time consuming. 

But this post will focus on starting with natural armatures. No matter what plant you find, you want an armature that looks something like this: 

These are from one of the Crepe Myrtles in our yard. I let the Crepe Myrtle flowers go to seed and leave them on the plant until mid-winter before cutting them from the plant. This way they'll be completely dried out. 

After cutting them from the plant, and removing the seed pods, you'll be left with something like the ones shown in the photo. These are extremely bent - the flowers kind of droop a lot on that particular plant, and the result is a bent seed head. 

When I encounter this problem I usually combine the individual branches together to create the basic armature of the tree. By placing two or three of these with the branches arching away from one another you can quickly create the look of a tree. 

I often need to trim away bits and pieces of the main "stems" to get something that looks like a tree and not a handful of branches!

If the bend is very severe I'll glue the branches together at some point other than the base of each - and then trim the remainder away once the glued has dried completely. 

I also have found it useful to trim an angle into the bottom of some of the larger separate branches so the join looks more natural. 

Once the basic armature is together, it's time to flesh out the trunk. I used to use florists green tape for this, but the resulting trunks always seem to have a spot, right where the secondary branches spread out from the main trunk, where the trunk was too fat, and then suddenly got too thin and slender. 
I tried plaster, wood putty, and several other materials. I never went as far as to try lead paste, as one of my model railroad inspirations, Les Jordan, recommended back in his October 1979 RMC article. 
Somewhere along the line, somebody recommended using gel medium. I ended up using Molding Paste - which is actually thicker than the gel medium. This is the same basic stuff as gloss (or matte) medium - the only difference is gel medium is really, really thick. 
I apply it directly to the tree trunk, blending the individual armatures into one cohesive trunk. 
I suppose it could be done in one thick coat, but I find it easier to apply it in two or three coats. 
You can, if you're careful, even create the look of the roots sticking up from the ground around the base of the trunk. 

Next Step: Finer branches and a fancy new glue pot!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Crepe Myrtle Foreground tree: 1

I've spent some time over the last few evenings getting some foreground trees built up. These will be for the alcove scene, as well as helping to frame a special new structure that I haven't shared on the blog yet over in Enosburg.

I'm building these up using the Crepe Myrtle tips I harvested last winter - some of them had a considerable "bow" to them, but by gluing a few of them together and selectively pruning some of the large or more oddly placed branches, it makes a nice basic tree armature. In some cases, it's pretty close to the basic shape of an elm tree. 

I then fill out the basic armature with Super tree tips. 

The next step will be to add some bulk and blending to the trunks.