Monday, 25 August 2014


A discussion with some nerd chums about using wire armatures for sculpting miniatures reminded me of some unfinished trees I made a while ago. 

Unlike many historical wargamers, I'm not that interested in the military aspect of things. I'm more interested in the period itself, especially the architecture and flora, so the wrong buildings annoy me far more than the wrong number of buttons on my little toy men. When I first laid out all my terrain for my games based on Chechen war, I thought the table looked more like World War Two Normandy. Since then I've become keen to make my table look obviously modern even at a glance.

The problem with many ready-made trees, especially those pitched at wargamers, is that there are only three generic types. Coniferous and palm trees generally look the part, but the broad-leaved trees, while nice enough, usually look nothing like any tree in particular. Chechnya has coniferous trees in the high mountains, with dense forests of beech and oak at lower levels. Ready-made trees are fine for this kind of thing but, in footage I've watched on youTube, I've also seen less densely-leaved trees such birches and willows in towns and villages. I decided to make a few of these latter types to mix in with the ready-made items.

The technique is simple enough. I twisted some strands of wire together to form a trunk (leave enough wire at the bottom to splay out and attach to a base), then twisted sets of wires into large branches. Eventually I ended up with a few individual wires forming small branches. I then attached the tree to a 40mm metal washer with some epoxy resin and covered up some of the wire endings with Das putty. Here is my first attempt:

The trunk is quite obviously twisted wire so I painted it with PVA glue to smooth it out. It improved it a little but I think it needs another coat. I read that railway modeller types dip the trees in latex to hide the wire. I have a 25-year-old tub of latex somewhere so, in the unlikely event it is still useable, I may give that a try.

On my second attempt I appeared to be channeling old Hammer films:

On my third attempt, I got more ambitious and mixed in some thinner wires to make a more realistic looking tree:

I based the fourth tree on the silver birch in my back garden:

And the fifth tree was based on the willow in my back garden:

I think they will all stand up to being used as wargames terrain. I'm not so sure about the willow, but I hope that the wires might only bend in storage rather than break. When I get round to it, I'll paint and flock them – but I have half a dozen buildings to finish first!

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