Saturday, 12 January 2013

Into The Woods - part 4 - more ways of sticking foliage

Just one, in this article, in fact. This is partly thanks to Gavin, who uses a similar method for his excellent trees.

Stage one. Find some rubberised horsehair. You can either find a supplier of furnishing materials who will supply you with a massive sheet that's bigger than you might ever possibly need, or you can do what I did, which is to find a supplier of model scenic stuff who is prepared to sell you a smaller bit for more per unit area but less in total. And then, like me, you can forget who you bought it from so you can't do them the courtesy of a link. [It took me 20 mins of searching emails to find out that I'd bought this from 4D Models!]

It's odd stuff - it smells of rubber (given the name, this is hardly surprising), it's coarse-feeling, a little stiff, and in its raw form is quite dense (it's designed as an upholstery-stuffing material).

What you then do is rip off little hunks of the rubberised horsehair, and pull them out so they're a fine mesh of strands, and then affix them to (by sort of weaving around the branches of) your preferred tree armature (me? still using Woodland Scenics).

The end result is a tree with a core of plastic branches with a lacy mesh of rubberised horsehair around it.

Next, you take a nice big empty ice-cream tub and a big jar of coarse-ish flock of whatever colour takes your fancy, and spread out some newspaper, 'cause this next bit could get a little messy. Pour the flock into the tub, and then go find your big can of unscented hairspray.

As I mentioned before, this stuff is sticky. Take your tree armature, and liberally (and I mean liberally) spray it with hairspray. Dip the armature in the tub of flock, shake off the excess. Repeat. At least twice more. Certainly keep going with hairspray then flock until you're happy with how the tree looks.

One very important note: do not, at this point, do as I did and drop the tree. The hairspray is only a fairly tenuous hold, and you will get a fair bit of slightly tacky flock all over your jeans and floor. Don't do this. :D

Eventually, you'll wind up with something that looks like a tree. In fact, it looks better than the ones made with coarser clump foliage, in my book.

The next (and penultimate) stage is to liberally (again, I really do mean this) spray the end result with slightly dilute PVA until every bit of the foliage is coated, and put the tree someplace to dry for a good long time. The glue I used was Treemendus Scenefix Glue, which comes with its own spray atomiser, and unlike the Woodland Scenics one, seems to work. One tip though - when you're done, remove the spray head, hold the end of the tube in some running hot water and spray through for a while, so the drying glue doesn't clog up the works. (By the way, Treemendus are now promoted to my links sidebar for being fantastic - not only do they produce a PVA spray that works, they also make the awesome forest floor scatter I use.)

This is where I am at the moment. The final stage is to give it a bit of a haircut where (as you can see) some of the horsehair strands have got a bit straggly, but I'm going for patience here and leaving it to dry for at least a day. But I hope you can see at this point what the end result is going to come out like.


  1. A quality looking tree and excellent tutorial.
    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Nicely done. I can't resist a good tree tutorial, its a bit of an obsession. I have a tute with a similar method up on my blog ( It's for a larger scale tree (almost a foot tall) so I make my own armature from twigs, and instead of horsehair I use polyfiber. I invite you to have a look--it might be useful, even though there are some things I'm going to change in an update post eventually.

    Good luck in your quest for the perfect tree!

    1. Magic Wash, huh. I'm definitely going to try that out! Thanks!

  3. Mike, that looks terrific. Very realistic. I think that looks the business.

    If you needed yet another variation (not that you do).....

    .....We did loads of trees at the club a while back using rubberised horsehair. One alternative to hairspray we found was using a large tub of very cheap matt wood varnish. Once you have the horsehair on the tree, dip the while tree in the varnish, soaking the horsehair, and then dip the varnish-covered tree in the flock (and shake off any excess). Best do this outdoors in decent weather with rubber gloves as its a filthy job. But once the varnish is dry, the flock is never coming off, and the varnish soaked-horsehair is very rigid afterwards.

    1. I'm open to any and all options. That one sounds messy but disturbingly effective, as does Mattias' magic wash (Johnson's Klear/Future).

      It appears that the PVA dries in about 36 hours, but it does take a LOT of glue, and I suspect that dunking it in a bucket of cheap dilute PVA may be better than buying the Treemendous stuff at 100ml a time.

    2. Mike, agreed. The varnish method is horrible to do, but easy and very cheap. As I recall, the varnish dries overnight and the flock's glued solidly thereafter - "disturbingly effective" is just about the best expression for it! As for how much varnish is needed - I'd say one large cheap tin will do for at least 50 trees in 25mm scale.


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