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Hints & Tricks 2: How to build a tree for a diorama?

by Georg Schachinger

the completed tree
For Diorama makers it is always important, if not only city scenes are represented, that nature is also made detailed and reliable. One states frequently that the best materials for this purpose always come from nature. Even details, as leaves can be represented by means of filigree plants. Thus there is for example a bush, which branches indicate smallest branching. It is the so-called "sea foam". One can buy it in a marked garden or harvest it in the sea if one knows the places, where to look.

The tree is not so difficult to achieve: For what reasons are there the Japanese and "their Bonsais"? Of course that a model construction amateur has something that looks like a tree at 1:35-scale! These plants are best procurable in a DIY store. Sometimes there are already dried ones, which are only thrown away anyway. Speak with the responsible person in the garden department and he will store them for you. Nowadays even new small trees cost no fortune any more (in any case fewer, than a Verlinden product!).


First the earth is removed and the tree is cleaned. Then one removes its roots, the leaves and all thin branches from the Bonsai with a Dremel Minidrill and a saw blade socket. The result should look similar to image 1.

Into the so obtained snags, one then has to bore holes for the incorporation of a piece of wire. The branches of sea foam are then divided into individual segments. Many small branch parts should be the result, as represented in image 2.

the tree trunk the foliage
Image 1 Image 2

The composition proceeds now on your own creation: the sea foam sections are attached to the snags of the Bonsais with wire ends. One should change gradually from leafless branches at the trunk far up to branches with leaves at the area of the treetop. Depending upon the thickness of the branches of the sea foam you have to select the strength of the wire. The further outside from the trunk, the more thin it must be, since it might not fit into the opening of the stems. Afterwards one must treat the junction points between Bonsai and branches, or between the branches with Cyanoacrylat instant glue. With my example it concerns approx. 40 junction points. As one can estimate, patience with this procedure is necessary!

At the junction points one should seal possible gaps with high-viscosity adhesive. After spraying the tree with diluted white glue (atomizers from your dear wife's stock are best suitable for this) I have sprinkled the tree with dried leaves, that were crushed in a mortar. If one holds a paper under the tree, one can use surplus material for further runs.
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  Image 3: How to connect the parts:  
  dark brown: Bonsai, pale brown: sea foam, blue: wire  
  connecting the parts  

First I hand painted the tree with different brown tones, especially the interfaces of the branches and the green branches of the sea foam. Then I sprayed the leaves with the airbrush in different green tones and semi dull varnish. Both the appearance, and the durability of the tree improve. Picky ones can do those by spraying from a direction above the tree in darker green and from a position below in brighter green, to simulate the differences in color of the upper and lower surface of natural leaves.

However I skipped that. It is not a problem at all that leaves adjacent to the branches or stems partly take over a green cast. This looks as if the branch would be somewhat moss covered or are still young, green branches. The trunk was painted with artist's oil colors and - still in the drying phase - dry brushed with brighter brown tones.
  meet the author      

Georg Schachinger

  My name is Georg Schachinger and I was born in 1964 in Upper Austria. I have done modelling since I was 14. However only since 1998 Im seriously concerned with the topic of tank-, vehicle-, diorama- and figure construction. Especially I prefer constructing scratch built vehicles. This leads to somehow strange projects, as there were a selfmade interior compartment of a StuG III and a bow-section of a Mark IV, although these items could have been bought as well...

Anyhow: scratching is more fun, then buing and cheaper. Further hobbies are: Karate and reading military history.
  Georg Schachinger  
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This page:  THEMES: Hints & Tricks 2: How to build a tree for a diorama? - by Georg Schachinger
was last modified on: Mar 11, 2002
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