The Challenge of creating Pine trees

This is as much an article on the use of Hemp and Jute twine as it is on pine tree construction. It all started when I read some old articles on scenery that were published before the world of ground-up foam. I expanded on those old techniques for colouring the material and the results are seen below. Most of the trees were built and added to the same Mining Mill scene for comparison. There was an article in the Sept/Oct, 2004 Narrow Gauge Gazette on Kenneth Ehlers Pandora & San Miguel Sn3 layout. On the cover is a view of the many pine trees on a steep hillside. What caught my attention was the dead tree in the scene. The tree he modelled is one that is recently dead whereas my model is very dead. The trunk is painted to represent different stages of decay. Natural trigs were glued into holes drilled in the trunk. The foreground scenery was improved by planting some straw and live grass and then adding some of our Dead and Alive ground covers. What I call Dead and Alive ground cover is the moss material ground up in a blender until it passes through a window screen. Those patches of Straw and Green grass are of course coloured Jute twine. The year after our massive forest fires in Arizona, drought set in that year. The bark Beatles moved into the trees and killed a major portion of what was left of the forest. This is what the trees looked like. We have since received a lot of rain and snow and thankfully, many of the trees have recovered. I modelled them by using the brown-coloured moss material for the limbs. Jute twine was stained with my #1430 Earth Pigment. The Jute was cut into short snips to represent dead needles. I then flocked the tree and set them with hair spray. Another tree has been added to the scene and the thought occurred to add dead pine needles on the ground below. They are short snips is Jute Twine coloured without #1430 Earth Pigment. You can make this yourself, but I recommend using rubber latex gloves as it’s messy and there could be health issues involved. Handling the finished product will leave the dye on your hands also, so use at your own risk. A half-cup of Denatured Alcohol, Turpentine or Mineral Spirits is placed in a jar as either one of these products gives the same results. Add a half teaspoon of brown pigment and shake it up to dissolve the pigment. Now add ten one-foot lengths of the jute twine and shake it up again a few times and then remove the twine. Pulling each string through your fingers a couple of times helps disperse the color into the material. I spread them out on newspaper and let dry for several hours. This picture has finally been restored to my computer had lost a while back. I used it on the box cover of the Pine Tree kits we sold some years ago. They use the same natural moss material (#3) that is used on our new style Ponderosa trees. The main difference is that the trees at left look very shaggy and look good in a cold winter setting. Consider the fact that heavy snows and high winds can damage a tree. For this effect, clumps of moss are simple pushed down the trunk and glued in place. They are then trimmed with scissors for the conical shape. I quit selling these trees because hand manufacture of the cedar trunks was too time-consuming. This Ponderosa tree uses our #3 moss material, but it’s laid on Jute string for the branches. Needle detail comes from short snips of our #5 Green Grass material. This is set on the branches with hair spray. I don’t mix both styles of trees in the same scene because they wouldn’t look right. The trees at left make better foreground models whereas the above trees look good in the higher elevation background of the layout. The Pinion Pine has #6 wool to fill out the Sage Armature. Needles were made from our #5 Green Grass clippings and set with hair spray. A version of a Shaggy Bark Juniper can be modelled with a Sage Brush armature and our #3 natural foliage material. I have expanded on this technique by adding clippings of our #5 Green Grass material for needle detail. I don’t mix the two versions close to each other on the layout as they compete for attention as to what one looks better.

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