Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sippin' Swamp Diorama - Part 5 - I See Trees of Grey

No snow.  Wife was tired and went to bed early.  Kids have colds and are all asleep.  The evil Daddy creeps off down to the dungeon to....carve more cypress trees.

 Often I leave the tree alone overnight and then come back to it the next day with fresh eyes.  I like this one.  The wife even asked about it on her way to bed.  Its a good tree so we'll leave it alone.

 I need to remove it from the work table, but don't have anywhere to put it.  In the scrap lumber bin is a 1" pine board, 12"x12".  I'll make it a tree, not the kind for killing Bambi.

 I marked 2" squares on the board.  These will let me drill holes spaced evenly.

 Really, you should do this with a drill press but mine is not accessible right now.  Luckily my drill has a spot level on the back that let's me know when I'm drilling straight through my board.

 Holes were drilled at the intersection of each line using a 1/8" bit.  I tested one of the dowels and the friction fit is just right...not too tight to break the tree or too lose to let it fall out.

 A quick hit of the sanding block smooths the holes on the from and back.

 I'll place a sheet of aluminimimimimim foil on the board to keep the clay from sticking to the wood.

 The tree was removed from the spindle with the tug of a pair of pliers and then the tree was remounted on the new tree stand.

 To keep the tree from getting dinged (the clay will stay moist and flexible until we bake it) I put it up on the test track out of the way of five year old fingers and nosey wives.

 Dang!  My cable tv went out.  I was learning about the scoundrel President Jackson.  My kind of guy!  BANG BANG.  Ok, the cable works again (or else!)

Always begin with a prototype.  This is a generic tree so I'll use a good generic base.

 Again we start with the 1/8" dowel.  You got that, don't you?  Thought so. 

 Knead, knead, knead the clay. I'm going to carry some to work for kneading during long meetings.

 We make a rod...then slice it like a hot dog bun.

 Wrap it around a stick to make a candle.  This time we go all the way to the bottom.  If you notice the real cypress trees are fairly small in diameter up top and taper like a candle.  All of the crazy trees you see really don't exist normally.  Only oddities.

 My prototypes are up on the board for me to refer to as I carve.  Once they are in my head I start freelancing this tree.  It is another very large tree for the foreground.  Still at fourteen actual inches high it is only 56 O-scale feet high, which is a rather short tree.

 Once the core tree is on the stick, we take clay and make the base around the tree.  This tree has about a 50 degree pitch to the conical shape.

 Next we roll out some 'worms' and add the buttresses to the tree.  To secure them, start by anchoring the top to the tree base with your thumb and some robust pressure.  The clay should smear right into the tree base.

 Using a curved tool I start joining the buttresses to the base.  This is a slow process but necessary so that the worms don't look like separate parts of the tree.  You really have to work in the middle of the two buttresses to get the worms to stick.

 Once the buttresses are joined to the tree base you can shape them further, looking at the photograph.  Looking like a tree now!

Cut away the clay between the buttresses and then add texture to the hole base with the edge of a sculting tool.  Cypress trees have a rather rough texture when viewed up close.  This tree has about 30 minutes on it.  My normal time for building a master tree is 45 minutes.  To bake it takes another 30, and to detail it with painting takes another hour.  So a tree runs about 2 hours 15 minutes or so to complete.  Ok for a diorama, but what about a layout?

Out of time for tonight, so we'll finish this tree tomorrow.

Do you like this type of article?  Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Scott,
    As noted a couple of entries ago, I like!

  2. Scott,

    Oh thank goodness we don't have to listen to you sing "I see trees of gray"! There is a God! Just kidding - I miss you "singing".


  3. Scott, yes this type of article does appeal. Easy steps to follow if we choose to do the same. I model in HO however the eucalypts on my layout are fairly sizable so certainly the modellling clay you've used is certainly worth me giving it a go. The photos you take and how your articles flow do make them enjoyable reading, Geoff.


Thanks for your comment!