DyeHard's Wargame Terrain

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Jungle Tree from "Pine Cobs"

As I walk my dogs, I try and keep my eyes open. Both to observe the appearance of the world and to find items I might use to model it. Under some conifers one is likely to find the handy work of the local squirrels. They dissect the pine cones to eat the pine nuts (the seeds of the tree). Working with their incisors they remove the outer parts, the scales, eat the seeds and leave behind a neatly trimmed inner core. This inner core I have come to call the "pine cob". One could try to fashion a pine cob from a whole cone, but it is an amazing amount of work, and much better to go for some nice long walks and look for them. The size shape and usefulness is a function of both the species of tree and the technique of the squirrel. Just make sure to carry a large bag with you, as once you locate a cashe of pine cobs that are useful, you will want to collect a good selection to work with.

Here we have a rather small pine cob and a cone from the same tree.

The highly textured surface of the pine cob would be very difficult to reproduce in any man-made item. Here compared to an Old Glory 15mm figure you can see how this found object might make a nice model of a tree.

For those who might model in other scales, we see a comparison to a true 25mm figure.

I have twisted off the remaining tips of the remaining scales at the top of the cob. This allows the fragmented scale parts to act as branches and dead fronds that cling to the trunk of the tree. (see this a photo above for comparison to the cob with the tips of the scales still in place.)
To be useful as wargame terrain, the pine cob will need to be secured to a good base. Here I have used tacky glue to secure it to a very large and heavy washer.

To texture the washer, I have coated it with an adhesive (PVA, Matt Media, Latex Paint, or specialty Base Paste, can be used). Once well coated I pour a small mound of very fine sand I collected from a local inland sand dune. High winds and low rainfall make these a common feature in my area. The wind blown sand and left over volcanic ash form an almost concrete like mixture. This I use to represent soil.

Once the coating has fully hardened, I enhance the soil effect by washing the sand with greatly thin acrylic paint. In this case a medium brown. With sufficient thinning the paint will not dry to a perfectly uniform finial shade. This variation with enhance the natural appearance of the base.

An experimental foliage scheme for the tree.

The preparation of the foliage is quite simple. The raw material in this case is an artificial fern purchased from a craft store. Individual fronds and small groups were clipped from the main stem.

These parts are secured to the fractured scales with a small drop of tacky (PVA) glue. By working the ends of the plastic fronds deep into the fractured scales of the pine cob, a very secure union can be achieved. This is impotent for any item which will see the heavy handling expected in wargaming.

The fronds in place. While still wet one can make out the white glue. Once it dries it turn clear and is very difficult to see among the broken scales.

Now let us move on to finishing the texturing of the base. My philosophy is to create multiple layers of texture and color to simulate the soil and plant litter of the jungle floor. As many jungle are also frequented by heavy rain fall, often running water strips away the soil leaving exposed the typically poor sub soil. To model this I start with patches of sand. Using some slightly watered down white glue (PVA) with a drop of wetting agent added (dish soap) I make random patches across the base. The base is then covered in a layer of builder's sand. This is much courser then that used to originally coat the base. The latest addition is allowed to dry and the excess poured off.

The difference between the textures of the two sands being used are clear from this photo. The builder's sand looking like small stones on top of the fine wind blown sand looking like soil.

The next stage is to add some random patches of rich brown soil and decomposed plant matter. Again adding random patches of glue, I then cover the base with a layer of coffee. Note the slight difference in both color and texture between the original base coating and the added coffee.

To represent the small pants that grow on the jungle floor, I add a layer of flocking. This is a custom blend of commercially available products. Primarily a blend of fine and medium turfs of various color from Woodland Scenics. These can be obtained from many hobby shops, especially those which cater to model railroaders. They are also available on-line from many supple houses such as Micro-Mark . One can also make one's own flock, which I may cover at a later time. To secure the flocking I proper a mixer of Matt Media and Future floor finish. This is dabbed onto the base with a cheep brush, making sure to leave much of the pervious layers exposed. The flocking mix is then "rained" down onto the base. This is set aside until the media has dried.

The final layer of texture to be added to this base is that to represent the duff found on the floor of the jungle. Duff is the decompose leaves, needles and twigs that litter any natural forest. One again I use the Matt Media and Future floor finish mix. This I tend to add to the base nearer the truck , but also with some random patches at some distance. In the wild, one might expect the duff to pile up in the relative shelter of the tree. To represent duff I have found no material more suitable the used tea collected from tea bags. Loose tea tends to be composed of a much courses cut of the tea leaves, while tea bags contain often very finely cut tea to help in the extraction process. I fine the cheaper the tea the finer the cut. Once fully dry, I shift and blend the contained of many different brands and varieties of tea. I hope to cover this subject in some more depth on the tea page. With the media mix added to the base the tea is "rained" down onto the base, which is then set aside to dry.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.