DyeHard's Wargame Terrain

Back to whence you came

From cheep toy to convincing terrain

The journey of a palm tree

I had picked up on clearance a number of toy dinosaurs which came packaged with a nest and a palm tree.

The basic item could be used right out of the box, but to allow it to blend into my terrain scheme more effectively and to add some realism to the palm I decided to give it an overhaul.
The short comings I saw were: the very plastic appearance, the contrast in color between leaves while the uniformity within branch sets, the sudden rise from the table top of the base and the fact that all the trees were identical. Re-basing and painting seemed to be the way to go. I snipped the trunks free of the original base and pulled the branch sets off for separate painting. It would have been wise to wash all the parts with detergent to remove the grease that is left on the surface of such plastic items from when they are made. Sadly, I neglected this important step. All the parts will end up being used, even the base use used to make a mound after some slight trimming.


For the bases I had a revelation. In some hobby news group I was reading, some one mentioned terrain that fitted together like a puzzle. It so happened that I had a pile of jigsaw puzzle parts laying about as a leftover from some wooden boxes I had purchased to serve as figure storage. The boxes were on clearance in a K-mart toy department. Each contained a small puzzle composed of a glossy photo mounted on thin plywood. Initially I had no intention to use the puzzle parts and had stored them away as a source of plywood for the future. But the ideal of turning puzzles into terrain bases was just to good to let pass. The first thing to decide is which side to have up. I thought if I left the picture side down it might serve as a guide to connecting the parts, but this would be quite slick and tend to allow the terrain to be pushed across the table. I rationalized that each part would become more generic as I modified them, and as such would not require the pictures to serve as a guide.

With the "which side up" matter settled, I preceded to bevel the edges of each part. This is to prevent the appearance of a sudden step up on the jungle floor. I used a cheep rotary tool with a sanding drum. A rasp or course file would work as well. A mounted belt sander can make very short work of such a job. (Sorry about the focus!)

In order to securely mount the trunks to the base I decided to use small nails over which the plastic trunks will be placed. To secure the nails, and thus the trunks, I drilled holes through the base and counter sunk the hole to allow the nail heads to sit in the body of the plywood. This is important to allow the base to sit flat and steady on the table surface.

I counter sunk some holes into the truck to allow then to be slid over the points and shafts of the nails. I use a drill that is slightly smaller then the diameter of the nails. Alternatively the nails could have been heated and the trunks pressed home while they are still hot. This would have allowed the nails to melt their way into the plastic trunks. I prefer this more controlled and safer method.

With the trunks secured, the bases were covered with adhesive and coated with fine wind blown sand. This is then painted with a thinned wash of a medium brown acrylic paint and the trunks are dry brushed with a tan to bring out some on the molded in detail and texture.

Next random patches of builder's sand are added.

Then patches of used coffee grounds to simulate decayed plant matter.

Using matte media thinned with Future floor finish as an adhesive, flocking is added to model living plants.

The finial texture to add to the base is a smattering of used tea salvaged from old tea bags. This should tend to collect about the trucks as fronds die and fall from the tree.


The original foliage of the toy palm had a quite reasonable shape, but was molded in two very different shades of green. This contrast was a bit too drastic for my taste, so I decided to repaint them each in part.

After removing the branch sets from the trunks and securing each to a convenient handle, I first painted then with a dark shade of green. This paint was on clearance at a Wal-Mart and was intended for "Plastic". Basically a nice think craft style acrylic paint which dries with a gloss finish. It bond quite well to the fonds, especially considering my failure to properly prepare the parts by washing them. The paint job is by no means complete, the simply splashed paint on quickly leaving much of the base color showing especially along the edges of the fronds.

Next a quick brush over with a much lighter shade of the same style of paint.

All that remains is to reassemble the tree. A small dab of glue helps to hold the fronds and branches in place. A quick spray with a matte finish will help to hold down the shine and to secure the scatter materials .

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I hope to be able to add more latter.

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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.