Saturday afternoon I put together three more wire palm trees. I took a few photos while I did so, so here’s a mini-tutorial on masking tape and wire palm trees.
Gather your tools! I used paper masking tape and 0.9mm gardening wire. I had 0.6mm gardening wire handy as well but I believe it probably wouldn’t be thick enough to make a palm that could stand up to regular gaming. You’ll also need something to cut the masking tape, and something to cut the wire too.
The final ingredient is a half used up tube of Selley’s ‘Knead it’ Multipurpose. This is a two part roll of epoxy putty with a working time of roughly 5 minutes. It fully cures to a wood hardness overnight. Fellow modellers recommend the ‘Aqua’ flavour of this product but I’ve never managed to lay my hands on it. It always seems to be out of stock for some reason. Our US visitors may be able to suggest a suitably cheap, DIY epoxy product available in the States?
First step is to cut a bunch of lengths of gardening wire. For my palms I usually go for 19-20cm long pieces and use five pieces per palm tree.
Then cover the end of each piece of wire with a folded strip of masking tape, between 6-8cm long for a 3-4cm long palm frond. Don’t worry about folding the masking tape exactly in half, since you’ll cut away any excess shortly. As you can see I’ve just banged the masking tape over the wire disregading excess on either side.
Now you need to cut each piece of masking tape into a reasonable looking palm frond. Going from right to left this is all I do:
Cut the tape into a rough ‘club’ shape, tearing off an excess at the end. Don’t worry about leaving a tatty stub at the base of the frond, because it turns out on painting that actually adds to the effect.
Take the scissors and cut into each side of as far as you can go. I start from the tip and work my way back to the base of the frond, varying angle and depth a little as I go. I also try and make the cuts a little wider towards the middle for a thicker frond.
Repeat for all five branches. Leave the fronds flat for now, the frond on the far left has been bent a little to show you what they’ll end up looking like after you’ve assembled the palm.
Now take all five fronds and start winding them together, about 2cm down from the base of the fronds. The only trick here is to try and keep the wires as ‘smoothly’ wrapped as you can (if that makes any sense).
Try to avoid any large loops or one wire being more prominently wrapped that the others. This is really only important for the final step where I wind an epoxy ribbon around the palm for the trunk so everything ends up as even as possible.
Don’t twist the entire trunk, but leave 2cm at the bottom as well. Splay the ends out and you’ve got a some straight roots to fix to an MDF or plasticard base. I usually masking tape the tree down across the roots and then lay down a thin layer of Selly’s Knead It around the trunk to secure it to the base.
At this point I bend the fronds out in a sweeping curve, which tends to spread the individual leaves apart. I mess around with the fronds until I’m happy with their final arrangement and straighten and angle the trunk appropriately. I also run each frond through my fingers to bend the masking tape down, making them hang more naturally towards the ground, rather than straight out in the photo below.
Finally I mix some Selly’s Knead It and roll a piece into a 3mm tube and flatten it out into a strip on a wet piece of plastic. Taking the strip I spiral wind it around the tree from under the fronds down to the base, forming the trunk of the palm.
Actually once you’ve started it’s easier to hold the putty and spin the tree slowly, pulling it onto the trunk. As the putty hardens in 5 minutes it’ll usually take me 2-3 strips to wrap the entire tree.
Once I’ve finished I leave the whole tree overnight so the trunk fully cures. In addition to looking kind of like a palm trunk, the wrapped epoxy also adds a fair amount of strength to the finished tree and holds the wrapped wires in place.
They’re not the most realistic looking palms, but they’re cheap, with roughly $30nz of materials giving you enough to make maybe around 30 palms. They’re fairly quick to make too once you get the hang of them. I can bang out 4-5 in an evening in front of the television.
As with all terrain, a decent paint job can make them look as good as a store bought product once they’re on the table! I’m in the process of painting a couple of bases of them up for my Flames of War table so I’ll post them sometime this week once they’re done.
Addendum: Painted Palm trees appear in this later post.