Friday, 16 June 2017

Bonsai? 28mm Tree!

Introduction

Did you know that it is possible to buy plastic bonsai trees?  I didn't know this, at least until very recently.


It went something like this: I was wondering how I could model a large, solitary tree for my African games (probably Congo and/or Pulp Alley).  I'm thinking of the sort of thing that frequently provides a focal point in the savanna, something like an acacia or baobab tree.  For whatever reason, my mind skipped from scale model vegetation to cheap, "fishtank" grasses and shrubs and from there to larger pieces.  A quick Internet search and I had discovered imitation bonsai trees!


Preparing The Tree

It turns out that there is at least one Chinese company which makes fake bonsai trees.  I saw these on eBay, put in an order for two of them and waited for the postman to arrive.  In due course, this occurred.  Here's some things about plastic bonsai trees:
  • They're very cheap.  I paid just over £2 for each item, including postage.  At this price, I figured that I could afford to bin them if they didn't work for my purposes.
  • They're also very crudely moulded, in brightly coloured polythene.  Not really like any real tree at all (bonsai or otherwise)!
So, what could I do with this?




  1. Firstly, I stripped off all the green foliage clusters.  In hindsight, this was a mistake because it took a surprising amount of time and I ended up spraying the foliage with the same colour of paint before putting it back on the branches.  I might as well have just left it where it was!
  2. Next, I glued the roots to an old CD, after first roughening the glossy surface of the CD with some coarse sandpaper.  This should help with adhesion.
  3. The base was spread with pre-mixed filler, paying particular attention to working it under the places where the roots arched upwards.  Once the filler was dry, sand and grit was glued all over the ground.
  4. I sprayed the model with a paint that was specially formulated for vinyl and other plastics.  This I obtained from an automotive store (Halfords, in the UK).  Usefully, for my purposes, the paint was a very dark grey/black in colour and therefore perfect as an undercoat.  It was quite expensive to buy, but really does seem to stick to the polythene in a way that a regular undercoat would not have done.

Finishing Off



    1. When the undercoat was hard, I dry-brushed the trunk and branches with a single coat of "lichen grey" (a slightly greenish-tinged, mid grey colour).
    2. I sprayed all the green foliage clusters with the same undercoat, then pushed them laboriously back onto the branches.  Should just have left them on in the first place...
    3. Next, I painted the foliage generously with "foam tack" glue and sprinkled it with Woodland Scenics "Fine Turf" flock.  Despite the "fine" in the name, this is a slightly coarse, ground-up sponge material that provided a useful texture for the leaves.
    4. Finally, once all the glue was dry, I sprayed the model heavily with sealer.


    Conclusion


    This was a very cheap and relatively easy model to build, at least when using glues and paints that are designed to work with soft plastics.  I think it will be a useful addition to many of my games tables.

    Of course, I did buy two of these trees, so I have another one to build as well.  I'm going to try some surgery on the second one, to reposition one of the branches so that the 2 models don't look completely identical.  How hard could this be?

    24 comments:

    1. Wow! They really don't look like the same product, Colgar6. Great brushwork and what a great addition to your tabletop :-)

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      1. They don't look the same, do they? And yet it's obvious enough that my version comes from the bare plastic tree :-) .

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    2. Great transformation on the tree, from plastic ctap to beautiful wargames piece!
      I've seen these cheap trees too in some 'bargain' shops, but never as cheap.

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      1. Thanks, Joe. I was pleased with just how much my work changed this mopdel :-) .

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    3. Replies
      1. Thanks. It seems obvious enough in hindsight, but at the time I was surprised that no-one else seemed to have this idea first.

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    4. Painted is a VAST improvement.
      While I have no use for trees like this I am now tempted to get some.

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      1. Well, I would be embarrassed to use the "before" version in a game, but the "after" version is quite decent (even if I do say it myself :-) ).

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    5. That is a brilliant find! I have been looking for something similar for my planned Congo game too, off to investigate myself - thank you!

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      1. Glad you like it, Michael! I'll be interested to hear how you get on with any such project.

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    6. Great find.
      I shall be off to do the same.
      Cheers
      Stu

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      1. Thanks, Stuart. As above, I would be interested to know how you get on with this.

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    7. Excellent find and great job on re-working it as an item of terrain!
      I reckon a few of these would be ideal for the currently "in fashion" samurai themed games ;-)

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      1. Yes, I think this would work very well as a "samurai" tree. Good thought.

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    8. That looks great. What is the brand of paint you used. I have a bunch of trees to do myself. Where the foliage is fine just needs sealing properly the trunks however need tarting up and its a similar plastic.

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      1. I used Halfords own brand "Flexible Vinyl Paint". Although the can described the paint colour as "light grey", I'd say that it was actually a very dark grey, indeed almost black.

        This paint is advertised as "Ideal for...PVC, UPVC or VINYL". It seems to have worked well enough so far.

        I'm sure that other, similar products will exist as well.

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    9. Good job! I have a few of the very same trees in my Cingo stuff box and was wondering how best to tackle them. Now I know!

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      1. I'm delighted if my work has helped you in this, Lee ;-) ! Good luck with your own trees.

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    10. That's a brilliant idea and a great guide. Thanks!

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      1. Thanks, Herbert. As ideas go it's pretty small stuff, but if it's useful then I'm very pleased nevertheless.

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    11. I can witness that it looks fantastic live and up close.

      What better example of the model maker's craft than converting a thrift-store find into a fine model.

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      1. Thanks, Steve. I'm making progress on the 2nd tree, so we'll see if I can make it look at least slightly different from the first one.

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