Saturday, April 30, 2022

15-28mm Floral Stem Trees Project

For those who think the visual appeal of their games is very important, we're often trying to balance realism against playability. This is where I may have erred more on the realism side. BUT playability isn't impossible here, just altered. You'll see what I mean - read on!

First, the point of this exercise was threefold: one, to see how Expanded PVC worked for basing terrain items. Two, could I make these floral stems into something that looked a bit better then the standard wargame tree options? Three, I wanted to try Flex-Seal to see if I could 'rubberize' these stems into something really durable.

Expanded PVC - the YouTube's Terrain Tutor did a review of this material a few years ago and I was smitten! Having lost bases to warping and curling, I really was looking for something other than plasticard or wood. This stuff is a miracle product - the only pain is cutting and shaping it. It's really durable and firm and I had to score and rescore, then rescore again, then saw the 9 bases I made out of one of the three sheets I bought. Then I had to hack away at the edges like a bumpkin whittler to bevel them down. Unlike foamcore, there's no core here - it's solid all the way through, but it's also very light and I saw no warping at all. 

I never know if I'm going to make a blog post out of everything so I failed to photograph every step of this. Over the top I spread out some Ready-mixed Concrete Patch. Normally I use Modeling Paste, but this stuff is way cheaper, roughly the same weight with maybe better durability. It's sand and glue basically and dries with textures all its own. I left gaps where I'll put the trees in.

These were on sale at Michael's and come in two? foot lengths - a central trunk and then several branches. The tip is good and the side branches are good. After removing those I was left with a number of lengths of logs I'll use for something else later - barricades most likely. The central puzzle to this project was how am I going to affix these soft plastic trunks to the flat bases? Pins of course. I drilled a hole in each trunk and glued a length of wire up each of them leaving just enough sticking out to penetrate the depth of the base without breaking through the bottom. Before I glue them down I want to do the messy bit first. I blue-tacked them to this box. Outside, I sprayed each one liberally with the Flex Seal spray, coating the "leaves" thoroughly before returning them to the box for drying.

While those were drying out, I started with my box of loose flock, lichen, clump foliage and other natural colored detritus from the bottoms of tree filled storage boxes. Even these stems, prior to fixing, contributed new shapes and textures to the mix. Lots of tacky glue, then randomly dumped it over the bases, firm presses then left it all to dry. I shook off the excess for use in other projects.

I only had enough trees to make eight instead of the nine bases I made. And X marks the spots where I was going to drive the tree trunks in. I needed to blend the edges with flock first.

Almost done edging - I do a part at a time so I have a clean place to grip the base, When that dries I do the other half. I also tried to leave the impression that there were overgrown trails, paths and clearings in the woods there.

Done and dried!

Number 2 takes an interest and is helping out. Will I start a gaming dynasty? Fingers crossed!

Placing what tree on what base was a puzzle - four-tree bases needed tall trees with less branches at the bottom. the three-tree bases could have a bigger spread and had slightly more room.

That hot glue though. That's a problem that needs addressing. This is one of the worst of them. Most wooded forest floor spaces are covered in leaves. Nope, didn't do that.

Number Two wanted to get in on the photography - this and the next are hers. Thanks doll!

The evidence of glue was too obvious to disguise with leaves so I went back to the scrabble box and applied more foliage to the outside corners to keep the big snotty looking bubbles out of sight.

Mr. Brown and Zeke peer in; Mom's exercise ball menaces from the valley to the west. Compared to most of my trees these are much closer in scale to the miniatures. the only ones of this size in my collection.

West Wind Zombies frolic for your entertainment. One aspect of the Flex Seal was I applied too liberally in spots, badly frosting portions, that said, not seeing much shedding.

They cover a fair amount of ground - probably unplayable space in the end so these will have to be perimeter woods or some other inaccessible parts of the battle field.

More size comparisons - this is the Pegasus Hobbies a 1/72 Russian Izba.

Proper height for trees and they look ok.

Essex 15mm ACW Zoaves for comparison.

15mm ACW Zoaves with an example of trees I usually use for this scale.

Honestly, with the trunks being so thin, they work perfectly fine for 15mm I think.

These have been in the background of several other projects recently, but I thought I'd detail how I made them. They are unusual for my collection because of their size but still useful. Expanded PVC I am now committed to. Flex-Seal, sure I like it. I'll have to be more careful in how much to apply next time, but it has increased the durability of these pretty delicate pieces. 

Thanks for looking - questions, comments and followers are welcome and encouraged! I'm doing more and more on Facebook so follow my page there too!


  1. Your collection of woods looks splendid; both the trees themselves and the bases. I struggle as well with balancing realism and playability, often erring to the former. I bought some Flexseal for the same purpose but haven't got around to using it (mostly because I haven't built a tree since buying it). What product did you buy at Michael's to use for the trunks?

    1. Thanks Codsicker! The trees (floral stems) were hanging on a clearance rack a couple Halloweens ago. That's always the trick with Michael's, finding in the floral section, stuff with "leaves" that are tiny enough to scale properly, and equally important, the right colors. I've never seen these before or since!