Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Modelling gum trees revisited

Two years ago I wrote about modelling gum trees (The challenges of modelling gum trees). One of the unresolved issues in that post was the challenge of getting the density of foliage right. I have always found that the materials used for the foliage do not give a good representation of the gum tree 'parachute' canopy.

The twisted wire method simulated the major branch supporting each parachute canopy but the lighter twig structure supporting the canopy was always missing. I tried  using Polyfibre and Foliage Clusters, both Woodland Scenics products, but these created a rounder shape producing canopies that seemed too dense.

A little later, I stumbled across a Luke Towan's YouTube clip 'Make Realistic Gum Trees using Seafoam - Fast & Easy'. The key to this method was the use of Gaugemaster Seafoam, a product that I had not encountered previously but one that has apparently been around for a while. I had located a few other more general references on the web but Luke's clip appears to be the only one using it for gum trees.

The Seafoam has a shape which provides a good representation of the branch and lighter twig structure of the gum tree but as Luke notes, the Seafoam 'tree' requires significant pruning to get to the general gum tree shape.  I constructed a few trees using Luke's technique and they were a considerable improvement on my earlier efforts. The photo above is shows one of these now planted behind the engine shed at Kingston Plains.

The only problem with the Seafoam is that the length of each is around 100-150mm which scales to around 9-13m in HO. While this length is suitable for younger trees, Wikipedia tells me that a medium sized gum tree ranges in size from 10 to 30 m so I needed something extra to model a few larger trees. For these, I used the same technique as I wrote about previously, namely using a small stick or twig as the main trunk, drilling holes into the timber and gluing the Seaform stems as the major branches to the tree. Where necessary, 'No More Gaps' was used to ensure a smooth transition between the two. A photo above shows the skeletal form of the tree. I then applied foliage to each of the branches using a method similar to that outlined in Luke's video.

One lesson learnt, Seafoam stems are fragile and liable to bend or break as they are inserted into the main trunk. It also remains to be seen if gravity causes the branches to sag over time.

The following two photos show the difference between my earlier attempts and the Seafoam tree. I'm continuing to experiment and my next attempt will probably involve sedum plants. I don't see them as the base for major trees but rather something used to create background vegetation that will thicken up the overall appearance of bush.


  1. Phil, I use Seedum for many of my trees, the best one to get is Autumn glory or Autumn Joy, I got a couple through diggers club, they grow fast and multiply themselves as well. In the 2nd year you will get tall ones that are great for mid point very tall gum trees. I also cut branches and using super glue attach them at various levels and sizes along the trunks, as they are hollow, I slice the cut branches at a long angle, and on the trunks there are a lot of dimples or small branch like starts, use those to glue the branches too.

    While the canopies are tight you can cut some out and then make them smaller providing neat bushes.

    My preference for leaves are to get to the Scenic Express email page for notifications of specials and get Super Leaf http://www.sceneryexpress.com/SuperLeaf/products/1289/ Its a bit more expensive than the old flock stuff but gee its a lot better and realistic, I did a blog page on the results a while back and is still there. When you apply spray the sedum with clear craft glue, I get it from Officeworks, sprinkle on over a plastic wash basin, let settle and then shake off excess, spray again to secure and if needed add more leaves. I have also experimented with getting some brown and other colours that I sprinkle very lightly to show new leaves.

    Postage from the U.S is a bit of a damper but if you get the bulk bags it works out ok.

    1. Col
      Thanks for the feedback. My sedum plant is only 6 months old and this shaped my view of their potential use. I'll see what happens in the next 12 months. Hopefully they will be taller next year and I can review my assessment of their potential uses on the layout.

      cheers Phil

  2. Where did you get the seafoam from Phil??

    1. Ian,

      I had difficulty locating it in Australia, but was able to purchase it from Hattons in the UK. See link (http://www.hattons.co.uk/19535/Gaugemaster_Controls_GM195_Seafoam_trees/StockDetail.aspx)

      I have been quite happy with the service from Hattons although they did stuff this order up a bit, but, to their credit, fixed it promptly.

      cheers Phil