Quick, Inexpensive N-Scale Conifer Trees

ajkochev Oct 10, 2013

  1. ajkochev

    ajkochev TrainBoard Member

    While not ultra detailed, these trees let you quickly make a conifer forest without a lot of money or time. The synthetic steel wool comes naturally as a gray green color which gives a nice under brush/shadow type tint when the paint and foam is applied to the top. I was able to make around 50 trees in under 2 hours.

    Round Toothpicks(250, Walmart) $1
    #000 Fine Synthetic Steel Wool pads(Come in package of two pads, Home Depot) $3
    Fine Green Turf Foam(Woodland Scenics Weeds) $3
    Generic Flat Black, Green, Gray Primer in Stray Can(Walmart). $1 each = $3
    Krylon Brown Boots Spray Can(Walmart) $3
    Hair Spray $2

    Total $15

    Foam Brick
    Large Blade and Fine Pointed Scissors
    Fine Toothed Saw Blade

    Prep Work
    Pull apart the steel wool into several thin layers, rake toothpicks with fine saw blade to make a rough bark effect(foreground trees), Poke toothpicks into piece of foam to paint.

    Lightly mist paint both side of steel wool green, paint toothpicks a medium coat of the brown then light coats of flat black and gray primer. Repeat with very light coats of all colors until desired bark color achieved. Allow to dry thoroughly.

    Cut wool into strips between 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. Stack strips and cut squares and rectangles. Cut a few squares into four small triangles.

    Layer steel wool on toothpicks. Slightly pull apart thicker pieces. Poke, fold then poke again larger rectangles. Leave gaps for the toothpick to show through. Poke Triangles on top point of toothpick. Cut and round wool corners using scissors of different sizes.

    Spurt with hairspray, hold tree at 45 degree angle, and light dust on Turf Foam. After dry, lightly trim excess off until you get the look you want.

    Notes: Other ground foam colors can be used. I think the lighter greens give a sunny day look with light breaking through the branches. The key though is using a light dusting not heavy ones.

    The two Synthetic Wool pads yielded me about 100 N-Scale trees about 50 per pad, as I had plenty of the other materials left over another $3 spent on two more pads yielded another 100 trees. The wool can also be purchased by the roll for even more trees and a greater savings per foot. 1/8th inch dowels can be used for taller trees.

    Happy modeling.

    Attached Files:

  2. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Sounds quick and easy...also sounds like it could easily be scaled up, using wood skewers, to make taller trees. Just out of curiosity - are the pads you're referencing nylon/plastic or metal? Initially, I was thinking of the possibility of stray bits of steel wool getting into things, but looking at the pictures the pads you're using don't look to be metal. Just curious...
  3. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Looks great! I like big, tall trees--much more bang for the buck, and makes the scenery much more imposing. Have you attempted to build them from larger skewers? As for the pads, they strike me as a close relative to Scotch-Brite pads. Steel-anything on a model railroad is a bad idea (track-wise) due to its tendency to get magnetically ingested into locomotive mechanisms.
  4. ajkochev

    ajkochev TrainBoard Member

    I tested the wool just now and it is non magnetic and non conductive. It is Synthetic Steel Wool, not steel wool itself. It does resemble a scrub pad used in the kitchen. It seems a lot more durable than the scrub pad stuff and the color it comes in is a perfect base color for conifers. I'm sure you could use the skewer, cut them in half and you could use both ends for a tall tree.
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Where is the best place to locate synthetic steel wool, in quantity enough for making a very large forest?
  6. dickgreen

    dickgreen New Member

    I get it at the dollar store. 2 pads for a buck.

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