What’s one of the best things about model trains? It’s not just the act of running the train on a track. It’s also the ability to get creative and build a landscape for them to travel through. That’s why it’s good to know how to make model trees from scratch!
One of the most crucial elements in decorating your model train layout are the model trees!
So what do you do when you either can’t buy the one you need, or the store-bought ones just don’t look great? Well, you learn how to make model trees from scratch!
What tools Do i need to make a model tree?
There are a few tools you’re going to need to make a model tree, but the essentials are basically just wire, a pair of pliers, and something to make the leaves with.
The other tools for this tutorial that you’ll need to make a detailed model tree are bendable wires, latex rubber coat, brown primer, paint, an airbrush or some paint brushes, Woodland Scenics medium green coarse turf and spray adhesive.
We recommend you pick something like a 28-gauge florist wire.
You can pick other types of wire if you want, but 28 gauge works best. Whatever type of wire you choose, make sure that the wires are stable and bendable.
You will need about 15-25 feet of wires for one 2.5 inches long model tree. If you need a longer model tree or even a fatter one with more branches, then you’ll need more wire accordingly.
The airbrushing we mentioned is not mandatory. You essentially just need something to help paint your tree trunk to get rid of the metal look. Although, you can use an airbrush later on, to add some coloured texture to your leaves.
The woodland scenic medium green coarse turf will be used as the leaves of the tree. You can pick up anything similar to it as an alternate choice, or even get a mixture to add some more variation to your leaves.
Now that we have all the tools and equipment, let get to work.
A step-by-step guide On How to Make Model Trees From Scratch
Making the main body (trunk)
Now let’s dive into the good stuff, learning how to make model trees from scratch!
The first thing we need to do is make the main body of the tree. Take the wire and measure about 13 inches of the wire and cut it with your pliers. You will need to cut 15 pieces of 13 inches of wire strand for a medium thick 2.5 inches long tree.
If you need a thicker tree, cut more wire strands. If you need a taller tree, then cut longer strands of wire and so on.
Now take all the wire strands and bend them in the middle and make a U shape. Start twisting it from the middle. Keep the top and bottom untwisted for later. The twisted U part of the wire will be the trunk at the bottom.
Now we will work on the top side of the loose wires first. This side of the wire will be used to make the branches.
Now you will have to use your imagination to design the branches. The best way of doing it is to take all the strands and split them in half. Then twist each half and split them in half again. You will repeat this process until you are left with one, then trim that part and end the branch section there.
For the other branch sections, you can use the wire plier to trim and shape them according to your desired shape.
Now let’s work on the trunk. The trunk will be made the same way. Take the loop of wires on the other end that we left at the beginning and split them in half. Take each half, twist them, and split them again.
When you reach the end, trim the loop closure there to create an opening. Bend the roots to be flat so that the whole tree can stand on them.
Now coat the trunk using latex rubber coating. The first coat you will apply has to be thick. Then apply some additional coating if you need to before letting it dry.
Then you’ll need to prime your trunk and apply paint. Prepare the paint according to the trunk colour you want. What you should consider doing is a dark brown undercoat, and then several layers of other colours topped off with dry brushing in the lightest colour.
Applying leaves to model trees
The next thing we need to do is to apply the leaves. Take a plate or shallow bowl and lay some woodland scenic medium green coarse turf down. Apply some adhesive spray of your choice (watered down PVA, Elmers, Gorilla Glue etc) on the branches and dip it in the layer of turf to attach them. Then, just repeat this process until you get your desired density.
Then just use a toothpick or something else small to remove any turf that got stuck on the trunk.
There you have it, your model tree from scratch.
What you can do next if you have an airbrush is to lightly spray some variations of greens and yellows onto the leaves to give it some variety.
If you’re more of a visual learner, take a look at this video; easily the best one out there on how to make model trees from wire!
Can I use real plants as fake model trees?
For model trees, no. Even before taking into account, there aren’t really any plants out there that have the same scale look as making your own fake tree, they’ll eventually die off and drop all their leaves anyway!
Model trees are super easy to make. You just need to have patience and follow the steps!
So grab your wires and pliers and start making some model trees from scratch!
Peter has been building model trains for longer than he can remember. An avid fan of HO and O scale this blog is a creative outlet to allow him to dive further into other scales and aspects of the model train community and hobby.