For the last 11 years, on and off (mostly off), I have been building a “triorama”.
A triorama, by my definition, is three scenes, not just one, and in this case,
on a turntable, like three boxes in a cartoon strip. My triorama contains three
scenes from the movie, “Kelly’s Heroes”.
The first scene is the barn where Kelly is holding the gold bar he got from
his (now drunk) German captive and he is pointing to a map. He is showing his
squad the map and convincing them to “go for gold”. To see inside
the farmhouse, a circular opening was made in the thatched roof.
To keep the scenes apart, I wanted eye blocks rather than partitions. I decided
I had to have a tree that perfectly blocked the other scenes, without blocking
the hole in the roof of the barn. So I jumped in. Using resources ranging from
Osprey’s “Terrain Modeling” (with almost nothing they use
available in the U.S.), notes from a model railroading class, to every other
reference I had, the journey began. Twisted wire just didn’t do it. A
practice tree twelve inches tall was too wobbly. No roots had the right shape.
There was no easy was out. So, this is what I did …
Making The Tree
shows the dowel-in-dowel method. Wood dowels were tapered
on a belt sander and pegged and epoxied into holes drilled at an angle into
the trunk and limbs. This works for the main trunk and major limbs only. It’s
rough looking. And had I known I was still over 100 hours away from finishing,
I might have given up the ghost. But, sometimes ignorance is … ignorance.
You sharp-eyes modelers will see that this picture was actually one of my earlier
efforts and not shaped or angled like the final tree, but the process was the
same. In the future, I would add some large diameter copper wire for reasons
you’ll see later.
shows the tree skeleton with some 1/35th figures for reference
and uncountable 7-copper wire strands, from an entire spool I bought, inserted
into holes drilled into the end of the dowels and other random places along
the major limbs and trunk. This photo was taken after I untwisted and re-twisted
every one of the 7-wire strands. There were many nights where I “twisted
the night away”. Every combination of individual wires from the 7-wire
strands was used. From 6 and 1, then the 6 twisted into 4 and 2, or 3 and 3,
or 5 and 1… Or, starting with 4 and 3, with the 4 reduced to 3 and 1 or
2 and 2… You get the picture. In some case, I had two or three wires strands
to start from, so I had 21 or 14 individual wires to twist and twist into various
other combinations, to give the realistic randomness of a real tree.
is a close-up of untwisted and retwisted wires. The black
circles are where I marked places for the holes to be drilled and wires to be
inserted. Every strand had to end up as an individual wire to replicate the
twigs at the outer ends of limbs, branches, etc.
When I stood back and looked at it, it looked so puny I had my second crisis
of confidence and left it alone and pondered and pouted. Finally, I got the
idea to solder more strands on for fill. I just didn’t want to do the
“stretch the poly-fiber” bit. Picture D
shows me soldering
on more strands, before my burns and wire poke holes and my Internet search
for copper poisoning symptoms. You can see some clamps I used as “third
hands” to hold strands together for soldering and to mark places where
I needed more wire. More untwisting and twisting.
Next, Picture E
is a close-up of the beefed up, or wired-up, branches.
is the tree plastered only over the wood dowels to create
more natural curves between the dowels. Had I figured out how I was going to
do the bark, I would have skipped this miserable step.
is a close-up. The beautiful, naturally irregular texture
is testimony to my frantic attempt to get the plaster on before it set. So,
at this point I could have said, “I did it on purpose”, but it was
just an experiment.
Well, if the infomercial was right, hanging upside-down is good for you. So,
I hung Mr. Tree by his heels (Picture H
) so I could apply an elastomeric
coating to all the exposed copper. It’s easier to apply this thick, goopy
stuff to every branch, tree and individual wire than you’d think. Just
play the Rolling Stones loud and continuously, while you repeat the phrase,
“I am doing this because I choose to. I am doing this…” Why
elastomeric? I figured that between my own fingers that have individual brains
and go their own way, just like a cat’s tail, to inquisitive fingers of
others, it is better to bend than break. I flipped it right side up to cover
what I missed. Imagine the fun YOU would have at this point using your fingernails
to remove the elastomeric coating from the end of every single wire, as I did
to leave the copper exposed and to try to keep in scale.
is what wood, epoxy, wire, solder, plaster and elastomeric
coatings look like after they collide. Picture J
is a close-up showing
the various materials coming together. Black marks are for locating places where
additional support, more wires, and such are needed.
I used two-part epoxy putty (wood colored) for the bark (Picture K
The gray area was metal colored two-part epoxy that I used after I ran out of
the other. This added the additional thrill of setting up in half the time of
the wood-colored epoxy. So, with toothpicks, with their ends carved into random
diamond-ish patterns for putting in the recesses in the bark, I worked like
a Voodoo shaman on speed trying to get the various patterns poked into the epoxy
while I had to blend the joints of the small patches I could work on at one
time, all before set up time. Picture L shows some of the detail and the boles
and the places where the tree heels itself when it loses a branch, prior to
is the tree base-coated with good ol’ gray primer.
I have to remember in the future that airbrushing a tree (or anything else)
in front of a paint booth because it doesn’t fit inside and forgetting
to cover up your cabinets will give formerly white cabinets a new look!
Real paint. Washes. Highlights and more highlights are shown in Picture
. Lowlights include realizing what is going to happen to all this paintwork
after I have to air-brush the leaves AFTER they are on the tree, because I never
could figure out how to get the “leaves” painted before getting
them on the tree. Picture O
gets closer to the wire ends that attract
finger and faces better than the kite-eating tree in “Peanuts”.
I had to bend and re-bend the branches umpteen times either to get the right
look, or, more commonly, because I bumped them doing something else.
looks like autumn, because the tree is full of brown leaves
stuck on with Woodland Scenics Hobby-Tac. I wish I were modeling autumn, so
I could stop here. But, even though I wasn’t going for the full-monty
of authenticity to the movie, it was summertime. The “leaves” are
silver birch catkin seeds. I learned, after more than 20 telephone calls, that
apparently no park, arboretum or conservatory in the U.S. has any silver birch
catkin trees. But, having a son who lives in the Czech Republic and who likes
to hike is the next best thing. Thanks, son, for your two days of efforts for
Dad! Was it worth the trouble? Look at Picture Q. The catkin “leaves”
are perfect! No darn shredded HO railroad foam or parsley, sage, rosemary and
thyme for this tree! Now, what do I do with a drawer full of chopped spices
in my playroom that I bought in case that’s what I had to use for this
tree? I wear a respirator when I model!
” we ready for the finale? Pictures R, S and T
are three views of the tree, after repainting all the green over-spray. Picture
U is a front view showing how the tree blocks Scene Two (the railroad yard with
Oddball coming out of the railroad tunnel). Picture V shows how the tree blocks
Scene Three (loading the gold from the bank), while it doesn’t block the
cutout in the thatched-roof of the barn from Scene One. Finally, Picture W shows
the back of the tree with some of Scene Two showing and the backs of Scenes
One and Two. Please note that the “tri” is far from finished. I
have to detail over forty figures, add posters, trash, railroad yard debris,
a waterfall and water drip from the hill and huge amounts or grass, weeds, bushes,
smaller trees, etc. Then the pastels.
Other than the fact that the tree took so long to do, I ran out of time to
finish the “tri” for our Regional IPMS show May 7-9, I was satisfied
with the results. Oh, well, there’s always next year, or, maybe if we
get to host the “Nationals” in ’06. Thanks for reading this.
Your comments are welcome, good or bad.