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Crayola Bases for Trees

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Tommiatkins writes:

I just based my 1/72nd scale aircraft on a 4" hex of foamcard , I filled the joint between the stand and the foamcard with my daughters glitter plastercine and painted it in thick artists acrylic blue.

It looks as crud as it sounds.

Revision Log
14 April 2010warped photo added
28 March 2010page first published

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So you're at the department store or craft store, you see a bit of ornamental plastic, and you think - hey, that could make a good shrubbery on my tabletop! - but what would you use for a base?

Plastic plant

For instance, here's some bit of plastic plant that I picked up. Looks to me like I could unpluck the bits off it, and use them as individual trees for my 15mm scale sci-fi tabletop... but how to get them to stand up?

Plastic plant in a pot

Or here's a typical $1 USD store find - a plastic plant in a ceramic pot. I bet if I wrap this up in a plastic bag, go out to the curbside, and bash the thing into the ground a few dozen times... I'd have a hell of a time, and end up with some plastic that might make a good tree in 28mm scale!

Is all that violence necessary? I hear you ask. In this case, yes - the plant is usually glued down with a big hunk of adhesive, and breaking the pot is the only practical way to separate them. And the plastic bag keeps the sharp ceramic shards from flying away.
Crayola Model Magic

So what to base them with? I've been experimenting lately with Crayola Model Magic, which is a soft, air-dry modeling material that seems aimed at the children's market. It comes in a range of colors, but I prefer Earthtone or Terra Cotta.

Opening the bag, you find a big lump of brown material about the consistency of marshmallow. (In fact, it looks quite edible!)

The bag isn't resealable, so store any excess in a zipped bag so it won't dry out.

So in my first experiment, I grabbed a handful and piled it around the base of a potential tree...

Based plant

...and then realized I was stuck with it on my workbench until it dried! So next, I tried making the bases on my workbench, but with paper towels underneath so I could move them later. But the Model Magic stuck to the paper towels, and for some reason the bottoms tended to warp instead of staying flat...

Warped bottoms now I build them on plastic lids, which I can put elsewhere for the two days or so they take to dry.

Plant on a lid

(You can tell when the material is dry - it no longer sticks to the plastic lid.)

Before and after

Here's a before-and-after shot of this particular plant, which had a nice spiky bottom to embed in the Model Magic. This time, I've temporarily removed all the foliage. I also gave the trunk a wash of brown ink to make it less plasticy and gray.

When the bases are dry, add some glue and sprinkle on flock, spray with some matte sealer, and you're done!

A spooky forest