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Tree Bases with DAS Clay (Again)

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Mal Wright Fezian writes:

Also…why bother to use things to smooth out the surface? If its real looking with bumps etc all the better. I even sculpt some of the bases into hollows (rabbit burrows), and dips. Some old dry twigs from the garden can also give the impression of dead wood underneath the tree. Smoothing it out would be much too boring for me. I like the ground to look real.

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24 December 2007page first published

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As noted in my previous article, I'm trying to make simple bases for trees - something that will keep the tree upright on the tabletop, maybe with some weight to it. I've been trying DAS Clay, a craft product that molds well, has surprising heft when dry, but in my experience tends to warp and curl at the edges.

DAS clay

So I thought - maybe, if I embed something in the clay, it won't warp as much. (And use less clay, for that matter...) Someone suggested washers, but I thought maybe something with more bulk.

And then it occured to me that I had a suitable, abundant, free resource: discarded Clix bases from figures I've repainted and rebased!

Clix bases ready for service

So I laid out an over-size piece of paper (to protect my working surface from clay dust), and laid out four Clix bases and the "tree."

(Fortunately, shortly after I snapped this picture, I found that the "treetop" for this flower was removable - making work a lot easier!)

So I got out my clay and started pressing it down over the bases and the "trunk" stem. I soon found this wasn't going to work - as I worked the clay, the bases started spreading apart and the base got wider and wider...

So I started over. I cleaned off the bases, taped them together with double-sided tape, then pressed them on to the paper (where, thanks to the double-sided tape, they stuck). Then I pressed the clay down over them...

The next day, the clay had already dried. I removed the tape and paper:

Dried treebase
Dried treebase (bottom)

There was still some warping, but minor compared to my earlier problems. The surface had also developed some cracks. I've found in the past that the cracks can sometimes be seen through the flocking, so this time I'm applying Renaissance Ink's "fine" flocking gel to smooth out the surface. (I also repainted the "trunk," since I'd worn the paint off with handling.)

Treebase with dried flocking gel

I then did some light filing and sanding to smooth the base up, and make some edges more sloping. And then, it was time to flock the base, let it dry, and seal with a matte finish.

Finished treebase

I was afraid that the Clix bases might weaken the treebase, but this one seems as sturdy as ever. And it still has a good weight to it. But it's still not completely flat on the bottom.

Now to superglue the "treetop" into place, and it's done!

Finished tree