sabato 10 gennaio 2015

Review: Woodland Scenics Tree Kits

If you are playing in any historical or fantasy setting, trees are probably the most useful scenic elements you can add to your battleground (or diorama, if you are not into playing but just into modelling).
Trees can be put almost anywhere and they add a great feeling of realism by their simple looks, which is more complex than any wall, bridge or architectural element.

Being fond of trees, both on the battlefield and in the real world, I was looking for some resources to get (or make) good ones, and I tried Woodland Scenics. Now, this is an U.S. company, based in Linn Creek, Missouri; their focus is, as their name suggests, scenics for dioramas, especially vegetation elements for train dioramas. Their range is huge, and includes also buildings, vehicles and many modelling tools like special glues.

For my trial, I ordered from EC Scenics, which is a dealer conveniently located on this side of the Atlantic: they stock almost all the tree products from WS, and the service is fast and efficient. My selection included different kind of foliage to see the difference they made.
Now, let's look at the result, so you can judge by yourself: 

This is the basic tree you can make with the Fine Leaf Foliage (this is Medium Green, F1131). The box includes a sample tree armature you can twist. The concept is nice, since it is really easy and quick to do. The result, however, is not particularly exciting: the foliage doesn't stick very well to the plastic trunk (I tried several glues, not including the special one from WS, which might work but is really expensive), and above all the trunk looks plastic. Maybe it would be better if I painted before.

On the other hand, the Fine Leaf Foliage can stand alone very well: in the box there are several large chunks which can be separated from the main body, and become trees in their own right:

Stick them on a base (I used some Das Colour from FILA covered in grass) and you have extremely realistic trees. All in all, this product is probably the closest you can get to a real tree on a small scale. The bad news is that a box costs a lot of money but, hey, quality isn't cheap.

Since my issues were mainly with the tree trunks, I tried to make do by myself with several experiments, finding that it's really cheap and easy (and fun), to make your own tree trunks with just some twisted copper wire (extremely flexible) and papier-mâché. After painted they look realistic enough, and the surface is really easy to stick with glue, so that you can apply a variety of other products.

Look at this example of poplars: on the left, WS Fine Leaf Foliage; on the right, self-made tree trunk covered with WS Poly Fiber (Green, FP178), with a thin layer of WS Foliage (Light Green, F51) to add realism. Yes, the right one is not as cool, but the right one is really cheap. Several times cheap. Also, if you do your own trees, you can get more flexible with shapes.

Take this old, twisted oak: the foliage is made of WS Clump-Foliage (Medium Green, FC683). Not as cheap as Foliage and Poly Fiber, and not as expensive as Fine Leaf Foliage, it's still very nice since it creates a mass, and it can be used both for trees and shrubs.
Now, the samples above were made with copper wire and papier-mâché. When unpainted, they look like this:

Great also as dead, burned or simply winter-time trees. But, if you like, you can experiment with other materials.

This is, for example, an ancient Poplar, with a trunk made with staples and Patplume from FILA. It looks quite good and it was easy to model, but on the other hand it doesn't get hard: it stays soft indefinitely, so you have to be careful when handling it, and ideally don't leave it close to sources of heat. Also, after a few months the original brown colour whitered. The leaves are WS Clump-Foliage and the ivy is WS Foliage.

This is, instead, a gigantic oak with trunk made of staples and Das Colour, and the leaves of WS Clump-Foliage. The ivy is simple Poly Fiber. Das Colour has the advantage to be self-drying, and to keep the shape and colour nicely; unfortunately it isn't as easy to model as Patplume.

Final judgement? Very good! I heartily recommend the tree products of Woodland Scenics. If you're into trees and looking for some quality items, definitely go for it, you will not be disappointed.