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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to simulate an evil forest for this year but was intimidated by the thought of creating trees. My experience tells me that Nature is tough to fabricate in a realistic way. But after viewing several tutorials (Mizerella, The Dark Gardener, Dave Lowe, and more) I decided to give it a shot. Aver a little dabbling, I got a sudden burst of bravery and deiced that I could make 3 trees all at once. After all, one tree does not make a forest!
Tree Wood Twig Plant Fur Room House Tree Turquoise Branch Plant Twig
Tree Branch Plant Twig Houseplant
Tree Houseplant Branch Plant Woody plant
I started by screwing/gluing two 4 ft. section of 12” concrete form tubes together, and played around with the Great Stuff enough to feel like I could make plausible bark. There are several challenges to this project, but the bark was the one that intimidated me the most. I wanted o make sure that I could come up with something decent before committing fully to the project. Great Stuff alone is ok, but ultimately, I wasn’t happy with it without further alteration – more on that later.
Canoe birch Tree Woody plant Plant Birch

I then made some paper templates for the faces and cut them out with a dremel. The first one was pure and simple thievery (thanks Mizerella). The next two required a little more creativity.
Tree Column Canoe birch Woody plant Plant
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Once the holes were there, I started molding the faces out of air dry clay. This step was only slightly less intimidating than the bark, as I am not known for my artistic skill. But I surprised myself and I’d have to say that this may have been the part I enjoyed the most (other than seeing the finished product).
Skull Ghost Mask Headgear Fictional character Art

Once the sculpt was done, I dragged a fork through it to rough it up.
Tree Mask Fictional character Carving Art Tree Skull Plant Fictional character Art
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
At this point, I figured I was at least half way done – wrong! Everything is always tougher than you imagine. Part of that is due to my tendency towards perfectionism… but I digress.

Though I’m designing these as indoor props, I didn’t want to rule out the possibility of using them outdoors in the future. Air dry clay is water soluble and fairly brittle, so I spent several days applying wood filler to fill the cracks (which inevitably happen when you sculpt air dry clay on a hard surface) and wood glue as a sealer/strengthener.
I knew I was going to want to attach some branches on top and so I wanted to add some support. Two 2 x 4’s screwed/glued to the inside did the job, and also gave me something to attach a wooden base to. I may add some real branches once they are in place, but I laid the groundwork with some PVC wrapped in chicken wire to make them wider at the base like a real branch. I covered the chicken wire in masking tape before adding the Great Stuff.
Helmet Motorcycle helmet Personal protective equipment Bumper Automotive exterior
Wood Sculpture Vehicle Art Artifact Sculpture Chainsaw carving Tree Art Wood
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The great stuff is applied in roughly straight lines up the sides, as this most closely resembles real bark. But, when dry, Great stuff is shiny, smooth and “bubbly” – three things that bark is not. The most realistic bark I’ve seen in the tutorials is Mizerella’s, but it is done by dragging a fork through clay. Covering three trees in clay is not in my budget, so I tried a few techniques to get this effect from Great Stuff. I finally settled on a wire brush attachment on a drill or dremel. The dremel makes smaller groves but takes longer. In the end, I decided that the drill looks better from a distance anyway. This gave me a bark like texture, but it was a messy, unpleasant process. If you try it, wear goggles and a respirator. And know that it’s still gonna suck. Aside from adding to the work and unpleasantness, this also makes the trees a lot tougher to paint. The rough surface has so many crevices that you have to spray every part from every angle and it eats up a lot more paint. But that’s the price of perfection!
Tree Trunk Wood Woody plant Material property
Tree Wood Branch Trunk Carving

I decided that they’d be a lot cooler if they had lights. I originally thought that some LED’s glowing form inside would do the trick, but I wanted it to look like flames. If that wasn’t tough enough, I deiced the eyes should be red, so they’d need a separate lighting source and a separate cavity. The third tree is more of a “moaning tree” than an “evil tree”. And I didn’t think the flames were appropriate there, so I stuck with the RGB LEDs for one big cavity on that one.
I tried several things for the eye cavity, and settled on the bottom of a milk carton cut in half diagonally – but what works best will depend on the size and shape of your eyes. I didn’t want it too deep because I didn’t want the angle of viewing to drastically change where the eyes appeared to be. I wanted the mouth to be more cavernous. I used some trailer marker LEDs for the eyes:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019MGYP6C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
They worked great because they come with rubber grommets for mounting them. I used 5 mm amber candle flicker LEDs to simulate flames in the mouth: http://www.ebay.com/itm/321687207267?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT
I covered the parts of the cavity that aren’t visible in aluminum foil to help reflect the light. The “fire” effect is a little underwhelming. I added a red and yellow LED to the reflective plate I put behind the mouth cavity to see if that enhanced the flame illusion, but I don’t know that it did much. The effect is more like candle flicker than inferno, but I finally had to accept it and move on.
Art Fictional character
Table Floor Games
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Getting the right paint job also took some trial and error. The only two brown shades of my favorite spray paint are Espresso and Dark Walnut. Espresso looked like Hershey’s chocolate and Dark Walnut looked charcoal gray. I settled on A combination of the two in vertical “stripes” as a base. I used gray primer over the top in wisps. But the real finished look didn’t come until I finished it off with a dry brush layer. I wanted off-white, but didn’t think paint was the right way to go. I used a mixture of dry wall mud, water, Elmer’s glue, and a little white paint. The mud gives it texture and the Elmer’s is an effort to make it permanent and hopefully somewhat water resistant. Remember that the Elmer’s dries clear, so depending on your mix, it may dry darker than it looks when applying.
Tree Trunk Woody plant Sculpture Carving
Tree Fictional character Woody plant Plant Trunk
Tree Trunk Woody plant Branch Plant
Property Room Interior design House Wood
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The plan is to fill in with fake plants, vines, various evil forest creatures and ghosts, and a Perfect Storm lightning simulator.
 

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What an awesome tutorial! I am so impressed with your forest. I am really not artistic, but this may just have made me rethink my stance on tackling a project like this. Great job!
 

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Super detailed how to.. they look great. I collected quite a few similar cardboard tubes last year for just this job.
Awesome work.

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
As happy as I am at how these trees turned out, I was disappointed that they didn't make more of an impact. The detail in them is the cool part and since I'm putting them on the second floor, I didn't think they were going to make the statement I wanted to make. So...
Meet MEGATREE!
Tree Branch Plant Twig Houseplant
Tree Houseplant Branch Plant Woody plant

The face isn't sculpted with as much detail as the smaller ones, but the size and exaggerated features, and the fact that I mounted it to the outside of the banister, makes a lot more impact, which is what I wanted. I have yet do make the haunted forest around it, but this will pretty much be the centerpiece of my decorations for this year. Can't wait to get it all filled in and add lighting. I'm also adding a Perfect Storm unit to simulate thunder & lightning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
MEGA was basically made by the same process. Because I wanted him bigger, and Concrete for tubes larger than 12" diameter are expensive and hard to find, I cut 12" tubes length-wise and stretched it out slowly (so it didn't rip/break), and mounted it on a piece of plywood.
Wood Plant Metal
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I skipped the clay sculpting phase altogether and just made is features with Great Stuff.
Carving Thread Tree Sculpture Textile
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The one part of Mega that made him a lot tougher than the others is the roots. I started with pool noodles and flexible tubing rather than the PVC pipe I used for the branches. I knew I'd be banging this thing around trying to get it in place and I figured if the roots were ridged, I'd break the tree or put a hole in a wall. This turned out to be a good move as I still did some damage getting him in place.
Vehicle Machine
As with the branches, I added chicken wire and tape to taper the roots.
Roots are tough to simulate, so I just went out and picked a bunch of weeds and used reel roots. Because it's tough to pull up long, full roots, I had to glue a bunch of smaller roots together.
Plant Tree Branch Flower
Not only were the roots tough to do, they made everything from there on out tougher because I could no longer stand the tree up.
 

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I'm in love with these! As someone who's yard lacks foliage I've always wanted to make a haunted tree, your work is super inspirational! My fav is the one with the roots hanging down.
 

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WOW...just...WOW!!!!!!


Eric
 
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Those are simply amazing and they really do make an impact ... I love mega tree ... I like his features even more than the others. Job well done ... quite the project and excellent out come!
 
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