Sunday, March 21, 2010

10mm Palm Tree Tutorial

Welcome to my first terrain tutorial. I will be discussing how I am making palm trees for the Sudan campaign in 10mm. I have seen several tutorials on making palm trees in other scales but I was unsure how well they could translate to a smaller scale so I searched through the floral department of my local little old lady hobby store, a.k.a. A.C. Moore and purchased some materials to try my hand at making some itty-bitty palm trees. I think you will enjoy the final results. Enough introduction let's get to it.

While looking through the fake plant isle I came upon this Queen Anne's lace plant. The plant was $2.00 American and will yield approximately 15 palm trees. You may find uses for the stem and leafy bits, save them for another project, but for this tutorial we will be using the flowers.
The picture to the left shows a close-up of the flowers. They are attached to the stems through a tube at the base of the flowers. I choose this plant because the little flower bits curve out and downward which will help to simulate our palm trees.
Here is a close-up of an individual flower once removed from the stem. I was surprised to find out that the flowers were not even glued on which is a bonus for me as I did not have to remove any glue, however the plastic has white flocking on it. I used my fingernails to remove the flocking.
A close up of the flower with flocking removed, I know you are thinking that might be a spider or alien but not a palm tree. Just go with me for a little longer.

I also purchased some floral wire. I selected a gauge that looked like it would be about the right size for a palm tree trunk in 10mm and as a bonus might fit in the prexisting hole in the flower.

Here are some tools I used. Snippers to cut the floral wire and trim the flowers. A pin drill to make small holes in the flower, the wiring was a bit thicker than the hole and finally some hobby glue from my local hobby store.
Here I am displaying the way not to drill through plastic. Please be aware that you could drill into your fingers this way. The photo is a results of my having to hold the camera with one hand but you get the point. Carefully drill a hole in the center of the flower.
Cut the tube from the top of the flower making it flush, you could use an Exacto knife or even nail clippers.
The flower has now had a hole drilled through it and the tube removed.
Here is a photo of the flower placed on the floral wire, starting to look more like a little palm tree but seems a bit flat and bare.
To me two (2) flowers on the floral wire looks fuller and more like a palm tree. I worked the plastic a little bit to generate more of a curve to the branches instead of the flat look earlier.

I used the Captain to figure out a height for my palm trees in advance and to see if the trunks looked in scale. Close enough for me. You can purchase several different gauges of wire if you would prefer a beefier trunk. The Captain is mounted on a penny so I decided that I would make a small objective marker with the palm tree, a water well, and mount it on a similar base.
I purchased a pack of washers from a local hardware store. The washer is about 2 inches in diameter and approximately the thickness of a penny. The pack came with about 10 washers and I believe they wer about 10 cents per. The hole in the middle will serve as my well hole, however you could just fill it in with modeling clay or put a piece of tape over the hole and place your basing material on it.

I made three (3) palm trees to surround the well. I decided that a slight bend in the trunk made them look more natural and I decided to include different heights.
I placed some modeling clay along the sides of the washer and poked holes in it with the foral wire prior to baking it in the oven per the manufacturer's instructions. Modeling clay is fairly inexpensive and I got the clay from the same store as my glue.

After baking I glued the trees into place and glued some model railroad ballast in two (2) layers to build up the well. Oh no!! the new well has already attracted two (2) of the Mahdi's scouts. *On a side note the Mahdist camelry figure to the right in my opinion is one of the best sculpts I have seen from Pendraken, I can not wait to field an entire formation with them. The unpainted fig is a turbaned infantry from the same range. The figures are for scale comparison.

Next up I used water-downed PVA glue and playground sand to coat the base which helps hide the modeling clay. I also glued some paper on the bottom of the washer so that when the piece is placed on the table top that the terrain beneath would show. You need to let the sand dry overnight and then apply a second layer of water-down PVA glue on top of the sand to protect it.
Next to last step. I primed the piece black and let dry.

Painted up final. I believe the palms, although not perfect, give the impression I want for a very cheap price. they fit into scale and are easy to produce. The only nit-picky part is the top where we removed the tube but maybe I can find a way to hide it in the future, or maybe not. If anyone has some ideas for an easy fix let me know. I am going to work on modeling a water sack and rope for the well in the future.
Final pic as it would look on the table. Although not perfect the trees work as an impressionist representation of palm trees which works well with my impressionistic painting style. I hope this tutorial will help many 10mm players as palm trees are a staple in many theaters, WWII Japan, Vietnam, Colonial Sudan, Napoleon in Egypt and many others.
Up next more painted up Mahdist, a review of Howard Whitehouse's Battle in Africa book, spoiler it is flippin great and a tutorial on making a mosque in 10mm.
Captain out.....


  1. All they need is some coconuts :) I think they look great and I'll be 'borrowing' your idea for my Vietnam forces when the Lardies get around to releasing "Charlie Don't Surf".

    Great work,


  2. I agree, the trees look very good, especially once they were painted. Hard to believe that camelry figure is only a 10mm figure! Nice work and nice tutorial.

  3. A nice tutorial. I don't game in figures that small since my eyes are less than optimal and I can't even see 15mm figures . . . but I appreciate your inventiveness, sir.

    -- Jeff

  4. awesome explanation and detail, thank you very much!!