Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Befitting the season (December), I have begun making trees. The Cascades are blanketed by a carpet of Douglas Fir.  Harvesting those trees and processing them serves as a foundation for the forest products industry which long served as the base of the Oregon economy.  Modeling those forests involves both two-dimensional (backdrop paint) and three-dimensional trees.  With the base terrain created for my railroad, it is now time to begin filling in the scene with trees.

Contrasting with the airy pines of other regions, Douglas Fir has a branch and needle structure that is fairly dense.  Surveying tree modeling techniques, I have elected to use "furnace filter" trees.  These use a trunk (shaft) on which disks of "filter" material are placed and glued.  Some trimming and shaping usually is needed.  These filter disks are sprayed with adhesive and confer green ground foam sprinkled on them.  The result can/should be a fairly full tree shape that rises toward a cone at the top. 

Although there are other makers of beautiful models of individual trees, my search for materials led me to Coastmans Scenic Products (, located along the southern Oregon coast at Port Orford.  Coastmans produces trunk shafts tapered from Port Orford Cedar dowels. Much earlier in life, I knew Port Orford Cedar as an excellent arrow shaft material, so these trunks will remain straight and strong.  Coastmans also supplies the other key component--the "filter" mat. What they actually supply is coconut fiber mats similar to mats used with hanging flower baskets.  Coastmans' mats are dyed green and have a layer of conifer green ground foam glued to the surface.  While my internet search for suitable furnace filter material came up blank, Roger Rasmussen's clinic at the NMRA PNR convention in June, in Portland demonstrated his complete package of supplies for these trees.  This is one good place for me to spend some money in exchange for time.

It has been almost twenty years since I last made "furnace filter" trees using different materials.  As with any artistic endeavor, it can take a little time to develop one's technique.  Bear that in mind when looking at photos of my first trees in the current crop.  

Tree production.  

Roger Rasmussen wisely advises working over and within oven roasting pans.  This captures much of the ground foam and other material that falls off during the course of construction.  A similar bit of advice places the spray adhesive operation within a dedicated cardboard box.  

Completed trees with ground foam attached with spray adhesive.  Trees can be enhanced with a few bare branches (included in the Coastmans kit) below the main foliage.

Decorated tree at the Eugene Depot.  'tis the season!

Tree production has begun.  My layout likely will consume thousands.  I figure on producing some number a month, much as I produced most of my switches during the track-laying phase of construction.  

As a final note, this is my two hundredth blog post!

1 comment:

  1. Bill,

    Congrats on the 200th post! And those trees look great- can't wait to see a forested hillside. While the task of making all those trees may seem daunting, the reward will be worth it. I took the same approach that you are considering- making a batch every so often- and lo and behold, the railroad is almost entirely covered now. Keep the faith and stay the course!