Westlake Publishing Forums

General Category => Dioramas => Topic started by: Bill Gill on April 27, 2016, 11:28:03 AM

Title: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on April 27, 2016, 11:28:03 AM
At some undetermined time in the future Railroad Model Craftsman says it will run an article I submitted on weeds that are common along railroad right of ways.
This thread will show examples of different experiments making specific varieties of weed in HO scale. However, the techniques and materials are suitable for multiple scales.

One very common weed worldwide wherever the ground has been disturbed is ragweed. Ragweed comes in many varieties ranging from 2-3ft (0.6-0.9m) tall to over 20ft (6m) tall.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on April 27, 2016, 11:33:44 AM
Another weed found in many locales is aster. Asters also have several different kinds. Here is my HO version of New England asters

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on April 27, 2016, 11:34:45 AM
and their prototypes

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on April 27, 2016, 11:57:11 AM
The other weed I am experimenting with is phragmites, also know as common reed. This plant is also found in many places around the world. It grows in wet areas, in brackish water, in water up to 3 ft (0.9m) deep and even as floating mats on top of water I have read. The stalks can get up to 20 ft (6m) tall, though the height varies.

Although it is often considered an invasive menace, the plant has and had many practical uses in different times and places ranging from reeds for musical instruments, thatch for roofing, fencing for cattle, baskets, fishing poles and paper.

Here are some of my HO phragmites in progress. These two views show some of my plants in progress. When all are done, they will be planted much closer together than this.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on April 27, 2016, 11:58:59 AM
And here are their full size cousins

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Ray Dunakin on April 27, 2016, 10:05:11 PM
Cool. I've always had a fondness for modeling weeds, shrubs and other wild plants, especially when I didn't have the limitations of outdoor modeling.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: EZnKY on April 28, 2016, 06:48:25 AM
Those look great Bill!

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on April 29, 2016, 01:01:02 PM
Thanks Ray & Eric.
Here's one more look some finished reeds. Their coloring has been fiddled with a little after noticing how different the real ones look whether backlit or front lighting. These are "planted" at about the density they will be on a layout, but in reality they are still just temporarily poked into a piece of blue foam, which is cropped out of the photo to give more of an idea of the overall effect I'm aiming at.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: eTraxx on May 01, 2016, 02:55:47 PM
Those are what you really do see along the road .. so common that your eyes usually pass over them

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Chuck Doan on May 01, 2016, 06:04:03 PM
Thanks for the info Bill!  Should be a good article.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on May 02, 2016, 05:22:22 AM
Ed, Yeah, the reeds really are all over the place.
Chuck, The article seems to be shelved for the time being, but if anyone is interested, I can give some ideas of how the weeds were made?

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on May 18, 2016, 06:01:50 AM
Well, this is embarrassing. After deciding to try modeling the deep yellow flowers that crowd abandoned fields and railroad right of ways in many areas, I did a bit of basic research: where, when, how tall. I'd read that goldenrod often gets the blame for allergies caused by ragweed and that the two plants are frequently confused. Add me to the confused list! The field book and online sites I checked led me to believe I understood the visual differences. Nope! The deep yellow flowers in this thread are goldenrod (Solidago), not common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia). So if you were sneezing when looking here, it wasn't me :)

Does it make a difference in modeling? Yup! Ragweed's flowers are a much less showy pale yellow green and some varieties of ragweed can grow to almost 20 ft (6m) tall. Goldenrod can stretch to between 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m).

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: finescalerr on May 18, 2016, 12:26:48 PM
Oh. -- ssuR

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on May 19, 2016, 05:00:02 PM
Moving ahead, here are two in progress photos of a quick mini HO display I'm making to accompany the presentation on weeds at the meet in June.

Yes, the track is not good, please overlook the huge spike heads. It was a scrap piece of flextrack that happened to be the right size for the scrap piece of 1/2 in. blue foam for the base of the display.

The foam was contoured with a rasp and then the entire surface was gently scratched up with coarse sandpaper to provide a little visual texture. The foam was painted with a mix of latex house paint and craft acrylics. No other 'ground cover' was applied. If all goes well, almost all of the 'ground' will be covered by plants.

The reeds will be planted in the mucky marsh -and part way along the ditch leading to it- on the left side above the track in the first photo. Below the track are some blackberry canes, goldenrod and New England asters.

The second photo is looking across the ditch from the marsh to the other side of the tracks. This view will vanish when reeds get planted in the ditch.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on May 31, 2016, 11:55:04 AM
Here are two more views of the display

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: finescalerr on May 31, 2016, 12:26:35 PM
You did a nice job of weathering the ties, too. -- Russ

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on May 31, 2016, 04:29:55 PM
Thanks, Russ. This display started with 'Hmm, better have something besides a few slides at the presentation...what's on hand to make something out of?', but it's been a good learning experience along the way. I've tried out (and discarded) ideas that otherwise would have gone untested.

The display is just over a foot long and a few inches wide, yet there was plenty of room to try different weedy, scrubby stuff found along the tracks almost anywhere. Found a lot of things not to try on my layout! Got ideas for better reeds in different scales. Need to do more experimenting like this just to see what happens, like you're doing with the paper weathered wood.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Hydrostat on July 22, 2016, 04:39:42 AM

maybe I missed something - which materials did you use for the reed and how did you make them? To me coloring and shape look spot on, but the stalks still seem to be a bit out of scale. Nevertheless the materials you used may work very good in larger scales.


Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on July 22, 2016, 08:16:47 PM
Thanks Volker, I didn't include many details about making the reeds initially because they are part of an article written for Railroad Model Craftsman, however the article is still sitting there in limbo but I can now give some info about how the reeds were made, and add a few new ideas that might be even better for larger scale versions.

You are right, the stalks are pretty over sized for HO. That was a conscious compromise because these reeds were going to be planted in a location where lots of hands and arms reach passed them. Anything else that was tried there didn't fare well. I fretted over that choice a long time.

These stalks are plastic needles salvaged from an artificial Christmas tree branch. I thought about wire, but gave that up. Many of the plastic needles are slightly tapered toward their tip and that helped the effect. Trying to bend the gentle curved shapes into all those wire stalks seemed overwhelming.

The plastic strands easily survive an inadvertent stray hand or two. The branch I found had needles about 10-12 ft tall in HO scale which is spot on for the native North American variety of reeds. As noted in an earlier post the invasive variety of phragmites found pretty much world wide can get up to 20 ft tall, so these particular plastic needles would be short for larger scales, but I've seen longer needles among craft store decorations during the holiday season. A bunch of needles were cut off the branch, stabbed into a scrap piece of foam and sprayed with a flat paint. I would have preferred to use Krylon camouflage 'desert tan' as the base coat, but couldn't find it, so used flat white.

Next, the seed heads on top of the stalks were made by dipping about 6 or so scale inches of the top of a painted stalk into thick Cyanoacrylate and then dipping them into very fine ground foam. I used Woodland Scenics "turf" that I had on hand because it was a brownish color. About half of the stalks got seed heads.

Next those foam tips were colored very dark brown with thin acrylic craft paint. When that dried completely all the stalks were painted a very pale light tan color with craft acrylics. The seed heads were gently dabbed with a thickly loaded stiff, short bristled, wet brush, leaving just tiny spots of tan on the dark foam to try to give the clumps a sort of open look. A dry brush didn't leave any paint on the foam and really wet paint soaked into the foam like a sponge, leaving a uniform "lollipop" blob of tan on top of a stalk.

For larger scales I think a better seed head can be made by cutting a very small piece of a tiny white downy feather and stripping away a little bit of the barbs from the shaft. Then stain it all with a dilute mix of the stalk color. Gently brush or "comb' the feather bit after the paint dries to restore the feathery look.  

The leaves are thin bits of a medium ivory colored writing paper. (Perhaps short pieces of hemp or sisal strands could work here.) Long thin strips of paper about the width of a stalk were cut with a straight edge and Xacto knife. The strips were cut into lengths roughly 6-8 scale inches long or so then chopped roughly diagonally in half with a single edged razor blade. The blunt end of each leaf had a short tab bent about 900. The pointed end was held with tweezers so that the blunt end could be dipped into thin CA and touched to the side of a stalk with the tab pointing down. The leaves grow in pairs, so a second piece was added to most of the leaves and the pair were slightly splayed to look like the phragmites' leaves. About half the stalks got leaves. Some were glued randomly along the stalks, others were at the very top. Almost all the stalks that got leaves only got a single pair. Some leaves were extended almost straight out like banners in a breeze, others were curled or bent to point more toward the ground. If any leaves looked too long they were trimmed with cuticle scissors.

Next the bottoms of all the stalks were given a dip in a very dilute India ink solution. The length dipped and the time dipped varied to give a mixed appearance. This gave the dead stalks a late winter/early spring weathered look. Next most of the stalks were given random streaks of dilute raw sienna craft acrylic. This is a transparent pigment and it did a lot to improve the reeds' coloring, (look at the earlier photos), so don't skip this step. The last step in painting the reeds was to splatter them with dilute India ink flicked by thumb off toothbrush bristles. That added to the mottled texture and looked a bit like spots of mold and whatever on the reeds.

A marshy mucky area for the reeds was created by gluing scraps of a cheesy fuzzy black Halloween mustache to a carved hollow in a piece of extruded blue foam insulation and soaking it all in a murky mix of swampy colors.

That murky base looked really good but was a big mistake! The reeds were individually planted by holding them near the bottom with tweezers and carefully pressing and wiggling the bottom tip against the foam like a mosquito probing for a tender spot, no glue needed to hold the stalks in the foam. Some were planted vertically, others at various angles. That technique worked really well on painted bare foam, but the adhesive backing on the cheesy mustache acted like a self sealing membrane. I wound up stabbing holes through it with a stiff sewing needle and trying to slide a stalk into the hole along side the needle's shaft. That took forever. Some of the artificial tree needles had natural curves and bends. The reeds got planted as densely as possible.

If you have read this far you have probably concluded this is not a technique for covering a large area. But the reeds are found all over the place so modeling some would be good almost anywhere. Note: in summer the mottled green reeds have many more leaves which are also green. Trying to model them would be quite a challenge!

Here's the branch I found.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Hydrostat on July 23, 2016, 11:40:00 AM
Phew, this would never have come to my mind. For the smaller scales: Would maybe hog's bristles be an alternative to the christmas tree branch? Idon't know about their diameter but they'd be flexible and stiff enough at same time and they taper towards the end?


Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on July 24, 2016, 04:35:55 AM
Volker, Hog bristles might be a possibility. I'll do some investigating about their diameter. Thanks.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Hydrostat on July 24, 2016, 05:53:26 AM

I should have checked that diameter before posting but I don't have a boar at hand  :D. Fishing gear shops seem to have hog bristle and some other fur like roe deer, badger, squirrel, goat and so on in stock for the fly fishing community. See this German provider: http://angelsachse.de/Fliegen-Binden/Fell-Produkte:::97_199.html (http://angelsachse.de/Fliegen-Binden/Fell-Produkte:::97_199.html). For sure there's something similar in the States. Unfortunately with all natural products there's a danger of having them destroyed by some critters. I had a chamois stippler brush when I was a student painter and I had to find it completely eaten after some years pausing in a cardboard box (the brush, not me).


Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on July 24, 2016, 03:16:31 PM
Volker, Thanks for more information on hog bristles. There are also cheap disposable paint brushes labeled as "hog bristle -made in China' that might serve as a source. But as you noted about the critters that snacked on your chamois brush, I'm also a bit obsessive about not using natural materials as much as possible because they either get eaten, moldy or brittle exposed to light. You read in my comment on Russ's post about modeling raw, aged wood that some little critters ate the silver sheen off the driftwood sticks I'd carefully collected.

That said, I have and will continue to use various natural materials when they offer the best results.

Here are a few tall weeds in a marshy area of my layout that are simply individual hairs from a white tail deer. I found them on a walk in the woods and preserved them with a bit of boric acid after consulting with a taxidermist. The hair has a naturally mottled color and tapered tip that look convincing, though exactly what it represents isn't clear. So far (10 years) nothing as eaten them :) The short marsh grass is synthetic and the bottom of each hair was simply dipped into yellow carpenters glue and held briefly against a strand of the synthetic for a few seconds until it stuck.

This is a terrible photo, but it's the only one of that area at present. The mix of the short yellow grass and taller stems look like a marshy area near here, so I'm pleased with the results but wouldn't try the deer hair for the reeds because once bent they break and fold over.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bill Gill on March 08, 2017, 07:34:38 AM
Better late than never I guess :-[ ... I had an article in the February issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist:   http://mrhpub.com/2017-02-feb/online/html5/?page=142
It's a more detailed How-To for the weeds posted here.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: Bea on February 07, 2021, 01:54:42 PM
Thanks for the link. Very interesting.

Title: Re: Weeds
Post by: SandiaPaul on February 08, 2021, 05:15:11 AM
Nice article and will be of use!