Introduction: How to Make Quick and Easy Model Wire Trees
This guide will take you through the steps to create quick and easy model wire trees. These trees are great for model railroads, architectural and landscape models, or simply for decoration around your home (if you're into that kind of stuff). These instructions will take you through the steps to create a typical deciduous tree (let's say a pin oak) but once you've learned the technique you can create nearly any type of tree imaginable. Anyone with two hands and a little creativity can complete this tutorial (children should have parental supervision when completing this process). Your first tree will probably take you five to ten minutes to create but with some practice you'll be able to whip one out in about 30 seconds. Let's get to it.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
- 15+ feet of aluminum Wire (I'll be using 28 gauge for this tutorial)
- 1 small board (2.5" x 12" x 1" or larger)
- 2 small nails (2-3" in length)
- wire cutters
- 2 clamps
- A table or similar sturdy, flat surface
- small pliers (optional)
- steel wool (optional)
- model railroad flocking (optional)
- spray adhesive (optional)
Step 2: Prepare Your Base
1. Using a hammer, pound the nails into the board.
- The distance between the nails should be about 1/2" wider than the desired height of the tree you are looking for. For this tutorial I will be using a 4 1/2" spacing to create a 4" tall tree.
- Pound the nails in about 1/2" to 3/4" deep so that they do not move if you try to wiggle them.
Warning: Nail heads are sharp and will fly off very quickly. Wear eye protection to avoid injury.
- Clip the nails as close to the head as possible.
- After clipping both heads, you may want to use the hammer to pound out any sharp edges left on the nails.
Step 3: Set Up Your Workstation
1. Using your two clamps, secure your board to the edge of your table or work surface.
- Fasten one clamp at each end of the board. You do not want any clamps between the nails as you will most likely scrape your knuckles on them in later steps.
- If you plan on making many of these trees at once you may want to consider the comfort of your workstation. If you prefer standing you may want to use a higher table or workbench and, likewise, you'll want a lower table with a chair if you would like to sit.
Step 4: Wrap Your Wire
1. Tightly wrap the wire around the nails
- Holding the end of the wire in your left hand, tightly wrap the wire around the nails in a clockwise motion.
- Each full (360 degree) rotation will eventually create 2 branches, so keep in mind how full you want your final tree to look. For this tutorial I will be using 20 full wraps for a 40-branch final tree.
- Be sure to end your wrapping on a full rotation (so that the excess wire on the end is on the side that the beginning of the wire is).
Step 5: Clip the Wire
1. Pinch the wires.
- Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch the wire at the opposite end of the excess wires created in the last step.
- Using the wire cutters, clip the wires on the inside of the opposite nail of where you are pinching (the inside being the area between both nails). Be sure to clip through all of the wires. If your pliers cannot cut through all of the wires at once, cut them in smaller groupings.
- This will leave you with a bunch of (20 in this tutorial's case) very small V-shaped wire clippings. Feel free to discard the clippings.
Step 6: Twist the Trunk
1. Rotate the pieces 90 degrees.
- Rotate the V-Shaped wires around the nail 90 degrees until both cut-ends are pointing at you
- Grabbing the left half of the wires between the thumb and fore finger of your left hand and grab the right half between the thumb and forefinger of your right hand.
- Move the wires in your right hand to the left, over top of the wires in your left hand. At the same time, move the wires in your left hand to the right, keeping them underneath the right wires.
- Repeat the above step 7-8 times or until slightly less than half of the length of the wire has been twisted. You may want to complete more or less rotations, depending on how tall you want your trunk to be.
- Grab the tree by the trunk and pull it vertically until it is no longer hooked around the nail.
Step 7: Create the Branches
1. Separate your wires into groups
- Separate the 40 untwisted wires into 2-5 groups of varying sizes. It is important to have at least 2 wires, and no more than 20, in a group.
- Variation in the size of these groups will help your tree take on a more natural form.
- Starting with one of these groups, twist the wires from that group around each other 4 or 5 times
- After four or five twists separate on 1-5 of the wires from the group and continue twisting the rest of the group.
- Every 3-5 twists separate out a few wires and continue twisting until there is about 1/2" left of untwisted wire.
- Once you have reached this point, go back and twist the wires that you separated off until they also have 1/2" of untwisted wire left.
- Repeat step two with the remaining groups
- To make your tree more realistic, it is nice to add some variation in your twisting. This can be done by adding more or less twists between separations, by using more or less wires in each separation, or by leaving more or less untwisted wire at the end of each branch.
Step 8: Sculpt Your Tree
1. Sculpt your tree
- By moving and twisting your branches around, you can start to form your tree to take on the form of a real tree.
- Most trees have a vertical leader so it is often a good idea to have one of your branches pointed vertically.
- It may be helpful to look at a real tree (or a picture of one) to inform how you shape your branches.
Step 9: Conclusion - Personalize Your Tree
There are also a number of ways that you can customize your tree:
- You can cover the canopy of your tree in spray adhesive and sprinkle on model railroad foliage for a realistic canopy effect.
- You can stretch steel wool or cotton between the branches for a fuzzy canopy.
- You can use spray paint to create a colored tree.
1 Person Made This Project!
- himeer made it!
Question 23 days ago on Step 3
Love the idea I do have a qt the tool shop work station is that custom built or did you buy it?
6 years ago
I just started a couple of 9" pines
6 years ago
nice way to start a tree model. I like it.
6 years ago
Ever Tried this method??
7 years ago
Well done tutorial. A couple of suggestions, if I may. Splay out the wires at the base a little (if desired) to create a few chunky, gnarled roots. Cover the trunk with some air drying clay, thick plaster or other coating for a more realistic texture, and then paint with dark grays, browns. Some modelers use stretched polyfiber over the branches before covering with ground foam, but your foliage looks darn good as it is.
Cheers and thanks for this tutorial.
8 years ago
Excellent! I like your beginning technique and the simple jig. I have seen other methods that are more complicated. I am looking forward to trying your technique.
For others who commented, and like the author said, there are many, many decorating techniques. Search for making model railroad trees online and you find more ideas that are sure to meet your need for trees regardless of the purpose.
8 years ago on Step 9
Nice instructable. like the use of the word "realistic look" when you made a tree out of aluminum wire :P
8 years ago on Introduction
I made one with gold wire and I'm going to attach white tissue paper flowers. Any other ideas? I'm going to make a bunch of these for christmas!
10 years ago on Introduction
These are really cool! You could put beads on the ends on the branches for a cool effect
11 years ago on Introduction
Cool looking tree!