Intro: From Apple Tree to Whomping Willow
The tree was first made for our Wizard of Oz year as the apple tree that throws apples at Dorothy and Co. Ours did not throw apples, but it still looked cool.
Step 1: Original Tree
The original apple tree was made mostly from items we had on hand. The base structure was an 8" concrete form that had a 1" wide PVC tube placed in the center and surrounded by expanding foam. I tried to create a representation of how the PVC was used in the tree. The green 45 degree elbows were where the tree arms attached and the purple 90 degree elbows held the limbs coming out of the top of the tree. The PVC tube was necessary so that we could anchor the tree with rebar when positioned on the lawn and to give us a place to attach the limbs. There were The tube was wrapped at the top with news paper to give it some more width and room for details.
With the exception of the face, all the veiny detail in the trunk was created by twisting new paper and wrapping it with masking tape. these were all attached to the tree with tape. We also added some larger knots by squeezing blobs of expanding foam onto a plastic sheet. Once the foam dried it peeled off the plastic easily and was glued onto the tree with hot glue. The face was made using foam tubing left over from insulating the windows in the winter. It was more flexible than the news paper and easier to get the right eye shapes.
The roots were shaped by filling a chicken wire cone with plastic bags and wrapping them with masking tape leaving a bit of chicken wire exposed. the exposed wire was tied to a plastic flower pot that had the bottom cut off and a slit made in the side so it could be wrapped around the base of the tree.
Chicken wire, news paper and masking tape formed most of the arms of the tree. A short (about 2 ft) PVC tube was added so they could be connected to the tube in the trunk. The arms did not need to be rigid and by leaving them somewhat floppy, the tree had the effect of moving when ever the wind blew.
Step 2: Water Proofing and Painting
The trunk of the tree was covered in 6mil plastic sheeting, the kind you can get in the paint department of the hardware store. The plastic was heated with a heat gun to create a shrink wrap effect that protected the tree from water and allowed us to paint without worrying about tape coming unstuck.
Three different shades of brown paint were used, the base layer being done with acrylic house paint and details being added with spray paint until we liked the way it looked.
Step 3: Finished Apple Tree
The leaves were various types of faux greenery taken from silk trees and arrangements in the house. the apples we found at the dollar store and were light enough to hang from the greens.
Step 4: From That to This
We needed another tree, not an apple tree but still a tree and it is so nice when you don't have to start from scratch.
Step 5: Fewer Apples, More Roots and Whompers
After stripping the old tree of any details that we could not use on the new tree we set out to create the whomping willow. The whomping willow is a much older, more gnarled tree so we determined a larger root system needed to be added. Plastic sheeting left over from the previous years projects was wrapped around plastic bags creating soft, flexible noodles. The plastic noodles were then covered with brown packing paper and secured with masking tape.
The whompers on the end of the limbs were created by gluing scrap pieces of foam insulation sheets together and carving them with a hot wire foam cutter so they were mostly round. We didn't want them to be perfect, imperfections add character to the finished prop. The limbs from the apple tree were shortened so they would be able to hold the whompers and given several more layers of filler (plastic bags and chicken wire) before being generously wrapped in masking tape. The whompers were each attached with foam glue and a wooden dowel for extra support.
Step 6: More Paint, Some Sticks, and We're Done
With all the new additions to the tree being almost completely covered in tape, spray paint was the way to go. We picked a brown that was as close to the base coat on the trunk as possible, a little duller but you couldn't tell once the sun started to set.
The roots were positioned and wrapped around the tree so that they could be secured easily with velcro at the top. the bottom of the roots were not secured to the tree but were positioned so that they looked more like they were buried into the ground.
The sticks stuck in the whompers are actual plant cuttings from a forsythia bush along my driveway. I used a metal skewer to poke the holes and make it easier to insert the sticks.
The final touch was the car landing in the Whomping Willow. The car was not actually supported by the tree so we did not have to worry about the weight of it. Enjoy.