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Super-tree or Super-nuts ?

"The Triorama"

For the last 11 years, on and off (mostly off), I have been building a “triorama”. A triorama, by my definition, is three scenes, not just one, and in this case, on a turntable, like three boxes in a cartoon strip. My triorama contains three scenes from the movie, “Kelly’s Heroes”.

Scene One

The first scene is the barn where Kelly is holding the gold bar he got from his (now drunk) German captive and he is pointing to a map. He is showing his squad the map and convincing them to “go for gold”. To see inside the farmhouse, a circular opening was made in the thatched roof.

To keep the scenes apart, I wanted eye blocks rather than partitions. I decided I had to have a tree that perfectly blocked the other scenes, without blocking the hole in the roof of the barn. So I jumped in. Using resources ranging from Osprey’s “Terrain Modeling” (with almost nothing they use available in the U.S.), notes from a model railroading class, to every other reference I had, the journey began. Twisted wire just didn’t do it. A practice tree twelve inches tall was too wobbly. No roots had the right shape. There was no easy was out. So, this is what I did …

Making The Tree

Picture A shows the dowel-in-dowel method. Wood dowels were tapered on a belt sander and pegged and epoxied into holes drilled at an angle into the trunk and limbs. This works for the main trunk and major limbs only. It’s rough looking. And had I known I was still over 100 hours away from finishing, I might have given up the ghost. But, sometimes ignorance is … ignorance. You sharp-eyes modelers will see that this picture was actually one of my earlier efforts and not shaped or angled like the final tree, but the process was the same. In the future, I would add some large diameter copper wire for reasons you’ll see later.

Picture B shows the tree skeleton with some 1/35th figures for reference and uncountable 7-copper wire strands, from an entire spool I bought, inserted into holes drilled into the end of the dowels and other random places along the major limbs and trunk. This photo was taken after I untwisted and re-twisted every one of the 7-wire strands. There were many nights where I “twisted the night away”. Every combination of individual wires from the 7-wire strands was used. From 6 and 1, then the 6 twisted into 4 and 2, or 3 and 3, or 5 and 1… Or, starting with 4 and 3, with the 4 reduced to 3 and 1 or 2 and 2… You get the picture. In some case, I had two or three wires strands to start from, so I had 21 or 14 individual wires to twist and twist into various other combinations, to give the realistic randomness of a real tree.

Picture C is a close-up of untwisted and retwisted wires. The black circles are where I marked places for the holes to be drilled and wires to be inserted. Every strand had to end up as an individual wire to replicate the twigs at the outer ends of limbs, branches, etc.

When I stood back and looked at it, it looked so puny I had my second crisis of confidence and left it alone and pondered and pouted. Finally, I got the idea to solder more strands on for fill. I just didn’t want to do the “stretch the poly-fiber” bit. Picture D shows me soldering on more strands, before my burns and wire poke holes and my Internet search for copper poisoning symptoms. You can see some clamps I used as “third hands” to hold strands together for soldering and to mark places where I needed more wire. More untwisting and twisting.

Next, Picture E is a close-up of the beefed up, or wired-up, branches.

Picture F is the tree plastered only over the wood dowels to create more natural curves between the dowels. Had I figured out how I was going to do the bark, I would have skipped this miserable step.

Picture G is a close-up. The beautiful, naturally irregular texture is testimony to my frantic attempt to get the plaster on before it set. So, at this point I could have said, “I did it on purpose”, but it was just an experiment.

  • L-tree-epoxy-closeup
  • K-tree-epoxy4
  • J-tree-elas-closeup4
  • I-tree-elas2
  • H-tree-elasomeric-coating-u
  • G-tree-plaster-closeup
  • F-tree-plaster
  • E-tree-solder-more-wires-cl
  • D-tree-solder-more-wires
  • C-tree-wires-detail2
  • B-tree-wires2
  • A-tree-wooden-dowels
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About Jeffrey Winkel (Sealhead)

I am a middle-age newbie that bit off more than I can chew by working on my second diorama. It is a TRIORAMA or, in other words, three scenes from the movie Kelly's Heroes (on a turntable). I've been ten years on it. Putting it down, restarting, changing things as my knowledge and skills improve...