Monday, 28 September 2015

Working with Laser Cut Ferns

Hi folks,

I have been experimenting with laser cut ferns for a couple of months, and I thought this would be a good chance to share my experiences. I think they are a fantastic resource for basing miniatures, particularly the larger scenic bases, but they can also be a real pain to work with. I'll go through the process of basing my Ravenwing Attack Bike with you and hopefully provide some helpful insights along the way.   

Step 1: Prepare thyself

Here is a list of stuff I had on-hand when I worked on the base: PVA, green stuff, super glue, 1:1 mixture of spring and winter flock, winter flock (brown), static grass, hobby knife, spear of destiny (ummm...sculpting tool) and, of course a laser cut fern.

The look I was going for was something like the picture below. This is a Birds Nest Fern in my Mother-in-Law's front yard. Note the dead leaves that have collected at the centre of the fern.

Step 2: Planning

The fern component of the base will catch the eye so you need to consider where you are going to put it. When working on a scenic base I suggest you check out some reference photos of how ferns grow naturally. For an example, check out my Iron Snakes Contemptor base. When I was planning the base below I wanted the fern to be in a prominent position, as there wasn't room for anything else interesting. I marked the space out by etching the surface of the base with my sculpting tool and drilling a small hole where the fern was to be placed.

Step 3: Flock it

I flocked the base with my spring/winter mix, with pure winter around the hole I drilled. This lighter patch acted as a highlight, providing greater contrast between the green of the fern and the base.

Step 4: Shaping the Fern

This is the tricky bit, so I took a few extra photos to help illustrate the process.

The fern will probably be flat and mangled when you take it out of the packaging.

Very gently open the fern completely and press it flat. Note the centre of the fern with the pinhole.

Hold the centre of the fern between thumb and forefinger, using your other hand to bend down the fronds very gently.

Add shape to the fern by pinching the centre gently. The petioles should fold up.

Invert the fern on something (Spear of Destiny, perhaps...) and add a tiny ball of green stuff to the bottom.

Use the tool to poke the fern down where you want it, fixing it in place by squashing down on the ball of green stuff. You can change the angle of the fern by moving the tool. If the tool sticks (thanks to green stuff coming through the pin hole), use a toothpick or pin to push down on the base of the fern as you pull the tool up and away (this has happened to me twice).
Step 5: Gluing the Fern

Apply a drop of super glue to the centre of the fern, it will overflow and fix the fern to the base while the green stuff cures. I put a pinch of winter flock on top of the glue to hide the pin hole and give the impression of the leaves collecting. I also added small amounts of static grass to add more texture to the flock finish.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Finally I added the actually bike to the base. Et viola!

That's it! I have used this technique enough times now that I am quite confident that it gives the best results. Just trying to superglue the fern to the base is fiddly as hell and usually ends with glued fingers and broken fronds. Similarly, unless you spend the time shaping the fern yourself, the finished product looks unnatural and flat. I hope some more people give these a go and if you have any questions let me know.

See you across the table,