For this installment of Grinched, our Micro-Trains themed Christmas layout, trees take front and center. I was going to use commercially available trees but I wanted to try something a little special for this layout and furnace filter trees seemed a good idea. I’ve never made furnace filter trees before but I do like tall pines, so what the heck, let’s give them a try.
The amount of available space on this layout dictated that most branches be well off the ground. I also wanted some good tree height in contrast with the size of the actual layout, so I’m calling these pine trees a Ponderosa Pine / Eastern Pine sort-of-mix. Yes, I am :)
The single tall tree pictured below is about 6.5” or about 85’ tall in N scale, the trunk thicknesses were done more by eye than by using prototype measurements. Again, I wanted a good, beefy tree that would complement the layout.
I picked up couple of ¼” hardwood dowels, cut them down to height and used a razor to form a pencil-like tip at one end. Next, I used a Stanley Surform Shaver to taper the dowels and to roughen up the trunks. I then ran the tapered trunks over the teeth of a small handsaw to add sharper and deeper gouges in to the trunks.
I find tree trunk colors are always a challenge, are they: brown, gray, greenish, blackish? Kind of, at least to my eye. Here I just played with the colors using craft acrylics. I can see making a real study of this in the future but if I’m honest, I just wanted to have some fun here, so I mixed and matched colors over a cup of coffee while Christmas music was playing.
For the branches, I picked up what many folks seem to use for their filter furnace trees, NaturalAire filters. I got mine at Home Depot for around $7.00 for a 24” x 36” x 1” sheet. Once cut down to size, the filter material pulls apart in layers, you can then cut and shape as you like and then slide the pieces right down the trunk of the tree, and then add a little white glue to fix it in to place. Many of the online tutorials suggest cutting these layers into loosely shaped stars to insure random branch patterns.
I gave the filter material “stars” a shot of flat brown spray paint before I ran them down the trunk, then applied fine ground foam to the branches. There are folks who can work near-miracles with these materials but I have to say for my first furnace filter tree, I’m pretty happy with this initial look.
I’m going to have a Christmas tree lot on this layout and that means I needed a bunch of 6’ scale tall pine trees with a uniform shape. Christmas trees after all do have a fairly specific shape to them. I was in a craft store picking up my acrylic paints and came across bags of small sisal trees. A little trimming at the base should get me to a whole tree lot of 6’ to 7’ trees. I applied flat green paint to these test trees just to see if they’d do, and I think with some fine scenery foam and snow on them, they’ll work out nicely.
The last item for this Grinched installment is a tiny electrical chip. This is a buck converter adjustable power step down module. Big name for a tiny board! This board will be used to power the string of multicolor LEDs that will go around the Christmas tree lot. It will let me precisely dial in a voltage that will work for the entire LED string without having to play with a ton of extra resistors. It’s a neat little item. Well, this article got a little more tree-heavy then planned, but that’s part of the fun of a project like this, you sort of go where it takes you. Stay tuned for the next Grinched installment!
Stanley Surform Shaver
Link to Amazon
Link to Amazon
Micro-Trains Laser Cut Buildings
N Scale Buildings
Category: Raildig Build Projects