Sunday, October 23, 2011

Building Bocage

Again, it's been several months since I've updated the blog. In that time, I've mainly been employed with sculpting new figures. In my spare time I'd scan the internet looking for items of interest. One item I found was a World War II treatise on fighting in the bocage of Normandy. The article was produced by the U.S. Army and in it was a cross section drawing of the "typical" hedgerow. This set me to wondering how I could build this type of terrain cheaply. As any trip to the hobby store would show, building even a small amount of bocage could become a costly affair.

Other finds on the internet gave me the idea of how to construct bocage cheaply, in the quantity that I needed. It's those ideas that I am going to share in this entry.

Supply List:

2" thick foam rubber
Brown chenille (pipe cleaners)
Contact Cement
Cheap Laytex House paint
Green and Brown acrylic paint (hobby paint, the cheapest you can find)
1" foam paint brushs
Rubber gloves

Mixing bucket

Notes on supplies - Laytex house paint is the same as acrylic hobby paint.You can get cheap house paint by looking for mis-tints. These  are paints that were improperly mixed. They are usually sold for 1/2 price or less. Try to find the lightest color they have.

The hobby paint will be mixed with the house paint to color the foam rubber for foliage. Hobby paint has a high amount of pigment in it. Mixing it with the house paint will extend the color and still give a vibrant color to the foliage.

Steps to create a hedgerow:
1. Cut the foam rubber into 2"x2"x6" to 12" sections
2. Cut the foam blocks into a rough mound shape. Save the scraps, they will be used to create foliage later.
3. At this point you can insert the pipe cleaner into the foam that will be used to form trees. Poke two closely spaced holes through the foam, from the top of the mound through the base. Thread each end of a pipe cleaner through the holes from the base side so that the ends stick up through the mound.

If desired, you can wait until the mound is finished then insert a finished tree.

4. Put some brown acrylic paint into a container and thin it with water. I thinned mine to the consistancy of water. You can leave it thicker if you desire.

5. Paint the mound sections lightly with the thinned brown paint. Don't try to cover the foam uniformly. Leaving a motled surface will help camoflague the mound.

Next, create the foliage

6. Cut up the scrap foam into small pieces.

7. In the mixing bucket, pour in some of the house paint and some green acrylic paint. My mixing bucket is about 5.5" round (a bigger container would be nice) and I filled it maybe 2" deep with paint. I used a 4 oz. bottle of green paint, which I then filled with water, shook up to get the last of the paint from the bottle, and added that to the mixture. You'll want the paint for the foliage much thicker than that for the mounds.

8. Put a handful of the foam nuggets into the paint and knead so the the foam is thuroughly saturated with paint. Tip: use a pair of long rubber gloves so that you don't end up with green wrists.

9. Wring out the painted foam with your hands and set it aside. I covered my work table with the plastic my laundered shirts come in so that I didn't paint my table.

10. Continue painting the foam until you run out of paint in your bucket. Then in a box, mix the painted foam with approximately the same amout of unpainted foam. Knead these together until all the foam is a uniform color. All of the foam in the above picture was painted with the paint mixture described in step 7.

11. Spread the painted foam out on the table and let it dry. This will take about a week.

(Notice that I also colored some fiber-fil in the same manner. This will be used to make trees in my next post.)

12. After the foam nuggets are dry, throw a small handful into the blender and grind it up. I use a slow speed and pulse the blender. Repeat the process until all the foam nuggets are ground up.

13. Take the contact cement and paint the top side of the mound. Toss the coated mound into the box of foliage and press the foliage onto the mound. I use disposable gloves for this. Your mounds will come out like those pictured below.

These next steps show how to finish the hedge when the tree trunks are already inserted into the mound.

14. If you haven't already, twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together with a couple of turns.

15. Lay a small piece of lichen across the twist.

16. Give the pipe cleaner another couple of twists. Lay in another piece of lichen. Note: you don have to twist the pipe cleaner tightly around the lichen. In fact, if you do, you risk tearing up the lichen.

Also, vary the direction of the pipe cleaner ends for each twist. This will give the tree a rounder appearance.

17. Continue adding the lichen until you get close to the end of the pipe cleaner.

18. To finish the tree, I take a longish piece of lichen and thread the pipe cleaner through one end of it then duoble over the pipe cleaner. I do the same thing to the other end of that piece of lichen with the other pipe cleaner end.

19. Finish the rest of the trees on the mound in a similar manner.

Trees that are inserted after the base is completed are built in a similar manner. 

20. Fold a pipe cleaner in half and twist up about 2.5" of the folded end.
21. Twist in the lichen as described above.
22. Poke a hole through the mound and insert a tree.

23. Continue inserting trees until the mound is finished.

Below are some pictures of the finished hedge.


  1. Excellent idea and I loved the last two photos in particular.
    best wishes

  2. Like the patrol of dismounted Hussars .