Furnace Filter Trees.

edited December 2011 in Scenery
Not sure who's method this is, but it's not mine and there are many variations and adaptions out there. The method is versatile so play around for different effects and uses.

The main material is "Natural fibre Furnace Filter" It is easiest located at WalMart. Here it is in it's packaging.


The filters used to be dark blue in blue packaging, I guess everything is going green these days, great for our use though. A shot of the fibre mat itself, front side.


And a shot of the backing mesh which will be removed, it simply pulls off.


The other item you will need is bambo skewers for the trunks.


Cut a manageable chunk from the filter using a good pair of scissors.


Cut this piece into roughly round disks, this will be the diameter of your tree. You can get up to 100 trees from one filter which costs $4.68


These filter discs are made up of layers of fibers, these layers can be streched apart and pulled and manipulated. Each disc will be able to be streched for a 6" - 8" tree. Bigger trees can be made using two discs.


Run some glue on a skewer and then thread the bambo skewer down the center of the streched out disc.


Spray the dry assembly with a brown or grey rattle can.


Trim the top of the skewer off and use the scissors to trim the tree to shape and remove any stray fibers.


Spray the branches with dilute white glue and then sprinkle on dark green coarse turf.


Experiment with colours, shapes, flocking material and size. 100 trees for less than $8 is cheap experimentation. Trees take about 5 minutes each to make and I probably put over 1000 of them onto my temp layout a couple of years ago.

Have fun !!



  • Well you dont get more easier than that. Great how to with cool results.

    Now I just wish we had a Wal Mart here in south Africa.
  • Wes,..I agree. We have some stores here but seeing as the weather is so warm in most of the country, a "furnace filter" is not something commonly seen in the stores. Still, as a how to its a good photo-essay.....thanks Karl. Greg
  • I agree that these can be quick, easy and cheap trees. But you can use the same filter and make the trees of foreground quality as well.

    I used balsa for the trunks and added heavy texture, applied filter and painted just as described by Karl. From there I drybrushed the trunk with tan and light gray and added some dead branches from the filter fillament and painted those gray. I drybrushed some of the foliage tips as well. Instead of glue I used hairspray to fix the foliage. Gave a shot then added foliage, then another shot. I used 2 layers of foliage first a ground foam type followed by a ground cover with individual "needles" in it.

    The toughest part is getting the foliage pads just right. Too much and tree looks young, too little and it just doesn't look right. Here are some of my experimentations with this method done in N scale. The tallest trees here are 7" and the undergrowth is much shorter. The overall effect when planted in mass is convincing.

  • Thanks for the SBS, Karl.
    I hope it's okay if I include a couple of the variations I use.
    When cutting the discs, I try to cut them into star patterns which gives you some stray branches here and there. One other cool little trick is to insert real small discs in between each large disc. What this does is create some negative space between the layers and helps form a shadow effect. When I assemble a tree, I start at the bottom with a small piece, then alternate large, small, large, small etc all the way up:


    The "large" discs get smaller as I work my way up...I use about 3 sizes, then a small cone shaped piece at the top:


    When it comes to flocking, I use hairspray for adhesive. I flock the underside first with soil colored foam (Woodland Scenics T-41). Then, add green ground foam to the filter material and trim away the wild fly-away pieces and try to shape the tree. I go back and flock 'em again and follow up with one more quick trim and I'm done:

  • Bill, I like those a lot. The star pattern gives a nice randomness to the branching.
  • Thanks Bill,

    Absolutely join in, those trees are fantastic. I also have some trees made with the star pattern instead of the round discs, though mine are 'supposedly' O scale.

    As I initially posted there are many variations to the "furnace filter trees" and everybody is invited to share their own twist on the methods, hopefully we can all learn something from each other.

    So if anybody else has something to show on the furnace filter method please jump in and post it.

    Karl. A
  • Thanks Guys,
    I have seen several versions of this, but being a visual person, I never really understood how it was done. Thanks muchly for the pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now where did I put that home improvement gift card?
  • Damn. Those trees look good Bryan and Bill. I need to give this method a go.

    Im going to have a look for something similar locally.
  • edited December 2011
    Here's one more SBS for making conifers out of furnace filters. This was put together by Pete Vassler (the guy who runs Canyon Creek Scenics). Similar to what's been discussed here, but some interesting variations. It begins on page 2 of the document. Just click on the file and "save".
  • I always wanted to try this. I saw this the first time in Lou Sassi's "Basic Scenery for Model Railroaders" and I think your trees look great! I have to see how the evergreens in middle VA compare to it and try it out... thanks for the inspiration!
  • How do you get the pdf file? The only thing I seem to be able to capture is the paper clip graphic... Neither Firefox nor IE8 seem to resolve this as a downloadable file for me.
  • Mike-
    I'm not sure what's up with the PDF. It's a pretty big file and that may be causing trouble with the forum software--hopefully Brett or Karl can help.

    In the meantime, I found a link where you can get it:

    Let me know if that works.
  • It did, thanks. I've been following that publication for some time now but never got around to looking that far back into the archives. Pete at one time put out a DVD showing the process, don't think he still does (though I suppose he might still have a few?). He also had some small bottles of paint in what I would assume are the colors he uses on his trees. I've had the good fortune to meet him and have bought some of his trees and logs from the only hobbyshop I know that carries them (in Oregon).
  • Yep, Pete's a good guy. He no longer sells the paints or the kit with instructions. I'm not sure about the video. However, Joe Fugate has a video series and there's a bonus chapter on DVD 5 where Pete demonstrates his techniques. It runs about 10 minutes and is really great. The entire video series is great, actually. They've got 'em on sale right now, too:

    (No affiliation with that site, just sharing the info.)
  • For GreginOz and Wes in SA

    Sweetwater scenery sells the filter material and the other ingredients needed for furnace filter trees. Thought it might be worth while.
  • Thanks, John

  • Thanks John

    Much appreciated mate.
Sign In or Register to comment.