Making Alien Plants

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A discussion I saw on The Miniatures Page included a link to the Terragenesis site where the construction of alien pitcher plants from plastic drinking straws was described.

I liked the look of the results and thought that they didn’t look too hard to make. So, the next time I was passing McD’s, I swiped a couple of straws. As described in the entry in my modelling log, I found that the writer of the Terragenesis article and I differ over the merits of cigarette lighters vis-à-vis tea light candles when it comes to applying heat to plastic straws and not scorching your fingers in the process.

Stage 1 - melting straws - the first step from drinking straws to alien plantsSo, I cut up my straws into lengths 5mm to 25mm long, retired to the patio with a tea light candle and a pair of pliers, and then spent a fun 30 minutes or so applying heat to the straws and trying to work out how to get a nice fluid effect without reducing the straw sections to blobs of plastic. In amongst the straw sections, I added some clear plastic tubing I had left lying around from various paintbrush purchases – the tubing is used to protect the brush bristles. Being a heavier grade of plastic, the clear tubing melted more slowly, which made it easier to control the process.

Stage 2 - basing the strawsOnce the straw sections had cooled and solidified I attached them to card bases with big blobs of PVA glue and left them to dry for a couple of days. To texture the bases, I sprinkled a packing material - similar to cork fragments - my wife got from her work (where it is used to package batteries) over a PVA/water base. Coarser than the builders’ grade of sand I normally use, I found that the packaging material needed a thicker coating of PVA to remain attached to the base.

The finished product.Once this had all dried, I undercoated the bases in black, and painted the plants with several coats of GW Dark Angel Green. Finally, I painted the rolled edges of the tubes and the side vents GW Catachan Green, before finishing off the bases with Tamiya XF-58 Olive Green and GW Graveyard Earth. The finished product - 15mm GZG ESU Naval Infantry figure to show scale.Once the paint was dry, I spotted on some PVA/water mix and sprinkled on a bit of my dryland flock.

The results were quite pleasing. The thin plastic of the straws readily warps into interesting shapes under heat. I refrained from undercoating the straws with my traditional black undercoat and, while requiring more coats of Dark Angel Green, this seemed to give a "lighter" effect to the plants. I might try a few with black undercoat in the next batch to see if I can see a difference. At the last moment I wondered about attaching triffid-like whip stingers, possibly made from fuse wire, but that might be something to try with the next batch as well.

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