Martin Tärnrot

Making Bushes and Foliage from Sisal Rope

Martin Tärnrot
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Duration:   7  mins

Martin Tärnrot shows how to create realistic weeds, bushes, grass, and trees when making scenery for model railroads using a very low-cost item: sisal rope.


The natural color of sisal rope matches a dry desert environment. Martin takes a piece of sisal rope and untwines it, then cuts off a short piece. He puts Elmer’s Construction Glue on the landscape area of his layout and places the sisal fibers in that pool of glue. These small tufts blend very nicely into the layout of a dry environment, though if you prefer to alter the color, you can spray-paint them ahead of time.


Sisal rope is also very useful for creating bushes that are part of scenery for model railroads. Martin advises that you twist the rope, apply some fast-set glue, and cut the rope where you have applied the glue. He mists some brown color on the piece of sisal rope, then mists a layer of gray over the brown. Next he applies spray glue, then sprinkles fine turf in a matching color.

Bushes are applied to the layout in the same way as grass tufts.


Sisal rope can also be used as a base material to create the trunk and branches of trees. Martin shows how the base piece of the trunk is fixed using fast-set glue. He untwists the rope above the glued area and starts twisting branches. For each new branch, he adds a drop of fast-set glue to fix it to the trunk.

Making a realistic-looking tree requires several other steps, so be sure to watch the entire video to see Martin’s full demonstration.


Two specific types of foliage you might need for part of your scenery for model railroads are covered in their own videos here at Model Railroad Academy: creating ivy and creating realistic aspen trees.

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