Monday, October 18, 2021

Static grass applicator extension

Awhile back when I was contemplating buying or building a static flock box, I contacted a friend of mine: Michael W.  I told him how I had seen videos of modelers who built their own in order to facilitate making their own grass tufts.

He told me instead of buying or building one, that in fact I already had one.  He explained that my Woodland Scenics static grass applicator should work just fine with some minor modifications.  Basically I just needed needed add some wire extensions to the unit and I would be golden.  He was right.

However after trying it out, I was just not satisfied with the results, not because of the modifications I made, but because I had troubles getting the tufts to release from the wax paper or any other type of paper I tried, so I put things on the back burner.  Then after doing a little more research via YouTube, I ran across a guy who made his tufts by applying the glue dots directly to a non-stick cookie tray, which I posted about and this worked so much better.

http- Static grass tufts and weedy tracks  

Now I was ready to start getting some grass and weeds applied to the yard and between the rails and ties.  I loaded up the WS Static King and got after it.  The first thing i realized is the WS hopper is quite large and wanted a little more control of the grass as it comes out of the 2"+ diameter hopper.

My first try was to make a paper disc insert and slice off one edge or cut a smaller diameter hole out of the center of the paper disc.  This worked, but not as well as I would've liked it to.  So I sat down at the computer and started surfing with Google to take another look at the PECO or WWS Micro grass applicator again.

The hopper and handle is only about an 1" diameter and I felt that this smaller diameter would give me better control of the grass coming from the hopper.  The problem was with the WS unit being 2"+ in diameter, I wound up covering an area several tracks wide.  Then I'd come back with a vacuum and suck it all up from all those tracks, not to mention it laid the grass on thicker and heavier than I wanted and wound up pusing more grass than I needed.

But there were two issues I had with the micro applicator 1) The price of the unit and 2) It was powered with a 9v batteries and I loath batteries as they are usually dead when you need them.  So I figured that I could find a 9vdc, 1-3amp wall wart that I could connect to the unit so it was AC powered and I wouldn't have to rely on the batteries.

Another call was placed to Michael to confirm my idea and he told me NOT to buy anything!  Again he said I had everything I needed except a few small parts.  What he told me to do was to make my own Micro applicator by using my WS Static King for the power supply.  I needed to find a suitable tube and some screen and a couple of longer wires and make it out of.

After brainstorming with Michael on the phone, I bounced it around in my head overnight, this is what I came up with.

The applicator is made from a 7"- 8" length of 1"ID PVC tube.  A threaded adaptor.  A small circle of screen from an old kitchen sieve.  Two sections of 18ga wire and three alligator clips.

The screen was cut to the inside diameter of the threaded adaptor.  I drilled a hole in the side of the adaptor to insert the wire.  Since the screen was aluminum or stainless steel I couldn't solder it to the wire.  So I tinned the tip of the red wire to thicken it a bit, stuck it through the hole, slid the screen down into the adaptor so that it laid over the tip of the wire.  Once I had it set in place, I inserted the PVC tube into the adaptor and tapped it snuggly down onto the screen so it made good contact with the wire.  I tapped it with a hammer to set it, but did not glue it so I could make changed if needed.  Then i cut off most of the threading.  I added one red alligator clip to the screen wire and made a black wire extension as well.

I still need to make some minor adjustments to the unit but overall it works quite well.  It has more than enough juice to work properly, It's small enough that I have more control of the grass so it doesn't several at once, and it's easy to load the hopper.  Once thing to mention about the PECO/WWS version, the hoope is a very small cap and can only hold about a cubic inch of material at one time, so you wind up adding more quite often if you have a lot to cover.

Here's how it connects to the WS Static King.  Michael told me to attach a small wire to the little screw that holds the brass crown in the hopper back when he told me how to make the flock box. 

The red wire of the PVC tube attaches to the small wire in the hopper and the black extension wire clips to the black lead coming from the WS Static King.

I still need to make some adjustment to the tube, mainly something to hold the wire in place.  I have also got a couple of zaps from it as well, which I think it came from where the red wire enters the tube and was jumping back to me?  Maybe need to wrap some tape around the unit to help insulate me?  It would be nice to find some large diameter heat shrink tubing.

Overall I think this is a winner and want to thank Michael for his insight and help.

I have played with it a bit and will be posting some pictures of the results when I next get a chance.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Static weeds

I played around with the weeds in the yard tonight in a small patch to see what I could do.  I got some mixed results.

I started out between the tracks first and added a mix of 2mm & 4mm.  I cut out a small disc of paper and sliced off one edge of the disc, and placed it in the hopper screen to act as aperture to help regulate the amount of grass so it didn't all fall out right away.  I got this idea after thinking about buying one of the PECO Micro applicators.  The WS Static King has a screen about 2" in diameter.  It worked,  but I may need to make the aperture a little larger?

Before applying the glue and grass I covered the tracks with strips of 3/4" masking tape to protect the tracks from any dribbles of glue.  This was more cautionary than needed I think?  Next I grabbed the 1" foam brush and dipped it in the glue mix that I used for the ground foam.  Once I had a good coat of glue I started to apply the static grass.

Well the paper aperture worked, but like I said it may need to be a bit larger?  I also think I'll need to use thicker glue. When the grass hit the glue a lot of it seemed to lay over. I think this was because the glue mix, being too thin had a capillary effect and pulled the grass down into the ground foam. 

I did hit the area again a bit later and it seemed to stand up better, I also used a small vacuum to suck up the excess, which also helped a bit to pull the grass up.  This is why you do a little at a time to test things out, right?

The tape worked good to keep the tracks clear of weeds, but since I wanted weeds between the rails, the tape may be an waste of time?  

I made a bunch of tufts and strips in the last post with the thought of cutting them to length and gluing them between the rails, but before going down tonight, I seen a guy using a small paintbrush and apply glue between the ties!  Although he was doing it with HO I figured I could give it a whirl on N scale.  

I poured about half a teaspoon of full strength Modge Podge and added a couple drops of water with the hopes that it would flow a bit better but not suck up the grass?  (I may try full strength next time?)  Anyway after dabbing the glue between the ties in a couple areas I then applied one area with 2mm and the other area with a mix of 2mm & 4mm.  Then I ran the vacuum over the area.  The thicker glue seemed to help a bit.  In the images below you can see the results.

2mm between the ties:

2mm & 4mm between the ties:

Overall area:

While the 4mm looks better to me, I'm afraid the 4mm may wreak havoc if the gears in the loco trucks pick it up?  The 2mm looks too short, but at least you'll will see weeds between the rails, so it might just have to be a trade off.  As far as between the tracks, I'll use a mix of 2mm & 4mm.

I'm still planning to cut and glue the weed strips into place to see which I like better.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Weed base

After getting a good handle on how to make the static grass tufts in the last post, I continued adding a weed base to the yard between the tracks.  

I simply used a 1" foam brush dipped in thinned Modge podge and dabbed it on the areas between the tracks where there was more dirt than ballast and lightly sprinkled random colors of Woodland Scenic fine ground foam.  This was followed by adding just a pinch of  the coarser ground foam to add a bit of 3D and padded it into the rest of the foam.

I followed this up using a eyedropper with the same glue to make sure everything got glued in place.

While this doesn't look bad as is, I think when I add the static grass over this base, it should add some depth to the grass and weeds without making it look like solid field of weeds.

My thoughts in doing this is to keep from having to use a lot of static grass to cover the earth (brown paint) as well as to add variation to the weeds. 

Once I get the courage up to apply the static grass between the tracks, I'll start adding the tufts between the rails and ties as well as elsewhere throughout the yard.

I tried getting some better shots but realized I need to invest into some better lighting and some accessories for the tripod so I can reach over the layout.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Static grass tufts and weedy track

Well it's been awhile since I've updated the blog, not to mention work on the layout.  Mainly because I've suffered through some personal setbacks throughout 2020 and the first part of 2021.  The BS Pandemic, the way politics have disrupted our lives as well as the way society has suffered and declined for the last year and a half.  It's kind of taken the wind out of my sails.  But I hope forcing myself to work on the layout will keep my mind occupied.  

The last major work done to the layout was the rebuilding of the yard.  As of now the trackwork is all done with the exception of what I'll call the industrial section, that is the area down the middle of the yard, which at this point is still just brown paint.  I did get all of the front yard tracks ballasted and added dirt (earth colored ground foam mixed with unsanded grout) and sprinkled through the yard in random patches.

Once that was done I added a variety of basic ground foams around the yard to make a base for static grass that I'll add later.  I also started adding another batch of foam, but a much thinner application between the tracks within the yard to enhance the look of low maintenance. 

Since rebuilding the yard, I've pondered the idea of laying down static grass throughout the yard as well as in between the rails, but that comes with complications.  You can't just spray or spread the glue everywhere or else when you start applying the static grass it'll be stuck to EVERYTHING: ground foam, ballast, ties and rails and I feel that would be a mess to clean up not to mention I doubt it would look very good?  So all this has been on my mind over the summer.  

In the meantime I also wanted to see about making my own static grass and weeds tufts.  I've watched a bunch of videos and I even gave it a half assed try a while back.  Now I've laid down static grass on the layout before, so I've got the basic concepts of how things work, but I stumbled across a couple of videos that shows how to make them yourself pretty easily (and yes I've had the unfortunate pleasure to waste 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back after watching an episode of "What's Neat" to learn how NOT to make tufts).   

Seeing how a Static Flock Box seems to work rather slick in the production of tufts, I looked into buying one until a friend told me that I already had one.  Really?  He explained that by clipping a wire to the inside of my Static King for one side and the other side to a metal plate, I had, in all essence a Flock Box.  While there's a bit more to it than that, it did seem to work OK, but not as well as I seen on some of the videos.  

One issue I had was the wax paper or parchment paper.  No matter what I tried, when the glue dried it stuck to the paper, I even tried it on heavy duty tinfoil.  It stuck so bad it tore the paper and foil.  I even tried using some peel and stick label backing that I got from work and applied the glue to the shiny side of the backing......still it would not release easily!  Yes, I used Elmer's White glue as well flat Modge Podge, both full strength and slightly diluted.  So I got disgruntled and sat everything aside and went back upstairs away from the layout for a while.  

Jump ahead a few months, the other night I was watching a few videos again, but this time one guy mentioned having the same issues that I had with glue sticking to the paper.  He showed how he used some nonstick baking pans, applied the glue directly to that and then used his applicator to apply the grass to the glue on the sheets.  A few hours later, he just simply plucked them off with a tweezers!

Really?  That seems too easy, but it made sense....Non Stick.  But it can be that easy?  So I decided why the hell not, what else do I have to lose?  I jumped on Amazon and found some cheap small 9" x 7" pans for $14 for a set of 4.  I figured with four smaller pans I could make four batches of tufts in different colors so why the hell not? Sounded logical to me.

While all this was going on, I was chatting with some friends again about how to apply the grass between the rails without the mess.  One mentioned about dabbing glue between the ties with a small brush.  Oh hell no!  I couldn't even begin to see myself painting individual ties random colors, there was no way I was going to dab glue between ties.  But that did jog my memory to where I seen a guy make his own tufts and then he glued them between the ties?  Yeah I know, which is the less of the two evil here?

I did a little snooping on one of the forums and sure enough, I ran across it.  What this modeler did was to use sheets of premade static grass and slice them into short narrow strips, just big enough to fit between the ties and rails and then glued them in place.  Since he had the area already ballasted, he dug out a number of sections of ballast between the ties and then filled them back in with the short strips of static grass strips.

OK, this is not much fast than dabbing the glue between the ties, but at least you won't be cleaning up static grass off the ties and rails for the rest of eternity.

So with all this fresh knowledge soaking in, I decided get after it.  Besides, what a better way to forget what's happening in the world today.    

I've used Woodland Scenics Grass flock, didn't like.  I then switched to Silflor static grass and it looked and worked much better.  Recently I started using Woodland Scenics newer static grass, this comes in the 42g bags.  It comes in 4 colors; Dark Green, Medium Green, Light Green and Straw.  It also comes in 4 lengths of each color: 2mm, 4mm, 7mm and 12mm.

You can find it on their site under their  Field System.

I picked up all four colors in all sizes except the 12mm.  For the tufts, I chose to use the 2mm & 4mm since I wanted short grass and also wanted the trains to be able roll over it.

I also have their Static King grass applicator.  Which so far, has worked very well for my needs with only one slight modification that I'll describe later in this post.  

For the most part, this is the stage that my yard is in, ballast and dirt with a base of ground foam on the outer edges of the yard.  

Using a cheap 1" foam brush and diluted Modge Podge (3 parts glue, 1 part water), I dabbed it carefully between the tracks on areas where there was the dirt made from foam and grout.  Then I lightly sprinkled several different colors of fine ground foam and a few small chunks of courser foam and padded it into the glue with my fingers and let it dry.  Actually, this by itself looks pretty good, but why not push the envelope?

While the ground foam was drying, I got things set up to make the tufts. I mixed a pinch of Dark Green 2mm and a pinch of Light Green 2mm into the hopper to start with and shook it up to mix it together.

(This image shows a similar mix of 4mm)


I next applied several lines and dots of full strength glue (I used flat Modge Podge) onto the small cookie pans.


I clipped one of the wires of the applicator to the pan, turned it on and started shaking the grass on the pan making sure they were covered thoroughly.  Sure enough, they stood up tall and proud just like I was told they would.  You definitely don't want to use thin glue or else it would suck the fibers right down into the glue.  You want the fibers on top of the glue.

Once I was happy, I took the clip off and shook the excess into a collection pan so I could reuse it again.  As you can see, the pans do a good job of attracting the fibers (unlike someone did in his video using the water sprayed onto wax paper, LOL)  

This just shows how much grass did not come out of the hopper. Since I had several trays ready with glue, I dumped what I had collected in the plastic container back into the hopper and moved to the next tray, then repeated the process.

Also, I'm assuming the plastic hopper retains some static as a lot of fibers remained in the hopper.  Once the applicator is turned off and discharged, you can use your finger or a paint brush to rake the remain fibers out so you can change color or size.


Here are the four trays ready to set aside to dry.  Once I get the tufts and strips plucked off, I'll gather the excess grass back into the plastic tray to use later.  It's probably hard to tell, but the top two are made up of 2mm grass: Dark Green and Light Green.  The bottom two are made of 2mm Dark Green and 4mm Straw.


Using some strips I made earlier, I randomly cut them to length to fit between the ties and between the rails. The round tufts I used on the outside of the rails.  Now these are not glued in place yet as I just laid them down to get an idea of how they'll look.  Once I get a good amount a tufts in different colors and sizes, I'll dab them in glue and stick them in place. 


Since this is N scale and I want the grass between the rails, 7mm and bigger will just be too long. 2mm & 4mm should work just fine.  The one problem I ran into with the WS Grass King, is the screen holes are too large for the 2mm grass and it just pours through the screen.

So what I came up with, is I sacrificed an old sieve and made a disc that would fit into the plastic screen of the hopper.  The metal screen is about half the size of the plastic screen and it retains the 2mm grass much better.  It also works for the 4mm but you do have shake it a little harder to get the 4mm to filter through.


Damn that was a long post, but it's been awhile since I posted, hope you're still awake?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Found a little time.

Back in October 2020 before I started the rebuilding of the main yard, I did some brainstorming about the scene in El Dorado:

With the new OPs plan the need for the yard in El Dorado really isn't needed any longer so I've been thinking about ripping this scene up for a third time to create more of a small town appearance by reducing the yard to nothing more than a passing siding and a smaller siding for a place to drop off and pick up cars bound for the industries there.

Before doing so I wanted to run an abbreviated session to see how things would work and what I'd need to accomplish this.  A few weeks ago I was finally able to schedule a time for Matt come by and help me out.

Here is how the tracks are laid now:

Here is a sketch of what I have planned:

I'll keep the bend in the mainline like I have it now as it adds visual interest and an excuse to keep the old depot in place.

The first thing I'm planning to do is to reduce the length of the passing siding by moving the two turnouts for the passing siding closer together.  This will reduce the length of the siding but I don't plan on having long trains or meets here again.
The next thing is to remove one of the two A/D tracks and just have a shorter siding in its place.  I'm figuring there should not be more than 4-5 cars sitting on it at any given time.  Added to those cars being dropped off or waiting for pickup, I'll also use the siding as a place to hold cars that are bound in the opposite direction that the local is running.  These cars will be picked up when the local returns.

All in all, I should now have more than enough room to expand the area so it doesn't look crammed together and yet have enough switching in the area to keep someone busy.

I also am not going to keep a local engine based in El Dorado like I had thought about, the local will do all the work.

Matt brought a couple of his locos and a caboose to use for power for the session.  We got a few shots during the session but please forgive the quality of the images.  We were more focused on how things worked than getting good quality images.

Just some random pics during the session...

Monday, August 2, 2021

Another visitor

I'm a little behind with this post, but as they say  "Better late than never"

Back in March (2021) I got call from Greg B. that he might try and stop by while he was working on a job in a nearby state, and later that week he made it to town.

Greg and I've known each other going on 10 years now and this was the first time we've met face to face.  I met him on one of the forums, then got a call from him one afternoon and we've been in touch ever since.

Unfortunately the layout wasn't in running shape that weekend, but we had a great time chewing the fat.  I did at least manage to take him to Spring Creek Hobbies that weekend and watched his eyes bug out and his wallet scream.

Thanks for stopping by Greg, the door is always open...

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Feedburner is now gone.

I guess Feedburner, the email subscription is now gone or soon will be.  I'll be using FollowIt for now, so I guess we'll see how it works.  They are trying to get things set in place shortly.

Once installed if you have already subscribed to my blog via Feed Burner, you should not have to re subscribe.  They are trying to add your subscriptions to the FollowIt so you should continue to get email updates as you did before.

If you are new my blog, just add your email to the FollowIt widget and submit.



Friday, April 2, 2021

Home grown Supertrees...

...or imitation Supertrees, whichever you'd like.

In the process of making the Wyatt Rd. overpass, originally I had planned to just make it a foam rise and cover it with poly fiber and ground foam to make it look like a stand of trees with only the front row or two showing trunks.

Once it had been decided to add the bridge, my plans changed a little, I was going to have to have taller trees so they'd rise above the bridge and road.

I have enough actual Supertrees but since they wouldn't be right up front I thought I try something a different and see what I could come up with.

I dug out a box of of weed stalks and small branches that had been collected long ago when we were still using our Bend Track modules.  Having more than enough I started picking out a few that looked like trees.

I did a little pruning.

What I pruned off, I kept for later use for ground cover and rip rap.

Then I tore off small amounts of the Woodland Scenics poly fiber and stretched it thin.

Then I proceeded to wind it onto the weed stalks until it took on a shape of a tree.

Once it was close, I sprayed the whole thing down with a strong hold hair spray.  This helped to glue it to the stalk and was enough that it held any fine ground foam to the poly fiber.

I started by turning the tree upside down and sprinkled some dark foam, which I think was "Soil" to give it depth. I followed this by using a burnt grass to the rest of the tree but didn't cover it completely.  Next I turned the tree upright and used a medium green color to cover more of the fiber and finally a dusting of darker green to give it a nice random color effect.  

I didn't add a lot, on some of the first ones I played with I got it too heavy and it looked caked on, so I just dusted them afterwards, this kept them looking thin and airy.

After that was all on, I sprayed another coat of hairspray to lock everything in place.  The last thing I did was to use a pinch of bright green  and yellow on the tops to simulate sun shining on the tops and another coat of hairspray.  I then stuck them in either foam or the edge of cardboard and let them dry.

Before planting them, I took a small scissors and trimmed and groomed any straggling branches of the poly fiber.  Here is a batch that's ready for planting.


I tried to keep the colors as random as possible for a nice variation.

Overall I think they'll pass nicely for background trees.