Has anyone come up with an idea of how to make ballast. It can be expensive to purchase. I was thinking of grinding walnut shells
Also, what do most people use? Fine or Course
Apparently, that is what Woodland Scenics uses. If you have a good grinder and a screen, no reason you can't make your own. Just dye it to a couple of close colours for blending.
In my case, I live right on a beach on the Strait of Georgia. The sand is mostly free of stuff that will migrate towards a magnet, so I have used it for two layouts. It is greyish and salt and pepper combo, and looks quite nice. Its granular size is in the order of 1/32", so it is fine enough for HO. Some have used filter sand and filler sands for aquaria, and others have used fine kitty litter. Some sandbox sands should be a good bet.
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I use WS fine ballast for the main line but it is too large for the yard. I searched around but could not anything small enough.
I finally found just the right size and color I needed. I went to the rock quarry and got a pail of "blue stone dust." I filter it once with mesh from a screen door and then through a flour sifter that my wife is still looking for. The rock left from the first filtering I use as "riprap" around the mountain base. The rock left from second filtering is about the size of coarse ballast and I use it on river bed edges. The "fines" left over I used in the yard.
I don't know what the shell fragments would do to a blender's blades, but someone mentioned here a couple of months ago that they add a little water to help the cutting action.
You should be able to find a cheap blender at a yard sale or flea market for less than $5 that you can use to make your own ballast and ground foam.
A buddy of mine showed me a really neat and inexpensive way to do it. He used cat litter, and used different colors of RIT DYE to color it.
Some of it was s natural light grey in color and he didn't dye it, just put it down like any other ballast.
Works great, and it's CHEAP!!!!!
I intend to use cat litter also, we use Johnnycat for our cats it's cheap and grey, the larger pieces can be crushed down. BUT, I had read some time ago that it absorbs the moisture.
I do run a dehumidifier but under 65 degrees it doesnt work as well, and for economic reasons I dont heat the basement unless needed, it is around a steady 56 degrees unless the temps drop very low.
Does anyone know of any downside to using this litter in these conditions.
I looked at cat litter before I found the "Blue Stone" dust. I could not find one litter with small enough particles and it lacked the different colors ballast has. I also did not want those big blue chips most litter had. The ability of litter to absorb large quantities of liquids might be a problem also when it comes to using glue. You do not need it drying out the glue before it sets.
The guy at the stone quarry let me take all the stone dust I wanted for free. One bucket opposed to 100 truck loads a day would not be missed. I also use some colored sands I get at Michaels Craft Store ($1.00 a bag) on the layout but not for ballast.
If you're going to try cat litter, read the package label carefully and don't get a brand that says it has "clumping action" or anything similar. The only brand I have found that is suitable for use as HO ballast is Cat's Pride, made by Oil-Dri Corporation. It is kaolin clay that does not swell up or clump when wet, so you can use rubbing alcohol and 50/50 water/glue mix to fasten it down without having to worry about it swelling up into a huge mass of goo.
It can also be used to soak up oil spills and drips in your driveway or garage, because the primary use of it is to clean up oil spills. Selling it as cat litter is secondary to Oil-Dri's primary business.
The only brand I have found that is suitable for use as HO ballast is Cat's Pride, made by Oil-Dri Corporation.
Thanks I'll take your suggestion next time we're up to the pet shop.
Cat Pride, made by Oil-Dry Corporation. It is kaolin clay that does not swell up or clump when wet, so you can use rubbing alcohol and 50/50 water/glue mix to fasten it down without having to worry about it swelling up into a huge mass of goo.
I never heard of using rubbing alcohol, how is that applied. Thanks,
After spreading the ballast, I spray it with rubbing alcohol, dribble on the 50/50 white glue mix, and then spray again with rubbing alcohol to insure that the glue is evenly distributed.
Many people use plain water with a couple of drops of liquid dishwashing detergent in it, but I have found that rubbing alcohol evaporates faster so the ballast dries quicker.
(Rubbing Alcohol) .. True- so it does, good thinking, thanks.
Last year I cleaned out my roof gutters and found small bits of gravel in the bottom of the gutters. I saved that material and washed it to remove small bits of leaves and other debris. After drying, the gravel looked good so I spread some as ballast, sprayed it with rubbing alcohol as a wetting agent then dribbled matte media ( a polymar adhesive ) on it.
I have also used clay and it cracks badly and makes the yard tracks look like earthquake faults.
I've done the gutter trick in the past. A bit large for HO but great for O.
For HO and probably N, just get some sand and run it through a coarse kitchen strainer. (Buy a large one at the dollar store - DO NOT borrow from the wife). Sand comes in many colors. It might be free in your neighborhood. If not, home centers have it by the bag. I got five gallons from the cemetery where I volunteer. The mix of minerals gives a nice color and texture blend and it's as easy to install as the fake stuff.
I actually like it better than some of the expensive commercial ballast products which can often be too large or too monochromatic.
The mind is like a parachute. It works better when it's open.