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Help needed with static grass!

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  • Member since
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  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
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Help needed with static grass!
Posted by Pruitt on Saturday, January 9, 2021 10:21 PM

I bought a Static King from Woodland Scenics a couple months ago. I'm finally ready to put down some static grass, so tonight I got it out and tried to use it.

Dismal failure.

Since I've never done this before, I thought it would be best to try it out on a scrap board before using it on the layout. Good thing, too.

I got a short chunk of 2X4 out of the scrap wood bin, painted on a bit of diluted white glue (roughly 70% water), and applied some 2mm grass per the instructions that came with the applicator. The hopper was nowhere near even half full.

This is what I got:

As you can see, it's a mat of mostly-laying-down fibers. A few are standing up, but I don't think that's because of static electricity. More likely they just wedged between fibers that were laying there. There doesn't appear to be any static effect at all.

I used a "new" off-brand battery that's a few years old, but the applicator light came on like it's supposed to.

What I can think might be problems:

  1. Older "new" battery doesn't provide enough juice 
  2. Diluted glue doesn't really conduct electricity well enough (Do I have to use WS's pricey glue?)
  3. Even though the appicator can supposedly work with a battery, it really needs AC to function properly
  4. Maybe I got a defective unit?

Anybody have experience with this particular applicator? Any idea what I might be doing wrong? Not really sure where to start, except for maybe buying a new Duracell and trying that.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, January 9, 2021 10:51 PM

Pruitt
...Anybody have experience with this particular unit? Any idea what I might be doing wrong?....

I have a homemade static grass applicator, and I noticed that you made no mention of the "ground", which on mine is a 2 1/2" nail.  I have used other metal items, depending on the area and the particular area in which the "grass" is to be applied.  The link (scroll past the assembly process) shows it in place for my initial attempt, but I have had more success using other items and, of course, with more experience using it.

Here are a couple views of areas done recently (a click on the photos will show an enlargement with better detail)...

Wayne

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Posted by Pruitt on Saturday, January 9, 2021 11:20 PM

Thenks for the reply, Wayne.

I just used the "anchor" ( a four-legged heavy metal dome-shaped thing with an integral stud on the top where the clip is attached) and set two legs in the glue like the instructions said.

I'm thinking I might try a less-diluted glue and an upholstery pin for the ground...

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  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
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Posted by Pruitt on Saturday, January 9, 2021 11:48 PM

I went back and tapped a small nail into another 2X4 and attached the grounding clip to that, spread some wood glue on the board and made sure it contacted the nail, and put a Duracell battery (not new - I used it in a radio throttle for a few hours) in the applicator. It worked a bit better, but still not what I was expecting (or seeing on some YouTube videos). I also tried a 12V, 200mA Wall wart - the light on the unit came on, but it didn't do anything. The instructions indicate 230mA for the adapter, so tomorrow I'll go find one of at least that capacity and try again.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, January 10, 2021 12:20 AM

Yeah, I use a wall wart to power mine, and the shock, when I accidentally try to move the ground before shutting off the power, is rather unpleasant.  I can't say for certain that it makes my hair stand on end, though. Stick out tongue

Wayne

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Posted by BigDaddy on Sunday, January 10, 2021 7:47 AM

I used a t-pin as the grounding point on a home made flyswatter dispenser and WS glue.  My results were the same as the OP's

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

Shenandoah Valley

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, January 10, 2021 10:30 AM

Did you use WS 2 mm static grass?  That may be your problem.  I bought that first, since it was the only static grass my LHS had.  I was hoping for more of an "amber waves of grain" look, but instead got a more matter down, fuzzy look.

I found 4 and 6 mm grass at a train show, and ordered more online from Silflor.  Using exactly the same technique and the same old battery in my Gras-Tech applicator, I suddenly got great results, exactly what I was hoping for.

These longer grasses aren't going to give short-cropped suburban lawns, but for longer grasses found elsewhere they're perfect.  I think they look best with small areas of varied grass shades.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by selector on Sunday, January 10, 2021 12:45 PM

I haven't done this technique, but I have read of it.  Seems vacuuming between successive applications helps, and is rather necessary, depending on the materials being used. Successive applications meaning, apply, vacuum, re-apply, all within a couple of minutes...before the glue begins to set up on the surface.

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Posted by Pruitt on Monday, January 11, 2021 12:00 AM

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. They really helped.

MisterBeasley, I think you hit it on the head about the 2mm grass. It just mats down. 

I did a half dozen experiements, and started getting better results when I switched to the 7mm grass. It actually stood up as I was applying it!

Here's one experiment:

I picked up some Mod Podge and fresh batteries today and tried a few more test samples this evening. They looked very promising, and I think I was getting the hang of the unit.

After the last one, I finally worked up the courage to try it on the layout. I loaded the applicator with 2 and 4mm grasses, speckled a small area with Mod Podge, and went to town. As I expected, almost all the 2mm laid flat, but some of the 4mm stood up. I went back and filled the applicator with 7mm grass and put it on the same area. I think it worked ok.

I did find out that it's hard to get the grass right next to the backdrop. It mostly falls farther forward. 

Here's what the entire area looked like - most of the grass wound up on the track!

That was easy to deal with - my handheld vacuum cleaner with an old sock on the end of the hose cleaned it right up (sucked up about 3/4 of what I put down), and I saved it in a small container for reuse.

So here's what that small section looks like with the glue still wet:

Too much grass on the "road," but it looks promising. I think I need to do the road area first with just the 4mm grass, then maybe go back when the glue is dry and do the other parts.

I also need to add some weeds that stay green well into winter, and some general organic detritus (read "dead plant stuff") in there as well. I think the weeds should go in before the grass, but what about all the detritus? Before or after the grass? What do you all do?

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, January 11, 2021 1:35 AM

Much better results.  Thumbs UpThumbs Up  I'll have to get some taller stuff and give it a try.

Wayne

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Posted by trevorsmith3489 on Monday, January 11, 2021 6:51 AM

How close is your grounding pin to the glue?

How close do you hold the applicator to the surface?

Is the static grass a good quality product?

Is the glue "proper" static grass glue?

With good quality glue, Noch grass, grounding pin in the glue, applicator held close to the glue and tapping the applicator with a screwdriver rather than shacking gave me this result with my latest application.

https://kaleyyard.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/conveyor-cover.jpg

 

 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, January 11, 2021 7:09 AM

Nice Trevor!

So, whats the right glue?

I bought an applicator last year, haven't tried it yet.  I have a Grass Tech.

Mike.

 

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Posted by Lakeshore Sub on Monday, January 11, 2021 9:06 AM

Mark,

Another thing to try is misting the section of applied grass with a little water and running the applicator back over that section.   It often times will lift more of the grass into the vertical.

Scott Sonntag

 

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Posted by rrebell on Monday, January 11, 2021 11:47 AM

Never tried the water trick but got good results with white glue and others but I just sprinkle by hand the fibers and then use the homemade fly swatter type and get as close to the grass vas I can, with new batteries they stand right up.

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Posted by trevorsmith3489 on Monday, January 11, 2021 2:57 PM

I live in the UK so I use this

https://www.wwscenics.com/product/basing-glues/

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, January 11, 2021 8:06 PM

I use off-brand white glue, thinned 1 part glue to 3 parts tap water.  I usually skim coat the surface with Gypsolite, which gets washes of brown and green to give me a camouflage pattern to start on.

Once glue is set, I vacuum the loose pieces up and then go over the whole thing with an ordinary pocket comb.  Then I wash the comb so I don't end up looking too freaky.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Monday, January 11, 2021 9:27 PM

Pruitt,

In looking at your latest: My take is the gun isn't working right or you are holding it too far away. Try it with the beefier wall wart and get the screen right down within an inch of the surface. My home built grass gun will zap spiders at 30 feet. LOL!!!

The gun should be able to pull the fibers from side to side as you move it over the grass. It also looks like you need more density in your application - keep shaking the gun in the spot until you get a thicker clump of grass.

Try mixing colors together in a container before putting them in the applicator gun to get a more varied look.

Have fun,

Guy

 

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, January 11, 2021 10:23 PM

I have used two types of grass applicators, the "tea strainer" type and the "potato masher" type.  Both worked well.  I use regular old white glue thinned 25-50% with water and a mix of various length and color grasses from 3 or 4 different makers .  I have found that going back over the gras once you have applied it with the static applicator, not shaking it but making the grass stand up again helps.

 

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 7:40 AM

Anxious to try the applicator I got.

What I have tried, placing the glue, sprinkling some grass, and taking 2 small pieces of stryfoam, and quickly rubbing them to gether, to create a static charge, then passing the foam blocks over the grass.

I was a bit surprised by the results, but many pieces of grass came up and stuck to the foam blocks.

That's why I bought an applicator. Smile, Wink & Grin

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Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 10:01 PM

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions. I tried several of them, and they helped a lot! I'll try some more in the future.

I bought an appropriately hefty wall wart to power the applicator, and it made a huge difference! The grass stands up real nice when it goes down now, even the 2 and 4mm.

So I messed around with about an 8 inch section between the track and fascia tonight then posed a few train cars and a truck, and this is what I got:

I can see that I need to add more low dark green weeds (they are in there, but they're all hidden!), and a bit more of the shaved oregano I found that looks like dead organic materials littering the ground (can't see much of that either).

Thanks again for all the help everyone!

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