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Making a Static Grass Applicator

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  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,664 posts
Making a Static Grass Applicator
Posted by SpaceMouse on Monday, April 16, 2018 5:13 PM

Avoiding hijacking UncleButch's post.

Lately I was visiting the Wyoming Division, a local privately-owned warehouse-sized layout, and was talking to a guy who works on the layout full time about static grass applicators. The grass on the layout looked like a carpet of wheat, like you'd see in Wyoming--simply the best grass I've ever seen. 

That got us to talking about static grass applicators. Now I should mention that the layout does not hurt for money. I asked him if he had tried the flyswater conversion, and he walked over to a box stashed under the layout and pulled one out.

He said, "We found it under-powered."

There was also a Koch unit the box so I asked about it. He said it wasn't much better than the Flyswatter.

"So what do you use?" I asked.

He showed me to a workbench where he was making patches of grass on a cookie sheet. He switched on a black-box device with two wired alligator clips, one free and the other attached to a tea strainer. 

The box whirred to life like a Flux-capacitor. 

"Watch this," he said.

He brought the free aligator within 3/8 to 1/4 inch of the strainer and a blue sparked leaped with a crack.  

"50,000V plus," I thought.

Then he connected the clip to the cookie sheet, put some static grass in the strainer and gently shook it. The grass leaped through the strainer and stuck in the adheasive like 1000 tiny arrows, every piece perfectly vertical. 

Turns out this devices is sold as a kit by a guy in Sweden and costs about $35. 

Of course, the guy needed to look up the contact information and I forgot to remind him before I left. 

So, how can I make one of these mini-nuclear accelorators for my static grass?

Chip

"Rock Ridge and Rock Ridge Lumber are names that really stand for something" --Randal "Rock" Ridge, Mayor and Founder

"Mining is the very foundation of a free America." --Stanley "Stone" Ridge

"Give me Apathy, or give me something else."--Carlton Ridge, aka "The Cat"

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, April 16, 2018 5:29 PM

Don't know anyone in Sweden but you want an Ion Generator, available on Ebay for around $15.  Some PVC tubing, a switch, a battery or wall wart, a container with a metal screen and an wire with a pin on the end to stick into the layout. 

There are a bunch of Youtube videos on how to make one.  I have not made one myself, but I held a HF flyswatter in my hand just this morning and decided to go the homemade route.

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Monday, April 16, 2018 6:45 PM

I was looking for schematics and instructions several years ago and came across a Grass-Tech on Amazon.  It was only about $25.

I decided I didn't need to scratch-build it after all.

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

  • Member since
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  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
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Posted by SpaceMouse on Monday, April 16, 2018 6:56 PM

BigDaddy
There are a bunch of Youtube videos on how to make one.

I watched a bunch of those. Looks easy enough.

 

MisterBeasley

I was looking for schematics and instructions several years ago and came across a Grass-Tech on Amazon.  It was only about $25.

I decided I didn't need to scratch-build it after all.

 

I couldn't find Grass Tech, but I did find this, which looks a lot like the one I saw. 

https://www.amazon.com/StaticGrassKing-Applicator-Homemade-ElectroStatic-Application/dp/B071W6L9Z8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523922684&sr=8-1&keywords=static+grass+applicator+kit

Chip

"Rock Ridge and Rock Ridge Lumber are names that really stand for something" --Randal "Rock" Ridge, Mayor and Founder

"Mining is the very foundation of a free America." --Stanley "Stone" Ridge

"Give me Apathy, or give me something else."--Carlton Ridge, aka "The Cat"

  • Member since
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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 5,443 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Monday, April 16, 2018 9:50 PM

I guess grass applicator preference can be likened to wire stripper choices. Everyone has their favorite. Whistling

I wanted to see what I could do with the fly-swatter option before investing a larger amount of cash toward the project.

 IMG_7814 by Edmund, on Flickr

For MY needs the $5. total investment really paid off. (I'll try to get a photo of the one I built but it really doesn't look all that fancy). A closeout store had the swatters at 3/$10 and the strainer was another dollar. Add another buck for batteries (some of the older ones used 9V but these have two AAs and seem to work just fine).

 IMG_7802_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

This last scene is still being worked on, but the basic layer of static grass is in place:

 IMG_7113 by Edmund, on Flickr

I make a few passes over the area with the empty strainer screen once the grass is in place. It gives it another chance to "stand-up and be recognized?.

Also, don't go too heavy on the amount of fiber you put down. It's easy to put down too much.

Another part of the technique is to allow the glue or paint to set a bit after using the static applicator then carefully passing a vacuum hose over the area which gets more of the grass standing and thins out the un-stuck fibers.

I have to chuckle a bit every time I think about doing the grass. It seems like I invariably get the screen too close to the metal push-pin I use as a ground.

POW! Scares me every time and the grass goes flying.

One more thing I'll point out that doesn't seem to get mentioned often...

REMOVE your DCC equipped locomotives from the area!

Fortunately, I thought about this before I began my grass-work. I did accidentally hit the rail once or twice! Might have a hard time getting warranty coverage on a decoder that saw 50 Kv!

There is a BIG variety in the colors and types of static grass available, too. This has more affect, IMHO, in the final look of your "field" than the applicator.

[edit] One more comment I'll make if you decide to make your own, try to find the most flexible length of finely stranded wire you can for the ground wire. A stiff wire can be a pain around some scenery details.

There are rubberized wires used for test leads or good quality volt meters. Try to find some of that.

Cheers! Ed

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Monday, April 16, 2018 10:04 PM

As I stated before, I built the swatter model. Less then $10.00 with batteries,and about 20 min.work.

It does what its intended to . So why would anyone want to spend more money then needed? To Me its like a hot wire foam cutter, There are other,cheaper ways to get the same results. When the job's done, that investment sits around collecting dust.

Just my thoughts

I have gotten my fingers between probe and screen,I don't think I want anything bigger,power wise

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, April 16, 2018 11:08 PM

There's a thread HERE showing how I built mine.

Wayne

  • Member since
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  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
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Posted by SpaceMouse on Monday, April 16, 2018 11:54 PM

doctorwayne
There's a thread HERE showing how I built mine.

That is like the video's I watched today. Looks easy enough. 

Chip

"Rock Ridge and Rock Ridge Lumber are names that really stand for something" --Randal "Rock" Ridge, Mayor and Founder

"Mining is the very foundation of a free America." --Stanley "Stone" Ridge

"Give me Apathy, or give me something else."--Carlton Ridge, aka "The Cat"

  • Member since
    June, 2007
  • From: Northern Virginia
  • 5,280 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 7:00 AM

Ed, nice job on the static grass and I couldn't help noticing those lovely PC Tangent freight cars.  Got me one each of those too - perfect for my late 70's era trains.

I've got the parts for the fly swatter grass applicator too and was getting ready to try it but my last layout was torn down last July so scenery will have to wait for a year or two.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 12:55 PM

Speaking of shocks, be prepared for sticker shock when buying static grass material.  My favorite, Silflor, goes for $10-12 for a cup and a quarter of grass.  I've got 6 bags in different lengths and colors.  I think that's about the minimum I need to get the "natural" look that I'm after with my scenery.

That amount will last me a long time, though, so I consider it an investment and I'm unlikely to ever need much more.

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

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • 57 posts
Posted by PC101 on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 3:21 PM

riogrande5761

Ed, nice job on the static grass and I couldn't help noticing those lovely PC Tangent freight cars.  Got me one each of those too - perfect for my late 70's era trains.

I've got the parts for the fly swatter grass applicator too and was getting ready to try it but my last layout was torn down last July so scenery will have to wait for a year or two.

 

Grass, what grass?

  • Member since
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  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 9:53 AM

riogrande5761
Ed, nice job on the static grass and I couldn't help noticing those lovely PC Tangent freight cars.

Thank you, Rio Grande! I'm amazed at the level of detail these "new-wave" manufacturers have attained. I hope they work their way into producing more cars from the steam era, but I guess the modern stuff sells better and pays the bills!

I found the photo of my grass zapper. At the time I made mine the ion generators were scarce! Now I see you can get them for under $20.

 IMG_8053 by Edmund, on Flickr

 IMG_8051_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

Thank you, Ed

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