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Puffball trees and Polyfill fiber alternatives

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Puffball trees and Polyfill fiber alternatives
Posted by 88gta350 on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 6:02 AM

I'm going to be making a lot of puffball trees in the near future.  The Woodland Scenics Poly Fiber is $8 for 16g (.56 oz).  I can get bulk poly fiber that's intended for things like stuffed animals and pillows for $12 for 20 oz.  I could paint it green and theoretically have an equivalent to the Woodland Scenics for much less money.  Has anyone tried this before?  How well does the bulk poly fiber take paint? Does it work the same for puff ball trees as the Woodland Scenics stuff?

Thanks,

Dave M

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 6:09 AM

My friend Randy and I made ONE attempt at making our own dyed Puff-Ball Trees. We used fabric dye to color the stuffing material.

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The color green we chose did not look natural, and we made a huge mess.

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We went back to Woodland Scenics immediately. Maybe someone else can share a success story.

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-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 6:32 AM

I used the bulk stuff, bought it at a Michaels craft store.  I don't have puff ball trees, per say, as all my trees, in the distance and close up, are individualy made.

I used natural and store bought armatures, and "filled" them in with the poly fiber.  After I was satified with it, I spray painted the tree and fiber with a flat camouflage gray, in light "whispy" coats until it looked filled in, and then added the foliage.

I don't see why you couldn't do the same thing for your puff balls.  I never tried to color the fiber with a dye, as I didn't think it would "stick".

Mike.

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Posted by floridaflyer on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 7:35 AM

Got my poly fiber at Wallyworld. spray painted the balls black. Used hair spray to attach the WS ground foam. As I wanted a fall result, used  green,yellow, red, orange and rust in combinations, so it didn't look like a bunch of solid color balls. Rust and green really helped in this area. Been on the layout for 10 years. and holding up well. On a friends layout he had Scenic Express foam and the hair spray didn't work as well. Ended up dabbing the balls in 3-1 white glue. that did work.  

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 8:15 AM

I believe "Poly" means polyester, a form of plastic or ultimately something solvent based.  Spray paint should stick to it, where as common fabric dye would not since it tends to be water based.

I assume WS gets its poly fiber from the same sources, so I would think the bulk stuff would be basically the same thing.  I suppose its possible poly fiber comes in different grades with different properties.  WS probably knows what kind of poly fiber works best for scenery so you might not find the exact material being sold at Michaels or other retail places.  

- Douglas

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 8:36 AM

I used the stuffing  from an old pillow,I believe its the same stuff. It won't take dye. I spray painted it black, used lots of hair spray to hold the ground foam. Made a frame of chicken wire, and stuffed the poly/foam into the holes.Worked out well.

I'mtearing the layout down right now, and saving all the ''green'' I can, and after 5 years the poly/foam is still as good

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Posted by 88gta350 on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 8:36 AM

Thanks for the replies. I found I can get it at Michael's even cheaper... $6 for a 20oz bag.  At that price it can't hurt to grab a bag and give it a try.  I can update with results and comparisons to ones I've already done with Woodland Scenics polyfiber.

Dave M

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Posted by selector on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 9:59 AM

I wonder if people get put off this process early, right after they have completed an initial spritz of brown, or grey, or green, maybe black, to ensure the white batten doesn't show when they begin to place their trees in a 'forest'. I agree that dye would not be my initial idea, and sounds like I would have made the right decision to try a couple of spray bombs, maybe light brown and grey.  From there, though, the important step is to get some amount of flocking or 'leaves' made of ground foam onto those filaments while they're still wet.  I don't see why, with some refining, such a forest (with some bare dead trees and some conifers added) wouldn't look quite convincing.

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Posted by mikeGTW on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 11:10 AM
Rit Dye More will work on poly fibre and it comes in different colors that can be mixed for what ever color you want I think Hobby Lobby carries it and wally world
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Posted by doctorwayne on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 12:00 PM

I was going to try making some puffball background trees, but decided to experiment a bit.  This is the scene that initially resulted...

The background trees were made using batt-type insulation - I believe it's called rock wool.  I cut 6"-10" pieces, crosswise, off the batt, then ripped those pieces, crosswise, in two.  The ripped edges become the tree tops.  These pieces were then split into two or three thinner layers.
Initially, I tried using a paint sprayer with latex house paint...

...but then thinned the paint and applied it using my airbrush.  The material shown below was a test set-up to determine placement, among other things...

I used heavy-duty hairspray to add various colours of ground foam...

...and then drilled the plaster-on-screen landforms to accept some wood skewers, which were glued in place.  After applying a little white glue to the tops of the skewers, the pieces of foam-covered insulation were impaled upon them...

After some backgound trees were added in front...

...I went back and added a little polyfibre onto the tops of some of the insulation "trees", just to help blend them with the trees in the foreground...

With the foreground trees in place, I'm reasonably pleased with the results...

...but may tweak it a bit for for the next area that needs some trees...

Wayne

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Posted by cowman on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 4:18 PM

I had good success with the WS green poly fiber, using a variety of colors and textures of ground foam for the foliage.

Saw a video of someone using spray paint on white fiber balls, unfortunately I don't recall where it was.  There is also a sidebar in a past Great Model Railroads or Model Railroad Planning, that uses the whole batt of fiber, teased, spray painted and foliage added.

EDIT:  Micro-Mark has a large bag of black or green poly fiber, 12 oz for about $20, less if you buy two bags, much more reasonable, if you are doing a lot of trees.  I have a bag of the dark, but haven't gotten the layout to a point to try using it yet.

Good luck,

Richard

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Posted by eaglescout on Thursday, December 07, 2017 7:28 AM

During Halloween season Hobby Lobby sells a black poly fiber.  Works great for stretching over armatures and I suspect for puff ball trees.

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Posted by KemacPrr on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:11 PM

Having made thousands of puff ball trees I can say that white polyester will not take any dyes. I used black Rit dye as mentioned earlier . It turned the polyester a dirty gray . I then used cheap green spray paint as mentioned also and it does work but be prepared to buy lots of paint. Another source of black poly fiber is Halloween shops for beard and spooky scenery material. Bachman offered green as does Micro Mark ----   Ken 

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Posted by mikeGTW on Thursday, December 07, 2017 6:29 PM

Maybe you should check again  I've used it and it does work on white poly It is called Rit DyeMore  

https://www.ritdye.com/color-library/rit-dyemore/

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Posted by KemacPrr on Thursday, December 07, 2017 10:42 PM

Interesting. It did not exist 15 years ago when I was doing my trees. Thanks for the heads up ! Have to try it next time I do trees. -----Ken 

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Posted by rrebell on Friday, December 08, 2017 11:18 AM

Why not just use cotton balls (they are not made of cotten anymore).

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Posted by 88gta350 on Friday, December 08, 2017 11:34 AM

rrebell, that's a good idea that I hadn't considered, though I think cotton balls may be a little on the small side.  I ended up buying a $4, 12oz bag of Poly-fil and painted it green.  I have made several trees with it so far and it seems to be going well.  I can post pictures when I'm done.

Dave M
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Posted by kasskaboose on Saturday, December 09, 2017 11:34 AM

Glad someone paged the good Dr!  Outstanding work my friend.  Where to get the product you mention?  I saw Amazon has it here: https://www.amazon.com/Grodan-Rockwool-Mini-Blocks-Pack/dp/B00XQECROY/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1512840785&sr=8-4&keywords=rockwool.

Is that what you meant? 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Saturday, December 09, 2017 1:54 PM

kasskaboose
Is that what you meant?

I doubt it.  Rockwool is the name of the company and they make what you saw on amazon for growing seed but they also make insulation. 

It looks like this:  http://www.rock-wool-insulation.com/sale-1524624-floor-rockwool-fire-insulation-rockwool-loose-fill-insulation-750-c.html

Sometimes known as blown in insulation.

 
 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, December 09, 2017 2:11 PM

BigDaddy
Sometimes known as blown in insulation.

It also comes in "batts" to fit between studs in a wall, or ceiling, which is what Wayne used.  Seen it used many times on a variety of jobs I was on.  It can be used anywhere, but it's most common use is for fire and soundproofing insulation.  It's alot more dense than fiberglass insulation.

Should be able to find it at most lumber yards.  It's also called mineral wool.

Mike.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, December 09, 2017 11:31 PM

Mike's got it right.  Mine was part of a batt left-over after adding some above a range hood to dampen the sound.  I doubt that you could purchase a single batt, but you might find cut-offs at a homebuilding site or perhaps find an insulator willing to overlook a half-batt.  Unlike fibreglass insulation, there's not too much dust off this when handling it, and it's non-irritating to your skin or lungs.

Wayne

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Posted by NYBW-John on Sunday, December 10, 2017 8:48 AM

88gta350

I'm going to be making a lot of puffball trees in the near future.  The Woodland Scenics Poly Fiber is $8 for 16g (.56 oz).  I can get bulk poly fiber that's intended for things like stuffed animals and pillows for $12 for 20 oz.  I could paint it green and theoretically have an equivalent to the Woodland Scenics for much less money.  Has anyone tried this before?  How well does the bulk poly fiber take paint? Does it work the same for puff ball trees as the Woodland Scenics stuff?

Thanks,

Dave M

 

Yes, I have used painted polyfiber in the past and in fact my current project is doing just that. It's another step in the process but it saves a lot of money. I usually make a few dozen puffballs at a time in various sizes and then lay them out in the bottom of a cardboard box and give then a good spray of dark green paint. Usually one side of a puffball tree will be against the scenery so I can leave that side unpainted. Once the paint dries I use a bamboo skewer to hold the puff ball while I spray it with adhesive. I've tried hair spray but it just doesn't hold as well. I then dip the puffball into small tubs of ground foam of various shades. If a spot doesn't pick up the foam I use my fingers to sprinkle the foam onto it. I then shake the loose foam back into the tub, holding it with the bamboo skewer during the whole process. I've used different methods to attach the puffballs but have settled on a hot glue gun. It leaves lots of glue stringers but they are easily removed.

PS. I prefer 3M spray adhesive but on one occasion I used Loctite when Lowe's was out of 3M. The nozzle clogged with only about a quarter of the can used. Not wanting to waste it I bought a second Loctite can figuring I could swap the nozzles when I finished with that can. Same thing happened. I've never had that problem with 3M. Has anyone else had similar problems with Loctite spray adhesive?

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