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Scenic Glues

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Scenic Glues
Posted by kenben on Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:25 PM

I've watched a lot of videos on adding ballast, scenic coverings such as grass, weeds, dirt, rocks etc and static grass. Many use Woodland Scenic Cement. Many say you can make your own scenic cement. The question I have is using either Elemers All Purpose or Mod Podge (Matt). I hear Elemer's leaves a more "shinny" finish and makes things a bit noiseier. Where as Mod Podge leaves a matt finish and helps dampen sounds. Which is better and is what "they" say true about the finish and sound issues?

Then, what is the ratio of these glues? I've heard everything from 1 to1 to 9 to 1. Most seem to be around 2 to 1 or 3 to1. 

What mixture do I use for adding static grass or normal other scenic coverings? And when do I use the spray bottle and, again, at what mixture?

With ballast I know I start with alcohol to wet it. Do I add a few drops of liquid soap to it? Then a add the glue mixture. Do I need to add a few drops of soap to this mixture?

I like Cody Grivno's approach. Just need a few answers though.

Thanks

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  • From: Bakersfield, CA 93308
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Posted by RR_Mel on Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:38 PM

I’ve been using Elmer’s All Purpose at 1:8 forever, I’ve never noticed any "shinny" from the mix.

I use a dropper bottle for application, has always worked great for me.



The scenic glue is the bottle on the far right.



Shake Well before using!

 

Mel



 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, February 14, 2021 2:52 PM

I usually use white glue from a gallon bottle from a hardware store.  I dilute it about 3 parts tap water to 1 part glue.  I have a few old Elmer's dispenser bottles that I mix and keep the dilute glue in.

I buy isopropyl alcohol, usually 90% if available, in a typical drug store sized bottle, and I use it full strength as my "wet water" to get good glue flow and saturation.   I DO NOT USE A SPRAYER FOR GLUE OR WET WATER!  That just makes a mess.  Instead, I dribble on the alcohol with a pipette and use that Elmer's bottle for the glue.

I use the same technique for ballasting or adding scenic turf or flocking.  For static grass, I first apply glue and then spread it with an old paint brush before applying the grass.

Remember to clean up your glue bottle spout, your big full-strength glue bottle and any brushes you get glue on so they'll be ready to go next time.

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

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Posted by selector on Sunday, February 14, 2021 6:11 PM

I wish I could be more impressed with Scenic Cement, but I haven't had nearly the results with it that I can claim with wood glue, the yellow stuff.  I use it for ballast and for affixing ground foam to terrain.   Works well, and I don't see anything shiny once it is dry. 

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Posted by York1 on Sunday, February 14, 2021 6:39 PM

kenben
Many say you can make your own scenic cement. The question I have is using either Elemers All Purpose or Mod Podge (Matt). I hear Elemer's leaves a more "shinny" finish and makes things a bit noiseier.

 

Kenben, when I started three years ago, I had also heard that about shine.  I tried it and I found no shiny surfaces.

I mix about one part Elmer's Glue to four parts water.

I use an eyedropper to put alcohol onto the surface first.  Then like others have pointed out, I use an old Elmer's glue bottle to apply the glue mix.  Don't worry if you have visible puddles of the mix when you put it on.  It gets absorbed and dries completely invisible.

I know this sounds much slower than spraying an area, and it is slower.  However, I did not have good luck spraying areas.  I decided to just use the droppers and take the time.  I've had good results.

One problem I had:

When I was building, I covered a section of the layout with thin cork.  I did this because I wasn't sure where I would be laying out a yard.

Then, when I used alcohol, some of the cork expanded and I got a few small hills of cork where I didn't want them.  I've since cut out the cork before I use the alcohol.  On my next layout, I won't cover a large area with cork.

Good luck!

York1 John       

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, February 14, 2021 9:15 PM

kenben

I've watched a lot of videos on adding ballast, scenic coverings such as grass, weeds, dirt, rocks etc and static grass. Many use Woodland Scenic Cement. Many say you can make your own scenic cement. The question I have is using either Elemers All Purpose or Mod Podge (Matt). I hear Elemer's leaves a more "shinny" finish and makes things a bit noiseier. Where as Mod Podge leaves a matt finish and helps dampen sounds. Which is better and is what "they" say true about the finish and sound issues?

Then, what is the ratio of these glues? I've heard everything from 1 to1 to 9 to 1. Most seem to be around 2 to 1 or 3 to1. 

What mixture do I use for adding static grass or normal other scenic coverings? And when do I use the spray bottle and, again, at what mixture?

With ballast I know I start with alcohol to wet it. Do I add a few drops of liquid soap to it? Then a add the glue mixture. Do I need to add a few drops of soap to this mixture?

I like Cody Grivno's approach. Just need a few answers though.

Thanks

 
The trouble with Scenic Cement is its price, which I'd guess to be 4 or 5 times greater for that same amount of ordinary white glue, bought in a gallon jug.
I thin the glue using ordinary tap water, but if your water is especially hard, distilled water is cheap-by-the-gallon at any supermarket.  If you run a dehumidifier, clean the collection bucket, then use the water that collects, as it's as good as distilled for this use (I also use it for decal work).

I use an empty gallon jug to mix the glue/water, usually about 1/3 glue and 2/3 water.  Cap the jug and shake well, and do so every time you start a new scenery project.
I pour some of the mix into the larger container of the two shown below (which originally contained matte medium - as good as white glue, but about three times as expensive).....
 

...which is very useful for filling the small one beside it, which dispenses the glue/water mix drop-by-drop...


Unless you plan to work very quickly, or on only a small area, I'd suggest that you forego the alcohol, as it will evapourate quickly, losing its wetting ability as it dries.
 
I like to save my alcohol - not the 70% or 90% or 99% stuff, but rather the drinking kind, for a nice celebratory drink after a successful session of scenic work.

"Wet" water is a more economical option, using ordinary tap water or, if it's too hard, as mentioned previously, distilled water - either is cheaper than alcohol and works as well (and if you do large amounts of ballasting and scenery in one sitting, will stay wet, rather than evapourate...a gallon of water, 5 or 6 ,or 10 if you wish, drops of dish detergent - do not shake....you don't need bubbles.
Once you have your ballast or scenic material (ground foam, for example) in-place, use a good-quality sprayer to wet it, beginning by spraying upward and letting the droplets fall gently onto the material. 
Once it's been partially wetted, you can spray more directly onto it, without fear of blowing it away.  Continue to apply the wet water until it penetrates right down to the base on which it's been applied.  For ballast, spray the wet water until it appears at the lowest point of the ballast...on my layout, some areas are well-over an inch deep.  Failure to wet the material completely will result in a hardened crust once everything dries, but it will be very fragile, with nothing but loose material beneath.

Once the area on which you're working is all thoroughly wetted, you can apply the thinned white glue - note how readily it spreads - this is due to the "wet" water, which has decreased the surface tension, allowing it to flow everywhere.

Once the diluted glue has been applied to everything, clean-up your tools and materials, and you're done for this session.
 
If your scenic stuff, especially ballast, is quite deep, drying may take up to a week or even more, but once it occurs, your ballast will be solid until you decide to remove it. 
If that time comes, simply use wet water to thoroughly cover the area, and you'll be able to pull up the track and scrape away the loosened ballast.
 
There's lots more to ballasting and adding scenery, but this should at least give you a starting point.
 
Wayne
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Posted by kenben on Friday, February 26, 2021 7:29 PM
For ballast for HO scale is FINE or MEDIUM ballast more realistic?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, February 26, 2021 11:23 PM

kenben
For ballast for HO scale is FINE or MEDIUM ballast more realistic?

I used the Woodland Scenics "Fine" ballast on pretty-well all of the track on the main level of my layout, although I did use grey on the track of one railroad, and buff on a connecting line's track.  Where appropriate, I used WS "cinders" under the ballast and some areas, there's rip-rap (left-over plaster from making my plaster-on-screen landforms.  In a few of those spots, there might be some medium ballast below the fine stuff.

If you look at real ballast, depending on the railroad, of course, the ballast which I see most is perhaps a couple of inches long, and maybe a little more than half as wide.  It's awful stuff to walk on (shouldn't be walking on the track anyway), so that was sorta in my mind when I opted for the fine stuff.

The mainline track shown below, with buff-coloured ballast, is all on cork roadbed, while the track leading off towards the boxcars in the distance has been tapered down to the bare plywood...there's ballast of some type there, but a lot of it has weeds encroaching into it, since it's merely industrial track...

...a little further down the main line, the cork roadbed gets thinner...

...and just around the bend...

...is gone....

...but because of the use of cinders and ground cover alongside the tracks, they appear, at least from above, to be somewhat elevated above the surrounding terrain.

On the partial upper level of my layout, I used limestone screenings, given to me by a friend...

Despite the fact that it's somewhat on the large side, I don't mind its appearance.


When I ran out of my friend's ballast, I bought a couple 50lb. bags of local limestone screenings at a nearby lumber yard (there are several quarries in this area, within a 15 or 20 minute drive from here), and re-screened them in an attempt to get something in a smaller size.
I eventually got it down to this size...

...which is still bigger than this poor LPB's feet.  I called my friend to learn how he managed to get finer stuff, and the secret was to use a spatter shield (normally used over a frying pan) as a screening device, which yielded this...

....which worked pretty well for the ground cover near the service  track in the left foreground, below.  The grass is starting to cover the area, but the ballast is small enough that workers in the area are unlikely to sprain their ankles whilst walking on it....

The more things that I try with various types of ballast has pretty-well convinced me that you almost have to use the various colours and sizes which you think might be appropriate, testing them on short sections of track.   There's no need to glue it down for such tests, as once you decide on your choice(s), a properly-done glue-job will also look like the ballast is loose.

If it looks good to you, size-wise and for colour, too, then use it.  I have two or three colours of Woodland Scenics fine ballast, and two different colours of real limestone ballast, in two or three sizes, on various areas of my layout, and can't say that there are any that I don't like.

Wayne

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 27, 2021 6:27 AM

My approach is an expensive approach compared to white glue, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I use Liquitex Acrylic Matte Medium. I mix it with water in a 4 to 1, water to matte medium, proportion with a few drops of liquid dish detergent per cup of mix. Before applying the matte medium mix, I spray 70% isopropyl alcohol (undiluted, no liquid detergent added) over the area to be glued, then immediately apply the glue mix with an eye dropper. If the ballast ever needs to be removed, a light spray of isopropyl alcohol with loosen and soften the hardened ballast.

At one time, I used Woodland Scenics ballast. But, real rock is far superior due to its weight. I use Scenic Express #40 Ballast for my HO scale layout. When I used Woodland Scenics ballast, I used Medium which is most appropriate for HO scale. Fine is too small.

Regarding the noise factor, real rock is superior to the fake stuff (Woodland Scenics) in that fake ballast produces a drum-like sound once glued. But, let's face it, once the ballast is glued, it makes more noise than unglued ballast. Running trains over unglued ballast is nearly quiet.

Regarding cost, matte medium is about 5 times the cost of white glue. For example, a gallon of white glue costs around $11 whereas a gallon of matte medium costs around $55. But since matte medium can be applied with water in a 4:1 proportion, that gallon of matte medium results in 5 gallons of diluted mix. I have a 165 foot of double mainline, so 330 feet of track. It only takes about 1/2 gallon of matte medium to completely ballast that amount of track.

For all other landscaping purposes, ground cover, etc., I use white glue because it is less expensive and the noise level is not a factor. 

Rich

 

Alton Junction

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Posted by rrebell on Saturday, February 27, 2021 9:17 AM

Use matt medium, a gallon mixed (I use 3-1) is $25 at Michaels without the 40% off you can ussually get there. I use liquatex, lower end but still artist grade.

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Posted by peahrens on Saturday, February 27, 2021 12:58 PM

For ballasting, here was my approach last year (from another post):

On the mainline, I followed Cody's advice of painting straight white glue on the cork roadbed sides and applying a light amount of ballast on the slope to create some tooth.  Then I added ballast to middle, using a small disposable cup and spreading with a 1" foam brush cut to just fit between the rails.  Then tapped the rails to settle the ballast between the ties.  Then wet with 50% alcohol (using a Walgreens spray bottle) and used a plastic pipette to add 50% white glue between the ties.  After a few minutes, sprayed some more 50% IPA to help the glue to wick everywhere.  (I did not want to spray glue on the rails as I worried about the sprayer clogging and I did not want to clean all the rails.)  Then I added the final ballast on the sides and applied IPA, 50% glue, IPA as noted.  (I may have done the middle and sides at the same time, after the initial roadbed slope light ballast application).  

If you want a nice limit on the ballast by the roadbed, apply some blue tape around 3/8" from the cork.  That creates a somewhat more moderate slope than the severe cork slope, which I prefer.  Remove the tape when the ballast and glue are still wet, so you do not much affect the desired ballast area. 

When all is dry, vacuum, then examine for any ballast particles atop the ties, particularly at the rail.  Nudge those loose and vacuum again.  (A dust buster equivalent is a handy tool.)

In my yards, with track caulked to 1/8" cork sheet and/or on plywood, I ballasted everywhere, then wet with sprayed 50% IPA, then added 50% white glue with pipette, than sprayed some more IPA.  

For scenery, I used Elmers white glue and diuted (50-70%) IPA.  I have four ketchup squeeze bottles with 25%, 50%, 75% and 85% (plus 100%, of course) glue.  Before applying turf on a flat surface, I would dribble on an appropriate glue dilution (say, 75%) and spread it with a brush.  Then apply the turf colors / layers.  Then spray (Walgreens sprayer) 50% alcohol to help the glue wick up into the turf.  On steeper sloped hills, I would used a thicker glue mix.  On my 5 x 9 layout, I barely got into a 2nd quart of Elmers white glue. 

When then adding coarse turf, bushes, etc., I would place that on the (dried) turf.  I used a pipette (or squeeze bottle) to dribble diluted glue on the item / area, then sprayed 50% IPA to help the glue wick the material to the base.  On a steep hill, I would first dribble on glue (atop the dried turf) and spread it with a brush before adding coarse turf.  For a larger bush, I put a dab of glue on the item and pushed it into the hill.  Then added some diluted glue and alcohol to help that.  On occasion I used "wet" water instead.  I did not try to figure out the difference, but like the IPA because it dries faster.  While I bought a cheapo static grass applicator, I did not attempt any; maybe next layout I will summon the courage. 

Generally, I think a key point is to have different materials handy (multiple glue dilutions) in various ways to apply (squeeze bottles, paint brush, pipettes).  Then you just figure it out as you go.  The techniques for ballasting are probably more important than the details of adding general scenery, as the latter seems easier and more forgiving IMO.  I'll note that my example is a first attempt, so comments are from limited experience.  Like you, I perused others suggestions before starting.

 20200717_094958 by Paul Ahrens, on Flickr

 IMG_7375 (2) by Paul Ahrens, on Flickr

 IMG_7173 by Paul Ahrens, on Flickr

 20200424_084045 by Paul Ahrens, on Flickr

 

 

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by ScenerySheets on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:09 AM

I'm a huge believer in Modge Podge. It's really just a dilluted white glue with a stablizing agent. You can technically make your own but they've saved you a lot of the trouble for a reasonable price. Home batches also don't seem to be as stable even when adding dishsoap or alcohol. They also seem to have come up with the best ratio for dilution, although some applications require thinning the Modge Podge a bit further. I'm not a huge fan of the spray bottle since it can lead to uneven coverages. I like painting on the adhesive. 

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