Static grass has become the accepted standard for scenery modelling, replacing ground foam for general ground cover. I love the wide variety of texture that can be achieved using various lengths of grass; multiple applications and mixes of different coloured grasses. Beats ground foam for great texture and colour every time!
Static grass applicators are not cheap. Such is the price of commercial applicators that some modellers have turned to home-made models of various types. The real buzz in the hobby is the adaptation of electronic fly swats to make low-powered but effective grass applicators. It’s not an original idea by any means and there are numerous references on the internet by others that have followed this path – a quick search will locate some useful web sites on building different types and indeed how to make your own grass tufts too.
My usual applicator is a Noch Grass-Master, a powerful and very effective piece of kit. However, it has certain limitations including control over the application of fine grass fibres of around 2mm length. It simply dumps too many fibres in one go when used with the narrow nozzle even when I add an extra mesh screen.
I concluded that an applicator with a fine mesh would be better for those areas where I need sparse short grass such as N gauge scenery. Enter the ‘Bug-Zapper’ and a fine mesh metal tea strainer!
Before I go on, please be aware that this adaptation of an electronic fly swat is not without its hazards and will not qualify for a CE mark! The chance for electric shock is very real if mishandled. It has none of the safety features of commercial applicators. Build and use at your own risk.
The important electronics are located in the handle. It is dismantled by releasing three screws.
The ‘racket’ part is not needed and is cut up to provide a mount for the tea strainer.
The shortened tea strainer handle is glued to the mount end of the racket moulding using ‘Araladite’ five-minute epoxy glue.
The lead soldered to the tea strainer or sieve is connected to one terminal of the circuit board – the same terminal as the inner mesh of the racket assembly. The opposite terminal is fitted with the long ‘grounding’ lead.
Using the applicator is simple. Once the landscape has been prepared with your chosen adhesive, insert a nail or pin and attach the grounding lead. Place some static grass fibres in the sieve and press and hold the tactile button on the side of the unit to activate it and create an electrical charge. The applicator is gently agitated over the wet glue to shake fibres through the mesh (keep pressing the button) and onto the glue where the static charge will make them stand on end.
When you have finished with the applicator, release the tactile button and then immediately discharge it by touching the sieve with the end of the grounding lead. There will be a spark and a pop, so don’t be alarmed by this. Regarding safety – keep it well away from sensitive electronic components such as decoders and do not touch any metal parts when it is charged or in use. It may give you quite a belt! You have been warned!
This unit is not as powerful as the Noch applicator and needs freshly charged or new batteries for the best performance. However, it is very effective at relatively close range – about 2 inches – and cost me less than £5.00 to build excluding batteries.