Static grass buzz

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!

The starting point for a home-mage grass applicaro for fine grass fibres is a 'Bug-Sapper', wire, clip and a fine mesh strainer or sieve.

The starting point for a home-mage grass applicator for fine static grass fibre is a ‘Bug-Sapper’, wire, clip and a fine mesh strainer or sieve.

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.

Dismantling the bug-zapper.

Dismantling the bug-zapper.

The important electronics are located in the handle. It is dismantled by releasing three screws.

bug zapper grass_1 copy

This model takes two AA batteries. The battery terminal fittings and tactile button are retained.

The ‘racket’ part is not needed and is cut up to provide a mount for the tea strainer.

Cutting up the racket. Keep the mesh screen just in case you can find another use for it!

Cutting up the racket. Keep the mesh screen just in case you can find another use for it!

The mount end of the packet frame is cut off and retained as a mount for the tea strainer or sieve.

The mount end of the packet frame is cut off and retained as a mount for the tea strainer or sieve.

bug zapper grass_5 copy

The sieve/tea strainer handle is trimmed to length. A new lead is soldered to it

The shortened tea strainer handle is glued to the mount end of the racket moulding using ‘Araladite’ five-minute epoxy glue.

The electronics are located in the handle.

Fitting the sieve/tea strainer to the handle using part of the racket moulding. This allows the original fixings to be used.

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.

bug zapper grass_7 copy

Finished! Note the wire fitted with a crocodile clip which is the ‘grounding’ lead. It is attached to a pin or nail inserted in the scenery during static grass application.

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.

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