Today’s feature is the first of a two part article about Static Grass and how to get the best results with it on your layout. In Part 1 we take a look at how to make your own static grass applicator. A big thank you to John Yarham for sending in this excellent tutorial!
I liked the idea of static grass because it has such a realistic appearance, but spending £100.00+ on a Noch Grassmaster was way past the railway budget allowed by the domestic authorities. So I decided to make my own, having searched the web and found a few people had made their own I thought I’d have a go and here are the results!
What you need
- One tea strainer. Mine is about 2.5 inches but actually the size doesn’t matter (I am sure there’s a joke here somewhere). Cost around £2.00.
- One electronic fly swatter. The sort that looks like a tennis racket (see picture). Cost varies between £2-£5.00 depending on where you purchase it.
Take the fly swatter apart after removing any batteries as a 1000v wakes you up a bit if you press the button while holding the mesh!
Remove the racket end, there are normally 4 or 5 screws holding it together and cut the wires as close as you can to the racket head, you don’t need the racket head just the handle part. I am still thinking about what I can reuse the mesh for.
You should be able to get the tea strainer to fit into the handle you may need to trim the tea strainer handle to fit inside so that the fly swatter handle will close up again and it doesn’t foul the circuit board.
In my picture there are 3 wires that come off the circuit board the two white ones are the common, the red is the live. Twist the white ones together and extend them by soldering some black (can be any colour) 7/0.2 wire to them wrap some insulation around the joint for added strength and protection.
Make a small v shape in the handle with a file to let the wire out. Useful tip tie a knot in the wire as close as you can to the hole in the handle on the inside so that should it get pulled it pulls the knot tight against the handle rather than pulling the wires off the circuit board. I also put a crocodile clip on the other end of the wire to connect to whatever I am applying static grass too.
Bare the red wire to so that it’s long enough to go around the tea strainer handle and if you can solder it to the tea strainer its better its difficult to solder to stainless with out a really good soldering iron. If you can’t twist the bare wire around the handle and make sure the bear wire is touching the handle and solder it to itself wrap some insulation tape around the handle and wire to make sure it’s got a good contact.
Testing & Final Assembly
A quick test here is to put the batteries in and if you have a multi meter that has a range above 1000 volts use this to test put one probe on the tea strainer and the other on the black common wire. It should read around 1200 volts when you press the button on the side. If you haven’t got a meter then you can test it this way get the bare black wire close to the tea strainer a spark will jump between the tea strainer mesh at no point here hold the tea strainer and the bare wire as you will get a shock! (Don’t try this without a responsible adult present!)
Having tested that the unit works lay everything down as if you are going to put it together and fill the space in the handle where the tea strainer sits in the handle with araldite or similar, if you put a piece of tape just in front of the circuit board you don’t use so much glue. Once its dry you can close up the handle an start applying static grass to your layout!
Here is a picture of my finished one. I cut the fly swatter bat end to fit the tea strainer but depending what sort of fly swatter you have you may not be able to do this.
I am currently on a MK5 version with interchangeable ends, 2 types of mesh and a funnel attachment and testing so far this is possibly the best one yet. The funnel works fine for small spaces. Also the most expensive Flyswatter £1.99, Maplins funnels £1.99, Screw top tumblers x 3 £3.00, Tea Strainer £1.50, brass strip £1.00 cost about £9.50.
In Part 2 we’ll take a look at the techniques used to apply static grass to your layout.