Warning: The "grassinator" has a static electric charge which will cause momentary pain and discomfort if the jumper wire and strainer are touched simultaneously. This device should not be used by children without adult supervision. The discharge is between that of a normal dry air static electricity "spark" and a electric livestock fence. Please use CAUTION!!!
I am building modules and am developing several in HO scale. I wrote an article about using faux fur to emulate scale grass. The article was published in the March 2005 Railroad Model Craftsman and a more complete unabridged version is available on the website. I am always looking for new ways to make "grass".
Static grass and the "Grassinator" have become the rage in hobby due to the internet and the electric flyswatter as a static grass applicator. Louis Gomes aka desertdrover had a write-up in Railroad Line Forums about a simple version of the "Grassinator"- Electric Fly Swatter Static Grass Applicator. Inspired by his article I evolved this idea.
You will need a Electric Fly Swatter, Harbor Freight has them usually for $2.99, a strainer with a metal handle and a alligator clip jumper. This method requires no soldering but looks very ugly.
(Click Images to Enlarge)
Remove the top of the handle and pry open the yellow head. There are two wires coming from the electrical section. One goes to the mesh and the other goes to the cross wires. Disconnect the one to the cross wires. Pull it out and put it at the junction of the head and the handle. That is the ground wire.
Close up the handle. Make sure you don't lose the little yellow button for the switch. D-oh!!! I found only putting the two long screws at the head end make putting the batteries in so much easier. Slide the strainer handle between the bars and the mesh. That is it. There are bunches of articles on the Internet but this takes five minutes.
The jumper wire attaches to the wire and grounds to the scenery base.
To use the device spread glue or latex paint out on the scenery surface. The "grassinator" is grounded to the nail. The static grass is sifted through the strainer onto the surface. There are many good article on the internet about this topic so I won't go into applications here. The static grass stands up well but I was disappointed with the results. The flock is too uniform.
The Fall of Faux Fur as Grass
I was building S scale modules in the mid-1980's and Dave Frary's colored sawdust was the in method of grassinating. An article in Railroad Model Craftsman describing the use of a Wimshurst machine was published in RMC to make grass stand up. I borrowed one from a friend who was a High School Science teacher. The Wimshurst machine produce a charge that would raise the dead. The sawdust stood right up but still looked like sawdust. Eric Bronsky had an article in the mid-80's about faux fur grass. The problem was limited to the colors available, all bad. There was no way to color the acrylic. The holy grail of grass then was the Faller static grass and their little puff bottle. It worked in a very small area and could not be found except by Indiana Jones.
I found a way of coloring faux fur in 2004. My method of coloring fur grass had the same impact as other faux fur articles. I don't think anyone ever used it or even tried coloring faux fur with my method. Silflor came along and was easy but outrageously expensive. That begat the "Static Grass" rush. Shortly after the article was published in March 2005 I was at the train show in Timonium, Maryland. I was at the Scenic Express booth examining some Silflor. I began talking to the guy and remarked that I was comparing it with my faux fur grass in the RMC article. To my astonishment he said that everyone was looking for something like the faux fur in the article. I am happy to see that people were inspired by the article to seek something better than sawdust and ground foam for grass. There is hope in the modeling community.
I also would like to thank Paul Scoles for presenting coloring faux fur with acrylic paint in a clinic at the 2004 National Narrow Gauge Convention. I tried that and it didn't work but led me to Dye-na-flow and faux fur grass.
I clipped off some faux fur and ran it through the "grassinator". It proved sketchy results. Static grass will be added to my arsenal for another texture but the results weren't what I was looking for. It looks better in the pictures of layouts than real life.
My original article on faux fur dealt with California's golden grass and O scale. Here is "Mink" faux fur colored green and trimmed to HO ankle length with a Preiser HO guy.
Longer length "Mink" with our HO guy
This is plush felt colored green with Dye-na-flow showing an N scale figure.
Our original California Golden Grass, plush felt with our HO guy
And before you e-mail me about pot-toppers, yeah, I have some. Here with piled faux fur bushes and an N-scale man.
That is a Wimshurst machine.