Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ZAP!

Said the grassinator.

My weekend project (actually, this was a couple weekends ago but I haven't had the time to post or the material to test it so the post has been gathering dust in edit status) has been to assemble the bits and pieces gathered over a few days to build a static grass applicator.

I can't remember how long ago I first saw a Noch Gras-Master in one of the hobby magazines, but I do remember thinking it was as cool an idea as I had ever seen. Of course that was before I considered DCC. But the concept of being able to model grass in HO scale somehow caught my fancy. Not $200 worth of fancy though. As a result, the idea was filed in the ever growing "things I'll buy after Mrs. L4T wins the lottery" file.

And then, last year I caught wind of this: a static grass applicator you can make yourself for just a fraction of the cost of the factory built unit! I immediately started to think about maybe one day considering building one. It seemed to have all the traits of a great project-it was cheap, you got to use neat things like butter tubs as part of the hobby, it involved working with thousands of volts of electricity, (did I mention it was cheap), and all the reviews said it worked as well as or even better than the Noch. It doesn't get much better than to dream about combining model railroading with extreme high voltage electricty on a budget!

A few weeks ago I saw another mention of the "grassinator" and surfed on over to Goldmine Electronics to order not just one, but two, 120 volt negative ion generators. Heck, I figured maybe you connect them in series for even MORE power. And so it came about that a couple of weeks ago I found myself cobbling the unit together, with the screen from a 50 cent strainer grabbed at the Dollar Store in Sleepy Eye, a leftover switch, a sour cream container, some PVC pipe, and my precious ($4.95 each) ion generator.


I snapped a few photos of the finished unit before clamping it in a bench for a test. Flipping the switch on with a stick didn't blow any fuses, so I decided to move the ground up to the screen and was rewarded with a satisfying "sizzle" indicating voltage was indeed present.


Lacking static grass, I grabbed some "field" grass from Woodland Scenics and snipped it up into little pieces to test the machine. The results were thoroughly underwhelming. Turns out you really do need what they call static grass to get the stand-up look we're trying to achieve.


And so I ordered a couple of jugs of static grass, and yesterday when I got home it was waiting for me. A quick trip to the basement for a test of concept resulted in this:


Now that's more like it. That stand up, airy look is what I went to all this effort for. I was pretty excited that the machine seemed to work just like the internet had told me it would.

So tonight, I picked a small section of layout as the test site for my grassinator. Here's how it looked after about 10 minutes, including the time to prep the surface with a mix of white glue and water:


I'm pretty happy with it, especially so as this is really my first go-round with a static grass applicator.


The lesson: if you are interested in modeling realistic looking grass, by all means, consider building a static grass applicator. Model railroading is supposed to be fun, and this project was.

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