A side step into scenery work – electrostatic grass applicator.

G’day All,

One of the activities I’ve been involved in this last weekend was setting up a `proof of concept’ electrostatic grass applicator. There are a lot of sites and YOUTUBEs that show how to make these beasties and so all I will do is roughly outline my own particular circumstances, approach, and suggestions for improvements.

First off, a better explanation than mine:


Firstly the electronic flyswatter:

I purchased mine from the local Lyal Eales store:


but you can find them at lots of discount stores. Mine cost $10.00, actually $20.00, because my wife `secured’ the first one I bought after we found out how good it was at zapping the large ‘blow’ flies we get around here.

When you unscrew the body of the swatter you find the following:

With the battery holder, only place the batteries into it when everything else is done, the experience of a `short’  is quite memorable!!

I have done my temporary wiring with sheathed alligator clips. I chose the red covered wire as the active wire to connect to the shaker. The white covered wire  is the `earth’. In the Railroad Line Forum web page the flyswatter has uninsulated wire.

In most builds of the applicator a strainer is used, either all metal, as in the web page referred to, or a metal mesh in a plastic frame. I tried the all metal version and didn’t feel comfortable with the WHOLE OF THE FIXTURE IS CAPABLE OF ZAPPING anything it touched. I couldn’t find a metal mesh strainer with plastic frame, but in my search of the local “IGA”  supermarket I found the small flour sifter shown below:

While it has a metal mesh, the rest of the structure is safely plastic. Confusing I know, but the white covered wire you see here is connected to the RED covered wire on the swatter.

At present I am using the flour sifter by itself without any physical connection to the swatter except the single wire. Not a lot of control in some ways, and a bit of a pain to refill/change colours, but a lot safer than the all metal strainer which is the present alternative.

The EARTH side of the circuit is connected to the scenery base via a nail or screw. The base is doused with a 50-50 mix of water and PVA glue.

Being deficient of a third hand/arm I could not take a photo of actually applying the static grass. Essentially, place some static grass in the flour sifter/strainer. Push down and hold down the micro-switch. Move the sifter/strainer to only a couple of centimetres ( just under an inch) above the  glue area and gently shake it. The static grass should fall out and land in the glue standing upwards. The extra stuff can be vacuumed up, or shaken off if you’re using a small module, after the glue has dried.


The results in terms of with/without comparisons:

My static grass was bought via E-Bay in the form of a ‘4 seasons’ pack from a war games scenery supplier in the U.K.  It was a cheap way to get a variety of colours. The lengths of the fibers vary from just over 2mm to 4mm, which is perhaps a bit long for N scale green grass (it scales at one to two foot (30cm to 60cm))

Never the less, the following two photo’s of two made in China N scale figures, complete with a young girl carrying a teddy bear (just back from the fun fair?) suggests it could pass for `rough’ untended grass on the side of a road.

The hobby budget for March will allow some  purchases from the Modeller’s Warehouse:


where 2mm length fibers are available and a good selection of colours. I will have to peruse my photo’s of the Timboon branch to find out the better colours to choose.

Planned improvements/changes:

  • Obtaining a plastic framed strainer.
  • Conferring with my brother the electronics expert on how best to replace the existing on/off micro switch with a single-pole-double-throw micro switch and resistor combination. This would allow the  the stored static charge in the metal mesh to return to `earth’ in a controlled manner when the micro switch is released.

Overall I have found the static grass experience to be nothing short of OH WOW! As I look back on the hobby I remember when modellers were content/endured with dyed sawdust, then came Woodlands Scenics and ground foam. It is now most likely about to become the age of static grass. What next? Nanobots programmed to assemble individual blades of grass and leaves?




1 Comment

Filed under Model Railways, Uncategorized

One response to “A side step into scenery work – electrostatic grass applicator.

  1. Adrian Cooper

    I knew if I waited around, I would not have to spend $300 on the German made grass applicator! What you have is a great set up, so might have to get myself motivated. Great photos.

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