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Build a Static Grass Applicator for Model Train Scenery


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Build a Static Grass Applicator
grass applicator parts

You can build your own static grass applicator by attaching a kitchen sieve to an electric bug zapper and two extra wires.

©2012 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The "state-of-the-art" in model railroad ground cover has gone from dyed sawdust to ground foam and now onto "static grass." This material is a fine filament that, when applied to the layout with a static electric charge, will stand vertically and represents fine blades of grass, weeds or other plants. The material can also be applied to trees to represent pine needles and many other uses.

Simulated grasses have been around for many years. You can even make your own from twine and other products. The challenge with these however is that each clump had to be planted individually by hand. This is ok for smaller applications, but planting an entire field can take hours and yield rough results.

The static grass applicator and material makes covering any area easy. The only downside for many modelers has been the high upfront cost of the tool. Typically, static grass tools are priced at about $130.00 - about the cost of a new locomotive in many scales.

If you have a large layout, the cost is certainly worth it. But what if you have a smaller layout or budget?

Fortunately, these are not very complicated devices. With a little work and some basic skills, you can build your own in about 30 minutes and for around $10.00.


Here's what you'll need to get started:

  1. Electric Fly Swatter - The one shown here came from Harbor Freight and retails for around $8.00. (They are often on sale for as little as $3.00)
  2. Sieve - These can be found in a kitchen supply store, or the home section of most department / discount stores for around $3.00.
  3. Alligator Clip - Any hardware or electronics store. A small pack will cost a few dollars and the rest can be used to make test leads or just as convenient miniature clamps.
  4. Wire - About two feet of stranded wire - 18 gauge works well, but size is not that critical (use whatever you have on hand from your layout.)
  5. Electrical Tape
  6. Small Wood Shims
  7. Batteries - You know they're never included!


The applicator can be built with only a few basic tools:

  1. Soldering Iron / Gun
  2. Motor Tool with Metal Cutting Disk
  3. Screwdriver
  4. Wire Strippers / Cutters
  5. Wire Crimping Tool

Let's get started!

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