Thursday, February 21, 2013

Static Grass

Active readers of this blog will know my passion for high quality terrain.  With a few upcoming display board projects I determined it was high time to experiment some new materials and techniques, as well as see what all the fuss is about with static grass applicators.  Here are the materials and tools I used in my experiments detailed below..  

1 – In this first example I applied a 1 to 1 PVA glue to water mix directly on the ½” blue extruded polystyrene foam.   I then applied the late Summer bulk static grass to the surface using the static grass applicator.  It was really easy to use as I just pushed a small nail into the foam, connected the ground clip to nail and then sifted the static grass over the glue while pushing the device’s trigger.  What I found was the applicator did work as advertised as the static grass stood up on end to give a realistic effect.  One thing I noticed is that the closer I moved the sifter to the work surface the stronger the static build up and the straighter the static grass would stand.  One glaring issue with this first test was that a brown undercoat is needed to prevent the blue foam from showing through.  

2 – I wasn’t entirely convinced yet about the static grass applicator so I decided on a head to head test with the Noch puffer bottle.  I applied diluted brown paint over the entire area.  In the bottom half of the area I applied the static grass over the wet paint with the applicator.  On the top half of the area I applied the static grass using the puffer bottle.  To use the bottle you load it about half full then shake the bottle, supposedly to build up static electricity, then sprinkle the grass out of the top opening.  Both methods achieved the same realistic results and you would be hard pressed to tell the areas apart.   

 That being said, the static grass applicator was much quicker to use than the puffer bottle.  I also think additional testing with longer static grasses is in order as I think using longer 4mm or 6mm static grasses would decrease the effectiveness of the puffer bottle.  Looking at the sample in test 2 I was still not satisfied with the depth of grass. 
3 – Next I wanted to build up the grass texture to make it look more convincing than the previous examples.  For this test I applied brown paint over the entire area.  I then applied the farm pasture flock and turf blend over the wet paint.  Because it’s mainly foam the static applicator is really not required, but the sifter does work great.  After leaving it to dry I applied 1 to 1 PVA glue to water mix on top of the flock followed by the late summer static grass using the static grass applicator.  I was really happy with the results but I was concerned about the durability of the texture as the flock layer was adhered only with paint rather than a layer of glue. 

4 - In this last example I painted the area brown and let it dry.  I covered the area in 1 to 1 PVA glue to water mix and applied the farm pasture flock and turf blend.  After letting the glue dry I applied more PVA glue and water mix on top of the flock and then applied the static grass with the applicator.  Below is a side by side comparison with (right) and without (left) under layer of flock. It's easy to see the increased height the flock layer gives the grass, which makes is more dense and IMO more realistic.

Here is a shot of the final result.

In conclusion when using 2mm static grass (which is the standard size sold for war gaming) both the Noch bottle or the static grass applicator will get you nice results.  However, if you have the extra $25 I highly recommend going with the static grass applicator as it's much quicker on large surfaces.  

 In the next installment I will look at incorporating additional materials and applying these techniques to actual terrain as well as miniature bases. 


Euan said...

Thank you. This sort of info is really useful when planning a terrain building purchase. I've made a "bug-zapper" static grass applicator, but I'm too chicken to try it out in case it shorts the batteries and explodes. I'll have a look see shop bought one.

retroalias said...

Thanks for the feedback! I was planning on building my own and found this cheap alternative on EBay. Works like a champ and can't wait for the next terrain project.

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