Phil's Practical - Use an electronic static grass tool


If you plan a lot of scenery, or you're looking to build several layouts in the future, an electronic static grass tool is a wise investment. We show you how to get the best from one.

We're going to use a hopper-type grass tool. There are several designs and they all work in the same way. You fit batteries in the handle and the top, with a mesh in it, unscrews so you can pour grass fibres in. Once loaded, remember to keep the mesh upwards, or it can get very messy! There's no need to fill it up, the tool doesn't care how little is in the hopper.

Make up a mix of grass fibres using a few different colours. We like to start with a 50:50 beige and green mix for summer grass. If you model the spring, use a bit less beige, for autumn and winter, a bit more. Look carefully at photos to gauge the right colours. We also mix different manufacturer's materials - they all work the same way so there isn't a problem doing this.

Paint PVA glue over the area to be grassed. Work on patches around 20cm square at a time while you are learning. Let the glue dry slightly so it is sticky to the touch.

The grass tool has to be earthed. Push a pin into the glue and clip the lead to this, or clip the lead to the metal part of a screwdriver and push that into the glue. Whatever you do, do not clip it to the rails. Switch the tool on and shake it so the fibres fall out on to the glue. As they fall through the mesh, they will be charged with static electricity and should stand up straight when they land in the glue.

Put a handkerchief over the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner and suck up the excess fibres. These can be returned to the hopper for re-use. As well as tidying the layout, this encourages the lazier fibres to stand up straight.

As the glue dries and becomes clear, the grass will darken slightly. Hopefully, you have a nice, even covering, which looks a lot better than traditional scatter on its own. The trouble is, unless you are modelling a lawn, it a bit too tidy.

Our embankment needs a bit of texture, so the dry grass is sprayed with hair lacquer and then either treated to another coat of static grass, or a sprinkle of scatter powder.

By using a mix of fine and coarse scatters plus a few yellow grains, the result is a realistic undergrowth

Looking for more information? We used a static grass tool in a recent layout build, the video below shows some of the techniques described above: