• $5 (or less) Static Grass Applicator!

    I made my static grass applicator this evening. As usual I got so caught up in working on it I didn't take photos until it was finished. All I can say is wow! It actually works and works well!

    I started with an "Electronic Fly Swatter" from Harbor Freight Tools. I went by the local store and picked it up on sale for $2.99! The modification is a piece of cake. Take out 5 screws on the back of the handle and open it up. The swatter part lifts out. I pried the swatter part open and cut the wires feeding it as long as possible in case I needed the length.

    Next I took a test lead with alligator clips on both ends and cut one of the clips off, stripped the wire and soldered it to one of the wires that feed the zapping part of the swatter. It really doesn't make any difference which wire you use, positive or negative. what matters is that the grass picks up a charge and that the other wire has the opposite change. The wire is about 18 inches long from the handle to the remaining alligator clip. Now comes the hardest part of the whole thing (and it really isn't all that hard!). I took a strainer and cut part of the handle off so the cup part of the strainer would be close enough to the handle to run the remaining wire to it. Then I drilled two holes in the strainer handle to line up with the screw holes. I covered the feeder wire with heat-shrink tubing up to the strainer cup, poked the wire through the mesh and then back through. I soldered the wire to the mesh (difficult because the mesh dissipates heat really well). Finally I cut two pieces of self-adhesive foam the shape of the tip of the swatter handle and attached one piece to each side of the handle. It seals up the opening left from removing the big plastic fly swatter paddle.

    That's it, the whole thing took less than an hour.

    To use it just spread some glue on the area to receive grass. I used WS Foam Tack glue since I had some. I laid down a short bead from the bottle and spread it out with a small brush. Next stick a nail or pin into the glue and attach the alligator clip. Now put some static grass in the strainer and push the button. Hold the bottom of the strainer close to the layout surface and tap the handle NOT THE STRAINER. Move the strainer around the area to be covered and continue tapping. Be very careful not to let the strainer touch the nail or alligator clip. It won't damage the device but the resulting spark and quite loud POP is sufficient to startle you into jerking your hand away thus sending a cloud of static grass into the air. (Don't ask how I know that!) A future modification might be some type of cover for the strainer to prevent such accidents.

    The static grass picks up a charge from the metal of the strainer as it falls through and is attracted to the opposite charge on the layout created by the nail. It really does stand on end! [A small disclaimer here- I've only tried it with 2mm static grass so far. I want to pick up some 4mm and maybe 6mm and try it.]

    Does it work as well as the $189 applicator? I have no idea, I've never used the expensive one, it seems, well, too expensive. What I do know is that it works great and the price is definitely right. Pick up a fly swatter and give it a try!

    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Rob_H's Avatar
      Rob_H -
      Awesome! thanks for sharing. I need to try this
    1. pbechard's Avatar
      pbechard -
      I did something like this years ago too - works great.
    1. Tlaswell's Avatar
      Tlaswell -
      Wow fantastic! I have heard of someone making their own but never saw what it looked like or head of how they made it. This sounds easy. Gives me an excuse to buy one of those cheap swatters that I thought were useless. I always figured if you could hit the fly with a regular swatter there is no reason to use an electric one.
    1. Maurice's Avatar
      Maurice -
      I have a couple of questions for you. Does your device use AA batteries or D-cells? How close do you need to hold the strainer to the layout surface.
    1. jhn_plsn's Avatar
      jhn_plsn -
      I built one years ago and have used it often. Works ok, but the units made for the application seem to obtain better results. I suppose it could be those using the pricey units use a better static grass product.

      Maurice, I had to have the electrified strainer within an inch of the glued application surface in order to see any effect. The fly swatter uses D batteries and they will give you a frightful zap if not careful.

      My final opinion is if in a pinch go for it, but if you have the cash buy the units that are made for the task. Oh, and get the funnel shaped tool for smaller spaces.
    1. mhampton's Avatar
      mhampton -
      I just got one of the swatters with a "free with any purchase" coupon. I made a $1.70 purchase of some thread sealer and now only need to buy a sieve.
    1. jimbo.0455's Avatar
      jimbo.0455 -
      Check the dollar stores...
    1. Olie's Avatar
      Olie -
      I just made my own static grass applicator for around $20-$25. Most expensive part was the negative ion generator at $16. Works very well. I'm using Ground Force 9 grass so it's fairly short, approximately 1-2 mm. Makes a bit of a mess outside the cup so I don't think I'd be able to use the flyswatter unit. I'd get more everywhere else! I found if I wipe the applicator cup, handle and wire with a dryer sheet, the grass doesn't go all over as badly. Maybe that would work with the flyswatter one as well.
    1. Witchdoctor40's Avatar
      Witchdoctor40 -
      Looks great. I am definitely interested in giving that a try.
    1. Barry B's Avatar
      Barry B -
      Hi I'm Barry and, new to this forum I've been into Model Railroading for most of my life and this is definitely a project I plan to make. I have some of these type of fly swatters but mine use AA batteries.
    1. New2N's Avatar
      New2N -
      Thanks for the inspiration Sherman. I made mine yesterday with a $3.99 electronic flyswatter from our newly opened Harbor Freight. I soldered the 2 yellow wires to the basket of the strainer & soldered a test lead to the red wire and used some heat shrink tubing over the joint. Uses 2 AA batteries works great!

      Thanks again for sharing
      Richard Lee