• The Best Static Grass Applicator (part deux)

    Michael W had posted in the original thread that a friend of his built a 120V static grass applicator and thought it was great. A while back I purchased a 120V negative ion generator to build a new static grass applicator. After reading Michael's thread I decided I should get moving on mine. It took a while but today I finally finished my new applicator.

    The short version-
    My conclusion? Michael's friend is right! 120 volts makes a noticeable difference and the cost is still extremely low.

    The long version-
    I used a cheap flashlight for the main body that houses the guts of the thing. I drilled holes in the end for a power cord, a fuse holder and an indicator lamp. I used the opening for the flashlights on/off switch to mount a momentary pushbutton.

    At the other end I took the plastic lens out but left the black retaining ring that holds it in place. A large pill bottle serves as the resevoir for the static grass. I glued it to the retaining ring. I cut the top off the lid and press fit a steel screen. The screen had openings that I thought would be too large so I cut a second screen and put it in with the wires about 45 degrees from the first screen. I soldered the negative ion generator's output wire to the screens.

    A negative ion generator doesn't have a "ground" per se (I guess it would defeat the purpose since the current would just flow to ground and not generate ions). In order to make the static grass stand up there needs to be a ground which will attract the charged grass particle. I used the earth wire of the AC power cord to attach the ground clip.

    A few pictures.

    Here's the completed applicator. I'm using a 1/2A fast blow fuse. The ion generator pulls very little current, the indicator light draws many times more power than the ion generator.
    Attachment 9478

    This is the "business end". Two screens reduce the opening size and work really well.
    Attachment 9479

    The top screws off to load the static grass. I used a longish wire to connect the screens to the ion generator so that twisting stress is minimized.


    The results. As Michael's friend (remember the very beginning of this thread?) stated, the 120V applicator works great! It is noticeably better than my electronic flyswatter applicator and it worked pretty darn well. The applicator doesn't have to be nearly as close to the surface as with the old applicator to get virtually every blade of grass to stand up.
    Attachment 9480

    The above pic is 2mm static grass. Below is 6mm. My old static grass applicator had trouble getting 6mm grass to stand up straight. This one doesn't! You can see some 2mm grass at the right side of the picture.
    Attachment 9481

    So, while I was testing this applicator I had a mini-brainstorm. I've purchased some grass clumps and strips from Noch. These look really good but are a tad pricey. It occured to me that if I put dabs of glue or adhesive on a non-stick surface I might be able to make my own clumps and strips.

    I dabbed some Elmer's glue on waxed paper and then applied static grass. To my surprise the grass adhered to the glue dabs making perfect clumps. Why did that surprise me? Normally the recommendation for applying static grass is to use a nail or pin stuck in the glue area and clip the ground lead to it. The glue conducts electricity a bit and helps draw the grass down and make it stand up. I just stuck the pin through the wax paper but it wasn't near the glue. It still worked though.

    Attachment 9482

    When the glue dried I was able to get the clumps off but they sustained a little damage. Next I tried some clear silicone caulk. The resulting clumps looked just as good as with the glue. I had previously used this same caulk and this same waxed paper to make a waterfall for my layout so I know that once the caulk dries I'll be able to peel it off the waxed paper without damage.

    Total damages-
    120 volt negative ion generator- $5
    Flashlight- $2.50
    Fuse holder- $2
    Indicator light- $1
    Momentary pushbutton- $1.50
    Power cord- free, I cut it off a junked DVD player
    Metal screens- free, they were laying around in my box o' junk
    Pill bottle- free (if you don't count the prescription that came in it!)
    Total cost- $11.50

    --Sherman
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Best Static Grass Applicator (part deux) started by Sherman View original post
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. MetroRedLn's Avatar
      MetroRedLn -
      It's a CRIME that static grass applicators on the market cost so much!
    1. XF-15DCC's Avatar
      XF-15DCC -
      Great stuff. I never really new the grass looks that good. Well done
    1. Michael Whiteman's Avatar
      Michael Whiteman -
      Ya beat me to it Sherman. I was considering using a flashlight also, but the larger 6volt square battery type. I think I like your design better. I thought I would put the generator and grass in the same large cavity. I realize some residule grass would be always stuck to the wiring and such. I planned to let the flashlight lens ring capture the screen. By attaching the screen's wire to the rim of the flashlight above the threads, an actural soldered connection to the screen would not be necessary. After seeing yours, I might research the idea of a longer 4 battery flashlight. That way the generator could be at the rear with some sort of barrier and the grass could be loaded in the front end, eliminating the pill bottle. I am supper impressed with the results you got and your pictures are better than article's. Thanks for an excellant tutorial.
    1. musicman's Avatar
      musicman -
      Man! That looks great!
    1. scavengerj's Avatar
      scavengerj -
      Well your flyswatter one worked well for me, but I can see how this one works so much better. Thanks ever so much for the effort and review.
    1. Sherman's Avatar
      Sherman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Michael Whiteman View Post
      Ya beat me to it Sherman. I was considering using a flashlight also, but the larger 6volt square battery type. I think I like your design better. I thought I would put the generator and grass in the same large cavity. I realize some residule grass would be always stuck to the wiring and such. I planned to let the flashlight lens ring capture the screen. By attaching the screen's wire to the rim of the flashlight above the threads, an actural soldered connection to the screen would not be necessary. After seeing yours, I might research the idea of a longer 4 battery flashlight. That way the generator could be at the rear with some sort of barrier and the grass could be loaded in the front end, eliminating the pill bottle. I am supper impressed with the results you got and your pictures are better than article's. Thanks for an excellant tutorial.
      I don't see why having the generator and grass in the same compartment wouldn't work fine. The ion generator I have (and it looks like all the surplus ones I've seen offered) is completely sealed. It might even be waterproof though I wouldn't want to test that. The thing I would worry about is the grass getting into the switch or other wiring causing shorts. That's why I isolated the grass in a separate chamber. The high voltage wire runs through a small hole in the base of the pill bottle and the hole is sealed. I used Liquid Nails to seal it but silicone caulk would work as well.

      I didn't really take any photos while assembling the unit. I sort of get focused on what I'm doing and forget about the pics. However the whole thing is so simple that step-by-step pics probably aren't necessary. Here is a wiring diagram for the way I put mine together. When connecting anything to mains power I use a fuse. Also I like to know if the circuit is energized (or at least should be engergized) so I used an indicator lamp. There is no circuitry for rectifying and dropping the line voltage so the indicator lamp must be a 120V device.

      Attachment 9498
      One other thing to note- the ion generator has a plastic tab with a hole in it. That is to allow it to be mounted to whatever it was originally designed to go into. In order to get it to fit into a flashlight body I cut that tab off. There is no circuitry or wiring in the tab and it is plastic so it is easy to remove. I used a razor saw. Or you could use a larger diameter tube for the body and leave the tab in place.

      Edit: Oops, forgot to mention, though the diagram makes it obvious, the AC power cord should be the type with a three prong plug and three internal wires. White is common, black is hot and green is ground (at least with single phase 120V in the USA). Since the ion generator has only two input wires (white and black) the green ground wire from the AC line cord is the place to connect the grounding lead.

      --Sherman
    1. Jazzbass01's Avatar
      Jazzbass01 -
      Where did you source parts for this???
    1. Sherman's Avatar
      Sherman -
      JazzBass,

      I got my ion generator from All Electronics (an online electronics surplus shop) for $4.50 but I was just checking and they appear to be sold out, at least I couldn't find one with the search feature. However Electronic Goldmine has the exact item but it is slight more than twice as much at $10.95.

      The flashlight came from Walgreen's in a two-pack including batteries. I think the two-pack was $5 or $6. The N.O. momentary pushbutton was an All Electronics item as was the fuse holder, fuses and indicator lamp. The fuse holder is for AGC (3AG) fuses. Beyond that all you need is something to put the static grass in with a metal screen at one end and a 3 prong AC line cord. You can get the line cord at All Electronics also. If you have to buy a line cord they run from $3 up.

      Suitable Indicator- http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a...P-AMBER/1.html
      Pushbutton- http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a...-BUTTON/1.html
      Fuse Holder- http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a...-HOLDER/1.html
      AC Line Cord- http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a...ER-CORD/1.html

      The main part though is the negative ion generator. Here is the exact model I used, it just costs more.
      Electronic Goldmine Negative Ion Generator- http://www.goldmine-elec-products.co...p?number=G1783

      Hope this helps. Since both All Electronics and Electronic Goldmine are surplus places their stock changes. It is possible that tomorrow All Electronics will have the ion generators again.

      --Sherman
    1. code40's Avatar
      code40 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sherman View Post
      JazzBass,

      I got my ion generator from All Electronics (an online electronics surplus shop) for $4.50 but I was just checking and they appear to be sold out, at least I couldn't find one with the search feature.
      Would this be it? http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a...IONIZER/1.html
    1. MetroRedLn's Avatar
      MetroRedLn -
      Quote Originally Posted by code40 View Post

      Oooh! I live only 20 minutes away from All Electronics! Their brick-and-mortar store is filled with all sorts of electronic (and related) knick-knacks!
    1. Sherman's Avatar
      Sherman -
      Quote Originally Posted by code40 View Post
      That's the one! I looked yesterday and searched for "ion", "negative ion", "generator" and every combination I could think of and couldn't find it! I never thought of looking under transformers. I guess it makes sense though as that is essentially what it is. It is the same part and model number as the one on Electronic Goldmine at less than half the price. The price saving on the ion generator will pay for all the other parts except the flashlight body.

      --Sherman
    1. Michael Whiteman's Avatar
      Michael Whiteman -
      Thanks Sherman. They are back in stock and I just ordered mine last night. Not that I need another project right now, but at this price you can't say NO. This is the kind of deal that always disappears on me when I go back later. I love this saying......On the plains of hesitation, bleach the bones of countless thousands.
    1. lazaro's Avatar
      lazaro -
      Great work and well described Sherman, thanks for the idea.

      Lázaro
    1. Charlie Central's Avatar
      Charlie Central -
      Sherman

      Great article. Ordered the parts tonight. Hope to build it soon.
    1. driverod's Avatar
      driverod -
      Hey Sherman...
      I built the "Flyswatter" version, it's OK, but not what I wanted. A friend pointed me to this artical and I'm so impressed I ordered the Neg. Ion Gen. last night. Now I'm trying to swipe my wifes flashlight <VBG>
      Great work, thanks.
      Don Perla
    1. Sherman's Avatar
      Sherman -
      Don,

      I think you'll be happy with this one. Let us know how it goes!

      I also built the flyswatter version and while it works OK I wanted a larger "hopper" for the grass that was sealed so the grass could only come out the bottom. I occasionally shook it hard enough to spill the grass over the top. This one solves that issue and the higher negative voltage gives an even better charge to the grass so it stands up better.

      I thought about building it in a section of PVC pipe. That would have worked just fine but would also have been a bit more work. The flashlight is an easy solution.

      --Sherman
    1. Michael Whiteman's Avatar
      Michael Whiteman -
      If you are looking for a flashlight, Walgreens Drug Store has a 2 pack w/batteries for $6 something. I chose one that is sold at Fred Meyers called "See & Be Seen". It comes apart in the middle of the handle and the two sections are partitioned off from each other eliminating half the design work. It has a LED light and the handle lights up with 3 different colors, one of which is blinking RED, This 3mm LED had to have been custom made because all 3 colors are in the same enclosure. With fiberoptics applied, I'm sure some of you guys with an over active imagination could come up with something to use this on. It's definitely worth a look see.

      Any plastic container with a screw on lid will work. I had considered using a protien suppliment container. Install all the electrical parts in the bottom of the container then dump in the grass. It won't hurt any thing if the grass gets on the case of the generator or the switch. Be sure and use heat shrink over all your electrical connections. If the grass comes out too fast, cut another screen and use two.
    1. Sherman's Avatar
      Sherman -
      Michael,
      I used the flashlights from Walgreens, well, I used one of them, the other is still in the package. That "See & Be Seen" thing sounds like a winner. With the sections partitioned no need to glue on the pill bottle, just fix the screen(s) in the bulb end and you are good to go!

      Making these things, whether from the electronic flyswatter or these 120V negative ion generators is so easy and inexpensive it makes me wonder why the commercial units cost >$160.

      --Sherman
    1. Michael Whiteman's Avatar
      Michael Whiteman -
      It wasn't till someone figured out that the ion generator was the heart of the system and located a supplier, that the secret was exposed. They made a huge profit in the begining, but I'm affraid that will be short lived as word gets around. Most of us don't have extra money to spend on overpriced items.
    1. driverod's Avatar
      driverod -
      Sherman & All,
      I found an old type boyscout/cubscout flashlight, the one shaped like the letter "L" it really is easy to hold at a 90 degree angle to the work surface. Cost me a $1.00 at a auction.
      The Ion Generaror came and the unit is completed, it works much better than the flyswatter type. The only thing I don't care for is the aluminum screen I used, hard to solder to, and I think it would work better with steel or copper screeing. I'll try to locate some somewhere.
      I used Woodland Scenics flock, can't say I like it very much. It "clumps" together and seems to be kinda short.... maybe I need to get used to it. I do need to find longer flocking material.
      Don