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Thread: Ballast and Static Electricity - *SOLVED*

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    Default Ballast and Static Electricity - *SOLVED*

    All eager to ballast your track, you get that bottle out, pour some into a folded index card to use as an applicator and you get a small amount on the track. You push, prod, brush and sweep, but it mostly just clumps up, sticking to your brush, on top of the ties and on the side of the rails. No amount of careful brushing helps- in fact it gets worse!



    DRAT!

    CURSE YOU STATIC CLING!

    It's just as annoying as your socks sticking to your shirts in the dryer, but at least there you have antistatic dryer sheets to fix that.

    Wait a minute... (goes off to snag a dryer sheet from the laundry room)

    Let's just wipe the track down and apply some ballast.



    AHAH!

    Now the ballast lays down smoothly, a brush does its job as intended. Excellent.

    And now my ballast smells like fresh laundry!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Vegaman Dan View Post
    All eager to ballast your track, you get that bottle out, pour some into a folded index card to use as an applicator and you get a small amount on the track. You push, prod, brush and sweep, but it mostly just clumps up, sticking to your brush, on top of the ties and on the side of the rails. No amount of careful brushing helps- in fact it gets worse!

    https://www.nscale.net/forums/attach...7&d=1614664889

    DRAT!

    CURSE YOU STATIC CLING!

    It's just as annoying as your socks sticking to your shirts in the dryer, but at least there you have antistatic dryer sheets to fix that.

    Wait a minute... (goes off to snag a dryer sheet from the laundry room)

    Let's just wipe the track down and apply some ballast.

    https://www.nscale.net/forums/attach...8&d=1614664889

    AHAH!

    Now the ballast lays down smoothly, a brush does its job as intended. Excellent.

    And now my ballast smells like fresh laundry!
    That is something not many would have thought of. You have done a good job with the final project.

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    Interesting but at the end of the day, the "quality of the ballasting work" comes down to the amount of care and time taken to spread the ballast. Going by the last picture above, there was more time taken spreading the ballast between the rails than was taken spreading it along the outside of the rails. Either that or "dryer sheets" don't work all that well for the outside of the rails.
    Cheers Tony

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    Attempts to shape the ballast resulted in particles clinging to the rails, brush, etc. No amount of effort, careful or not, reduced this behavior.

    Mind you, this was Woodland Scenics, which is not real rock like some suppliers so likely not reacting the same way.

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    I've never had this problem. Could the static cling issue be due to an environmental factor in your layout room? Perhaps it has very low humidity and/or static-prone carpeting?

    Metro Red Ln (Metro Red Line)
    Under the streets of Los Angeles

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    @MetroRedLn

    Static is caused by two (or more materials) having opposing ion compositions. Materials with negatively charged ions will repel materials with negatively charged ions. Materials with positively charged ions will repel materials with positively charged ions. Nickel/Silver (track Rails), plastic (Track Ties) and ground foam (Ballast) all produce negatively charged ions; therefore, they will repel one another not attract one another in the same way the negative pole of a magnet will repel another negative magnet pole. As such, static electricity where rails, ties and ballast is concerned here, is not the reason for why ballast ends up where it ends up.

    As you mentioned Metro, you along with a great many others here (myself included) have never had a problem laying ballast and getting it where it is suppose to go.

    As a foot note, apparently hair and fur are made up of positive ions and could explain why the OP has an issue with ballast sticking to his brush, if he uses a natural bristle brush. If that is the case, use a nylon or synthetic bristle brush instead and that will resolve the ballast sticking to it issue; although, some ballast (especially the foam variety) will tend to stick to a brush especially if the brush isn't a stiff type.
    Last edited by wombat457; 2nd Mar 2021 at 05:01 AM. Reason: Footnote
    Cheers Tony

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    If you use real crushed rock or sand and not crushed walnut shells, static electricity is not an issue.

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    The effect happens if natural or synthetic brushes are used, finger tips, wood sticks, etc. I used metal tools as well.

    Real stone ballast does not have this issue, but I am not using that so not really relevant.

    Short answer is that the dryer sheet works. It also works well to wipe your tools and clothes with if you are working with shaping foam scenery bases for the same issues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vegaman Dan View Post
    The effect happens if natural or synthetic brushes are used, finger tips, wood sticks, etc.

    The good news is that you probably won't need a static grass applicator to do grasses!

    Great solution to sticky issue!
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    Thanks hadn't tried this yet. I had the same problem , WS ballast and foam base ( that is blue foam isn't it ?) , I solved it by painting the foam with an acrylic paint before ballasting, works well for the outside of the rails . Have got to try your method for the inside of the track.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vegaman Dan View Post
    Wait a minute... (goes off to snag a dryer sheet from the laundry room)

    Let's just wipe the track down and apply some ballast.
    And what residue, if any, is swiping the rail with a dryer sheet leaving behind? Or, in other words, is the Law of Unintended Consequences waiting to pounce.

    Well, let's look at them. Dryer sheets contain many ingredients, but the most common are:

    1) dipalmethyl hydroxyethylammoinum methosulfate, a softening and antistatic agent. The jury seems to be out on the toxicity of this compound.

    2) fatty acid, a softening agent.

    3) polyester substrate, a carrier.

    4) clay, a rheology modifier, which helps control the viscosity of the coating as it begins to melt in the dryer.

    Now, Vegaman Dan, you can wipe whatever you choose on your layout. Makes no nevermind to me. But I'm filing this idea under "Nothing Good Can Come From This."

    Maybe going over the rails with a piece of relatively benign aluminum foil would work as well, as balled up aluminum foil is often used in lieu of dryer sheets as an anti-static material.

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    From the electronics world ... treat it as a grounding issue.

    Turn off the power to tracks.

    Buy a grounding wrist strap from Ebay.

    Ground yourself to the track and the track to electrical Earth ground.

    When finished, remove the grounding connections.

    You're welcome.
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    Fair enough. What came of it was a working solution and ballast that laid down properly, so it worked for me. I'll go with real world results over theory every time.

    Besides, did you miss the important part of having the track smell laundry fresh?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vegaman Dan View Post
    Besides, did you miss the important part of having the track smell laundry fresh?
    I liked that part! Goodness knows the layout room could use a bit more, uh, genteel ambience?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vegaman Dan View Post
    Fair enough. What came of it was a working solution and ballast that laid down properly, so it worked for me. I'll go with real world results over theory every time.
    Ground straps is real world results. That's why the entire electronics industry uses ground straps ...

    Master Po - "Accept the ways of others, respect first your own"

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    IF you believe you have problems with static electricity while doing your ballast then ballasting is the least of your problems:

    Electrostatic Discharge or ESD is an important issue in the electronics industry today. The integrated circuits used to create DCC Decoders and other items are sensitive to static electricity, and can be damaged or destroyed by a static electricity discharge.



    Cheers Tony

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    "It is easy to criticize ... a lot harder when you have to justify it"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    I liked that part! Goodness knows the layout room could use a bit more, uh, genteel ambience?
    Being new here, I thought that the "genteel ambiance" was created by the beer, ale or single malt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu View Post
    Being new here, I thought that the "genteel ambiance" was created by the beer, ale or single malt.
    Oh, you're fitting in quite well already!

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    I'll raise a glass to @Stu!

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