What is static grass?
Let’s start with the basics, if you haven’t used it before, static grass is a material used to create ground cover vegetation such as grass, meadows, and other types of foliage on miniature landscapes. It’s been around since the early 2000s and adds a level of realism to a layout, diorama or war gaming miniature base that’s hard to beat.
There are of course other types of ground cover, one of the most common being scatter. The main difference between static grass and its popular rival is that while scatter is usually made up of small pieces of material, such as sawdust, that are sprinkled over a surface to create a textured look, static grass consists of individual fibres, typically made from a material such as polyurethane or nylon.
And when these fine lightweight fibres are electrostatically charged they stand up, looking like individual blades of grass rather than a big clump of material. In so doing they better mimic the look of natural grass. For this reason, static makes a great choice for creating detailed, realistic-looking landscapes and takes a layout or diorama to the next level.
There are many different makes of static grass available on the market, each with its own unique features and characteristics. The first brand known to use it was Noch but some other well-known makes now include Woodland Scenics, WWScenics, GaugeMaster and Jarvis. You can, of course, also make your own static grass
These manufacturers and others offer it in a variety of lengths and colours, from bright green to autumnal hues, which means it can be used to create realistic-looking landscapes in any season.
How to apply static grass
Here is the basic technique I suggest to all beginners. If you want the best-looking static grass and more tips, read this guide on how to apply static grass from the creator of some of the best miniature meadows and grassland I’ve seen.
MRE tips for applying static grass :
What length of static grass for your scale
As mentioned, static grass comes in a variety of lengths, from 1mm to 10mm. Here’s what I suggest for common scales.
For British N scale model railways, lengths of 1mm for garden or lawn grass are best; with 2 and 4mm for long field grass. For international N gauge, use 2mm and 6mm respectively.
For OO/HO gauge track, you’ll want grass between 2 and 6mm depending on the length of the real grass you’re modelling.
For 28mm war gaming figure bases and scenery, 1 to 2mm is the length of static grass that works best for short lawn grass, for fields and long grass 4 to 6mm is my recommendation.
This is based on 28mm figures being between 1:56 and 1:60 scale. An average length of lawn grass is around 2 inches – in my garden in Surrey UK at least – which equates to 1mm while long grass, of around 1 foot, will be 6mm+.
Disadvantages of static grass
As you might have guessed, I’m a big fan of static grass, it takes layouts and miniatures in particular, to a different level but there are disadvantages. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that it can take a while to master applying it. Many beginners often find their static grass doesn’t stand up correctly – which is after all the whole point. Following the tips above and using an applicator will help but perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can give is to practice before applying it to your diorama. It’s hard to remove after application and it’ll ruin another otherwise nice scene if done wrongly. So practice practice, with an applicator on paper first.
Another problem is that over time, even perfectly laid static grass can flatten out. Don’t assume just before you’ve got it perfect now it’ll stay that way, it won’t. Once or twice a year, I rework static grass areas on my layouts, working over the grass with a brush or comb-cleaning fork/brush.
This being said, these advantages can be overcome and I still recommend using it on your layouts, dioramas and miniature scenes.
What’s the best glue for static grass
Until recently I’ve always used PVA (wood glue) watered down to a ratio of 70/30 PVA to water together with a few drops of washing-up liquid. (The washing-up liquid reduces the surface tension of the glue and allows the static grass fibres to penetrate the glue surface and stand up rather than just falling flat.
However, in the last few months, I’ve been using WWScenics basing glue. And, in my experience, although I’m still testing it to see how it stands up (pardon the pun) over the long term, this has a number of advantages over the mix of PVA I was using previously.
Firstly, it seems to dry quicker, which as long as you work in small areas at a time (as I’d recommend) makes it faster to finish an area.
In my initial experiments, it also seems to standup better although I’m still confirming this.
More importantly, it always dries clear. I’ve had problems in the past with some PVA glues setting with a yellow finish which shows through the grass and spoils the look.
What you’ll need to apply static grass
Fancy having a go at laying static grass? Here’s what you’ll need:
> Some static grass. A good starter pack with various colours is available here.
> Glue: Watered-down PVA (wood glue) works well but you can also buy dedicated basing glue here.
> A static grass applicator. See my guide to the best static grass applicators.
If you’ll be buying everything, you can get a range of grasses, glues and my recommended applicator in a complete pack here.
To apply static grass, you’ll need an applicator. Read my review of the various applicators and conclusions as to which is best.
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