Thursday, July 11, 2013

Static Grass Blues

I hate static grass.

In theory, it would be so cool looking...grass standing up. In 1/300 scale, it would be like tall grasses.  My prone machine gunners could hide behind it. It would add some nice variation to my 15mm figure stands.

The problem is that very time I apply it, it always ends up like its been flattened with a steamroller. I've tried blowing in it, poking it with a tooth pick, and even tried holding the base upside down and tossing the stuff upward. Nothing has worked. It always looks like a pile of grass. I have a big container of this stuff taking up room on my workbench. I look at it and think, "wouldn't it be great to use this stuff." Then I reach for the flock.

I have scoured the internet for answers. There have been many suggestions, but I have yet to try them. Plus some of them seem to be variations on what I've tried already, so I am rather dubious of the results.  I remember one of them had a nice technique to make your own tuffs of grass, but you need a static grass applicator.

It was recommended to me to get a static grass applicator. These will definitely do the job.  I'm sorry, I am not paying $200 for some fancy machine that I will only use occasionally. There are the $40 "electric fly-swatter" applicators. These are still a little pricey. There are instructions to build your own on the internet, but I am not handy with an electric soldering iron. That leads me to the last alternative that was recommended to me. The Noch 08100 squeeze bottle applicator. Yes, I am naming names here. It looks like an 8 oz. rubber bottle. You put the grass in and shake it up. The grass builds up a static charge rubbing against the sides of the bottle, and then puff it out where it will hit the glue standing up. Sounds great! It can't be all that expensive. Even if it doesn't really work, I won't be out of a lot of money. However, there is a problem: almost no one in the USA sells them! I found five online hobby shops that sell them, but they are in the UK, Germany, Italy, and even Finland. They are about £4 in the United Kingdom, which equals about $6 US; however, I have the feeling that the shipping would be more than what I pay for it.  So, is there some sort of embargo in the USA on the Noch 08100? Are they being sold to foreign powers and terrorist groups that we oppose? Can they be used for nefarious purposes other than to happily deploy static grass?

Now, remember I said almost no one in the good old USA sells them.  I found that sells them through a third party vendor. "Great!" I thought. The price in bold print stated little over $6. "Wonderful!" I thought even louder. Then, I saw, in not-so-bold type, Shipping & Handling: $16... WHAT!?!?
You've got to be kidding! Does a specially-trained Golden Eagle carry it to me in its talons? What are these people thinking? I'm sorry, but that is nuts, just nuts. The customer reviews went on and on about great service and great shipping. Huh? They must be millionaires to throw away that much on shipping.

This leads me to another somewhat-related rant: shipping and handling. Fortunately, pretty much every wargaming company uses the good old US Postal Service, or the postal service of their national origin. In the US, the postage is more-or-less a fixed price unless you are ordering 10 tons of lead. Not so with art supply companies. I have nothing against FedEx and UPS, but but paying 3 times or more for shipping for an item is not worth it. Case in point: I used to use technical drawing pens to illustrate my fossil specimens. These pens ain't cheap ($15 to $25, depending on the pen nib), but they are about the size and weight of a fine-point marker.  I remember an nationally known art supply store wanting to charge $25 for shipping. Why? Part of it was because I live in the middle of nowhere (I lived in Zone 7 or something like that), but the main reason was that the pen cost $20. No, there was no insurance to this order, they just decided to charge that much to ship it via a delivery service. Come on! You could put it in an envelope, sick a stamp or two on it, and off it goes! Every online art supply company, even those that claim they are discount ones, stick you with outrageous shipping costs.

So, will I pay $22 for a small rubber bottle that I don't even know will do what I want it to do? Eh, no. I will find my own bottle and give that a try first. It will be a long time before I pay that much for a domestic purchase. I might as well order it from Europe. The overseas postage might be a little cheaper. I might even buy my own bug zapper and try my hand at making one.