Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Tufts, Glorious Tufts! [Edit - Oct 21 - Added another score of sheets with notes)

[Feb 2, 2021, Edit: Today I learned that this tune is from "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver!]  
The title of this entry should be sung to this old tune from the big cheese lobby:

I'm in a bit of a revelry having finally gotten a chance to break out the FlockBox from Warpainter (available on E-Bay).  What a wonderful product! We've all been there  - being very careful and frugal with our pricey Army Painter tufts, maybe putting out just one, maybe two if the figure had a that foot was in the air. Otherwise some static grass sprinkled liberally around the tuft would somehow elevate it's grandeur. For a quarter of a century that was a mainstay of my hobbying techniques. Right, "most of it stands up, dunnit" I'd say to meself. It's, of course, trampled grass, duh! Well, today I can abandon those sorry excuses, turn the page and embrace a new era of basing goodness! No more tangled fibres lying lamely at all of my models' feet.

Many thanks to Lukes Aps and the Terrain Tutor for making the whole endeavor seem quite a simple and affordable undertaking.  Without them, I'd be stuck in my old methods. But as they both frequently say, "Let's crack on!"

I did have time to prepare all this well in advance picking up things here and there in preparation. I knocked up three of these holders to hover over the box itself. Materials were absurdly cheap at Home Depot - less than a couple bucks to make. The metal sheet is for joining beams together - I think they were in the pennies. Clips were also pennies a piece.
Flipped over, only the handle knob cost close to a dollar. That was affixed with the screw that came with it. In retrospect, it's probably better to get ones with a flat knob instead of the rounded one as it's easier to set them aside and keep them all horizontal until the sheets can be set out to dry.
After having spent the day working these things, I wonder if magnets would have been easier than the clips as I did lose some real estate on the parchment paper sheets because the clips had to cover the corners, and I had to leave room for the wire from the FlockBox. If I had a commercial tuft making enterprise I would probably change this up a bit. For a first go of it though, it ended up being fine.
 I can recommend doing a assembly line approach for this. After learning from my mistakes, one should cut out a number of parchment paper sheets in advance so they can be slipped onto the holder with more speed and efficiency. Also make sure you have room to lay out the finished sheets for drying.

One thing I didn't calculate was how far 42 grams of static grass would last. I had two lengths, 4mm and 2mm. The 4mm was in Dark Green and Medium Green, the 2mm was Dark, Medium and Light Green - all from Woodland Scenics. I was going to do all 6 of the possible two-height combos giving me a small selection of Summery shades of deep greens. I only got as far as my first test: about 14 grams of 4mm Dark with 10 grams of the 2mm Light.
Predictably, my very first go came out slightly off. Lesson: don't make a great big goopy bead, Exhibit A - When I turned the holder upside down, the top center tuft on the sheet (at left labeled 4D 2L) began to drip down creating a wobbly stalactite of glue and grass. It fell over once I turned it upright. The others appear great!
Now rather than systematically make small, medium, and large circular tufts, then irregular shaped ones, I just did a random assortment. The center and right sheets were me figuring out how to space the glues and shapes properly. I did strips, U shapes, T shapes, and then "Micky Mice": three dots in a tight circle creating a clover shape.

I used Aileen's Tacky Glue for the bulk of these until, getting frustrated with the relatively large nozzle, I switched to Elmer's to make the smaller ones. I went back and forth, depending on what sizes I was going to make.

Another thing to note: this is a mess and once you flip the switch, grass goes everywhere in about a 6 inch radius around the box, as well as up your hand and the top of the metal holder. Once I kept scooping up that surplus and adding it back to the plate I found I could do sheet after sheet.  Remember to keep the holder over the box as the second you cut the power the unaffixed grass drops immediately.
In later stages like this one above I added large pinches of a bright fairy green grass I've had for ages (seen on the ECW Engineers figures as well as the RAFM giant on this blog) all the while keeping that 4mm dark and 2mm light green as the principle ingredient.
 I ended up with quite a few different shades depending on how much I salvaged and how much bright green I added in. Then I started adding in the light brown grass in (seen on all my ACW figures on this blog) to see how much I could lighten that original core mix. As it turns out I never got to try any other colors as this became a full day affair of cutting parchment paper, gluing dots, hovering the tray over and then resetting but pick up all the scattered material and starting again.

You can see my days progression in the next set of photos. By the end I had over 30 different sheets - most of which yielded grasses most suitable for Summer, late Summer/Autumn and maybe even winter. I'll be able to mix and match as needed. The smallest sheet had 30ish tufts while some of the others with the smaller tufts all have well over a hundred on them each.
Would have been happy to have been done here but so much grass remained. I did keep folding in more and more of the straw color to further lighten it up.
10 sheets later, running out of room ...
Finally, some of the tan ones on their own and I finish for the afternoon. And yet STILL I have enough of the original core mix to do several more sheets after sweeping all the stray material up.

These in particular is what I see here in Virginia along the roadways and other untended lots. All variations and shades of olive: perfect!
These came out pretty good. I made the horse shoe ones to wrap around feet - we'll see how useful those end up being.

I could easily do a few hundred more sheets with the remaining greens but pretty sure I'll never have to make more of most of these Autumn/Winter colors again.  Of course, from here on out you'll be seeing all of these again as they are liberally applied to models going forward.

New! I did another pair of afternoons trying out other combos: The original batch was 4mm Dark Green paired with a lesser amount of 2mm Light Green (4D2L). To that I added a bunch of straw/winter grass to lighten until it was just that deadened mix on its own as you can see above.
This was 4mm Dark green again with 2mm Medium Green 4D2M). As it started to thin, I added in the candied lime green in I mentioned earlier to fill it out. It'd be near impossible to trace as I kept adding in that which blew all over into each and every pass so they are all a jumble.
This afternoon I did 4mm Dark Green with 2mm Dark Green (4D2D) for an exercise in texture variety instead of color. These are still wet so they look a bit lighter than they will later. I really wanted a nice dark summer grass and I think these hit the mark.
Here's the original 4D2L from last week
Here's the 4D2M from earlier in the week
These 4D2D favorites are still wet so they might look a bit off here.
That's sixty three sheets of tufts in all the likely shades I'll need for perhaps a lifetime. Thanks for looking - questions, comments and followers are welcome and encouraged!


  1. Looks great! I've got a flock machine too. I've not used it yet, but after your post I will be soon. Great idea making the handle on the plate though, I'll definitely pinch that idea!

  2. My word that's a lot of tufts! Great job Sir.

  3. Thanks gents - it's the morning after and everything dried well over night. I did notice that the Elmer's PVA ones have no tack at all after removal. I took one off concerned it had bonded with the paper and it will no longer stick anywhere. I usually glue them anyway.

  4. Pretty cool. That’s an insane amount of grass tufts! 😀

  5. When the going gets Tuft... you get a LOT of Tufts! :-)
    Nice job on these!

  6. fabulous, and that is a huge amount of tufts, I may have a go at this myself, particulary the dryed out grass ones


  7. Thanks Blue! Ya - I'm set for a very long time now.