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Hello again,

Today I was trying to find some ballast to touch up my old layout where the tracks have become bare with age and I gather that Woodland Scenics and Javis are the key players in the model ballast market, or are their some unbranded suppliers who offer a better deal? For what is essentially ground up rock I find a price of about £4-5 a kilogram before shipping a bit steep, so I ended up ordering 10 kg of Extra Fine Javis Grey ballast in bulk and paid about £3.60 per kg including shipping! So I have it coming out of my ears...well no, I decided to make a strategic investment for my next layout (and the one after that, and the one after that too...).

Anyway, have other stumbled across more economical ways of getting realistic ballast in N scale or H0/OO perhaps? Can certain types of 'reptile litter' be sprayed grey more cheaply? Or is it a question of using cut-to-shape cork etc. to minimise the actual amount of ballast consumed per metre of track etc? Your thoughts and experiences welcome! Sorry if this thread is exactly like an existing one. (The Search function never seems to work when I use it, failing to return results I know are there because I posted them myself originally!)

Or should I buy a diamond toothed grinding machine and some big rocks of granite?!
 

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QUOTE (goedel @ 14 Jul 2008, 00:18) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hello again,

Today I was trying to find some ballast to touch up my old layout where the tracks have become bare with age and I gather that Woodland Scenics and Javis are the key players in the model ballast market, or are their some unbranded suppliers who offer a better deal? For what is essentially ground up rock I find a price of about £4-5 a kilogram before shipping a bit steep, so I ended up ordering 10 kg of Extra Fine Javis Grey ballast in bulk and paid about £3.60 per kg including shipping! So I have it coming out of my ears...well no, I decided to make a strategic investment for my next layout (and the one after that, and the one after that too...).

Anyway, have other stumbled across more economical ways of getting realistic ballast in N scale or H0/OO perhaps? Can certain types of 'reptile litter' be sprayed grey more cheaply? Or is it a question of using cut-to-shape cork etc. to minimise the actual amount of ballast consumed per metre of track etc? Your thoughts and experiences welcome! Sorry if this thread is exactly like an existing one. (The Search function never seems to work when I use it, failing to return results I know are there because I posted them myself originally!)

Or should I buy a diamond toothed grinding machine and some big rocks of granite?!

***I think you should shop by quality not price - cheap isn't a good deal when colour changes when glued down etc etc....

The best ballasts I've used are Woodland Scenics and C&L finescale. Colour wise I prefer the C&L by a long shot. Interestingly neither are real rock, they are both ground up organic material - WS is nut shells and C&L is I believe olive stones.

The key to the quality is both the consistency of screening size (most brands are overscale) and the quality of the dye used to colour them..... to be honest making ballast is a right royal pain in the bum and I think £4-5 a kilogram is cheap given the very labour intensive creation and packaging processes (after all, in commercial terms even the biggest brands are small qty)

Richard
DCCconcepts
 

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Hi all
I come to the same conclusion as Richard
Back in the long dark distant past studying Mineralogy
we sized samples with a set of (nest of ) sieves .I thought that would be a great way to create ballast
after crushing a suitable material - using only the portion that was in the correct size range
but there is also the problem that some rock (even granite) is mildly attracted to magnets
and that would not be very favorable if it finds its way into the motor of your favorite loco
Nests of sieves are not cheap , usually made from brass rings with stainless steel mesh of different hole sizes
Even making a customized 2 screen system (the upper and lower limit of the ballast size) in a wood constructed
square frame with a small motor "shaking" the screens and collecting the correct size ballast from a chute
It took a long time to make just one kg and an awful lot of waste fines around 5 kg
still it was a challenge at the time , and an experiment
But I don't think I would do it again
Regards Zmil
 

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I've been looking at the various ballast materials available but, until recently, hadn't really found anything that was 'right'. Either it was out of scale or the colour was not what I wanted. I had virtually given up finding what I wanted and was going for the Noch N/Z scale ballast.

I have, however, now found what I've been looking for for my new N Gauge layout. It's the new Faller Premium Ballast available from Gaugemaster. The grading looks perfect and the blend of different colours is exactly what I had in mind. Not cheap though at £6.25 for 500 ml.

All I have to do now is work out how much I will need for almost 100 metres of track. I'm guessing that a 500 ml pack will do about 10 metres of track so there goes another £62.50. Does anyone have a rule of thumb for ballast quantities ?

Cheers,

Expat.
 

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QUOTE (Expat @ 15 Jul 2008, 17:59) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>....................................I have, however, now found what I've been looking for for my new N Gauge layout. It's the new Faller Premium Ballast available from Gaugemaster. .........................

Expat,
I would check before ordering from Gaugemaster.
Two of the four items on my last order were out of stock despite being shown on their website as "Currently in stock & available to ship"
 

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QUOTE (Richard Johnson @ 14 Jul 2008, 05:25) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>***I think you should shop by quality not price - cheap isn't a good deal when colour changes when glued down etc etc....

The best ballasts I've used are Woodland Scenics and C&L finescale. Colour wise I prefer the C&L by a long shot. Interestingly neither are real rock, they are both ground up organic material - WS is nut shells and C&L is I believe olive stones.

Richard
DCCconcepts

I have neglected my layout for a long time, thought it wise to have a go at it while kids and Swambo are away for holiday.

There is this one section of the layout, a mainline, which I won't be able to reach once I lay tracks in front of it, so I started to balast that section first so to get over with it. I used Woodland Scenics medium white/grayish ballast. ( Between you and me ballasting is a pain in the...... )

I am a bit dissapointed with the result. You learn from your mistakes. Never use medium ballast go for the fine grade that N scalers use.( I model HO scale) It looks terribly coarse on code 100 rails. Besides I did everything in the book when ballasting and after one day of laying the color changed into pinkish brown !

Now trying to figure of what to do?

Baykal
 

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We used to import some genuine granite/stone ballast that was naturally coloured - we found that it only darkened by a shade or two when fixed. An excellent product & quite reasonable in price, but it just did not sell - most people just wanted the cheaper sand based stuff (anyone want to buy about 1/4 ton of it ?)
 

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Hi All
An interesting observation I had on the WA passenger lines running north from Perth
the lines are in between the north bound and south bound freeway (motorway )
I'm not sure of the reason but the ballast is fairly rust brown compared to what I have seen in other parts of the world
Also the North bound line has a darker coat of rust than the south bound when looking north and visa versa
Regards Zmil
 

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QUOTE (zmil @ 16 Jul 2008, 19:14) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi All
An interesting observation I had on the WA passenger lines running north from Perth
the lines are in between the north bound and south bound freeway (motorway )
I'm not sure of the reason but the ballast is fairly rust brown compared to what I have seen in other parts of the world
Also the North bound line has a darker coat of rust than the south bound when looking north and visa versa
Regards Zmil

***Its called Iron Oxide - the state is full of it and it = rusty colour :)

Ebaykal: Sorry to hear of the colour shift - what glue did you use... PVA is mildly acidic and so can affect colour and the cheaper glues are much worse than better quality ones for this.

I find using a higher quality wood glue and diluting around 1 part glue to 5~10 parts 50:50 meths & water depending on what it is for minimises any "changes" and matts off the glues shine much better too..... It still holds OK but is not so "concrete like" too.

I mist the ballast with meths before and after ballast application too by the way - this "wets" it much better than detergents

As to colour, I always weather ballast after laying it anyway so the bare ballast colour is never how it ends up, so it will be salvageable.

As to size - I agree - most OO or HO ballast looks far too big for reality: I always now use C&L because its better size wise but still lay a mix of 3/4 N scale and 1/4 HO for mains and all N scale for sidings...

Richard
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Hi Richard,

Am a bit frustrated. Have 10 bags of medium size Woodland Scenic ballast at hand. Serves me right. Got them all beforehand as if there was going to be a shortage.


To all HO/OO ballasters; use fine size (N scale) ballasts. Experience talks.

As for the glueing and laying out the ballast I did exactly as you said. Very very diluted glue but with water, didn't mix any meths. Misting was also done by only water.

I have one part left to do and will use meths and change the brand of the glue to a better one and see how it turns out.

Baykal
 

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QUOTE (ebaykal @ 16 Jul 2008, 23:57) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi Richard,

Am a bit frustrated. Have 10 bags of medium size Woodland Scenic ballast at hand. Serves me right. Got them all beforehand as if there was going to be a shortage.


To all HO/OO ballasters; use fine size (N scale) ballasts. Experience talks.

As for the glueing and laying out the ballast I did exactly as you said. Very very diluted glue but with water, didn't mix any meths. Misting was also done by only water.

I have one part left to do and will use meths and change the brand of the glue to a better one and see how it turns out.

Baykal

***You'll love the meths - a bit of a smell but the glue flows much better and drys really fast as the meths evapourates quickly....

It seems to result in far less coating of the ballast by the glue too....

re existing stuff - very finely seive a thin coat of some N/Z ballast on top just enough to go between the large HO lumps... and fix with very dilute glue/meths.... it'll fill the gaps in the overscale ballast and help the look quite a lot.

Richard
 

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QUOTE (Richard Johnson @ 17 Jul 2008, 04:10) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>re existing stuff - very finely seive a thin coat of some N/Z ballast on top just enough to go between the large HO lumps... and fix with very dilute glue/meths.... it'll fill the gaps in the overscale ballast and help the look quite a lot.

Richard

That will solve the problem.
Thanks for the tip Richard.

Baykal
 

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QUOTE (tolpuddleman @ 15 Jul 2008, 17:13) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Just a thought - I recently read that Geoscenics stuff doesn't discolour when glued down. If this is so, I'll be trying that next time I do some scenic work.
tolpuddleman - Yes Geoscenics ballast will not dicolour with application af adhesive, so you ballast will not require an application of paint once it has been glued in place.

It is also scaled for N to G1 in Limestone and Dark grey rock. So use it or drop in to Warley Exibition and have a look.
 

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Has any one else tried dried tea from used tea-bags ??. I ballasted a part of my track with it about 12 years ago and it is still ok. If you like rust then the tea comes about the right colour, however it can easily be painted either with enamels or acrylic .If "dry painted" you get a nice effect. I laid mine in the normal way - pva + detergent. I saw it used on an o-gauge layout in a basement also on an exhibition layout housed in quite a damp hall ( the operators stood in an inch of water when the tide came in) and it lasted well. ( it was still there when those layouts were dismantled). I think it is worth a try especially where a lot is needed as in largish freight sidings ( "proper " commercial stuff can be added as a top layer if considered necessary). It does not come cheaper - just takes a lot longer to gather up - but then you have a legitimate excuse for delaying "the dreaded ballasting" and drinking more tea.
Happy ballasting Tony
 

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We sell granite ballast that is self coloured - it darkens slightly when fixed with PVA but otherwise retains its colour.

Interestingly we have a number of different ranges of scenics & price is not always the deciding factor to purchasers - when they are looking at two virtually identical products, one a "domestic" brand (sourced from mainland europe) & the other, a "european" brand (also sourced from mainland europe) but better value for money, guess which one sells first ?
 

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Hi All

I recolor my stone/ cork ballast to suit using household matt emulsion paint. Method pour some ballast in a flat sided round tin can and stir with a piece of 3/4 inch wood dowel, adding paint until it starts to stick together, then add a small amount of ballast so that it returns to granules, pour out onto news paper and let dry. Fix in place with watered down PVA mixed with some dirt colour of the locality being modelled and allow to dry. When dry spray or brush on a thin shadow water based colour, (Emulsion) so that the ballast and rails dry matt. I got samples going back over 20 years and the colours have not changed.

I make or recolor my tree foam material the same way.... but with re-colouring foam you can only go darker.

I do not use meths mixed with the PVA because it breaks down the emulsion paint (I use meths in the water for brush cleaning) and therefore cause the ballast to loose its colour!

Ps I have made models for a living for over 40 years....

John-Pro
 
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