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 Pot Topper: How I use it in scenery construction

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
MikeC Posted - 06/10/2009 : 11:47:09 AM
Last fall (9/08) there was some discussion in a Crew Lounge thread about Pot Topper and its use in layout scenery. At that time, Kris ("hon3_rr") requested some followup information. Yesterday (6/9/09)I posted the info and photos below to that thread. Dave Emery suggested I post a copy of it here, where it would be easier to find. I agreed with his suggestion - things have a way of getting lost in the Crew Lounge.

Originally posted by hon3_rr

Hey everyone, If you get around to trying to color the "Pot Topper" material, can you please post your experience and techniques used? Thanks in advance.

Kris (and anyone else who's interested), here's a quick summary of my experience with Pot Topper....

First, although "Pot Toppers" has been discussed extensively both here on RR-L and other forums, some folks have posted they have trouble finding the stuff at Michaels... or they don't know what to look for. I can confirm from my own experience that even the store employees aren't sure what the stuff is or where it's located. The first employee I asked (when I had given up looking for the stuff on my own) looked at me as if I had spinach leaves hanging out of my nose. But she called over another employee who said she thought it would be in the 'Floral Department.' Great! Half the store is 'floral department.' Finally, the third employee I asked for help had a clue - once I described for her what the stuff looked like and made a circle with my thumbs and forefingers, she was able to lead me straight to the stuff. It was hanging from a peg in the middle of an aisle rack but was partially hidden from view by a bunch of other 'stuff' hanging down over it. I bought 2 packages and made my break. So, in the spirit of that experience, here's the label you should be looking for....

Pot Toppers are reversible. Green 'grass' on one side, brown 'dirt' on the other. This is what one looks like out of the bag....

The problem with trying to use one straight out of the bag is that except for the very large scales, these things are way too thick to be used with most scales, including HO. What I discovered was that they are essentially a 'sandwich,' with the grass on one side and the 'dirt' on the other side but with a polyester filling in the middle. The filling seems to be the same sort of stuff found in aquarium filters and pet toys. Anyway, after separating the outside layers, the filling needs to be removed. It's a messy job and is best done over newspapers or a trash can. Trust me. Here is a photo where I have removed about 90% of the filler from the grass side and still have a way to go....

What I discovered after removing as much of the filler as I could pull away is that the remaining pad is still too thick to be very useful (at least in HO scale). The grass fibers (rayon?) are okay, but the substrate and residual dirt on the bottom side are still too thick. That's when I happened to hit on the idea of sanding the pad down to a usable thickness. Because the pad is fairly delicate at this point, I used an emory board to thin down the 'dirt' particles on the substrate backing....

This small patch of grass, which I tore from the larger pad, is one example of how it looks after sanding and thinning....

Even with sanding and thinning down, I felt that the material is still too thick and coarse to be used by itself. In my opinion (and for my own uses), I thought it looked best when blended with other scenery materials, including WS ground foam and Scenic Express' Silflor tufts. Here are two examples where I used it on my Blue Sky/Riverside Logging diorama...

And for the sake of comparison, here are some Silflor tufts along a fence on the same diorama....

So for me (and speaking only for myself!), I think the Pot Toppers, with a little work, can be a very useful scenery item. But it's something that I think needs to be used with other scenery items or possibly blended into the scenic base with Sculptamold or Celluclay. But if nothing else, the material is a very inexpensive alternative to the far more expensive Silflor grass products that are commercially available.

For those who are interested in additional discussion and photos of Pot Topper scenery, here are a couple of links that might be useful:


15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
desertdrover Posted - 01/29/2020 : 6:34:34 PM
Yep, Bruce those are the ones I talked about, that I had noticed they had less of those pot toppers, and more of the grass sheets. I liked the grass color of the older pot toppers, but I guess we can brush paint the tops of the newer grass color to tone it down.
It's funning that their new top grass color is to green, and the bottom color is a better use color, than the pot topper was.
I wish all these companies would stop messing with our great modeling finds, and changing things. Like Karl's recent clam that Walmart is now out of the gray primer we got used to using.
Dutchman Posted - 01/29/2020 : 5:15:30 PM
I'm bumping this old thread up for two reasons.

First, Lou just did a "Peanut Butter Lid" build as part of the 2020 Challenge and he used a Pot Topper in the scenery. He referenced this thread in his.

Here is a link to his work: http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=52348&whichpage=8

I have not been able to find Pot Toppers in Michaels for some time - not in New Jersey, and not out here in Michigan. Lou was able to get some in Rhode Island, however.

So today I stopped in a local Michaels to see if they had any. Again, none to be found. However, I did find what looks like a very, very close match.

That is a Pot Topper on the left and the new 12"x12" scenic mat on the right.

Here is a closeup of the grass side, followed by a closeup of the back sides of each.

They are not exact, but they are close. It looks like you can separate the new mat and pull the grass from the 'dead leaves' on the rear, just like on a Pot Topper. Also, the mat is not dead flat. On the grass side it has oval 'pockets' of grass that are raised higher then the surrounding area, which makes it easy to 'lift' those areas from the backing.

Although the price tag is $19.99, I got the 40% off, so about $12. There is at least 8 times more 'grass' to play with on this than on a Pot Topper, so it is still a good buy (I'm not sure of the current price on Pot Toppers if you can find them).

Here is a shot of the front and back of the tag on the Mat if you are interested.

(If you go to Michaels this week, you they have all floral items including the mat at 40% off.)
dnhman Posted - 03/30/2011 : 11:10:30 AM
I have found the pot toppers at Micheals on the SIDE of the asile near the flowers. Not in the asile.
jschumaker Posted - 03/30/2011 : 11:01:16 AM

I checked the website. It looks like the toppers are made from real moss. Have you ordered from this site?

Jeff S.
jschumaker Posted - 03/29/2011 : 7:37:03 PM
Most modelers that have asked at Michaels for this item, have been told they never heard of it. And they found it in the store after looking on their own. So do take the word of an employee. One online source is http://www.craftersgallery.com Go to website and type in "Pot Topper" in search box. I've never been out of luck with Michaels finding it.

Thanks, Louis, for the address. I'll keep looking in Michaels, but I'm not too confident.

Jeff S.
desertdrover Posted - 03/29/2011 : 4:37:42 PM
Originally posted by jschumaker

Has anyone found pot toppers online? I've struck out at Michaels and Hobby Lobby.

Jeff S.

Most modelers that have asked at Michaels for this item, have been told they never heard of it. And they found it in the store after looking on their own. So do take the word of an employee. One online source is http://www.craftersgallery.com Go to website and type in "Pot Topper" in search box. I've never been out of luck with Michaels finding it.
jschumaker Posted - 03/29/2011 : 3:47:18 PM
Has anyone found pot toppers online? I've struck out at Michaels and Hobby Lobby.

Jeff S.
akimmons Posted - 11/22/2009 : 09:43:10 AM
Thanks for the tutorial, Bruce. I have used Pot-toppers too and agree that they are a good (and inexpensive) material, especially when used with others.

Frederic Testard Posted - 11/20/2009 : 5:58:34 PM
Great new hints and inspiration, Bruce. Your method to conceal the tree base and yet have it available when planting the tree is very interesting and can certainly be adapted to a variety of situations. Thank you for sharing.
MikeC Posted - 11/20/2009 : 10:19:54 AM
Excellent scenery, Bruce! Very nicely done, and your photos reinforce how useful the Pot Toppers can be and how easy it is to blend them in with other scenic materials. Thanks for adding to the topic.

deemery Posted - 11/20/2009 : 09:36:57 AM
Bruce, that's an excellent photo tutorial...

Dutchman Posted - 11/20/2009 : 08:39:33 AM
Originally posted by Rick

I guess this is the HOn3 diorama?

Yes, Rick, it is. Hopefully it will be done over the next few days so I can begin taking some pics of HOn3 rolling stock and rolling stock projects.
Rick Posted - 11/20/2009 : 08:36:23 AM
Bruce, that's some very good looking scenery. Thanks for showing how you got the look.

I guess this is the HOn3 diorama?
Dutchman Posted - 11/19/2009 : 10:56:04 PM
In Mike's posts he mentions using Silflor tufts. If you look in that last picture I posted, you will see two lighter colored (yellow tinged) tufts by the evergreen tree on the left.

Here is another picture showing those tufts.

These are made by Noch. I've used the Silflor tufts in the past, and just tired the Noch tufts today. I like them. They are a bit easier to pick up and install. They have a small circular base to them that makes it easy to add glue and put in place.

They are packaged a bit different, too. Each tuft comes in its own little compartment. I bought these from Walthers when they were having a sale on them. I think that they come in different colors. This is the spring variety. There are 105 tufts in the package, half are very yellow, as in the picture below, and half greener as in the pictures above.

Just another scenery option.
Dutchman Posted - 11/19/2009 : 10:48:04 PM
Well, I finally decided to give the old pot toppers a try. I've picked up quite a few just in case Michaels decides to drop them down the road.

Having read Mike's experiences in this thread, and remembering this quote:

So for me (and speaking only for myself!), I think the Pot Toppers, with a little work, can be a very useful scenery item. But it's something that I think needs to be used with other scenery items or possibly blended into the scenic base with Sculptamold or Celluclay.

I thought it might work well in conjunction with one of my favorite scenery items - ground goop.

I began by splitting the topper in half, separating the grass from the 'dirt', as Mike explained. I then 'teased' as much of the polyester filling as I could. Once that was done, I tore off pieces and glued them to my scenery base with white glue.

You can see the 'thickness problem' that Mike mentioned. Also, there is a tendency for the brown 'dirt' to show at the edges.

Next, I began to spread my goop around the patches of pot topper grass. This brings the ground level up to that of the topper and solves the thickness problem. It also hides the brown edges.

That plastic thing you see behind the grass clump is the base of an evergreen tree. Another nice thing about goop is the ability to cover up those bases.

Here the goop has been spread all around the island of pot topper grass.

Next I spread some very diluted white glue over the top of the goop with a 1/2" stiff brush. This (1) smooths the goop where I want it smoothed (the edges), and (2) give a good wet base to accept the next layers of ground cover.

Here I've added additional layers of WS foam over the goop. Some has also landed on top of the pot topper grass, but that will vacuum off once the glue dries.

Here's a picture with the tree inserted into its base.

These last two shots show the area adjacent to the one above. I had completed that earlier today.

So, I agree with Mike that the pot toppers have some real potential, even in HO scale. I also agree that they work best when combined with other scenery products. Finally, I think that ground goop does a great job of solving the thickness issue.

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