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 Pot Topper: How I use it in scenery construction
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MikeC
Administrator

Premium Member


Posted - 06/10/2009 :  11:47:09 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
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.

quote:
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:
http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=23322

http://ardleybridge.fotopic.net/c1501517_1.html


Country: USA | Posts: 21584

kirk
Fireman



Posted - 06/10/2009 :  12:20:40 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the info, Mike! Now I'll just have to find a supplier on this side of the Atlantic... they are not in Michael's online shop's repertoire.

Troels Kirk
Näsum, Sweden

Country: Sweden | Posts: 4927 Go to Top of Page

Rusty Stumps
Fireman



Posted - 06/10/2009 :  12:33:58 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hey Mike, That makes for real nice wild grass patches. Real good one!

Walt

In the Crossroads of America.

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George D
Moderator

Premium Member


Posted - 06/10/2009 :  12:40:46 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Good info. Thanks Mike.

George



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hunter48820
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 06/10/2009 :  1:11:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks Mike, the time you took to create this presentation is greatly appreciated. I'll be using it for sure now!!



Look out for #1, but don't step in #2!

Andy Keeney
Dewitt, MI

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Red P
Fireman



Posted - 06/10/2009 :  1:37:01 PM  Show Profile  Send Red P a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
thanks for the info Mike,
I have always wondered why they call pot topper.
Anyway what isle was it in or what other stuff was in the isle. Incase I have trouble finding it.
P


https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightnotch/

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northern6400
Fireman



Posted - 06/10/2009 :  3:43:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I found the pot topper in the aisle with the floral tape, floral wire forms and that green foam the florists use to stick flowers in.

Chuck Faist
Burlington, Ontario
Enjoy yourself it is later than you think!

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MikeC
Administrator

Premium Member


Posted - 06/10/2009 :  4:08:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Red, the aisle in which it was located in my local store was smack in the middle of the store. As Chuck said, it was with the tape, wire, foam and other floral potting stuff. The Pot Topper packages were partially hidden by a bunch of plastic ferns hanging down over them.

Interestingly enough, there were also a lot of plastic plants and grasses in the same aisle that looked identical to the plastic aquarium plants that cost a small fortune in pet stores. For less than half of what I would have paid for the same aquarium grass at PetSmart, I got a package at Michaels and put it in the bottom of one of my aquariums for the baby fish to hide in.




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GrandTrunk
Engine Wiper

Posted - 06/10/2009 :  8:05:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Went to my local Michael's, long story short, looked at me like I was crazy, sent me to floral section (half of store), but couldn't find it...


Country: Canada | Posts: 115 Go to Top of Page

MikeC
Administrator

Premium Member


Posted - 06/10/2009 :  8:35:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GrandTrunk

Went to my local Michael's, long story short, looked at me like I was crazy, sent me to floral section (half of store), but couldn't find it...



Check my paragraph above the first photo.... what you experienced was exactly what happened to me.





Country: USA | Posts: 21584 Go to Top of Page

GrandTrunk
Engine Wiper

Posted - 06/11/2009 :  2:12:33 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
>>>what you experienced was exactly what happened to me

Except that you actually found the stuff. I will have to look again, I didn't have time for a thorough systematic search...!



Country: Canada | Posts: 115 Go to Top of Page

HW
Engine Wiper



Posted - 06/11/2009 :  6:52:50 PM  Show Profile  Visit HW's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I found them in the Markham,ON store in the pots/saucers section, so they are available in Canada....


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Bbags
Administrator

Premium Member


Posted - 06/21/2009 :  09:22:42 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks Mike for the information.

I was able to find them at my Michaels but had the same thoughts that you posted.

"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."


Thus I did not purchase any at that time.
After reading your tutorial I may rethink my position and give them a try.



John Bagley
Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.

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MikeC
Administrator

Premium Member


Posted - 06/21/2009 :  10:27:42 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
John, the only thing I didn't have time to do - and which would have answered Kris' original question - was try coloring the grass material to either tone it down or remove some of the sheen. (We were getting ready to leave town for several days, so I had to hurry the photos and text above.) However, I think it's probably the same material as Silflor, which means it could easily be colored with acrylic paints.

The grass I used on my 'woodcutter's yard' diorama is Silflor tufts. I used craft paints (mostly in the tan and linen range of colors) to alter the original color. Again, I think the same thing would work with the Pot Topper material. Here's an example of some of the Silflor tufts that I painted with Americana 'Mississippi Mud' and Ceramcoat 'Linen.'








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Rowan
Section Hand

Posted - 06/21/2009 :  9:13:37 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great idea , looks cool!!!!






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wvrr
Fireman



Posted - 06/22/2009 :  12:33:11 PM  Show Profile  Visit wvrr's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Looks good, mike. I bought some a few months ago to use for scenery, but haven't attempted to do anything with it. Some great tips, here. Thanks!

Chuck



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