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Sandboxes... gravelboxes...

5024 Views 24 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Tropi
Well... It's like this...

I have three spaces on the track were there should be sandboxes... well... I did my first one (the biggest one) last night and this is what I did. I painted the foam in a kind of sahara sand beige... and when the paint was still very wet... I gently poured real sand over it... so the sand sticks in the paint... and I must say... the result looks very good...


Off course not every grain of sand sticks in the paint... you see the top layer is loose on the paint... Well... if the cars go off the track... we will see spectacular things I think... but there will be eventually sand inside the cars...

Now... what can I do? I allready thought about it to spray a thick layer of hair lacquer on top of it... so the sand would lay under the lacquer and stay where it belongs...

You guys think it'll work? If you think it wouldn't work... what did you guys use for your sandboxes?

Questions, questions, questions...


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Use white PVA wood glue that dries clear. Thin it with a little water to spread it on easier.
If you add a little washing-up liquid to the watered PVA it breaks the surface tention and then it will soak in rather than forming pools on the top.

(Model making tip - never used for this so it might not stand up to the abuse of reckless driving)
Use a mix of PVA and water and a spray bottle, that way you dont disturb the surface and end up with all the sand on your brush.
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Thanks for the reactions guys...

I'm not very familiar with PVA... is that available in every DIY shop? (i'm was not into DIY untill I started this petit spa project... and since my house was ready, I'm my appartment there was nothing to do... and before that... My dad did all the DIY work at home...

But... like I said... what about hairspray? wouldn that give the same results?
I hear form many hobby-ists that they use hairspray to fixate things... like seft painted figures... they overspray them with hairspray...

My wife will go to the shop this afternoon, and I just called her to buy a big can of hairspay... "What?... Hairspray? Why for heavens sake do you need hairspray?" was the answer...

Should I stop her?

In the past I've used "Scenic Cement" from Woodlands Scenics for this kind of thing - they do a sprayer attachment for the bottle too. My guess is it's a diluted form of PVA but I couldn't be sure.

I'd be interested to find out how well hair spray works though!

Stop the wife - I don't think hairspray will take the knocks - if it would it wouldn't comb out at night.

PVA or white wood working glue. Any DIY shop or stationers, its what most kids at school use to stick everything.
I constructed run off areas and `gravel traps` on the Phoenix circuit over three years ago now. After much heavy use they are still in good use. The guys above are correct regarding using a mix of pva and water but do not use sand as it is a little fine,gets into your motor and is eroded through the passage of time. I use the model railway model scatter, looks like grey grit but each grain is a lot larger than a grain of sand. In my experience this is a better material. Hope this helps
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Well... the sand is allready in the sandbox...
And it looks really good at the moment...
But I don't want to mess up my cars with the sand...

So after work I'll go out to a railway model shop... looking for the correct scatter...
I'll take a few pictures of the state the sandbox is in...
I'll take the vacuum cleaner and start all over again... with the scatter...

I'll let you know how it develops!


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I agree that avoiding sand sounds like a good idea - you are effectively making home made sand paper, which isn't going to do paintwork any good! (PVA might soften it I guess)

Another scatter tip I have heard of is to vacuum the area after all the glue has dried.
Another alternative to sand and model railway scatter is............. litter! (unused!!!)

Easy to get hold of in various colours (grey, brown, sandy coloured). The grain size is bigger than sand and it's very cheap, unlike modellers scatter materials. Again this sticks easy with PVA.

Just for note, if you haven't used PVA before, it goes on white but dries clear, so don't panic!
I`ve used cat litter before (Short Circuits) and it is neffective but you do get a bit of dust off it and I understand there is a human health hazard present in the dust particles. It`s main drawback is that the granules are out of scale. I`ve used sawdust too, looks spectacular if left loose but again it has it`s problems as it doesn`t stick down as easy. If you do go for sawdust you can paint over it any desired colour and this will help to bond it together.

The main advantage with the Faller type model railway scatter is that it comes precoloured and can easily be picked off car components, not that you`ll be into the gravel much eh
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I thought about kitty litter too... but the grains are far to big to look natural on the track... I think I use the litter for something else on the track...

I bought some scatter from Heiki tonight... but I waited to vacuum the sand away... I first tested my first method on a piece of foam... this is the result:

The sand sticks really good to the foam, it's really hard... you can push and scratch it very hard before it comes loose...

This is how the biggest sandy area looks like on the track:

So, I'll sleep it over once again... and maybe I'll try it with my sand and the hairspray...


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Jon Didn't you use this method on "Short Circuits"?......I seem to remember something about it.


Yes mate. Used a variety as the producer wanted to show differing levels of skill required and of course the limitations of budget. I demonstrated the sand, saw dust,kitty litter and then the model railway scatter. I used loose gravel traps for the close up filming of crashes as it looked great but what a bloomin mess to clear up every time. At moments you can see my `i`ve had enough of this face` as the film crew also joined in and had a go!

Truth is the tracks were built very quickly but for a permanent set up I would go, have gone for (in the case of the club circuit) the glued down railway ballast type scatter.
Your sandboxes look great Gunther! My concern, even if you could get the sand to stick, is that it would be very abrasive to your cars' finishes.
But then, maybe that adds to the character of the cars. The cars I run (I do have a number of shelf queens) show all kinds of battle scars - cracked windshields, broken wings, missing mirrors and other assorted parts, but you know many 1:1 cars look like that after a few hours racing and so I don't really mind that they're damaged. You can probably spot the "defects" on some of the photos I've posted.

I'll be interested to see your solution, as I'm getting very close to doing the landscaping work on my circuit.

In the US there is a brand of glue called Elmer's Glue-All which is an inexpensive white, non-toxic glue that dries clear and is intended for use on porous substances like paper and wood. I think watered-down it would be very similar to the PVA glue mentioned above.

I wonder - Would very fine saw dust work?

Best regards,
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I've had to come at this problem a different way - My basement is not only home to my track but also to the family cats. I will leave to your imagination, gentle readers, what these cats might do with a nice "sand box" and will only add that I would never even think of using cat litter!

Local craft stores carry a variety of velour or vevlet-like materials - some actual fabric and others flocked paper or plastic sheet. The surface appearance of the material is very much like "scale" sand - except for the very uniform color. Strong tea, used as both a dip and also applied by brush takes care of this uniformity and allows shading and even the use of shadows to create apparent tire tracks. Little pieces of cardboard can be scattered about before gluing it down to provide an uneven surface.

Damn... I hope my cat (named "Diesel") won't see those sandboxes as... you know what...

Well... I made up my mind... I'll vacuum the sand away... I think it looks really good, but I won't take the risk of sand coming into the motors... I lost to many kid toys on sand! And indeed... that train scatter has bigger grains... those will not get into the moving parts that fast.

I'll go to the DIY after work... and buy that PVA...
I really never heard of it before! Clear drying glue... It sounds like magic to me!
Maybe I'll spray hairsray over that new grint then, so the wife hasn't brought that hairspray for nothing...

@ Ecurie Martini: The surface is allready a bit bumpy... as you see on the pic of the testarea... I think it looks like a sandbox, even without the sand... but thank you to remind me to put tyre tracks into the grint!

Thanks for the advice...


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I was pleased to hear that it isn't just me who has problems with cats and their ... um ...habits!

Plus the number of races that have been brought to a abrupt halt by the entrance of a six story high furry feline chasing after the cars!

Getting back onto topic, your sandboxes look great to me Gunther.

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