Glue for your tea sir?

Nicely scenicked meat tray you got there!

Nicely scenicked meat tray you got there!

I read an article on Phil Parker’s blog where he suggested using tea leaves as a scenery medium. He had tried them mixed in with the ballast on a length of O14 track he’d laid. “Sounds interesting” I thought. This evening I had a go myself and the above picture shows my result and here’s what I did:

  • A styrofoam meat tray from the small collection we hang on to, to use as paint trays and for projects just like this one provides the canvas for this experiment. A bit of craft paint over the back of the tray provided a backdrop for my experimenting and took the edge off the pink foam. Once the paint dried, I spread a thin layer of white glue over the entire area.
  • The dirt I dug from the back garden turned out to contain a nice mix of fine sand and stone, mixed with actual dirt. I didn’t expect this and am keen to dig out some more to separate out that fine stone for ballast. Talk about pleasant surprises!
  • I thought the dirt could act as a control medium both in terms of texture and colour so spread it across one end of the tray. Likewise, the dried tea leaves were spread over the other end.
  • In the spirit of experimentation I grabbed some ground foam and seasoned the whole tray with that

The tea leaves weren’t anything special. Just some President’s Choice Orange Pekoe. I used about two bags worth. No science here, that’s what I had in the pot. No special preparation either, they were dried in the oven along with the dirt.

While working, here were some further observations:

  • The dirt really wicked up the glue. From past experience I knew the glue would retain that wet colour where the glue was absorbed and dried and I wanted a fairly honest comparison of dry dirt to the tea leaves.
  • I thoroughly dried the tea leaves but they still had a tendancy to ball up and not spread like a fine powder.
  • The tea leaves are quite large for N but would be nice in a scale like O, as Phil tried in his experiment. I wonder if they could be used as tree foliage instead?
  • I like the colour variation in the tea leaves. While not useful as a ground cover in the smaller scales they might be fine as a base coat of colour and texture to apply more ground foam or static grass over.

It was a fun little project to tackle this evening. Most of the work was done while working on other late afternoon tasks like getting supper started and laundry finished. It felt really nice to work on this. It’s not a model of anything and certainly not in any scale. I wanted to try tea leaves so I could learn what they might be like to work with and from that, get a sense of where I might try them in a proper model.

Here’s a link out to Phil Parker’s blog and the article that inspired this fun project in the first place:



    1. Especially in our small kitchen.

      Luckily no supper was harmed during the preparation of this test.

      Given my short attention span this is something of a miracle.



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