Friday, 16 May 2014

DIY Static Grass Applicator


OK this is another of my tutorials that run on the theme of saving us all a little money by manufacturing a tool that costs so much when bought on the open market, but with a little imagination and inginuity we can save some money and use the cash saved to buy more models!!

I would love to take the credit for this however this is something which has been floating around the internet for a while now. There are many variations in the design and I suppose that mine will be yet another to add to the list. The main components however remain the same:

A battery operated fly swatter or bug zapper     £3.98 from Ebay
A tea strainer                                                    £0.99 from Ebay
Some electrical wire                                          My stash / spares box
A crocodile clip                                                My stash / spares box

The tools that you will need for this task are:

Soldering iron & solder
Some spare "car grade" wire
wire cutters
insulating tape or heat shrink
A glue gun or good quality resin glue
Helping hands (not essential but "very handy")
An area to solder and use heat gun that won't annoy your partner!!

It was a fantastic evening so I decided to do this in my back garden in case your wondering that the house decor has changed slightly from my other photos.


The first thing that you have to do is to dismantle the bug zapper by undoing the screw located in the handle. Once the bug zapper is apart you need to separate the swatter section (on mine its yellow) from the handle. Once all the screws are undone and removed, you can separate the swatter section slightly to expose the wire connections. Snip the wires as close to their connectors as possible to give you plenty of wire to play with for the soldering fun ahead.

The next step is to strip the insulation from the end of the red wire and also some of the insulation from the length of wire that you have to spare. Both of the stripped ends need to be "tinned".

Tinning wires basically means applying a small amount of solder to each end of the wires to "prepare" them in readiness to solder them together if you were not sure of this terminology.

With both wires tinned they can then be held together using the helping hands (or a willing helper). The wires can then be heated together with the iron and a little extra solder for good measure. To finish the joint, the heat shrink or insulating tape can be applied to the joint to finish it. More on this wire later.

To prepare the tea strainer so that it sits in place of the swatter in the handle, first offer the tea strainer up to the swatter handle to determine the portion that you will be cutting off. Mark the cut lines on the swatter handle and then cut them off, either with the snips that you have or a junior hacksaw. You will need to prepare the handles of the tea strainer by filing off the chrome plating as this will not take any solder. This can be done with a small needle file. Again both the tea strainer and the end of one of the blue wires will need to be tinned and then soldered onto the handle. repeat the same process for the other blue wire so that you end up with one of the wires soldered to each end of the tea strainer (see pictures below). Again the last stage will be the application of heat shrink or insulating tape over each soldered joint. Check that the wires and improvised handle fit neatly into the handle of the bug zapper.

As a final step to this stage, get out the glue gun and apply a good amount of hot glue to secure the tea strainer into the bug zapper handle and allow to cool. Please make sure that you don't apply hot glue over the screw holes or you won't be able to secure the handle when your finished !!

OK, back to the red wire that we soldered first. The other end of the wire will need to be soldered to a crocodile clip. I used a clip from a photo holder that I had bought as a pack of three from ikea, but it really doesn't matter where you get it from. Again the clip will need to be prepared by filing off the chrome coating and then tinning. Using the helping hands again, solder the wire to the crocodile clip and then apply heat shrink or insulating tape to the joint to finish it off:

So we are now into the final steps of this little project. The handle of the fly swatter will need a small groove filed into it to allow the wire with the crocodile clip to pass through it. the handle assembly can then be screwed back together and some more hot glue can be poured into the gaps around the tea strainer end of the handle. That's it, all done. By adding some batteries its ready to use. Last photos are below:



First Trials

First trials of the grass applicator were a little hit and miss. At first I thought that it wasn't working because the grass just laid flat as if I were sprinkling it by hand. I then realised quite quickly that there is a "knack" to using one of these. Firstly use small amounts of grass at a time and only small areas of glue on the base. I found that its easier to control the amount of coverage that you require and you get better results. The most important factor in using this tool is to keep the strainer as close to the ground you want to cover as possible without actually touching the ground or the crocodile clip. Once I had mastered this technique (only two attempts), I was really happy with the results and have now ordered a few different lengths of grass to trial it. The photos below are of a base that is essentially a re-work that I was never happy with. With the grass applicator I'm sure it will become another mini dio that I can be proud of:

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