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Originally Posted by jeep102754:

Anyone using coffee grounds as modeling dirt, and if so, fresh or recycled? Also, what precautions do you use to minimize "critter infestation" or mold?

Topic has been kicked around the block a few times - try going under Advanced Search and look for coffee in this same forum section.

Hi

There is a lot of different points of view regarding the coffee grounds.

personally I've never had problem, living in south Florida with no AC room.

but after enjoy the coffee I dry it very well. 

after 6 years, knocking wood I never suffer any kind of infestation product of the coffee use.

AG. 

Last edited by AG

I have never used old coffee grounds on my layout nor have I used fresh, unused coffee there either, after having done so on my toy soldier diorama displays.  Let me explain why I would not advocate unused coffee.  If it get any type of moisture--even from the air, the coffee will degrade and stain your surface and also smell like----well, coffee.  I have used it with better results as just a bit of loose filler in conjunction with other landscaping materials and away from my toy soldier figures to avoid any staining.   As long as there is sufficient air around the granules, I don't think you'll have too many problems.  To concentrate the coffee granules invites some of the problems I have mentioned.  Now, old, used coffee--I don't know because it can possibly turn moldy and perhaps invite bugs as well.  You might be better off using inert materials.  I have used sand after baking it in an oven to kill off any organisms that might be in it.

 

There is a lot of different points of view regarding the coffee grounds.

personally I've never had problem, living in south Florida with no AC room. but after enjoy the coffee I dry it very well. after 6 years, knocking wood I never suffer any kind of infestation product of the coffee use. 

Now is that when you use it on the layout or just in general?

 

I have to worry that if you use it on the layout that it would make a lousy cup of coffee..........

Originally Posted by mwb:
 

There is a lot of different points of view regarding the coffee grounds.

personally I've never had problem, living in south Florida with no AC room. but after enjoy the coffee I dry it very well. after 6 years, knocking wood I never suffer any kind of infestation product of the coffee use. 

Now is that when you use it on the layout or just in general?

 

I have to worry that if you use it on the layout that it would make a lousy cup of coffee..........

I used coffee in my layout for 5 years until I remove everything an install 2 rails track.

when I remove it the coffee was intact, no sign of any decomposition.

so was not luck, regarding your signature.

Ag 

Coffee does make a great organic stain. When my wife and I re did our kitchen, I made a cutting board above the dishwasher opening using oak. I wanted to match the cabinet color as closely as possible, and didn't want to use the lacquer stain I got from the cabinet company. I boiled the grounds, and the resulting juice was my stain. The board still maintains its original look after about twenty years. Tobacco juice and walnut husks also make good stains.

This topic was discussed not too long ago, and many suggested using real dirt. After all, what's closer to nature then the real thing? I've read that the dirt should be baked in the oven to kill any organic critters that might call it home.

Don

I've used used coffee grounds for 30 years in many different climates without issue.  I agree that unused coffee is probably a bad idea, since it contains many volatiles. 

 

I also agree that real dirt is great. But I don't see it as either/or. You want many different textures.  Earth and coffee grounds complement each other nicely.  Peat moss is good, too.  All of these old school materials are documented in old Lionel literature--e.g. the Model Railroading book.  Tried and true.

If dried, and kept dry!, I think it would work O.K.

  If it happened to get wet here in Mich. the mold would be bright green in 3 days. I have to skip that one.

 Touching on stains, an old guy we used to talk to near our fishing spots, used pork blood, and mineral, lemon, and linseed oil on his refinished & homemade rifle stocks! Orange, pink, red, to deep red/black. Always sitting on his porch polishing. Dunked in a bucket of it, used small 2" spot on a white t-shirt rag for upkeep. The stocks didn't smell & looked like a dark sunburst guitar.

Ok. this wall is latex wood putty over masonite formed with bakery dept. brick molds from Wallmart. It never cracked like I hoped. Quite strong. Cinder block sized bricks, it was grey, but I wanted a red wall.

005Wet paint. The whole wall and overhang slide up for access. The portals are the guides.

000_0964this was supposed to post in the unusual materials thread.

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Last edited by Adriatic
Originally Posted by Kunde:

Mine got moldy. Just saying. 

I have had dried coffee grounds in a container for 20 years with no problems. One other thing about coffee grounds or dirt--once they're glued down, any bugs, if there were any to begin with, would be glued to death. It's also extremely unlikely that an infestation would occur after your ground cover is permanently affixed. Think about it--where would the bugs come from and why would they be attracted to a solidified mass? Seriously...

Last edited by DennisB

Oh the bugs it dirt can get out alright! Painted sealed wood too!(I killed three tree beetles not really native to Michigan under, and around my new layout)

Coffee dried, and sealed in a can, won't grow mold.

Ground up and wet, it is ideal for mold growth.

I'm sure other areas climates, even some in Michigan, would have no issues.

I've seen moist southern climates where Id expect it to be worse, but I don't really know about that.

 

 

I can understand tree beetles emerging from wood. It's quite possible they could survive in a burrowed out space within. But, I have yet to see bugs working their way out of permanently affixed dirt. Also, if there were bugs in the dirt when you gathered it, I would think you would see them. Regardless, like I said, any bugs would be glued to their death! 

 

My dried used grounds were not sealed in the can. Of course, used coffee grounds do need to be spread out to dry before placing them in a container or you will, indeed, see mold growth.

 

 

Last edited by DennisB

Contamination of soil with insect eggs is a constant concern for gardeners.

The wrong scoop could bring anything inside. Beetles, drain/fruit flies, termites, etc..

Id bake it.

But you are on to something with the glue....mixed with alcohol should equal death.

But if an egg shell is what was glued vs a live, unprotected insect, some can just eat their way out. 

For those who have used coffee grounds as landscaping but are fearful of organisms, you can try this:  Go to a craft store and purchase a clear spray sealer.  Lightly spray all over the coffee grounds that are already on your display.  The sealer is toxic to anything, including yourself--so don't breath it.  At the same time it will seal the grounds to avoid the production of mold from anything in the air around it, at least on top.  Now I can't account for what might be on the bottom in terms of bacterial growth that the sealer doesn't reach.

Originally Posted by DennisB:
Originally Posted by Kunde:

Mine got moldy. Just saying. 

I have had dried coffee grounds in a container for 20 years with no problems. One other thing about coffee grounds or dirt--once they're glued down, any bugs, if there were any to begin with, would be glued to death. It's also extremely unlikely that an infestation would occur after your ground cover is permanently affixed. Think about it--where would the bugs come from and why would they be attracted to a solidified mass? Seriously...

 

 

The problem is when you wet those coffee grounds with glue on the layout. You get mold with the moisture, not sealed in a container. There's no comparison. 

Any microbes in the soil I used on the layout were eaten by the spiders and bugs living in my basement evey day.

Last edited by Kunde

Boy, this really is a mystery.  Obviously, the folks who have had mold problems aren't making it up.  OTOH, so many of us have had no problems whatsoever over a very wide span of time and conditions (believe me, I have had layouts in places where I could have grown mushrooms!). Clearly, there is some missing variable that we don't understand.

 

You ARE all using Maxwell House Master Blend, right?   

LOL - In the 60s I would dry used coffee grounds in my mom's oven and then use them for dirt roads and truck loads. The only issues - make sure to keep the area dry and low moisture levels.  The humidifier broken down while I was away for a month and MOLD started growing in some of the coffee grounds that did not get a clear spray overcoat.  A Vermont Bridge Engineer.

 

Originally Posted by Avanti:
 (believe me, I have had layouts in places where I could have grown mushrooms!). Clearly, there is some missing variable that we don't understand.
You ARE all using Maxwell House Master Blend, right?   
 

 Well, mushrooms will grow about anywhere near here. In the middle of a semi-shady lawn if you let them. Michigan has lots of fresh water, and humidity.

 

Chock Full O Nuts  Seriously

 

 

Mr Avanti,interesting about the peat moss.Can I use the alcohol and diluted glue to firm it into place?Never heard of this being used.NickOriginally Posted by Avanti:

I've used used coffee grounds for 30 years in many different climates without issue.  I agree that unused coffee is probably a bad idea, since it contains many volatiles. 

 

I also agree that real dirt is great. But I don't see it as either/or. You want many different textures.  Earth and coffee grounds complement each other nicely.  Peat moss is good, too.  All of these old school materials are documented in old Lionel literature--e.g. the Model Railroading book.  Tried and true.

 

Originally Posted by rockstars1989:
Mr Avanti,interesting about the peat moss.Can I use the alcohol and diluted glue to firm it into place?Never heard of this being used.

Peat moss is an interesting material, with some unusual properties.  At minimum, it has a nice woodsy organic look that makes a good complement to other ground covers.  But, if you experiment with it a bit, you will find some interesting behaviors.  For example, I like to put some in a jar with a dilute mixture of green hobby acrylic and water. Shake it up, strain, and spread it out to dry. You will find that it clumps up into little globules with a nice look and texture. It is sort of like ground foam, but different, and can be used to break up the "Woodland Scenics" monotony, that can happen when you use too much of one material (not picking on WS, it is just an example of a high-quality commercial source). Peat moss is inherently dark, so you will tend to get dark shades of green, but it is a nice look, and good to simulate overgrown areas of bushes.  Here's an example--the area to the immediate right of the horse corral is peat moss:

 

 

 

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I think that one of the most common errors made by beginners is to use the same palette of materials everywhere on a layout. This shouts "model" and just never looks natural. That is why I so often advocate for found materials like coffee grounds, peat moss and so on. It is not so much that they are better than the commercially-available alternatives, it is just that they are DIFFERENT. And, IMO the best layouts have more visual variety and texture than you can easily obtain if you limit yourself only to what you can purchase.

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