I've been asked a few times and recently a bunch about how I could afford to build big layouts so I figured now is the time to let the cat out of the bag so to speak.
Here are some "How to's" on how to save money. Some are simple and some are detailed, these I will do now and some need pics so will have to wait.
Foliage - (ground covers, tree foliage)
I quit buying a lot of WS and SE foliage because it was taking me broke and the wife suggested that I use pillow stuffing (stuff is some type of spongey foam) and dye.
Using the clump stuffing from an old pillow I pour 1 bag of Rit dye in forest green and lots of water. (I use an old kitty litter bucket so not to dye the wifes cleaning buckets). This will make a rather dark green and will add either a table spoon of black for darker or a table spoon of yellow for lighter.
I suggest using warm water but cold will work. I then start pouring the clump filling into the dye till the bucket is full and not over flowing. (Push the filling down into the dye with an old paint stir, when it get saturated it will sort of sink)
Stir once daily till it is the color you want. When stirring, I try to squeeze the clumps to have them soak in more dye. Remove the foam and put on lots of newspaper to obsorb the left over fluid. Let dry.
While dyeing and drying I hit alll the flea markets or yard sales I can find and buy all the blenders I can find that are under $5.
When clumps are dry set up your blender(s) and put a handful into the blender and let er rip! (Cover and do not use your fingers to push the clumps in!!!!!!!!!) When it gets the right size and consistancy remove and repeat with a new batch.
I leave some the same consistancy of WS medium foliage but will blend a bunch till rather fine then sift through a tea sieve to get a bunch that is really fine.
Coal loads or cover
Using $5 blender I will chop up charcoal brickets till the consistancy I like. For ground cover or coal piles I will use this and make foam hills to glue the coal chunks to it. (DO NOT use water to glue. the brickets have ash in them which will turn acidic when wet. Straight elmers works good.) Spray with hair spray to hold it down.
Any super fine charcoal coal dust left over in the blender I use for oil marks or wheel marks on roads. This is alot cheaper than chalk.
Mulch, tilled soil
I stop in all the local flooring stores and ask them if they have old cork flooring samples or if I can talk to their installers and ask them. (Most, if you tell them why your asking, show em pictures of your layout! will give these to you, unless they are building layouts too.)
I break these up and use the good ole $5 blender to grind them to a fine consistancy and form tilled soil for farms and gardens.
I also soak them in a black wash till super dark, dry then use as mulch around gardens on the layout. Really brings out your plants.
You can also use old cork roadbed if you or a friend is disassembling their layouts.
Wood product left overs
A man I met here used to work of a lumber company and when I told him I was doing a bunch of lumber thingies on my layout he asked if I was going to include ash. Apparently the woodchips when not used for paper products were burnt and turned to ash which was then turned to lye (locally or shipped in tankers). To include this on my layout I used the ash left over from grilling to simulate making a Lye making company. (Little disclaimer here: Ash is acidic and when mixed with water will really mess things up so DO NOT use water near this ash!!!!!!)
When using ash use Hairspay or spray glue to affix this.
I have a bunch more and will add as I can.