Building a Stablemate Grass Display Base

This is the companion page to the Model Horse Bases listings I’ve now got up on on the shop. This post covers the basics of creating (and repairing!) the simple grass bases. I’ll do some other ones later that cover making the fencing and doing more complex ground cover (sand, shrubs, water, sawdust, mud, etc.) ๐Ÿ™‚

These bases can be used for just adding a bit of pizzaz to a normal display shelf or they can be used in model horse photo showing. Live showing doesn’t use bases unless you are doing a performance entry, so they aren’t as much use there.

On a scale of ‘very easy’ to ‘medical attention may be required’, this is in the ‘very easy’ end of things.


Here’s what you’ll need to start with. The brush will be used for the paint and for the glue mixture, so you can use a generic craft one, no need to get fancy. The paint is also just standard craft paint, using Liquitex here is just a waste. You can swap out the Wood Glue for normal Elmer’s Glue or any other crafting glue that is water soluble.

  • Wooden Base (3×5 is a nice size)
  • Sandpaper (400 grit works well)
  • Paintbrush
  • Black and Green Paint
  • Sealer
  • Wood Glue (white glue also works)
  • Water
  • Train Grass (multiple colors helps)

The base in the photo just has layer of grass added and is drying– which is why it looks odd.

Prepping the Base

Artminds Wooden Bases (3x5 sizes)
Artminds Wooden Bases (3×5 sizes)

Depending on the shape of the base you’ve chosen, the steps here will either be:

  1. Sand
  2. Paint


  1. Sand
  2. Sand
  3. Sand
  4. Curse at all the random corners and angles and wonder aloud who ever needs a base this complicated.
  5. Sand
  6. Give up and Paint
Model Horse Wooden Display Base - Painting black

There isn’t a whole lot to this step. Normally I paint the bottom of the base first, then seal it before moving to sand and paint the top. The green that you paint under the grass can be any color, I’ve even done swirling patterns of various greens before. (The paint is 99% hidden by the train grass, so you just need it there for that last 1%.)

Let there be GRASS!

Model Horse Wooden Display Base - Paint Undercoat

As you may have noticed from the past adventures on this blog, Elmer’s Wood Glue is the ductape of my crafting universe. Thus when it came time to get back into base-making I tossed out the Elmer’s Craft/White Glue I was using the last time I made these and went for the wood.

This is a mixture of glue, wood, and green paint that has just enough water in it to paint well. You want to completely coat the base with it and then wait a few minutes before adding the train grass. This is to make sure if the mixture soaks into the base at all that you can reapply (it shouldn’t since you painted it).

Adding the train grass consists of just taking pinches of it from the bag and scattering it around. There are a few things to be careful of at this step (that I learned the hard way):

  1. Make sure you have a paper plate under the base to catch the overspill. You can use this again on the next pass, no need to waste it!
  2. Turn off the fan and possibly wear a dust mask. The grass is FINE grain and floats like a butterfly– sticks to things like a bee? It will get EVERYWHERE. And stain your fingers green.

Wait roughly a half-hour and then gently tap off the excess grass onto the plate. You will most likely have some bald spots, but no worries! Much like painting with chalk pastels, this will take several layers.

It’s better to tap well and pause to blow off the loose grass every so often. Better it come off now than further down the road!

If you are adding in post holes for removable fencing, I’ve found that sticking toothpicks in the holes keeps them clean! ๐Ÿ™‚

Using the same water-glue-paint mixture, add some liquid to wherever you need more grass. If you are building up a ‘wild’ sort of pasture, you can just add it randomly. Another tip is to add clumped grass bits as well as the fine stuff. To make the clumped grass you can either buy it from the same place you got the fine grass OR you can do what I did and cheat.

Take a small container with a lid and scatter a bit of the fine grass across it. GENTLY spray it with the spray sealer (fine mist and from a distance), wait a second, then close the box and shake. This will get the grass to clump together. If the grass is still sticky when you open it back up, just add more grass and keep shaking.

Repairing Bases

Scraping Grass off the old Breyer Stablemate Scale Model Horse Grass Base

Depending on the type of damage you will either need to scrape the base clean and start over or use the same patching/layering method as above. In both cases you will use exactly the same materials as you do to create a new base (which is why I include packages of the train grass in my Etsy bases!).

The base shown here was over ten years old, but actually looked okay. The problem was was covered in pet hair and there really isn’t an easy way to get them fur-free again. I spent a while with the tweezer before giving up and grabbing the exacto.

Once I scraped it down to the point where I could confirm there was no pet hair left I doused the whole base in the glue mixture and started layering on the grass. It took a while, but I got the base right back to where it had been three dogs, a cat, and four guinea pigs ago! (You’ll see it pop-up in the other Etsy Listings when I start posting the props.)

Repairing and old model horse grass display base

All in all, these grass bases aren’t that hard to make (or repair). The main issue tends to be finding the supplies since not everyone has model train-friendly hobby stores nearby. There are a couple of good online retailers, if that’s the case– or you can always just drop me a line and I’d be happy to get you either the parts or a finished base! ๐Ÿ™‚

Other Fancy Stuff

Model Horse Display Base Variations

As you can see, the possibilities are pretty much endless for small model horse bases. Thanks to the awesomeness of the model train hobby there are no end of faux-flora to be had and plenty of online tutorials on how to bring reality down to scale.

I’ll be posting a few more how-to’s on the fencing and other footings, but there are a bunch of other model train and model horse people out there making bases. So go take a Google and see what the rest of the world has dreamed up! ๐Ÿ˜€

Martha Bechtel

My name is Martha Bechtel and I write fantasy and science fiction stories, paint small model horses silly colors, cast resin and plaster magnets, code random code (and Wordpress plugins)... Come on in and join in the fun!

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