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Use tea leaves in a diorama

Tea for two, or more uses
Living in the desert Southwest I drink gallons of iced tea each day, leaving me with a lot of washed-out tea leaves.

Cleaning my pitcher recently, a tea bag shredded. For the first time, I studied the used tea leaves. Immediately, I saw ivy on a 1/35 scale building wall — but that was just the beginning.

You can use old tea leaves either washed out (used) or dry and fresh. However, unless you want a specific dark-brown effect, do not use water-based adhesives or paint with the dry-and-fresh variety. The tea leaves will become damp and stain whatever they touch dark brown. On the other hand, well-used tea leaves have little or no ability to stain.

Tea leaves work in nearly any scale, from 1/160 scale (N scale model railroading) to 1/35 scale dioramas. But they must be adjusted to scale. What works as ivy leaves in 1/35 scale becomes a much larger item in N scale.

The used leaves can be employed wet or dry. Wet, they tend to clump — great for scattered dead leaves blown into a corner (a fall or winter scene). Dried, they can be applied singly or in small groups and arranged with a dry, soft brush before being hit with adhesive.

When I want ivy leaves on scale walls, I either dye the dried, used tea leaves with the appropriate green or use them as dead ivy.

Attaching these leaves to building surfaces is easy, if a bit odd. First, I lay down thin lines of super glue. Then I gently drop the leaves on the glue, blowing through a drinking straw to direct loose leaves toward the super glue.

For bigger areas, any white glue will work. I prefer the clear-liquid scenic cement sold for model railroading.

In summer, the best thing about using tea leaves may be the iced tea that gets them ready for your display — but, wet or dry, fresh or used, tea leaves have more uses than I’ve discovered so far.

Tip submitted by:
Ned Barnett
Las Vegas, Nev.


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The basics of making an inexpensive, yet creative diorama.
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