Having been busy of late, work on the layout came to a bit of a halt for about two weeks.
I've had the materials waiting in the wings (play sand, brown spray paint and Copydex glue) and I'm pleased to say that I've finally ballasted one (the larger) section of the layout!
I've been apprehensive about it for a few reasons: I've never used latex based glue when ballasting before, I'm worried that the "peculiar" smell that Copydex has will linger, I've never used sand as a ballast before and I've certainly not pre-painted ballast myself prior to laying it!
So, here's the method I applied:
I got 2kg of play sand off of eBay (a lot more than was needed, but it's there for future endeavours I guess!)
I tipped a few cupfuls of this sand into an old baking tray and placed it into a hot oven for about twenty minutes.
After it had cooled I then gave it a few coats of brown spray paint - the method for this was spray, agitate, spray etc.
In hindsight I think I should have been more patient between sprays, because there was some "snowballing" of the sand, where the still wet particles stuck to one another and formed small granular clumps. These were crushable, but a bit of a pain, another way to avoid this would have been to lay the sand in a larger shallow tray, meaning less passes needed with the spray paint.
However, I was very pleased with the overall result - especially the colouring that I achieved.
This painted sand was then returned to the oven (I wasn't sure if it would burst into flames!) and left to cool down, as it turned out - for a week or so!
Eventually the sand mixture was applied by means of thumb and index finger - sprinkled along all the track centres, any stray ballast was tidied by hand too and I pushed an old freight wagon along the track to test for wheel clearance over the ballast - any "crunchy" bits were immediately attended to!
I experimented with different ratio's of Copydex to water mixes on small sections of track and found that 1-3 to 1-4 was good (anything greater than this produced plastic-y shiny looking ballast that was lacking texture, luckily one of the great things about this method is the easiness of removing the ballast and starting again!)
I didn't pre-wet the ballast and I think I probably should have, as there was a lot of "shifting sand" when applying the glue-fairy liquid-water mix (incidentally, this was done using a small syringe.)
I allowed it to dry for a day or two and the results were good, if a little uniform. So, I found rewetting the ballast with glue mix, and then sprinkling some dry unpainted sand in a "haphazard" manner over the whole layout and then drying further added more variation of tone.
The track edges were done in a similar manner, but these were pre watered! The glue mix was more readily taken up and movement was less, I tidied up the edges a little bit afterwards using an old "Nectar" card to straighten the lines.
At certain points on the layout there were holes in the baseboard where wires were fed through, even though they were small - sand still managed to simply disappear down them! I mixed some sand and thick glue mixture together to make a filler, which I applied to the holes using a wooden coffee stirrer stick and sprinkled on dry sand as mentioned above to "hide the join."
I'm very pleased with how it looks, there's still some tidying up to do and there will probably be more weathering in future and obviously there's still the other track section to do. As a first time user of this method, I can say that it's going to be my chosen way of ballasting in future.
Pros: Quick drying and easily removed if alterations are needed.
Cons: Haven't found any yet!
(Also, the smell disappears on drying!)
Edited by Ray Von