by: Scott Lodder [ ]
Diorama building is a fantastic combination of technical knowledge and skill and pure creativity.
It's up to you as a builder to figure out how you are going to create a story at scale. Do you scratch build something, do you purchase an AM kit, do you use an AM kit for something "else"? Some builders use a technique called 'gizmology' assembling different left over parts to create a new part.
This review takes a kit and literally turns it on its side and solves one problem with a different creative solution.
This review in a built review of 135th Construction Battalion’s Stucco Wall Section - kit CO0105. The creative twist of this review is that I used the Wall section as a Road section. I was faced with a street-fighting scene and had the buildings, sidewalk, figures and kubelwagen - but no street.
I hunted around my kit shelves and came across a 135th Construction Battalion product and I didn't pay attention to the name. It was a big 8.5” x 11” resin section. It looked to me like a paved/covered square block road. I really liked the texture and detail, while the square block underlayment added symmetry to the square block sidewalk I already planned on using. So it was really a non-issue - it looked good, it was the right size; it was taking a turn and going from Wall to Street.
As a side note: this is the sort of thing that frees you from rigid definitions. There are many builders who comment that they look at 1:1 scale things in different ways for use in dioramas. Why not extend that critical eye to other kits.
The kit is quite simple, it is one piece that measures 8.5"x11". The piece is .25" thick. The thickness is nicely uniform. There is only a slight lip around the outer edge; the rest is nice and flat. The resin is a standard 135th Construction Battalion cream; I have come to prefer working with 135th Construction Battalion’s resin. It does not create as much resin dust as some other manufacturers. The dust it does create is not as offending to your nose (always use a mask when working with resin). The ‘workability’ of the resin is very nice.
The front of the piece (to me in this application) represent a paved/packed road surface over an underlayment of square block road pavers. There are sculpted areas that expose the pavers to show battle damage or very abusive use and neglectful maintenance. The sculpting is nice overall, with only a few areas that are a bit 'soft'. This works nicely, use and weather would soften the transition from the paved to unpaved areas.
Take a lesson from the Romans on how to build a road - planning. Most projects are not cut and dry. Mine wasn’t either; I did this on purpose to challenge the products and to make the end project one worth displaying. My first planned challenge was to have an intersection creating at least a two-piece road treatment. Challenge two was an angle along the two outside edges. A third unplanned challenge was a second seam that cropped up at the front right of the diorama.
I planned out a simple "T" intersection and did some initial dry fitting. It was at this point that I learned of the third challenge (the second seam). With multiple cuts and more than two pieces I made a simple paper template that I could cut out and overlay on the resin road. Part of planning via templates was to look ahead to my sidewalks. I knew I was going to use Kancali's new sidewalks. This would be a latex product that I use as a laminate type treatment. Since the sidewalk would lay over a base I wanted to make sure that the roadway was wider than necessary to allow for a small amount of overlap, thus eliminating any gaps. The templates showed that I had ample quantities of road surface.
The first part of preparing the surface was dealing with the back of this piece. The back was nice and smooth. I just had to clean up the very edge to knock down a small ridge. The application technique was simply cut to shape and glue the road down. I marked the outline on the backside of the roadway and used a rotary tool with a cut off wheel to cut the rough shaped pieces. I test fitted the cut pieces ensuring that the seams would fit well. The main seam required no adjustments. The small second seam required some reshaping to make a nice tight fit. I used a drum sander on my rotary tool for this. I was fine with an overhang on the outer edges; this would be sanded after the glue cured.
The glue I used was a simple one part contact epoxy. Since there was no load bearing requirements for the glue I didn't feel the need for a two-part epoxy. I applied the glue to the parts and installed them. The glue and pieces worked well together; there is still a nice tight fit.
Once the glue was dry I sanded the edges down to be even with the wooden base.
In addition to reacting well to epoxy this piece accepted CA super glue also. During the sidewalk application I had to tack down small areas of the sidewalk. I used CA between the latex sidewalk and resin road surface. I used a small toothpick dipped in glue to apply the glue, and then I pressed down with my finger. It worked well and is still holding. The final preparation before paint was to fill the seams. I used a bit of Squadron putty and it worked flawlessly. I filled it with a dental tool and scraped it smooth.
I used 'hobby' acrylic paints like Folk Art for my base layer. I mixed up a neutral shade of gray for the exposed paving stones. The paved area received a mixed bag of colors to create a dark grayish color. The resin took this paint wonderfully, it was smooth and easy. On top of this I applied variations of color to add realism and interest.
For shadows and texture I applied a turpentine/oil paint wash in a "filter" fashion and in "pin wash" fashion. All of these color treatments went on with no problems at all.
I must say I did not wash this resin piece with soap and water. This is typically done to remove any residue from the manufacturing process. I simply forgot to do it this time. To my satisfaction all the glue and paint went on with No ill affects.
On top of the paint I applied two coats of pastel powder. I applied a localized layer to match the nearest building (yellow/brown or red/gray). On top of this I applied a grayish layer of pastels to unify the entire project. The resin accepted this very nicely.
end of the road
I have been building dioramas for quite some time and have amassed an arsenal of techniques to scratch build all kinds of road treatments. When I first saw this piece I was skeptical. Then I found where these types of kits shine.
These pieces are great when you're short on time and need a good well sculpted creative solution in a hurry. I found the resin easy to work with and manipulate. The only potential shortcoming of this piece is that it is rigid and will not be suitable for a non-uniform surface. I found the size to be very acceptable with ample amounts to do this diorama, which is about average from what I am used to seeing. The sculpting is very acceptable as well.
I give this kit good marks, it fits the bill quite well even if it was originally designed to be a wall. This kit is a nice one to have on hand if you routinely build dioramas. It’s easy to pull out and put to use, and as we’ve seen for multiple different uses.