My wife asked me when I got back into building armor kits: "What are you going to do with them once you're finished?" It's a fair question, one that plagues most kit builders. The usual solutions are pedestals or else building your own dioramas, either from kits or from scratch. I prefer dioramas, though a good dio is both a work of art in itself, and pain to assemble (not to mention expensive to assemble the elements). Dioramas Plus offers a quick and easy solution: diorama-in-a-box kits that allow the modeler to focus on building the vehicle or figures, not worrying about what to do with it. You can literally put one of these together in less than an evening, and it's only then a question of painting and weathering the finished product. The range of dioramas offered in both WW II and Modern eras should provide most 1/35th modelers with plenty of options, both grand and simple.
The Small Ruins kit comes with two major castings in hydrocal, the "plaster" used in medical casts. It's a hard, but forgiving material that will crack if you abuse it, but takes more punishment than regular plaster of paris or spackling compound. The box contains:
2 castings of the outer facing & inner support walls
various cast piles of rubble
a bag full of loose bricks
wooden laser-cut window frames
two sheets of poly film for windows (one set of full panes of glass, the other with shattered glass shards)
The contents are packed well in a secure cardboard box, but the manufacturer promises to replace any pieces broken in shipment. DP products are only available by mail from the manufacturer, which will add $10 for first kit and $2 for each additional kit for US buyers, $25 for the first kit and $10 per additional for Canadian customers, and $40 for first kit and an additional $10 thereafter for other international buyers.
I'm not kidding when I say the kit goes together in less than an evening, though you will need to allow time in between stages for glues to set and paints to dry. The easy-to-follow instructions recommend priming the plaster parts so they don't soak up too much paint (hydrocal is quite porous). You then glue the "brick"-faced inner support wall at a 90 degree angle to the outer wall, allow to dry and you're in business. The piles of rubble and loose brick can be painted and arranged according to your creative vision. The window frames are made from laser-cut balsa wood and are adhesive-backed, allowing for quick placement of the window panes and affixing to the windows in the front of the building.
painting & weathering
The kit comes with detailed instructions on painting and weathering, and like everything about the kit, emphasizes easily-obtainable materials, not obscure paints you can only get over the Internet. Since it's a wrecked building, there isn't any correct way to do this, which releases a certain inner desire to "do it my way." The results are very satisfying, and as you can see from the photos, it looks like the name: a small ruined building hiding a Hetzer from this Armorama Feature
. The kit doesn't contain a sidewalk (a glaring oversight in an urban building), so I used some leftover Verlinden resin sidewalk blocks from another dio. The only other components were some gravel from my neighbor's French drain project and a few pieces of "plaster" walls made from spackling paste remnants.
Creating a realistic diorama can involve a lot of time, effort and expense. This kit solves those problems at a good price. If you're an experienced diorama maker, you probably don't need this kind of shortcut, but for the rest of us, it's a good way to shift the burden off of diorama-making, a totally separate skill set. My only quibble with the kit is the absence of any sidewalk; the company makes sidewalks you can purchase separately, but another small casting with a short piece of walkway would make the kit perfect.