by: Matthew Quiroz [ ]
This is the third one of these kits that I have received over the last year or so, and I hope they keep producing them. Personally I think they are an excellent way to tackle a diorama where buildings are needed because pretty much everything you need comes in the box. There is a special skill set required to deal with assembly, though. For the most part, it's a vacuform kit: the walls are usually sided front and back and have to be removed from a carrier sheet of sorts in the same way one would tackle a vacuform airplane.
Once removed from the backing sheet, some careful sanding is needed to "true-up" everything before gluing the two halves together. Unfortunately, I didnít have a large enough sheet of sandpaper to do this with my example, and had to eyeball things. As it turned out, I wasnít too far off.
The kit's base is also a vac-formed item with predetermined slots for the building to rest/set on-- or in if you will. What is nice about this particular kit is that it comes with a boatload of extra items in the way of fencing, shutters, doors, iron gates etc. Enough that I could easily use them on other projects. As this is a vac kit, it presents some special problems with assembly.
To start, there is a lot of clean-up involved once the parts are removed. Luckily the parts are relatively thin and separate from the carrier sheet after just a couple of passes with a sharp #11 blade. Due to this thinness, the parts are extremely flexible/wobbly. To fix this, I added extra gluing strips to the inside edges to provide more gluing surface. This helped some, but even after everything was together, it was still pretty flexible and would come apart under too much pressure. I used some CA to keep things together, then thought of another idea: expanding foam.
Alumilite makes this, and I just happened to have some in the drawer of my work bench. I cut off the bottom of the walls on the buildings where they would mate to the surface of the base, mixed up a batch of the foam and poured it in. It expanded to 10 times its normal size, and began filling up the void in between the front and back walls. My initial batch didnít completely make it to the top of the wall, so I mixed more and again poured it in. That did the trick. In a short amount of time, I had a nice mushroom of foam oozing out of the walls where I had removed the bottom. I let this cure, then cut/sanded off the excess.
A word of caution when using this stuffÖ make sure the foam has somewhere to go. If not, you can end up with severely deformed parts. As it turned out, my walls swelled about a millimeter or so. It is hardly noticeable, but significant enough that the walls wonít fit into the slots on the base pre-made slots for them. Iíll have to cut some of the base detail away and replace it once the walls are in place.
Swelling aside, the foam did the trick of firming things up. The walls are solid as could be now, and handling the assembly is a lot easier without worrying about me crushing the thing. I had some small holes/gaps in the walls, and the foam oozed out of these, but acted as filler once cured. I took a wire wheel mounted in my Dremel and smoothed everything out once cured. Painting and weathering everything should tie it all together nicely.
If I was to do anything differently, I would replace the kit-supplied second floor material with basswood and card stock. The kit items just seem a bit soft in detail here, and the fact that they are hollow on one end somewhat bothers me. Not a big issue, but one I will deal with by filling the underside with quick-curing two-part putty and some dental tool work for the wood detail.
Another note on the foam: if by chance some of it oozes out onto the surface (say, on the brick work detail), donít panic. Let the foam fully cure, then use a toothpick or the like to pry up one end and the excess foam can be peeled off and tossed in the trash. I freaked out when this happened, but quickly realized it wasnít attacking the plastic and would peel right up when cured. However, I would wear gloves: this stuff is extremely sticky and doesnít come off of skin quite as easily as it does plastic. Donít say I didnít warn you.
To do some truing-up of exterior wall seams, I used Bondo automotive putty: the two-part, extremely stinky kind that dries hard in about 10 minutes. I left this to set overnight and attacked it the following morning to ensure it was fully cured. It worked like a charm, and all the minor mismatch areas I had were finally evened out. The window frames covered the seams, but I wanted to make sure all was level before I got that far.
Now, a problem of sorts with this kit is there were no instructions. I had the box top to look to for reference, but it is pretty straight-forward if you look at the parts. I ended up with a truck-load of extra parts left over that will go into the spares box for use later. All the light posts are assembled as a best guess exercise. That is, match parts as best you can to get the lamp post you want. I opted for one post on the far right corner and a fence. Easy enough to do. I had to trim a small section of the fence off as it was slightly too long. The doors and windows will be inserted after painting is complete. This is where she sits as of now; complete minus paint.
For what they are, these are some nicely-molded kits that give you a viable display base for figures, vehicles or whatever you would like to add to it. I look forward to future releases of more of these structures.
Thanks to Miniart for providing the review sample. When ordering, please be sure to say you saw it reviewed on Armorama.