1/35 Diorama with Barn
Kit Number: 36032
Reviewed by  Andrew Birkbeck, IPMS# 27087

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MSRP: $40.95
Review sample provided by Dragon Models USA:

When I first joined a modeling club way back in 1975, it was a club attached to my school. Each Wednesday afternoon, last period was devoted to "clubs", and each student had to join at least one from the long list provided: drama club, debating club, music club, chess club, model club. And the model club also had among its many members a group known as "war gamers". These intrepid young souls reenacted historical battles using game pieces consisting of model vehicles and injection molded plastic or cast metal figures, appropriately painted. Using rulers, dice, a large table, and sets of rules, the members did battle with one another. Also included among the "game pieces" were various buildings, bridges etc., some constructed using vacuformed plastic "kits". It is from these earlier beginnings that we come to 2009, and a firm named MiniArt, from the Ukraine.

MiniArt produces a decent number of these "dioramas in a box", consisting of both injection molded plastic parts, and vacuformed plastic sheets of parts. Any modeler familiar with vacuformed airplane kits, few of which are produced today, will recognize the parts contained within one of these MiniArt kits. The "Diorama w/Barn" kit under discussion in this review consists of three sprues of injection plastic detail parts, together with a number of vacuformed plastic sheets of main parts. The former are of reasonable detail, certainly sufficient for the purposes intend, and cover such items as building door, window frame, guttering and downpipe. These parts have some "flash" which requires removal, but nothing serious. The vacuformed parts consist of the main building parts: roof, walls, the cobblestone base, fence sections. Detail on these parts is quite good, and certainly convincing.

As with any vacuformed kit I have ever seen, the parts have various molding "pimples" that need to be carefully removed with craft knife and sanding paper. And you treat these vacuformed parts like any other: you carefully "score" around the edge of each part, and flexing the sheet back and forth, "snap" the parts loose from the main sheet. You then carefully sand away the excess plastic from the back of each part, test fitting as you go, so as to know when to stop the sanding. Remove too much plastic, and you ruin the parts. So patience is a virtue building vac kits. Detail on the vac parts, as mentioned, is good: in particular the brick work on the building, plus the stucco texture on the building walls. Slightly less convincing are the fence parts, but these are by no means poor, just not as nicely rendered as the brick and stucco parts.

Construction took place in various sub assemblies: the roof, the main building structure, the fence, the window frame and door etc. Each sub assembly was then painted, with some parts such as the main building requiring masking for the different colors. The roof and cobblestone base were painted Tamiya XF-63 German Grey, the brick areas on the building XF-64 Red Brown. The stucco areas I decided to color using XF-57 Buff, the door and window frame, XF-10 Brown. The guttering was painted XF-65 Field Grey. The sub assemblies were then all glued together into one "model", and airbrushed with a couple of coats of Tamiya Gloss Clear. Once this had dried, various "washes" were applied to accentuate the details, such as Burnt Umber, Lamp Black and other "dirty" colors. Once this had all dried, I sealed everything with PollyScale Matt Clear.

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Despite my apprehensions about building my very first "Vacuformed" kit, MiniArt's "diorama in a box" proved to be a very rewarding experience. While being a challenge, it was a very pleasant and rewarding one, and I feel the results show this method of producing dioramas has a lot of merit. For the purposes of this review, my example was built straight from the box, and thus needs a few additional details added at a later date once I track them down: the kit supplied window lacks any "glass", and as with the example shown on the MiniArt boxtop, the diorama probably could do with some vegetation: grass around the fence area, perhaps a couple of small trees.

My sincere thanks to DragonModelsUSA for providing IPMS/USA with this review sample. I strongly encourage anyone reading this review to check out the full range of MiniArt dioramas at the website I have provided, together with this firm's excellent 1/35th scale figure range. They also have a small but growing range of very interesting vehicle kits.

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