|1/35 Crossroad Diorama Base|
|Kit Number: 36013|
|Reviewed by Kip Rudge, IPMS# 40597|
Review sample provided by Dragon Models USA: www.dragonmodelsusa.com
Since starting its line of vacu-formed structures, MiniArt has evolved its offerings from just the structure itself to including some really nice, and useful, options for the armor/diorama builder. Apparently MiniArt has a master plan that is just beginning to become known to the modeling public.
The Crossroad Diorama Base (36013) appears to be one more step towards the vacuumization of the 1/35 modeling world. Combining two previous offerings - European Street (36011) and Diorama w/Ruined House (36012) - MiniArt is offering basically a nice sized urban warzone for those who have developed a need for such (and you know who you are).
MiniArt continues to refine the art of sucking hot slabs of styrene plastic down into well-detailed molds and producing very neat items for our amusement. In technical terms, the box that contains the Crossroad kit is big and full. Two full bases, replete with stellar cobblestone detail, several vacu-formed sheets with all the parts need to construct both buildings, four sprues of MiniArt doors, windows, lamps and building accessories, and a printed sheet of road signs and eye candy. Simply put - a lot of stuff.
There has been many a debate on the merits of vacu-forms versus plaster or resin on the web and elsewhere. It's really not fair to compare, since the methods of construction differ greatly. I prefer vacu-forms because they are styrene, they have interior and exterior detail, they are light weight and they have everything I need to complete them. Ever try lifting a three-story, three-sided plaster building with interior detailing?
That having been said, there is a different approach to building vacs. They are not Tamiya kits. They are not shake and bake. But they call for a skill set that any modeler can learn quickly.
First step is to cut the building parts from the sheets they were vacu-formed in. I prefer to use the sharp edge of the hobby knife because it is easier to control around detail than the back of the blade or a scribe. Just go slowly, press firmly and the excess sheet will snap off with very little pressure. Do not toss the scrap sheet.
The next step is to staple some rough sandpaper sheets to a nice sized sheet of plywood. You want to provide a big enough area to rip about 1mm - or about the thickness of the vac sheet - off the back of the part. I like rough grit sandpaper because it does the job quickly and the job doesn't have to be pretty. Be careful when sanding the smaller vac parts that you don't sand off your fingertips. Yes it has been done and hurts a lot later.
Once you've ground down the mating surfaces for the parts, get your scrap out and begin cutting and gluing shims/guides on all the straight surfaces. Glue these on the inside of the piece where they will not be seen and where they can add strength to the structure. I put them around the windows, doors, along the floors and wherever the part is straight for more than a quarter inch. You don't need to leave a lot over the edge, just enough to hold the other part when you mate them.
MiniArt still favors a miter joint on the corners of most of its buildings. This means it's easier to assemble the interior corners first, and then follow up with the exterior panels. The shims you glued on earlier mean you'll have to do a little bending and finagling to get everything together. But the added strength and easier alignment of parts are worth it.
The only glue I use on MiniArt buildings is Tenax. MiniArt plastic is pretty tough and won't be intimidated by hot glues. I've tried the Tamiya Green bottle glue and it just doesn't get at the styrene as well as Tenax or something really hot.
Once the parts are lined up satisfactorily, do not spare the glue. You want the joints to be strong and bulletproof. If things don't line up exactly, don't sweat it, buildings are rarely blown apart precisely. Don't fret the seams in the windows either. MiniArt supplies window frames that hide the seams very, very well. Once the buildings are glued, let them set overnight.
After the buildings sit overnight, come back and give them the once over. Re-glue and clamp where necessary. Now get out your razor saw or triangular jewelers file. Use the saw and file to redefine the detail on the torn edges of the buildings. This makes an amazing amount of difference once painting and weathering begin. Also get out you hobby knife and start amputating the vac pips all over the parts.
I used this sequence on both buildings in the Crossroad kit. Once I was happy with the restored detail, I added sheet styrene on the roofs in order to provide a clean level appearance. Then I added Liquitex Texture Gel to all the surfaces that have sustained damage. This stuff is the bomb. I use both the ceramic stucco and resin sand texture to add roughness and… well… texture to damaged brick, stucco and even stone. The stuff is acrylic so it washed out of the old brush and I can thin it to work it easier. It dries rock hard and takes paint great. I added a lot on the upper surfaces on both buildings since destruction is messy. It also works great to disguise any gaps or boo boos.
After drying for the night, I was ready to paint. Everything was primed in flat black. The brick red was sprayed in first and then masked off after it dried. Then I added the base color of the building. I used the box art as my reference, but apparently European buildings of the WW2 time period could be very colorful. I picked a pastel green for one building and a deep blue for another. Once they were base coated, I masked once again for the ornate stonework on the buildings. I used the same off-white for both buildings.
Let me say here that masking is a pain in the tucus. The paint also lifted in a few spots when removing the masking tape. But it's no big deal because these buildings are, as they say, "all blowed up".
So once all the base colors were laid in, I took a page from MiniArt's notebook (http://www.miniart-models.com/). And got my weathering on.
MiniArt has apparently eschewed the tried and true wash/drybrush technique for something much simpler - slathering. The approach is simple - take a tube of dark oil paint, squeeze a blob onto a palette, thin just a tiny bit and then overcoat your entire complex, pain-in-the-tucus, paint job with dark oil paint. Then wipe the dark, thick oil paint off. I used wedge shaped make-up sponges but was amazed at how well the effect worked. Since it is oil paint, there is a long working time, so you can vary the effect however you desire. It's messy but loads of fun. Working in small sections allows you to vary the density and add visual interest to the building. Spiffy!