MiniArt has sent us a diorama of their latest countryside diorama kit – a vac-form job with a broken cart in styrene on the side to give it some depth – we take a look at the kit and give it a quick build to see how good a basic kit like this can look in a very short time.
Kit Number: 36047
Material: Injection moulded
Contents: 1 light grey sprue & 2 sheets of plastic vac-form
Available from: MiniArt’s Distributors near you
Mission - make a presentable country road diorama base:
Time taken – about eight hours – as well as some time to have a few cups of tea and something to eat – this is all the time it took to build this little nifty diorama – but I am getting ahead of myself - first I'll show you what came in the box…
This kit - number 36047 – tries to replicate a country road in a regular European setting. There are two sheets of plastic vac-form and one sprue of injection moulded plastic in grey. The grey vac-form replicated the ground base on which this sits on as well as the brick wall – this needs to be cut or bent off the sprues and then glued together. The styrene here makes a nice little short two wheeled cart which sits on the side of this diorama base.
Now vac-form has it’s pros and cons. I know some who hate it but I know some who like the ease of use and lightness. Indeed in this economy of internet selling of kits it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than ordering plaster from a smaller company. The bonus of plaster is that it can be shaped and filed down, and some plaster can even be cracked to replicate broken concrete.
The vac form here on the base is 345x240mm in size and breaks off easily from any extra material that sometimes sneaks in the sides of these. The base sits on a eight of 1cm high square material which serves as either a base or a good place to cut off the plastic before you install your own base – I know some people that fill these with plaster to give a strong surface with which to work with. The details here are of a pitted surface which will do for rough soil texture and a bunch of tyre and tracked vehicle tracks which cut across the base. These are spread out enough to replicate a large truck and regular sized tank or AFV. The road part has a flat spot on one side for the wall to sit on. This is the other vac form sheet.
The second sheet of vacform has the two sides of the wall. This replicates two halves of a two-stone thick wall with large rocks in it. There are some good textures here and the stones aren’t exactly the same – this brings a varied surface when painted and weathers well as we will see later on when I paint the kit. The only thing I don't like is the continual “spots” on the rocks. At first I thought these were a feature somehow of the texture – but on investigation these should be removed. A sharp knife and some superglue to fill the holes will do here to sort that problem.
The third sheet makes a two wheeled farm cart. Complete with detailed wheels and latches and catches. The cart comes with some fine wood detail that MiniArt do very well. Some people like it and some don't – I like it – I feel it is just “enough” to make a subtle difference when you look close up – don't like it? Use thin filler.
The kit itself – although it is missing any vegetation (there is a nice tree on the cover) looks promising. I set myself a challenge to have a leisurely afternoon just drinking tea and making the kit – would it get built and detailed in time? And would it look any good??
I removed all of the vac-form parts from the extra material – this is easier than expected – you just bend it a bit and snap it off. It is trickier in curved places like the brick walls - but a knife handy and some subtle bending have both of the halves off and with a lot of superglue to fill holes the brick wall goes together really easily. And it looks good too!
Most of the vac just snaps off the rest of the waste material – really easy once you get how to do it!
From Pac-man to a wall in a snap - you can sand it off on a table with sandpaper on the flat surface if you need too..
Painting - First I started with an undercoat - I have switched to black Auto plastic for all of my diorama undercoating – as it is the first layer of dark you can lighten over with progressive shades – and dark being “in” now with modellers It gives me a head start. Just get a kind that doesn’t smell too bad is my advice!!
I start on the brick walls. To give a random pattern I paint the bricks with some pretty whacky colours. A little like modulation effects I use these colours selecting singular bricks, then I cover the top with a base grey – then I dust it over with the lighter than normal grey which would be the sun hitting the flat surface and the trick it does with the eye.
The base running along the wall is “muddied & moulded” with some brown Vallejo paints and then glued in place to the base. I use Rocket Max glues as they have different thickness/thinness superglues which all serve their purpose. I like the thicker stuff which dries slowly but fills holes. There is a slight straight “crease” where the wall meets the base. A bit of this Rocket glue - or indeed any thick stuff you have - de-regulates the straight edge and returns a more random natural feel to where the base meets the wall. – On to paint the base…
I use my most beaten but perfectly bristled brush to make the black base turn to earth. Again using progressively lighter shades I drybrush in a pretty all-encompassing style – covering the whole base with a dirty dark earth colour at first – the lightest colours I save for the tracks on the road. If I wanted to make it muddy I would make the tracks really dark. But I was after a sunny scene so I made the tracks – which would be a highlight – the lightest brown.
I didn’t the same but in green shades for the grassy areas. Including a bit of moss on the lower walls which I had to slightly correct with more light grey when I got carried away – this was good as the moss would go for the deepest cracks anyway.
What to do for grass now? Well as it is with plastic it doesn’t resemble grass or even dirt at a pinch – so I got some grass sticky patches from my hobbyshop - these are un-named I am sorry I couldn’t help more – and made random patches in all three colours I had to represent slightly different grass. I made sure I left a little more under the cart and near the wall which would happen in real life of course.
First i gave the brown earth a top coating of progressively lighter green
I know it looks Alien right now but hang in there…I stick down the large patches
I know it looks Alien right now but hang in there…I stick down the large patches
To secure the flock or shorter grass to the diorama I needed a glue - and as a glue I used some spray on varnish – you can use hairspray or anything like sticky wall spray as well if you want – I spray it into a container then paste it on. Then I sprinkle what replicates the short grass – flock from Jarvis scenery. You can get it here at a lot of model shops and it is a cheaper substitute than others out there. It looks great in this scale as well. This grass too the edge off the plastic and after I fixed a few spots still on this picture you are left with a nicely thick grass surface with some taller sprouts of grass randomly thru it.
Next to focus on the cart. After a Quick build – the only thing that stood out as annoying was the extra material inside the spokes – this cleaned up without too many problems – the cart was undercoated with the black primer.
I used progressively darker dry brushing shades of brown with the cart – starting off all over and getting less and less the higher I went with these colours. The top of the cart is nearly all the beige colour – with the wheels and the wood panelling to catch and keep the darker colours this comes up beautifully with not much effort.
Well that was that – I didn’t go for the very dry road that was on the cover – and I still think it looks great. A lot of people out there knock vac form kits but I do think they have their place. MiniArt are really experienced in these types of kits and are continuously getting better and “cleverer” at making something new.
Although this kit needs some vegetation to make it work, the build was easy – fast and it was “fun” as well – if I can use that term in a serious modelling article!!
Well done MiniArt in filling this gap in the market. Keep them coming they are great!
Thanks to MiniArt for sending this kit to review and build.