Sunday, January 5

Review & Workbench test: Scale Model Scenery Aircraft Display Bases

Desperate for a display? Stumped for some scenery? Well Justin just Scale Model Scenery has just sent us a few of his latest creations for Gary to use under some of his models – He takes us through the simple steps of creating your own inexpensive but very nice looking bases in today’s workshop..

Scale Model Scenery Aircraft Display Bases
Scale: Assorted
Format: Downloadable Color PDF
Available from: directly

Recently I have grown to like the idea of displaying my finished models on a suitable base. Some of my bases have been very simple and others have become almost small vignettes or dioramas, but all of them to date have been made by hand. I have found (based on feedback from other modellers) that just about everyone agrees that a realistic base (and some figures etc) helps give the model itself some context/scale and helps the viewer understand what story the modeller was trying to tell.

When you model a wide array of aircraft subjects like me you soon realize that each new modelling project will almost certainly need a new display base which is both relevant and appropriate to the subject matter. This adds a considerable amount of extra work to each kit build, but in the past I have accepted that and made the bases to enhance the overall result.

And then … along came a clever idea from the chaps at

What if you could select from a gallery of pre-designed bases covering just about all era’s of aviation which you could simply purchase online (for a very reasonable price), download as a PDF and print them out (as many as you need) on your color laser printer.
Now the upside of this idea is of course the simplicity, all you need is the PDF and a suitable printer. The downside (at least in my mind) is just how realistic they would look, after all as modellers we work in 3D and anything printed on paper is 2D.

To put them to the test I was given access to a handful of the large and ever growing catalog available at their website.

Downloading was simple enough, with the files ranging in size from 1.5Mb to about 30Mb.
To open and work with a PDF file you will of course need a suitable PDF reader application like Adobe Reader or one of a slew of many other free programs.

The layout inside the PDF is similar for each base you download. There is an overview page followed by a set of instructions on how to assemble the parts of the base and finally the pages containing the actual artwork for the base sections.
Now it should be possible to print these images out on normal (90gsm) printer paper and then glue them to a solid base, but I chose to follow the instructions and purchase a small pack of heavier 200gsm paper. For most low end laser printers (mine is a HP Laserjet 1025NW) the thickest paper you can use is 200gsm, so it makes sense that Scale Model Scenery suggests this as the best option.

I did enquire at my local OfficeWorks (a chain of stationary/printing supply shops here in Australia) as to whether they could print the PDF’s for me and as for as little as 0.80c a page they would print onto 300gsm paper. All the bases you see in this review were printed on 200gsm paper at home.
For displaying my MiG-25 in 1/48 I used the Soviet Hexagonal Slab Surfaces set which consist of two full sets of different shaded tarmac section. Each base set included four A4 pages with the concrete texture occupying about 70% of the page size.

When cut out and glued together this one base could cover an area of 510 x 380mm (thats half a meter !!). I certainly did not need (or want) a base that large so I printed out a couple of the pages and the proceeded to decide how I wanted them laid out on my wooden baseboard.
The concrete tiles on all the bases (be they square or hexagonal) where aligned vertically on the printed paper. If you wanted a very quick base you could simply trim the borders and glue it down. I however never like to make my life easy and decided that the base would look more interesting if the slabs on the base were not aligned with the sides of the wooden base they sat on. This was entirely my “artistic” decision and speaks to the flexibility of this product in that paper is both cheap and easy to cut so if I changed my mind (or buggered something up) then I just needed to print a replacement.

As you can see from the picture below the components of my base were:
  1. The printed pages from
  2. Spray adhesive (I used 3M Super 77 from my local art supply shop)
  3. A piece of solid cardboard (1.5mm thick) onto which I would glue the paper.
  4. A wooden base onto which the cardboard would finally be mounted.
Notice that I have chopped up a couple of sheets from the printed base to get the angles I wanted. Its also worth mentioning that for my second attempt at making a base I swapped out the white cardboard you see here for the black alternative as it just looks a lot better.
Although a little hard to see, this photo shows the result after I had applied a liberal coat of spray adhesive to the white cardboard and then carefully laid down the sections of the paper base I had previously cut out to size. The spray adhesive gives you about 10mins working time and is awfully messy and sticky so make sure you cover your work surface very well (I used an old newspaper).
Once the glue dries all that remains is to trim the cardboard to size and then use a black felt tip marker to hide the white edges of the cardboard.

As I learnt on my second base you need to be careful when placing a metal ruler on the laser printed paper as the sharp edges tend to scrape and damage the pattern on the paper. I guess you could seal the printed pattern under a coat of flat clear and I’ll give that a go next time. Oh yes, you’ll also want to not mask over the paper as even the most gentle of tapes (I used Tamiya) will lift the pattern off the paper when removed. Perhaps this was due to the type of paper I used or my low end laser printer but I thought it was worth sharing with you.
So having now assembled several of the bases I can confidently say they are a good idea, well executed. I notice that they have started to expand into more complex subjects (like a 1/72 WWII Nissen hut) and are building a deep catalog of non-aviation bases and building for cars & truck enthusiasts.
One last thought before I leave you with some actual photos of the bases I have built, my initial hesitation around how a 2D printed base would look has proven to be unfounded. For the 1/48 and 1/72 concrete tarmac sections it works very well and looks convincing enough to me and members of my local IPMS club (needed a proper field test :-)

If you are looking for a simple, realistic way to build a wide range of applicable display bases for your models, I have no hesitation in pointing you at Scale Model Scenery

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Justin at Scale Model Scenery for sending us these bases – he is working on some walled vignettes and heaps of other things to show us in the coming year.

Some more shots of the bases in action..