MiniArt - 36044 1/35 Dioramas Series

" River Embankment Section"

Kit no: 36044
Scale: 1/35
BOX: 345x240x60 mm
Pieces:  74
Ages: 10 and over
Price: GBP £ 14.88/ Euro 16.73/ US $23.35

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MiniArt is making in-roads into all of the military modelling areas and branching out from their beginnings in soviet subjects. They are starting to provide us with some great diorama bases, vehicles and figures. The kit I have reviewed and built here is one of their new diorama bases, the 1/35 "River Embankment section"
MiniArt is showing how Vac has moved on. The old, simple-detailed structures of the old toy kits are a thing of the past. These large pieces of Vac have their own skill set to employ to make this mound of plastic into a kit. Through scoring and cutting the Vac-form in the right way, they can be joined together and made into quite a convincing three-dimensional scene. The trick is to score along the outline of the walls while giving a mm or so extra if possible, so when it is sanded down to fit together it fits perfectly. So a daunting process is made simple. MiniArt has a great "How –to" on their website that shows the right way to do it in their "assembly guide" part of their homepage here - 

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Let's start with the base, it is quite well "formed" in that the brick pavement is quite irregular and does not follow any particular pattern that I can see. Some of the bricks are slightly raised as well which adds depth and irregularity which is what we look for in a good diorama. There is one slight line across the cobblestone base which can only be seen against the light, but being pick like we all are –  well let's try to turn that negative into a positive – it’s the perfect thing for a drain on the road! So subtle is this line that it is only noticeable unpainted and if pointed out and not on the completed kit

The instructions are on a double-sided page printed in black and white. Easy to follow, but these kits are easy to stuff up as well if you cut the wrong bit.  The only thing I don’t like about this kit is that the joints that need to be cut need some little magnified explanations on the diagrams.

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There are steps that lead down to what is the river of the base. These are in a different pattern to the cobblestones, which is nice, and they are similarly irregular as seems to be true on most European rivers. I can imagine some figure of a soldier or civilian getting a bucket of water on this lower level of the base – giving the whole diorama depth, but that is for a future entry!

Next are the six – yes (6) sprues of the same type! They are in grey styrene. To save effort of the re-tool, MiniArt have just given you the same one six times, so you have a total of six road barriers and six fence posts with six sections of fence, as well as that many man holes. Now you can put these anywhere you want to really – there are one or two pictures below on suggestions, but really it is up to you. You can have them all, half or none. I love the option to construct this base however you want. Cheap they ain’t at MiniArt. I like that! The sprues themselves are flash free and, including the fence sections which have to be moulded finely, there are three benches to enliven your scene.

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After being inspired by MiniArt's "How to" section on their website I am stoked and am going to attempt to make this kit.
It took me 15 minutes to cut away the vac-form from the backing. The key is a sharp knife and a few gentle lines with it straight down and then just bend it off! Then put a sheet of sandpaper down – and Viola! The parts are separated after not much work. Take your time, be gentle, and even zigzags like the stairs come off easily!

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The only thing this base needs is a backing and a side part. I will use polystyrene as its light and easy to cut to the desired shape (strong too if you use a thick piece). Usual contact silicone glue from the hardware shop works ok with these. The trick is to apply heaps and melt the vac into itself. Then you can make texture change with a hobby knife as well.

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The next thing I did was have a think about joining the two main pats of the base and the wall down in front of it together – while I had a think and a look – (and a tea or two) I cut the manholes out. Remember I said there was the most minute seam in the road? Well I used this as a seam to the manhole, like a small depression you may see in real life. Fist I looked for a thumbwheel compass with a blade – which didn’t work – then I tried what I was using as a ruler for measuring it all – a metric circles template!!

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With this I found the round manhole was 22.5mm in circumference. Holding it in place on the underside of the base in the centre of the seam line I ran around in circles with a scriber many, many times very lightly until I was able to simply push it out! I reamed out the rest of the hole using a scalpel and a sanding stick.

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The square manhole was easy. I just traced it out underneath and cut it with my big craft knife many times till it popped out. I cleared up again with a sanding stick and a scalpel. Then glued them both in, and viola, ready for the major parts to join up.

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Now I m not sure how most people do this as the instructions are a little vague as to they say just to glue them together. They could do with a close-up really to better show you how to cut one of the flaps to "Sit" the wall piece into the top, which I carefully did and glued together.

The stairs instructions take some hard scrutiny to decipher the exact construction method, and there could be some better instruction as to the right way to do them. The riverbank steps are to be cut on one side and not on the other side and kind of fit together like a jig-saw – but it's up to you to decide which -  it sure did test this young man's aptitude!! I found the right way to construct them, which cannot really be described here – just take your time and work it out from the very well-constructed box art. Cutting the Vac-form is easy but you will need some superglue to help you get it all together quickly and without a fuss. At the initial construction, the steps look a bit like paper or cardboard steps. As well as this if you don’t get them exactly square the steps twist and look really fake. This should be made correct when they are squared up on the riverbed section. This part is by far the most challenging of this build. So really it's not that much of an inconvenience.

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What really helped was putting some of the stair "flaps" I had cut off the vac form into the gaps on the stairs. I super glued them and very quickly used super glue accelerant (from a Mitre fix wood gluing kit this time ?) to keep the glue in place to form a gap-filler. I could have used putty, but it's very messy, takes a while to set, and I don’t have that time I am afraid! I trimmed off the edges and had a look, not bad, but a bit more super glue and Mitre fix and the job is nearly a "good-un". Already the stairs aren't so paper/cardboard like.

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This is where the kit can be won or lost- it’s a bit like making paper kits in that it all has to square up to make it look natural – and luckily enough I luck/skill to get it done. Time to paint!

With this set I wanted to do a kind of grimy, probably wet riverbank that probably wasn’t that clean (the last priority in war I would expect ) with grey stone and black/grey stone for the road. Lots of newer roadwork has grey tiles, which are artificially aged, but I went for black for some contrast with the side walls of the riverbank.

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After an undercoat of grey primer (Halfords plastic primer), I laid the coat of overall medium grey and went in and highlighted several of the grey stones to different colours to get a contrast between the stones. I also did a muddy layer progressively darker towards the bottom of the kit where the grimy waterline was. Basically I wanted this to look as if it was once beautiful, but now left to its own devices a little neglected.

The road section was left undercoat grey but I dry brushed it with black oil paint to try to achieve a thickness whilst leaving a dirty layer of mortar between the tiles. This was accentuated (after the black took all week to dry) with dirty coloured oils which I let all drain towards the drains in the gutter. I also made two distinct lines down the road where tyres would travel for the car tracks in a muddier colour, which showed up very nicely on the black.

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The hand railings for the kit went together very easily with super glue + accelerant and then were painted a glossy black. Left to dry, I attacked it with some gloss/brass colour, which I applied to look like the brass was painted over with a "sensible" black colour but was being worn away as people's hands rubbed against it. I made sure I dry brushed more on the street side where it gets more contact with passers-by.

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Using lots of muddy coloured wash, the kit was finalized and made look a lot more real and less cartoonish. I have to say this is the best part of diorama making for me, as for once you can use your own interpretation on the piece.

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If you want a nice (cheap) base to kick off your riverside diorama, MiniArt really do have the best game in town. Easy to construct with lots of scenery options or vanilla, the height gives this Diorama  great depth that adds to the illusion of a good base. Detail in the cobblestones is deep but simple, and this makes the kit quite easy to weather.
If you can get your head around the instructions and don’t mind not working with solid materials, Vac is the way forward, but only if you have patience! I will be including this in a larger section to top off the upper with a building and the lower with people on the water in future additions to this blog.
Happy modelling to you all!!

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Adam Norenberg

Many thanks to MiniArt for the review sample used here.