A constant challenge for AFV modelers is “what the hell do I do with the finished vehicle?”
The default answer seems to be “put it on a piece of wood with a brass plaque or something.”
Trying to build dioramas vastly increases the pain-in-the-seat of building models, mostly because the challenge is making the scene look like it’s NOT a modeling diorama.
And one of the biggest challenges for that kind of realism in dios is the generally low level of buildings that I see out on the market. Many seem to be holdovers from model railroading, and either aren’t to-scale, or else just look crappy. Not universally, but the elephant in the room of dioramas is the challenge of finding good buildings. Is it any wonder most of the outstanding dios you see have built-from-scratch structures?
Well, one of the companies that have been making progress in this area is MK35 Editions
. They have released a series of French edifices and accessories, including walls and fences, that look as though they were taken from a period photograph of the Normandy countryside (the company also makes resin figures). One of their largest items is a Norman farmhouse. The photos on their website were too attractive for me to resist.
what you get
The building comes well-packed in a 13” x 8.5” by 4” and includes:
9 resin window & door pieces
9 ceramic walls and roof of the house.
Unfortunately, traveling all the way from France via Washington State, there was quite a bit of breakage, including one resin door frame part that broke off entirely. The good news is it was easy to glue back together. Half of the ceramic pieces arrived cracked, however, some in several places. Gluing those parts back together hasn’t been difficult, though filling in the cracks has added a level of complication I hadn’t bargained on. I didn’t imagine plaster buildings are going to travel that far very well, so it’s par for the course as far as I’m concerned, and no reason to hold it against the manufacturer or the US Mail.
We haven’t gotten a lot of these items in-house here at Armorama for review purposes, probably due to the high cost of shipping, so I thought I would take the time to look at this particular building I purchased for myself. Overall, the MK35 buildings are very realistic-looking in my opinion, without the “suggestion” of a structure that you find with, say Miniart. The building is also particular to the subject, and does not use a lot of standardized parts that turn up in all their other kits. The Norman farmhouse says "Normandy," and would not be appropriate for, say, Germany in 1945 or the Eastern Front.
The casting for the “ceramic” portions is very good, with lots of detail in the stones that make up the house or its slate roof. One of the things I didn’t like is the detailing on the ceramic pieces was only done on one side. I don’t have a problem with that for the interior surfaces, but the house has two walls that extend outward, so this means you must either hide them behind trees or somehow replicate the obverse side. I chose to carve out bricks and mortar with a hobby knife, which was tedious, though hardly rocket science.
One challenge in acquiring this building is the weight of shipping. MK35 flatly refused to ship it to me from France because they would need to charge over €40! They offered to give me some resin figures to make it more worthwhile, then directed me to R&J Enterprises
in Washington, who got it to me for $61. That works out to less than it would cost me just to purchase it from France (there’s some hocus-pocus about refunding the VAT to my credit card, but you get the picture).
The finished result is very realistic. However....
It took me some effort getting there. The roof is too large for the structure and hangs too far over the bottom edges. That meant measuring, then cutting off about an inch along the bottom of each of the two roof sections. The roof is thin, and I broke one in half when I did not keep it flat enough when scoring the portion I wanted to break off. My advice is to work on a flat, hard surface and be careful about how much you bear down.
Another problem is the resin shutters: about half of them are too large. Again, this means cutting them down to size or taking a file to the windows.
instructions & painting guide
Uh, there are no instructions.
There are some photos in the brochure, that's all. You’re on your own, folks. Fortunately, the nine ceramic pieces are more or less self-explanatory: four walls, a roof and two extensions of the back wall, plus a “stoop” for the front door. The resin pieces are easy to figure out: shutters over the windows and an ornate wooden door that will need some "glass" to complete the look.
The painting guide is very interesting: a wash of Humbrol 29 over the ceramic parts, let dry, then scour with a Scotchbrite pad. I would caution you, though, to be careful you don't scour off some of the fine detailing. A pure painting solution might be preferable, and is the path I'm taking.
This isn’t an OOB solution for your diorama needs, yet the level of quality for this building is superior to many others on the market. It looks exact
, as if MK35 nailed the essence of a Normandy farmhouse. While that might limit its applicability to one campaign, Operation Overlord
is one of the most-popular and important campaigns of the war, with lots of opportunities for this building to enhance both Allied and Axis dioramas. I would definitely recommend this building as long as you're aware of the challenges of bringing it to life. The only other choice would be scratch-building it, and that is waaaay more work than I want to undertake.
So many kits to build, so little time....