by: Matthew Lenton [ ]
Originally published on:
MiniArt continue to expand their range of 1/72 buildings, and there are now around a dozen kits in the series. Unlike many of their 1/35 scale buildings range, these smaller scale kits build into complete standalone buildings and are comprised only of injection moulded parts.
The subject of this review is billed as “City House”, though it is a big building for a single house, and with two doors on the front it appears more like two large semi-detatched houses.
This is the second kit of this type I’ve built and reviewed, and this time, after running through the construction, I’ll give it some paint.
For a 1/72 scale kit, this is a big and heavy box that is packed with parts – 292 in all. As with the others in this series, the building is broken down into small modular components, so that there are many repeated sprues, in some cases 8 or 10 of the same sprue. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of the box weight is made up of this large amount of sprue plastic. Following all the sprue shots, photo 12 gives a good impression of the box full of parts that the modeller will need to engage with.
The moulding of the kit is well defined in terms of being crisp, although, with items like the brickwork and tiles, there is no attempt to provide any, what might be considered, authentic irregularity, so that the tiles all do look totally identical and perhaps somewhat flat in appearance. The window frames are very finely moulded with no flash apparent on the quite delicate and nicely scaled cross pieces.
The instructions are big and well printed in colour, and this is helpful with the large numbers of repeated parts that need to be built up. As I found with the previous example, there are one or two errors and oddities, and the modeller definitely needs to pay careful attention to proceedings as there are not only repeated construction steps, but also many similar looking parts, as well as a few parts that are not needed.
The instructions start off with attaching all of the window internal frames, cills and stone surrounds, as well as the decorative brick mouldings, to all nine of the taller window wall panels and all ten of the smaller window panels, plus the door frames and doors to the door wall panels. I didn’t do any of that for a couple of reasons: the way the window frames attach from the inside means that it is much easier to paint them separately from the walls, then insert them afterwards; also, I had already decided that I didn’t want to use the white stone window surrounds and cills, nor the brick moulding strips. These features give the building a rather grander appearance, but in my view it works equally well without them, giving a plainer, more utilitarian (i.e. cheaper) looking building.
So I went straight to step 4 and started assembling wall panels, each pair sandwiching a narrow brick strip, with two further mitred strips attaching on the outer edges to provide the point at which the corners will later meet. This same construction sequence covers steps 4 to 9, and a total of twelve panels are made in this way, with steps 10 to 14 seeing further, simpler walls being assembled. (Photos 13 – 23). Note that step 6 has a mis-numbered part: Ch30 on the right should be Cg31.
I felt that these steps were something of an endurance test. Cleaning up the parts isn’t too difficult in that the shapes are all square, but there are attachment points on the sides of the wall panels that do need to be removed if everything is to butt up correctly. So there’s seventy or so parts to be cleaned and glued together, and despite the regular shapes, care is needed to keep the walls flat while the cement sets and to assemble them accurately; the problem is, as I anticipated, and as turned out to be the case – with so many parts, adding one to another to make up a large rectangular wall that then needs to match up with other identical walls, any misalignment or gap tends to become magnified and can easily make the complete assembly go out of true.
By the end of that you end up with your first pile of dead sprues (photo 24), then these wall panels are joined together to make up side and front walls for both floors and the gable ends in steps 16 to 21 (photos 25 to 33). I used a heavy weight to keep the sections from warping while the cement set, to ensure the walls remained flat. Photo 30 shows the sprue attachment points that need to be cleaned up to allow the upper and lower floors to join in alignment, but also shows how the connection point between each part is relatively narrow – it would be extremely easy to end up with walls that are not flat and straight.
Steps 22 to 29 are something of a step up in terms of tedium, as you assemble the wall corner elements: sixteen corners are made up of three parts each, and this is where you really need to watch which parts you’re picking up; there’s two different inner parts with four types of outer part but these are assembled in six different configurations… plenty of scope for getting it wrong. Again, this is quite fiddly construction in terms of assembling the parts to be aligned and square (photos 34 to 37). I used a right angle to ensure that the corners were at 90 degrees (photos 38 to 40).
With these parts set, you’re ready to start putting all the walls together to form the building shell in steps 24 and 27. A set square was used to ensure the walls met at right angles (photo 41). Photo 42 shows how the corner elements attach to the wall sections; it is important to get these at the correct angle, and to let the cement set fully before attaching further sections to them. Eventually you’ll end up with something that can stand up at last (photo 45): two mirror-image building wings (photo 46).
The instructions then want you to start adding the roof to these parts, which seems unwise, as I think it makes more sense to assemble all the walls first; not only is it easier assembling the walls without the roof on as you can get your hands in from both directions, but the roof panels should be attached and aligned with each other in one go so that any gaps can be corrected while the cement is still tacky. In photo 49 can be seen the two wings attached to the two centre sections, showing us the overall shape of the building.
The shell all set, I started attaching the roof, section by section. This was glued on mostly from the inside, with Deluxe Materials Roket Plastic Glue being run into some of the joins to fill them in (photo 52). This all involved quite a lot of adjustment, and holding pieces together for quite a few minutes while the cement set. Annoyingly, even the two long roof spans across the middle of the building are made up of three separate panels which require careful assembly (photo 57), the texture of the tiles meaning that making the visible join invisible is not that easy (I didn’t bother for this review and it shows…) Once the roof is on, we’re almost done, as unlike the previous building I looked at, the only additional details on the roof are the ridge tiles (photo 60) and the chimneys (62); there’s no guttering or downpipes, somewhat to my relief, as I recalled these as having been fiddly and not very well fitting. Chimneys do just sit on top of the tiled roof, with no indented location point, so you need to align them by eye and give it plenty of glue to ensure that they a) stay on, and b) there is no gap under the chimney (photos 63 - 66).
With that, we’re done - there’s no interior detailing of any kind, and no glazing for the windows. Fortunately it is quite dark inside so not too much can be seen of the interior void.
To give us at least some idea of what painting this is like I did a relatively basic job, starting with the really cheap and quick shortcut of spraying the whole thing with red oxide car primer (photo 67). I used several similar shades of acrylic on various tiles to give a more varied and random appearance to the roof, and then used some other shades (more reddish, less brown) to achieve a similar effect on the brickwork. It’s quite subtle, but is enough to make the roof and walls less monotonous. A few different washes, both oil and acrylic, were applied to roof and walls to turn the two elements a little further away from the original one colour and to provide some weathered appearance. The window frames were sprayed with white primer while on the sprues, and were then attached inside the windows – much less trouble than trying to paint them all in place. Finally the doors, sprayed with black primer (yes, I know… I really was doing this the quick way!) were cemented in place. Photos 69 to 74 show the final appearance. Actually, I only painted one side.
This is a big 1/72 scale kit, the finished item being more like the size of a large 1/35 tank. Having painted one half of it, I quite liked it in the end, though I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it now!
I think there is something obvious that comes out of the above account, which is that there are simply far too many parts in this kit. This makes constructing it an overly long and rather tedious process. If we consider just the bare walls in the wings of the building (photo 43) we might imagine that most of it could be a single moulded part, with two additional parts attached down each side to provide the corners that will attach to the next wall; in fact just the wall itself is made of twelve parts; then add in the window frames, and if, unlike me, you use the surrounds, cills and mouldings, a total of 31 parts go to make up something that is basically flat and square-ish. The point is of course that MiniArt are making a whole series of buildings up from many of the same parts, and breaking the kits down into these small repeated modules is giving them the flexibility to do this with a minimum of unique components needing to be produced for each boxing. Obviously the modeller can equally well take advantage of this, in that one could make a smaller building from this kit, or even a double length run of a façade only, if you wanted a longer stretch of street front.
Another effect of this parts breakdown is the joins in the brick panels where in reality there would be none. In photo 74 you can see how the joins are well hidden where they follow the corners of the walls, but in 75 the joins that run across the brick columns between lower and upper storey and up the columns between the two wall panels are visible. These joins cut across the brick patterning, and thus would be very difficult to completely disguise with anything like filler or sanding – maybe you need some ivy…
I think it can be seen, even with my modest paint job, that the finished object looks acceptable enough, though I think those wanting a very high level of authenticity, might find that a lot of work is necessary to fully detail and paint this kit to that standard. There are of course products, often principally resin, that offer integrated bases and buildings, that have more scale thickness walls, and come in far fewer parts, that might be more appealing to braille scale modellers looking for urban scenic accessories for their dioramas, and it leaves me wondering where this particular type of kit fits in.