by: Scott Lodder [ ]
I was doing some background research on MiniArt and based on their website it is easy to see that MiniArt makes their ‘bread and butter’ (mainstay) in figures. Over the last year or so they have been making some modeling noise by adding to their lines and by getting some good reviews.
This review is an In-Box review of kit # 35501 “East Prussian City Building”. One thing I find unique about MiniArt is the focus in their line of buildings. They tend to focus on the “uncommon” front. What I mean by “uncommon” is non-main stream areas, not France, not Holland, not the Rhine. They focus more on the Eastern oriented battlefronts. In a market flooded with resin and plaster kits of Western Front subjects MiniArt fill a unique niche.
This is a new kit and isn’t on all the distributors product lists. The best place to see this kit is on the main MiniArt website. When you see the images it is hard to get a true sense for how large this building is. You see three obvious stories with widows and ballroom arches areas. The images understate the true imposing mass of this building. This is a big building. It will command viewers in your diorama.
The kit is technically multi-media; it comes with vacu-form (VF) sheets, injection molded sprues, and paper media. The main kit is VF and is composed of six sheets. There are 11 VF parts that make up this building. The two sprues are typical MiniArt accessory sprues. Accessories include multiple styles of window frames and windowpane frames. There are three types of street lamps. Iron works for gates or balconies are included along with ‘French’ style doors/shutters. Last in the box is a glossy paper sheet that has propaganda posters, directional signs, and newspapers.
There is a lot in this box.
what does it build
You will be left with a large three-story corner block building. The blocks (cut stone) are exterior details while the interior has a plaster sheath. Once complete the composition is more ‘interior’ than ‘exterior’. Large open archways draw a viewer’s eye to the interior of the building. The exterior wall is crafted with a ‘lower’ stance, which draws interest inward.
The kit is comprised of three walls. There are two exterior walls that form a corner “L” or “7”. The Third wall is the interior wall that will form an “F” or a “U” shape. Each wall has an 'inside' and an 'outside' or 'front' and 'back' so you do get a complete wall. You do not get floors, these are up to you.
You will use all the VF sheets to complete the kit. The end product will stand about 14” over your diorama. You have the opportunity to use the majority of the accessories. The style of the accessories is very robust with lots of wrought iron, which fits the design. The instructions show which accessories you should use. You don’t have to stop there, use as many as you like. Lastly, the posters are German oriented propaganda and the street signs are right on the mark. Another unique touch is the addition of newspapers. Lots of people make their own and MiniArt is saving you time.
The biggest hesitation I see with people using MiniArt kits is the fact that they are produced through vacu-form (VF). This is the process of compressing a heated sheet of styrene over a mold through the use of a vacuum. Removing the air from an airtight container forces the plastic into and over the mold.
Newer modelers are not accustomed to it and older modelers (me included) have memories of flimsy thin poorly detailed VF parts. Hesitate no more.
When you inspect the parts you will quickly see how well made this kit is. The weight and thickness of the VF is hefty. The thickness is stout and solid. The details are nicely done. One benefit of VF vs. Resin is that there is no ‘blank’ interior side to any of the parts. Both the interior and exterior parts have nice crisp hard cornered details. Note the photos of the underside of the VF pieces. Even the inside corners are well formed. That is a prime indicator of the quality of the outside.
The techniques you will use are slightly different with VF, there are no guide pins/holes. Removing ‘flash’ takes on new meaning because every piece is surrounded by large amounts of ‘flash’. These techniques have been solidly documented in other reviews as ‘non-issues’ or ‘non-problems’. The pin/hole issue is solved with your own scratch made internal guide tabs. Use the excess flash as a guide tab by gluing a small piece at major corners of one piece on the inside sticking up 5mm. The opposite side will slide over this scratch made tab. The flash on these parts is easily removed with careful knife skills and large flat sheets of sandpaper.
There were a couple of corners that were thinner than most and you need to be careful not to crush these. Along similar lines there is a bit of excess traditional flash on the accessory sprues.
These are good parts.
MiniArt has done a great job with this kit. You will enjoy this kit from start to finish. From the haft you feel upon first inspection to the detail of the parts this is a nice kit. Another nice feature you will find is scratch building assembly points. There are places molded into the parts for you to add your own scratch built floor or beams.
You will need to add to your building technique ‘tool box’ to assemble the VF. None of the techniques are outside the skill of an average modeler. Even a junior modeler can master the skills necessary through patience. My biggest recommendation if you are new to VF is to add extra time to the project so you can practice the techniques necessary (sheet work/knife work) and test fit pieces
To top off the nicely done VF you get more than just the walls, accessory sprues and posters round out this kit.
MiniArt Limited was very nice to provide this kit to me for review - thank you.