Randy Pepprock has been well known in the model railroad community for his line of 1/48 and 1/87 Hydrocal buildings under “Downtown Deco”. He has recently turned his talents toward 1/35 military modeling with a new line of buildings and urban accessories for dioramas under the name “Dioramas Plus”.
First in the series is a 3 story full brick structure that has a large hole knocked out of the corner, and the remnants of an adjacent building. Simply named “Brick Ruins”, the kit contains:
• 4 Hydrocal (Plaster) wall castings
• 1 Bag Hydrocal “rubble” piles and bricks
• 4 Laser Cut wood window frames
• Clear Acetate for window glass (3 undamaged, 3 damaged)
The kit comes in a very sturdy box, and opening the box one will find the parts very carefully packaged. All the walls are wrapped together in cellophane against a large piece of cardboard for support. This is sandwiched between some crumpled paper on the top and bottom of the box. The wood window frames and “glass”, along with the instructions are all at the bottom of the box. This makes for a very sturdy and safe package, and none of my walls were damaged in any way. A far cry from previous manufactures packing methods for their plaster building kits!
Starting with the instructions, one may think “why instructions? How hard is it to assemble 4 walls?” Well, you are correct, it isn’t, and so there is really only a paragraph dedicated to actual assembly. The rest of the pages are step by step instructions on how to finish the kit, including brands of paint and techniques, all illustrated with color photos! These are not “generic” instructions either, but are specific to the kit itself. So for those who have never finished a plaster building kit before, fear not as the instructions will take you every step of the way. Also, within the instructions are posters and signs for you to cut out and use on the kit, a thoughtful touch.
Examining the Hydrocal plaster parts, all within my sample where well cast and FLAT! No warped walls in the entire kit. They are only detailed on one side like most traditional building kits, however the plaster was very smooth on the non detailed side so if you wish to carve detail or add wallpaper/ paint, you can do that with very little finishing needed. Also I found no air bubbles (even after sanding) and all the castings were complete.
Detail on these parts is outstanding with great relief and the “damage” is very realistically done. Also included in the kit is a bag of rubble piles and some bricks, so everything is needed to start a nice diorama.
A nice addition that I have not seen in any military diorama kits is the inclusion of laser cut wood parts. This is certainly from Randy’s experience in the Model Railroad industry, and included in this kit are 4 very nice wood window frames. These also have some self adhesive backing so that the “glass” can be attached without gluing and the whole window assembly popped into the Hydrocal walls after painting. I test fit the wood parts, and the lower window frames fit perfect, with the upper floor only needing a few swipes with a knife in the arched area to remove a little plaster, and they fit snugly as well.
Speaking of the “glass”, you get both broken and whole parts to replicate shattered glass. The acetate looks the part, and fits perfectly. Again, another thoughtful bonus that previous manufactures never included.
Mentioned before is the traditional lack of detail on the backside of the castings, so if you want to carve some detail now is the time before assembly. I used an old Exacto blade and carved a little bit of brick detail around the “ruined” areas, then plan on adding either wall paper or paint to the remainder of the interior wall.
Also previously mentioned, assembly is straightforward and very easy. Dioramas Plus suggests 5 minute epoxy for gluing, not only for speed of assembly, but also because later painting and weathering may attack other glues that are water based (such as Elmer’s). I followed the suggestion and used epoxy.
Main wall parts fit very well, and with little warpage everything matched up fairly well. Within 10 minutes I had all the parts glued together. There was a slight shift between the two main walls that I discovered after the epoxy had set, thus requiring a little carving and sanding to flush the corners again. That may have been my fault, for during test fitting everything seemed to line up perfectly flush.
As with all plaster kits, there is a resulting gap from joining the parts, and you have two choices on how to deal with this. You may wish to carve the brick detail over the gaps that you just filled, or plan on adding a drainpipe, electrical conduit, or some structural member to cover the resulting gap, or fill the gap and carve matching detail. I have always used household wall spackle. You may also choose to mix up a small batch of plaster, letting it thicken a bit, and then apply the paste. Don’t forget to fill both the exterior and interior gaps.
With that, you are all set to paint, and the detailed instructions in the kit take you through step by step with color photos for each step.
It is great to see some fresh 1/35 scale buildings coming on to the scene. This new building by Dioramas Plus reminds us what can be done with Hydrocal castings and how easy it is to assemble one. A far cry from the vacuform kits on the market today, and the price is much lower than what you would get for a similar size structure in resin. The inclusion of extra details such as rubble piles, window frames, and “glass” make these kits real winners. I am looking forward to using this in a new diorama, and to the next products in the line!
Andy has started a Build and Finishing Log
on the forums.