by: Jan Etal [ ]
Through a fluke of circumstance this reviewer stumbled onto a small company, Astra Scale Models, that specializes in the production of Braille Scale diorama bases and accessories. While not new to the scene they have until now gone largely unnoticed. Their products are perfectly suited to the modeller whose build preferences lie in the 1/76 or 1/72 scales.
As a small (Braille) scale modeller it is often difficult to find accessories to use during a build. Most often local shops will cater to larger scales and in particular the model railroad crowd. Add in the fact that even with all the scenic materials available, the new or inexperienced builder desiring to create a diorama or vignette may lack the skills necessary to achieve their goal.
As the builders of model military vehicles well know, the nature of conflict eventually leads to the disfigurement or destruction of much in their path. Think of all the photographs of vehicles against a backdrop of ruins and the general rubble created by war. Enter Astra with their unique offering of a resin based set of ten varying piles of rubble and crud that will represent instant heaps of debris for your diorama base.
This review shall focus on the Astra 72-Acc-4 set of ten piles of rubble and debris.
This product arrives in a plastic zip-lock bag that contains the resin casting and a folded four sided cardboard stiffener or insert. On the casting lives the ten piles of rubble and debris with four specifically meant to fit inside corners.
On the cardboard insert are two pages of what might be termed instructions. One section labelled “Notes:” are general instructions for dealing with their bases or accessories. The second page outlines a suggested finishing process.
The piles are attached on a single piece casting that measures 5 1/2 X 1 1/2 inches (13.5 X 3.8 cm). Each individual pile is solid resin moulded in an off white colour. There were a few small air bubbles under some of the piles, but in all cases they were toward the centre of the pile and on the bottom that wouldn’t be exposed. The base material that the piles are attached to should present little to no problems during their removal as the thickness is barely .5 mm.
All ten piles vary in size and composition with each having its own unique features. In examining the details of the piles one can find many diverse items. These range from typical pieces of bricks, blocks and lumber to a tire protruding from the base bottom, to an errant half buried jerrycan or wine bottle. Astra must be commended on the amount of detail that they have managed to present in these heaps and at this small a scale.
While not having a definite purpose in mind, I was intrigued enough by this set that I decided to try my hand at finishing one. The first instruction of the finishing process was to clean the resin. For this I followed their suggestion and washed the resin with mild dish washing soap. This is always a good idea even with plastic kits in order to remove any residual mould release agent. After rinsing the casting well I allowed it to air dry thoroughly.
The next suggested step was to prime all the piles. Astra suggests using either an earth, tan or grey colour for this process. The colour will vary depending on geographical location and construction materials to be represented. For the base of my piles I used a Humbrol #29 Dark Earth enamel.
The next steps involve painting individual details with appropriate colours. Following their suggestions I dry-brushed to add highlights and shade and then several light washes to further accentuate details. The exact process will vary with modeller and the setting for the pieces.
The instructions provide further detailing instructions such as using pastel chalks, pigments or other media to enhance the finished product. Once satisfied the modeller is advised to coat the finished pieces with a flat base for protection.
I only wish I had discovered products like these years ago. My attempts to create vignettes or dioramas in the past have all been less than successful. I can see the effort that was required to create these rather extremely detailed pieces. For such a simple subject they could be beyond the ability of a novice or even moderately skilled modeller to create. At the very least it would be quite time consuming. Even for the advanced modeller their use would most likely be a great time saver. Compared to other resin accessories their cost is fairly low. So, what is not to recommend?
My thanks to Astra Scale Models for providing the review sample. Further, I would also like to acknowledge them for their time and assistance in providing information and details of their products.