by: Jan Etal [ ]
For the Braille scale modeller wishing to expand the scope of his builds and to highlight the finished product, nothing works better than a base. However, to create a convincing, scenic base for a model can involve considerable time for research and for learning new techniques. The broad range of materials available can present confusion: wood, plaster, Styrofoam, acrylic pastes and dozens of other options exist. Depending on the base material chosen, additional skills might be required in order for the modeler to be able to manipulate it.
Most modellers could probably produce their own simple bases, but the time spent doing so could more profitably be spent building models. That is why a range of 1/72 scale cast resin bases, ranging in size from small to extra large, has been released by Astra Scale Models starting in 2005.
This review relates to Astra’s set of “Three Small Bases”(Product # 72-S-123).
This product arrives in a 6x9 inch plastic zip-lock bag that contains the three resin base castings and a folded four sided card insert on which are two pages of what might be termed instructions. One section labeled “Notes:” contains general guidelines for dealing with their bases and accessories. The second page outlines a suggested finishing process.
The bases were originally released separately but are now available in this one package. The three oval shaped bases measure approximately 7cm by 9cm (2 5/8” X 3 5/8”) at the extreme. This set contains one country road section (S1), one stone-block road section (S2) and one urban brick street section with sidewalk (S3).
The country road section represents a typical, bumpy country lane edged, or defined, by stone bricks. The stone-block road is fairly level but has a small border of undulating contours that is meant to represent soil or turf. The urban brick street with sidewalk is just as the name implies. A curb separates the sidewalk and the roadway, which is edged with a brick-lined roadside gutter.
All three bases were nicely cast in a light cream-coloured resin with no significant defects or air bubbles. The brick, block and curb sections have been cast with signs of wear and tear due to age or vehicular maltreatment. The odd missing brick or block and randomly placed gouges or chips in the stone-work add character and uniqueness.
It should be noted that these bases were designed to be used “straight from the bag”. A quick coat or two of paint, some pastel dust and a sprinkling of ground clay or plaster will yield a useable base in thirty to forty-five minutes.
While not originally having a definite purpose in mind, I was intrigued enough by this set that I decided to try my hand at attempting to finish a few bases. For the sake of this review I chose to attempt to create an Eastern Front and Desert base using the S1 Rural section. A third base was used to try my hand at a base meant to represent rocky ground.
The first instruction of the finishing process was to clean the resin. For this I followed the instructions’ suggestion and washed the resin with a mild dish washing soap. This is always a good idea, even with regular 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 the base. Astra suggests using either an earth, tan or grey colour for this process. The colour will vary depending on geographical location and materials to be represented. For the Eastern Front base I used a Humbrol #29 Dark Earth enamel. The Desert base was next primed using Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow. While concentrating on these bases, the block road base received a coating of Model Master Acryl 4746 Medium Grey. After allowing sufficient drying time it became evident that all three of these paint brands covered well and adhered well to the resin.
The next thing suggested is to add individual detailing to the bases based on geographical location and season (if applicable). The instructions offer numerous suggestions to make your base unique, employing materials such as fine gravel, clay crumbs, plaster fragments and even cat litter.
For each of my bases I used various materials that were on hand. From DecoArt Sno-Tex to create a granular texture for the desert base, to the same company’s Fierro acrylic texture medium to contour the roadside sections on the Eastern Front base. Ground cat litter and fine sifted gravel were used on the rural parts of bases to further individualize them. All further detailing was done using various acrylic paints and included overall washes and pin-washes. This process is very much up to the desires, skills and imagination of the modeller.
The instructions provide further detailing ideas such as using pastel chalks, pigments or other media to enhance the finished product. Once satisfied, the modeller is advised to coat the completed bases with a clear flat finish for protection.
A Note on the Images:
The first 24 pictures are those of this reviewer’s base attempts at various stages and his models. The pictures following these and the models displayed on them are by various builders including some Astra owned samples.
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. These bases are the result of original research and meticulous attention to detail. I can see the effort that was required to create these useful and in some cases, extremely detailed pieces. Such subjects might be beyond the ability of a novice or even moderately skilled modeller to create from scratch. At the very least, it would be quite time- consuming. Even for the advanced modeler, 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(s). Further, I would also like to acknowledge them for their time and assistance in providing information and details of their products.