Ever notice how few civilians you see in 1:35 scale dioramas? Maybe it’s because they have so few places to sit! No more – a bevy of products have been released in the last year, including the subject of this piece.Michael Bishop, General Manager of MP Designs, approached me to do a review on some of the company’s new products a few weeks ago. Monroe Perdu has come to some recent acclaim for their new line of plaster dioramas and accessories — North African Street Scene (MPD 007 / $30.00 US) and North African Tower (MPD 016 / $48.00 US) are two of the more noted pieces. I was delighted to receive one of their newest lines, Lasercut “Café Table and Chairs with Backgammon” (MPD 015- $19.00 US). When the package arrived, I dug right in that evening.The model consists of two sheets of kit pieces, and a nice instruction guide with a photo of color “finished” examples. The kit contains parts for making four folding “wooden chairs”, two tables, and a nicely done “backgammon set” to place on one of the tables.
The sheets are not truly the type of sturdy “laser cut wood” you may be familiar with if you’ve ever worked with traditional scale railroad kits. Instead, it is a stiff cardboard with highly accurate and very detailed laser cuts on all pieces. The instructions never actually state this is “cardboard”, but does say “care should be taken while painting, not to overly wet” the pieces… (More on this later). The parts were exceptionally well defined, and if you use a sharp cutting blade, next to no cleanup is needed.Using a new #10 (rounded blade) Xacto™ knife, I began cutting the pieces from the retaining bars holding them in place on the cardboard sheet. Michael suggested I might paint the pieces on the sheet first, but I felt that retouching the sides might be tedious. I decided to cut first, paint later. Cutting away the pieces was a rather straightforward procedure, and took just a matter of minutes. Setting the parts aside, I examined the instruction sheet and following their plans, began to assemble the units.My first task was to create the seats for the chairs (parts L and M). Using white glue and an application toothpick as per the recommendations of the kit, I was able to lay out and affix all four seats and slats within a matter of twenty minutes or so. While waiting for this to dry, I began the chair frames and slat backs (Parts G, F, and J) and here is where the first tricky part comes into play.
As the frame contains very fine cuts for the inserts of the slat back tabs, I had to experiment with the best way to fit the pieces together without distorting or bending the cardboard. In my first attempt, I put a small dab of white glue on the tabs located on the actual slats themselves. In trying to insert them into the frame slot, I discovered the tab had become a little too moist, and thus, soft. I wiped off the glue, re-pressed the slats by placing it between two sheets of absorbent paper towel, and then set them aside to dry out and re-stiffen. On the second set, I placed the glue inside the slot on the chair frame, and with some careful work, was able to get the slat tab into the slot. On chairs three and four, I found a much better way… I simply inserted the dry tab into the dry slot, then applied the glue to the finished joint. While this took some concentration (and a pair of 10x magnifier lenses in my jeweler’s viewer!), I found this worked the best way of all.
The instruction sheet indicates that when putting the frame together, it may be both structurally and artfully prudent to use a stem of copper wire (not included) to brace through the pre-drilled holes where the legs cross each other. Good idea – but I wish they had included the wire. After digging through my inventory, I found the right diameter wire, and followed the instructions. As I have not had good luck using white glue with metal, I opted to use CA glue to fix the final position of the cross brace wire. Once the seat supports were in place, I glued the now dried seat slats in place, and repeated the procedure for all four chairs. The construction of the café tables is a little more simplified. As the tabletop is formed of a single piece of cardboard, with grooves and nail-holes where would be expected, putting the tables together required even less time (15 minutes total). The results were satisfying and looked quite realistic, as shown below.
I decided to undercoat the entire assembled set, giving them a fine mist of enamel primer. While this is not required, I felt the construction material warranted it. I then came back and painted the individual slats for both the chairs and tables, doing one set in a traditional “café red and white”, and the other set in the same shade of blue shown on the example packaging. While the Backgammon set looks quite nice in printed form, it is probably beyond the painting skills of most novice dioramist. I chose to “paint the backgammon board with crisp “enamel pens” (which are quite expensive - $4 to $5 each!) but deliver a highly accurate and thin line which allows detail of the image to be preserved. I’m still not finished this particular task, but deadlines are due, so it will be revealed at another time, in another piece.
Overall, the finished chair and tables came out quite well. Michael tells me an entire new line of similar products is forthcoming, and I look forward to trying more MPD laser cut furniture pieces in the future.
PROS: Excellent detail, fine instructions, easy assembly, and accurate “look and feel”. • Works well with either 1:35 or 1:32 scale, by simply adjusting the length of the chair frame. • Paints well, and looks GREAT when dry-brushed to indicate aging. Fine alternative to more “formal” looking sets available.
CONS: Some initial difficulty in learning how to glue the paper stock together without risk of deforming the tiny pieces. • Priced at $19.00 I find the price a little high, especially when compared to similar etched metal kits from Verlinden.
Manufactured by:MONROE PERDU Studios
3168 Renee. Ct.Simi Valley, CA 93065www.monroeperdu.com
Review by: Keith Magee
, Magee Military Models, Inc.
Text and photos ©copyright 2002, Keith Magee, Magee Military Models, Inc. Published by Armorama.com. Product graciously supplied by Monroe Perdu Studios.