Category Archives: Products

AK Interactive Carving Foam

Based in Spain, AK Interactive is known for its wide range of modelling tools and accessories, paints, and related products. I recently had an opportunity to try out their 8mm carving foam, which is going to form the base of a new diorama I’m working on.

The foam is an artificial product that is similar to balsa wood in terms of weight and softness (you can dent it with a fingernail), but more brittle. It can be cut, sawn, and shaped with a minimum of effort. For large cuts, I found that a fine tooth saw gives more predictable results than a knife. For sculpting, wooden or metal hand tools and high speed motor tools work equally well. The material is soft enough that you can sculpt it by dragging a wooden spoon across the surface. Sculpting with a high speed motor tool creates lots of fine dust, so a mask and goggles are recommended. 

AK recommends white glue and cyanoacrylate adhesive for gluing. I’ve found that white glue creates a sufficiently strong bond when gluing the foam to itself. I haven’t had to resort to cyanoacrylate so far. 

One drawback of the product is that it only comes in 8mm and 10mm thick sheets, so if you want to sculpt something thicker, you’ll need to glue several sheets together. This leaves visible strata that need to be covered with putty or some other coating before painting. 

Stay tuned for my next post, which will feature a look at the lunar landscape base that I’m sculpting out of AK carving foam.

-Ivar

Paper craft diorama kit from Kato

Kato is one of the largest model railroad companies in the world, with a vast selection of products (mainly in N scale) ranging from rolling stock and track to buildings and scenery. New from Kato is a diorama kit picture book aimed at beginners who want to make a diorama but aren’t sure where to start. 

The kit includes the following:

  • Paper kit (iron bridge, railroad crossing, fence, dock)
  • Paper craft (vehicles, farm equipment sheds, etc.)
  • Slope pier for unitrack track
  • clay
  • Nanoplants mixed green
  • Flower (yellow)
  • Gigaplants Medium Green
  • Hardwood trunk (small) (2)
  • Paints (blue, white, brown)
  • Speed bond
  • Instructions
  • Diorama-kun picture book
  • Single track overhead wire pillar
  • Curved track R183-45 ° (1)
  • Diorama base
  • Line fixing screw

The product description indicates that the finished diorama will be about the size of a postcard. This makes me wonder if Japanese postcards are larger than the ones we use in the West. The kit is targeted at hobbyists aged 10 and older and is available at Plaza Japan.  

This product is an interesting sideline for Kato. Although compatible with its Unitrack line, the diorama can be built as a standalone item and doesn’t have to be integrated into a railroad layout. It could serve as an introduction to both dioramas and railroad modelling. 

-Ivar

WareBi 1:24 garage diorama kit with lighting

For modellers looking to give their 1:24 scale cars and motorbikes an elegant home, this diorama kit from WareBi is just the ticket. Various kits are available in 2 and 3 parking spot versions and various colours. They’re nicely designed, with vivid graphics and well balanced proportions. Materials include card stock, clear acrylic panels on the front and sides to keep the dust out, and an LED light with cable. The kits are available at Amazon and there is a review at Rocketfin. 

Amazon describes the product as a diecast car display case, which reflects the waning popularity of plastic model kits. Today’s world is all about instant gratification—it takes time, patience and skill to build a model kit. I discussed this trend in a previous post. 

It’s a blessing in disguise that this diorama requires assembly. This isn’t due to the manufacturer’s views on instant gratification, but shipping considerations. Flat pack shipping is much cheaper than what it would cost to ship a fully assembled item. So diecast car collectors will get to experience putting something together with their own two hands. 

-Ivar

A forced perspective diorama kit from Sankei

Forced perspective kits are a rarity in the world of model building. Sankei has bucked convention with its new Miniatuart forced perspective kit of a Savoia aircraft in front of its hangar. The aircraft itself is conventionally proportioned, but the hangar is in forced perspective. The walls of the hangar decrease in width going towards the back of the building. 

The scene is inspired by Porco Rosso, an animated 1992 adventure film produced by Studio Ghibli. According to the Ghibli fandom page, “The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing air pirates in the Adriatic Sea. However, an unusual curse has transformed him to an anthropomorphic pig. Once called Marco Pagot, he is now known to the world as ‘Porco Rosso’, which in Italian is Crimson Pig.”

The tiny kit is described by Sankei as a paper craft book and comes in a 6cm (2 3/8”) square box. It goes together with basic hobby tools: a craft knife, scissors, adhesive, pins, and coloured pens. This is an innovative product that will hopefully inspire other kit manufacturers to delve into the world of forced perspective. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate forced perspective into your modelling work, check out Forced Perspective Dioramas in paperback on Amazon and in e-book format on Apple Books. . The book begins with the history of forced perspective and its use in various art forms. It then explains the principles of forced perspective and presents practical applications, using case studies of actual dioramas ranging from basic to advanced. 

-Ivar

A cute Battle of Endor diorama

Kotobukiya has just released a charming Battle of Endor – The Little Rebels diorama based on the jungle battle scenes from Return of the Jedi, the final installment of the Star Wars saga (see this post for an explanation of why Disney films don’t count). 

Although no scale is specified, the diorama is approximately 20cm (8”) tall. It’s very well designed, with an AT-ST serving as the focal point and several stylized Ewok figures performing various battle duties. Credit for the cartoon-style look of the piece goes to the designers at Gurihiru Studios, an illustration team specializing in comics. 

The diorama is made of PVC/ABS and requires some minimal assembly. All parts are pre-painted. 

This is a well thought out product that gives a refreshing take on a beloved subject. It will no doubt appeal to younger Star Wars fans. 

-Ivar

UFO Interceptor diorama from Sixteen 12

The 1970 television series UFO is considered a cult classic, famous for its superb visual effects and production design. One of the highlights of the series was the Interceptor, a one-man spacecraft designed to stop alien invaders before they reached earth. Three interceptors were housed in an underground hangar at SHADO’s Moonbase facility, ready to leap into action whenever the enemy appeared.

Sixteen 12’s limited edition UFO SHADO Interceptor With Launch Crater Display captures the look of the Interceptor as it appears on the launch pad ready for lift-off. It’s a relief to see that they finished this diecast miniature in white (as it appears on the show) rather than the metallic green featured on the decades-old Dinky Toys version. Sixteen 12’s rendition of the Interceptor appears to have accurate proportions, and they got both the missile and cockpit canopy right (unlike the Dinky Toys and Bandai kit versions). The launch pad is surrounded by the walls of a protective crater and a photo of Moonbase is provided as a backdrop.

Ambitious modellers may wish to go a step further and build a lift mechanism to raise and lower the launch pad. Part of the underground hangar could be built up as well. 

The Interceptor is one of the great sci-fi spacecraft designs of all time. It began as a sketch by Mike Trim that was tweaked and finalized by UFO effects director Derek Meddings. The craft has a compact and efficient layout, with wide track landing skids for good stability, rocket engines for forward and vertical flight, and one large atomic missile on the nose. The design is not only functional, but attractive: a medley of soft, flowing curves that brings to mind the sensuous look of a Ferrari coupe.  

1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT

The Interceptor has been called impractical (by Meddings himself) since it carries only one missile. However, there are three short barrels on the fuselage just in front of the cockpit that could be additional weapons. One illustrator suggested that these are ‘high velocity machine guns’ in a cutaway drawing of the Interceptor from a 1973 publication called Countdown For TV Action. In addition, a Century 21 Tech Talk on the Interceptor (currently on YouTube) describes a rarely used ‘autocannon’ which can be used to pursue damaged UFOs. Here is a screenshot from the video:

 

This is pure speculation since no weapons other than the missile were used during the course of the series. At any rate, short range weapons would be of little use. Being much slower than the alien ships, the Interceptors would have no hope of engaging them in a dogfight and bringing guns to bear at close range. A guided missile, launched from a distance under computer control, is the only practical way to stop the invaders.

Fans of UFO might want to check out SHADO Yards, a diorama that features two Interceptors. This work is the subject of a detailed case study in Diorama Design . SHADO Yards is a conjectural design that speculates as to how the Interceptors were assembled before being delivered to the moon for front line service. 

-Ivar 

Iron Studios 1:10 Batman & Batmobile

Iron Studios has released a 1:10 scale replica of the Batmobile, along with a Batman figure and base, from the movie Batman (1989). This product is notable not only for its sheer size, but for its polystone construction. Polystone is a compound made of polyurethane resin mixed with powdered stone. Attributes like hefty weight, a porcelain smooth finish, and the ability to capture fine detail make the material a good choice for cast sculptures. 

The Batmobile, Batman figure and base come fully assembled and painted. The Batmobile is advertised as having removable machine guns. It’s not known if the wheels turn. The Batman figure comes in a standing pose and isn’t articulated, so those wishing to position the figure in the driver’s seat will have to do some cutting and filling.

Lighting the car would make a worthwhile project. The large scale makes it practical to add dashboard lights, although it’s not known how much of the vehicle is hollow, so there may be lots of drilling involved. If you’re curious to see what a Batmobile miniature looks like with lighting added, check out Batmobile Winterscape and Contemplating Gotham. Comprehensive case studies of these dioramas are featured in Diorama Design and Forced Perspective Dioramas. 

Interpretations of the Batmobile over the years have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and many are forgotten soon after they appear. The fact that replicas of this particular version are still being released three decades after Batman’s debut proves that it is one of the most enduring Batmobile designs ever. Conceptual illustrator Julian Caldow, who worked with director Tim Burton on the film, created the original design. It received additional nips and tucks from production designer Anton Furst before the final version was reached.

At 70cm (27.5”) in length, this replica is sure to be an impressive addition to any bookshelf. If it had been released back in 1989, it would probably have been offered as a glue-together kit rather than a finished replica. Ready to display miniatures have been stealing market share from styrene kits for many years, reflecting the dwindling number of customers who enjoy crafting things with their own two hands—but that’s another story.

Now all we need is a 1:10 scale Vicki Vale, and we’d have all the ingredients for a great diorama!  

-Ivar  

New automotive diorama from Inno Models

Macau-based Inno Models specializes in diecast automotive subjects in scales ranging from 1:18 to 1:64. Launching in October is their new LBWK Auto Salon Diorama in 1:64 scale. 

Featuring a chrome plated Porsche 997 and three figures, the design of the product is well thought out. The trade show booth scaffolding commonly seen at auto shows forms the perimeter of the diorama. There’s one solid wall acting as a backdrop and the sides are left open. Several accessories are included, such as wheel racks, tables, audio speakers mounted on stands, various signs, and a DJ booth. 

Although no lighting appears to be included, the scaffolding would make it easy for the modeller to add a few LED lights to illuminate the scene. Model railroad spotlights could be placed on the front scaffold to highlight the car and figures and give the diorama more visual punch. For tips on how to light your diorama, check out Forced Perspective Dioramas in paperback on Amazon and in e-book format on Apple Books. 

-Ivar

Space: 1999 launch pad from Sixteen 12

The 1970s TV series Space: 1999 is fondly remembered for its outstanding special effects, which were well ahead of its time. One of the iconic visuals of the show was the launch pad used by Moonbase Alpha’s Eagle transporters. (The venerable Eagle is one of the great sci-fi spacecraft designs of all time, and the subject of a diorama I discussed here.) 

Sixteen 12, which specializes in limited edition replicas of Gerry Anderson subjects, has announced that pre-orders for their new electronic Space: 1999 launch pad are now open. The company decided to scale the launch pad for a 13cm (5”) Eagle to keep it down to a practical size. This necessitated launching an entire line of compatibly scaled Eagles, which are available separately. The vast majority of Eagle replicas have averaged 30cm (12”) in length over the years, but at this size, the launch pad would be impractically large. The pad features working landing lights as well as a motorized extending boarding tube, and comes with an Eagle and moonbuggy. It would make a great start to an Eagle diorama.

The launch pad is a striking design, featuring a bold orange cross centered on a circular platform. The perimeter of the cross is punctuated by landing lights. The pad is an elevator. It descends to Moonbase Alpha’s underground hangar, where the Eagles are kept. An Eagle is placed on the pad using a crane. The pad then rises to the surface, and crew members board the Eagle using a telescoping boarding tube. 

The few episodes of Space: 1999 where we see the Eagle hangar reveal an interesting anomaly. Keen eyed viewers may have noticed that exterior moon surface shots show most of the orange part of the pad (three legs of the cross) emerging from the hangar, but interior hangar shots show only a rectangular section of the pad in motion. So on its way from the hangar to the surface, the pad mysteriously changes from a rectangle to a cross. This is one of the biggest continuity errors of the show, leaving us to wonder how it escaped the watchful eye of special effects director Brian Johnson. 

Putting this minor quibble aside, the launch pad remains one of the visual trademarks of Space: 1999. Thanks to Sixteen 12, fans of the show are finally able to get an accurate replica of the pad that won’t take up too much space on the bookshelf.  

-Ivar

Transparent Thunderbird 2 kit from Adventures in Plastic

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Model railway giant Bachmann is reboxing Aoshima’s Thunderbirds kits (based on the original 60s TV series) in Europe under the Adventures in Plastic name. One of the highlights is a transparent Thunderbird 2 in 1:350 scale, which works out to a kit measuring 21.5cm (8.5”) in length. 

Thunderbird 2, designed by special effects guru Derek Meddings, was the heavy duty VTOL transporter which ferried vital equipment to the disaster scene in the Thunderbirds world. The interchangeable pods carried amidships were the beetle-shaped aircraft’s defining feature, making it the most versatile of all the Thunderbirds. 

The transparent moulding gives us a good look at the inner layout of the aircraft. The interior appears to be well done, with a full cockpit section and detailed engines. The kit includes a selection of ground-based pod vehicles seen in the original show, moulded in multiple colours. 

The publicity photos of the assembled kit are impressive. The transparent fuselage breaks with the familiar green skin we’ve grown accustomed to and gives the ship a fresh look—part aircraft and part Svarovski crystal.   

The Thunderbirds franchise got a new start in 2015 when it was rebooted as Thunderbirds Are Go.    The vehicle designs were refreshed and CGI was substituted for the puppets used in the original series. The redesigned Thunderbird 2 is the subject of one of the case studies in my book Forced Perspective Dioramas.

-Ivar