Book Review
Model Buildings Masterclass
Model Buildings Masterclass
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by: Scott Lodder [ SLODDER ]


As diorama builders our skill sets span a wider range than a static model builder. Not only must we build the primary subject of the project, we must provide the viewer with “context”. The “context” of a diorama is a place, a point in time, a story or scene. At one point you will want that context to include some type of building. It is at that point your research mode kicks in and you look for the best resources to build your building.

It’s at this point that this book shows its value. It is a ‘soup-to-nuts’ resource on making buildings. It covers all aspects; from research to assembly and everything in between.


There are some books that target a narrow subject, be it a particular AFV or a particular technique, or particular kit, this is not one of them. The word “MasterClass” is in the title because this book tries to represent one “Overall” or “Master” class vs. being written for a “Master” builder.
The author gives equal time to all aspects of creating buildings:

  • 1. Database of research material
  • 2. Tools
  • 3. 1:1 Building Theory
  • 4. Building Techniques
  • 5. Finishing Techniques

  • Each aspect of this book is covered in such a way that beginners can understand and advanced builders will gain a new understanding or see a new perspective. This book can be for every level of diorama modeler.

    building basics

    The author, Roy Porter, shares ideas and concepts not only about building models but about the research you will need to plan your project. There is an entire section about gathering reference material, from how to view a building today and glean potential ‘period’ information to how to view period art work and gather research data on your project.

    A large part of the books is dedicated to the tools of the trade. The beauty of this section is the diversity of tools and the explanations of them. You will learn alternatives to what you may have now, new tools you never thought you’d need, and ways to make your own custom tools. After you read the book and learn about the tools of the trade you should realize that the book itself is a tool. Not only will you find yourself referring back to it for techniques and step-by-steps, you will also realize that there are charts and reference materials you will always need: scale charts, reference diagrams, and a terms dictionary.
    step by steps

    The heart of every building reference is a step-by-step. This book differs from many technical books I have read. This one takes a major technique and marries it to a build project. The given chapter then walks through the build giving each major step of the project. Usually these are fairly sterile very technical process driven scripts. Mr. Porter takes a story telling approach. Interlaced among the technical jargon and processes there are ‘hows’ and ‘whys’. He explains why things are in more of a story form vs. the cold rigidness of technical specifications. There are sample photos of key points so you won’t be left without reference.

    In subject specific books you could purchase the kits and perform the steps in the book and (theoretically) end up with the same build. In the diorama world it is very difficult to do because there is a large quantity of scratch building. Some of this is scratched based on an artist’s perspective. You won’t be able to pick this book up and follow the instructions and have a built diorama. You will have to read, digest, understand and then implement the techniques discussed in this book. The beauty of this book is that includes plenty of inspirational idea generating completed projects.

    This book is a ‘full read’. I found that I wanted to read this book cover to cover because it is more novel than encyclopedia. I keep it close to my workbench because there is so much to refer to. It was an easy enjoyable read with a huge quantity of information.

    The style of books you like is a very personal thing. The type of reading that you do for this type of 'work' is also quite personal. I’m sure some people will not enjoy the style of this book. If you want a raw technical manual, this is not quite the book for you. If you want to walk through the though process in a 'discussion' format then this is more your book.

    If you are new to the diorama world this book is great. If you’re an experience diorama builder you too will find valuable information between the covers of this book. Choc full picture references and drawings you will gain inspiration as well as technical expertise.

    I got mine on an auction site for about $20-$25. Check auction sites or reseller sites and shop around to get the best deal.
    Highs: Great photos, lots of really solid information.
    Lows: Maybe not your style of reference. It's hard to find at a good price
    Verdict: The fewer books you have the better this one will be. Very solid reference you’ll use over and over.
    Percentage Rating
      Scale: Other
      Mfg. ID: 1 85915 063 2
      Suggested Retail: varies
      PUBLISHED: Dec 30, 2007
      NATIONALITY: Spain / Espańa
      THIS REVIEWER: 82.50%
      MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.00%

    About Scott Lodder (slodder)

    I modeled when I was a teenager. College, family and work stopped me for a while. Then I picked it back up after about 12 years off. My main focus is dioramas. I like the complete artistic method of story telling. Dioramas involve so many aspects of modeling and I enjoy getting involved in the ...

    Copyright ©2021 text by Scott Lodder [ SLODDER ]. All rights reserved.


    I have to disagree a bit here guys; I found both Model Buildings and Terrain Modeling to be pretty weak, sadly overpriced books. Model Buildings was very UK-centric IMHO, with little info on other parts of the world - Eastern Europe for example. I also thought the quality of the models was just not that good. The techniques were very dated and not all that imaginative. Pat, your dio is excellent and far better than most of what is in that book. The one really good thing in Terrain Modeling is just the simple idea that we should research groundwork as carefully as we do the vehicles and figures we make. We've probably all seen examples of beautiful AFVs, obviously with hundreds of hours' effort in them, attached to bases that don't come close to keeping up with the model. This book is a good antidote to that kind of thinking. But there, I've just given you most of the value of the book for free Again I thought many of the examples were mediocre and the techniques hardly innovative. I would advise folks to buy Shepard Paine's books long before these. And you can learn more by experimenting than by using these books. Just my two euros.
    APR 04, 2008 - 01:35 PM
    Hi Danny You're are entitled to your opinion, but as far as I'm concerned its wrong and I disgree. The techniques in your opinion "hardly innovative" I would answer with if its not broken why fix it. So it may not be using the latest materials on the market, but instead items easily found and available, certainly in the UK and I'm sure in America. Sure you can learn more about anything by experimenting, but I bet you learn more quickly from these books than you would by lengthy and perhaps costly experimenting. Also remember the book (Model Building Masterclass) was published over ten years ago in 1997, so I think we can all expect improvements in the quality of peoples models, and as Pat said whilst his own personal skill and craftsmanship produced the excellent dioramas he displayed, it's from reading Roy's book that allowed him to do so and he credits it as such. Granted some of the techniques, which many did not know about ten years, have been courtesy of the Internet etc. used are readily available on sites like this. But I would imagine can owe their origins to the techniques and thinking of people like Roy Porter and indeed Shep Paine etc. I like the relaxed easy going style of writing, and as for being UK -centric, sure the styles shown where mainly UK buildings, but did include others, and if it's a UK building then it's certainly going to have some relevance to the rest of Western Europe. If your detailing with buildings in a conflict diorama, and as an awful lot of fighting went on in Western Europe so is very relevant. In this context Including building styles in say America for example might be regarded as a little pointless. Having said that, more importantly with some imagination the techniques described could be used to create any building by changing the detail and making it relevant to that area specific. Recommend me one publication that covers model buildings in all parts of the world ? At the published prices they are not overpriced at all, but given the Roy Porter book is out of print, it's like anything, people who want something badly enough will pay whatever they need to get it. You can hardly blame the author if his book is exchanging at prices far above what it originally cost. Look at the stupid prices people will pay for OOP Dragon/Cyberhobby kits. I don't need anything for a hobby that badly I'd just pay whatever it takes to get it. I don't say these books are the be all and end all of the chosen subject but I disagree with your opinion overall and specifically that they are weak, overpriced (if you buy sensibly) and contain poor quality models. Alan P.S. Upon reading Scott's review again I think it's spot on in all respects.
    APR 06, 2008 - 03:54 AM
    Well, we all have our opinions The nice thing about them is, unlike facts, opinions cannot be "right" or "wrong", they are just one's conclusions. If I say I like Paul Weller's music, that's an opinion and it can't be right or wrong. If I say he's 23 years old, OK, that's wrong. I think both books are overpriced and not particularly useful, and I would hate to see someone spend a lot of money on them without hearing a few opinions first; then they can make a better-informed judgment. So, I don't care for them and you like them. To each his own. That's what makes these sorts of forums fun. Regards, DE
    APR 08, 2008 - 01:06 AM
    Hi Danny Wrong again If you say you "like Paul Wellers music", that's a fact, but if you say his music is good that's an opinion. They can't pass "judgement" on something they've not had evidence of , but they can come to a decision based on opinions expressed by others formed from their experiences, to buy the book/s or not. We agree to differ, fine, no harm done, no falling out. It's a reflection of the free world, including allowing the expression of minority views, if you take this thread as an indication all the best Alan
    APR 08, 2008 - 01:41 AM
    As far as referance,it may be weak on some ares of the world but, for someone with no constrution knowlage of building buildings it's good. How many times do you see a building with floor joist and finished floor but no sub floor. Same with ceilings and roofs. Also the problem of electricity and plumbing and vents. It all depends on the time and area you are modeling. It is a good referance to a standard of building for those with no knowlage of it. Key point is research for the area and era.
    APR 20, 2008 - 04:19 PM
    For anybody interested in buying this book in the UK and can't find it there is a copy going for auction on ebay, but be quick, it's got under two hours left to go from now . Current UK time 3.45. At the moment it's a very good price. Alan LINK
    MAY 07, 2008 - 03:49 AM
    Wow whoever won that got a bargain- under a fiver.
    MAY 07, 2008 - 06:31 AM
    Hi Pat Yes I agree. I got mine on ebay and I paid more than that, but it wasn't marked as damaged as this one was. Two more on the way LINK LINK Both with low starting price, one with reasonable postage the other a tad high. Alan
    MAY 07, 2008 - 12:01 PM
    Hi Mr. Egan, I couldn't agree with you more. I found the Terrain Modeling book to be a yawner my self About halfway through I had come to the conclusion that I could have written it in the late seventies, considering most of the techniques that were being used. It offered nothing new to me really, sure there was some talent but nothing like the talent I can see on many of the various websites today. I cannot comment on this book as I have never seen it but I can tell you I wont exactly be looking out for it either. It is obviously a decent book to some and thats fine, I wont tell them they are wrong but I agree that everyone reading this should see both sides of the coin. Hopefully I will be allowed to voice my views without earning a long, drawn out, sporadically typed lecture based on personal opinions.
    MAY 13, 2008 - 02:01 AM

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