Book Review
Let's Build Diorama
Let's Build Diorama # 1: Urban Scenes
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by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]


The last few years has seen, within publishing circles, an increasing tendency to go for the very specialized and specific titles. Gone are the days when one specific title (such as Shep Paine's masterwork) will cover everything in one volume. This has been reflected by several publishers who are now catering to a very demanding part of the modeling community with very tightly focused publications, on areas, which, previously, would at best get one or two chapters within a book. This new book falls right within this specialized category.

The Book: The technical details

Let's Build Diorama # 1: Urban Scenes is published by HarVar-d Design Studio in Hungary and co-authored by László Adóba and László Harsányi. Softback, published in B5 Format (164 x 242 mm), the book has 64 pages with more than 250 color photos. Broadly speaking, the book has five chapters (with a LOT of sub-divisions) and, as the title indicates concentrates entirely on Urban settings.

The Book: In detail

As I said, the book can (very) roughly be said to have five chapters. However, as the main project, a European house, is much more complex than a simple box-structure, this is reflected within the detail of each individual chapter. So, moving onto what's exactly in the book:

As any good book does, it begins with a foreword. More a statement of the objective than anything else, nevertheless it clearly lays out the objectives of the book in clear (and reassuring) terms. Following on from this is one of the most impressive guides to content I have seen in a while. Using a photo of the featured setting, it has a series of lines indicating them and going back to the chapter subheadings. So, if for example you want to look at doors & windows, follow the line and pages 36 to 43 will give you what you want. Simple but very effective.

As part of the introduction to the process, an excellent section is presented covering Materials and Tools. Yes, you'll find this in almost all publications of this type, but, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, a great emphasis is placed on using easily obtainable and low-cost materials which, in many cases are discards from packaging. You won't find a list of 'necessary' high-price produced branded diorama materials, which, good as many are, can work out on the expensive side. Several books I own (and have Reviewed) seem to be sponsored by some of the manufacturers. Great if you have access to them - not so good if you have to spend a fortune on postage?

The principal part of the book covers the construction of a pretty typical European building which would cover virtually any period in the 20th century. Two areas are particularly notable in this section - Doors & Windows and, one of the most difficult areas to capture convincingly - roofs. Taking the latter, as a good, typical representation of what the book is about, I'll concentrate on this section as although just one part of the entire process, it does strike me as particularly noteworthy.

Case Study: Section III, Roofing. This section contains eight pages and is sub-divided into three areas: Joists and Beams, Tiling and Guttering. Of the three areas, the first two, are, in my opinion, those which contain the most pitfalls for the average modeler. The section begins with framework for the roof - this follows the procedure used in an actual structure with laying down the principal rafters. As is the style of the book, everything follows a clear sequence with step-by-step photos and text once again the 'P' word is correctly emphasized - Planning, Planning and more Planning. Like any good book, the authors assume no previous knowledge and walk the reader through each phase clearly and concisely. The next part of Section III covers roof tiling. The authors have chosen to produce roof tiles in a manner very similar to the actual items - using clay. In this case, they use a brand called Airclay although if this particular product isn't available, substitutes are easily found - any fine (air-drying) modeling clay should work as well. The process of mass-production of tiles is clearly explained as the logical (and only convincing) manner of doing a tiled roof. The final section in this chapter deals, in two pages with guttering. Rather than using the more usual method of plastic tubes, or drinking straws, the authors have chosen to take the 'Prototype' route by using metal foil bent over a former - this, in my opinion, is a lot more convincing as pipes get bent and damaged and this technique avoids the uniformity we frequently see on model buildings.

The penultimate section, Forming the Street, deals with the construction of a sidewalk and roadway. The production of cobbles and paving stones is presented in great detail with some great tips.

The final section is the 'Teaser'. Some photos are presented of what will be the next title in the series - Vegetation.


Although the authors state that this is a book primarily aimed as an introduction for the less-experienced Dioramist, I doubt that many experienced modelers WON'T find some part of the book which inspires them in one way or another. As a 'primer' it's superlative, as a book for constant reference it's equally good.

Quality of the images is excellent, planning of the layout and the logical progression of the various steps in the 'process' is first class. This is NOT a case of good modelers coming up with a book which is let down by poor presentation. Presentation and Content is equally good.

Once again, the success of a book like this ultimately depends on its 'practicality' in this the book gets top marks. It may not be true for all modelers but for those of us who don't have local access to well-stocked Hobby Stores, we do tend to try and find alternatives from a variety of sources - this book reflects that philosophy perfectly. Virtually everything which is used in the book is easily and cheaply available.

On the debit side, I would suggest that better (English) proof-reading is done for the next book in the series. Whilst not taking away from the content in any manner, the English in the book can be a little 'stilted' occasionally. Saying that, my Hungarian doesn't even arrive at the level of ordering a beer..

This, being the first book from the two Lászlós, it's an impressive work. The enthusiasm they communicate is positively infectious. At a time I've been looking for some personal inspiration, this has done me a lot of good!

Finally, my personal thanks to László Harsányi (Halaci) for the opportunity to Review this book!
Highs: Logical, beautifully presented and above all a practical guide to one of the more difficult areas in Diorama work.
Lows: Better proof-reading would help in getting across some superb ideas.
Verdict: A superb first book in a series which promises to become invaluable.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Suggested Retail: 17.30€/18.60€
  PUBLISHED: Dec 22, 2009

Our Thanks to HarVar-d Design Studio!
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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


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