by: Jake McKee [ ]
INTRODUCTIONSometimes the smallest elements are what really make a diorama scene. New technologies have brought a great many new options to choose from, especially in resin. But I had the pleasure of reviewing a kit that wouldn't have been possible (or at least affordable) even a few years ago. Plus Models 429 Guard Stand is a kit made entirely of laser-cut wood. This set recreates a German sentry box (aka guard shack). Laser-cut from wood, this is a simple, yet elegant approach to recreating the sentry box.
I'm excited to see this type of manufacturing; laser-cutting wood allows for more intricate designs with thinner materials to make quick and easy but beautiful and scale authentic sets possible. I can't wait to see more like this.
But let's look at this kit in further detail.
CONTENTSThis set is pretty darn simple:
• Several thick (2.83 mm) "sprues"
• Several think (.62 mm) "sprues"
• Instruction sheet
REVIEWThis kit was a fun one to build. The parts count is low, and the parts separate easily from the sprues. All of the parts are laser-cut with high quality.
There are two thicknesses of sprues. The thicker sprues cut easily with a few drags of a razor saw. (And I mean "drag"… too much force might cause problems) The thinner sprues take nothing more than a hobby knife. Cutting with the grain yields near instant separation. Be careful cutting across the grain. Use your hobby knife to effectively score the wood until it separates.
The overall design of the model pieces is targeted more at building a simple, easy model, rather than true realism. The one piece rear interior wall structure, for instance, is probably not as realistic as one might want, but it's a strong backbone for the rest of the structure. The two side wall interior structures are wonderfully detailed and laser scored with individual board marks and nail marks. I'm not sure why the back wall interior support wouldn't include those same markings.
The side and back external wall elements are top notch. While they are one piece, they have perfect laser-cut separations between the slats, as well as a laser-cut nail marks. (It'll be interested to see what happens with those nail marks when I paint and weather the building… they are likely to disappear altogether since the relief is minimal)
With other parts, such as the roof or the arch for the front of the box, the parts are only laser scored, rather than having separation between the slats. I glued the arch on the front without thinking about cutting the individual slats apart and gluing them piece by piece. I tried that tactic with the roof and it turned out far better than the flat, obviously one piece roof straight out of the box. (If you looked underneath the roof eave, say at a model contest, you'd immediately notice a flat, unrealistic surface) To modify the roof, I first cut a piece of 2.47mm x 2.47mm wood and glued it between the two front and back peaks of the roof to provide more support. Next, I cut the single roof piece into individual slats, using a hobby knife and slow, soft scoring along the laser cuts. I left the two center-most slats together, and simply scored the seam between them enough to bend the piece to the angle of the roof. This allowed me to easily glue and align both sides of the roof slats. Then I simply glued each slat where it went on the roof. (Remember to keep track of the order the slats are cut apart so you can glue them back in that same order)
I should note that all parts were glued with Elmer's Wood Glue. It dries fast and sticks quickly, so make sure you are only applying glue to the immediate areas you're working on.
All the pieces fit quite nicely, with the exception of the two long slats on either side of the front doorway. They're a bit too short, and it looks a bit wonky. If I'd been thinking before I glued them on, I would have replaced them with the proper length using spare materials.
The biggest problem turned out to be the angled supports, for two reasons. First, there simply weren't enough (4 included, 6 needed) of them in the kit to match the number called for in the instructions. On top of this, the sizing and design of those angled supports didn't quite seem to work correctly. I used two under the exterior platform, but just skipped them under the roof eaves.
I had to do quite a bit of research to figure out what was in these sentry boxes, and what color they may have been painted. It would appear that most of these boxes were painted in an angular red, white, black color scheme. Largely they didn't have much inside other than a telephone and a writing platform. I'll have to scratchbuild a phone, which is a bummer. This could have been an easy resin addition to the kit without much extra cost.
I'm disappointed that there were no painting recommendations included with this kit, given the very specific color scheme that was often used on these boxes.
• Be careful as you build the walls in the first few steps. It's really easy to get the angles off and end up with a sentry box that doesn't look like it was designed to typical German standards… i.e. it looks like it was designed without a framing square.
• Sanding is a bit of a nightmare with a kit like this. Small parts and thin materials don't go together so well. Try to make your initial sprue separation cuts as close as humanly possible to avoid having to sand anything later. If you feel it necessary to sand the full part, try to do as much as possible on the sprue. And remember: finest grade sandpaper possible. With wood this thin and soft, you can easily remove far more than you intend in just a couple strokes.
• That said, spend some time sanding the dark, laser burned edges of the parts. Those burns are simply too dark to do anything but act as a distraction. They really need to be toned down.
SUMMARYGenerally I'm pretty pleased with this kit. I certainly would like to build one again, but will probably scratch build the rear wall, and improve or replace the front facade pieces. And of course, I'll need to either scratchbuild the missing angled supports or contact the manufacturer to get a replacement.
It's great to see manufacturers starting to experiment with laser-cut wood. It opens up a world of possibilities. I absolutely recommend this kit, but take some time upfront to really understand how the build works and what you might do to customize to your own personal satisfaction.