by: Scott Lodder [ ]
Originally published on:
Latex is a fantastic medium to use for surface treatments in the modeling world. It conforms to imperfections (Planned or otherwise) of the underlayment. It is easy to cut and configure. It take paint and weathering very well.
This kit comes in standard Kancali format: one sheet of flexible latex (apporx. 8"x10"). This sheet has a ton of sidewalk sculpted into it. Enough for two corners of an intersection. This product depicts a square block sidewalk trimmed in standard bricks. On one corner there is a great design feature that will allow you to add a street light or traffic control device. This feature is a brick circle at the corner sitting on a protruding block/brick detail.
You'll notice a bit of inconsistency in the thickness/width of the seams between the paver blocks. This was done on purpose Kancali designed it this way to give it a more worn used look. If you aren't fond of the inconsistent look you may add bit of attention during construction. This will depend on your diorama plans. I'll address this more later. The backside of this sheet is significant to note. The design of paver blocks forces a deep seams throughout the top part useable product. This seam on top turns into a ridge on the underside. The reinforcing threads in the sheet along with the design result in ridges up to 1.5mm high.
Putting this kit to use is pretty straight forward. It's typically four steps 1. Cut, 2. Fit, 3. Glue, 4. Finish. The sheet has a latex version of 'flash' that holds the sheet as one piece. This is very easily cut with a good pair of scissors. Once you have the main piece cut you can use a small pair of scissors and cut as close the piece as possible. After I had the main pieces cut out I worked with my buildings to ensure the positioning would work. There is a molded on 'foundation' in the sidewalk that I had to ensure would be incorporated. This gives you the rough placement.
I moved on to work with my road treatment and dry fit these two components. When you work with these latex pieces it is easiest to plan a bit of overlap into the fit. Overlapping the sidewalk on top the street ensures that you have material to work with and that there aren't any visible gaps. From a top-down perspective you always make the top layer totally cover the bottom layer, therefore the street was made about 3mm wider than necessary. Once I had the three components fitting together I needed to address elevation. The road treatment is a solid resin and would not cover the entire base. The sidewalks would have to rest at an elevation at the top level of the road. To give the sidewalk a base I used foam board scraps to buildup the area under the sidewalks.
At this point there is some preparation you need to do with the latex. Prior to gluing you need to plan on supporting the flexible pieces. One obvious place on this piece was under the foundation portion. This was easy to do by simply adding a small strip of wood down the channel. This need was easy to recognize because the weight of the building needs support. A second point that is not as obvious is noted in the product description, above there are ridges on the bottom making it uneven. The flexibility of latex and the raised points allow for sagging in the middle of the paving blocks. While this is not insurmountable it does create a fair amount of work. To counter the sagging you have a few options. One option is to glue a small thin shim on the underside of each paver. Another option is to apply a thin layer of DIY spackle to the base and 'seat' the sidewalk into the wet spackle. When the spackle dries it will support the pavers. I learned about the sagging problem the hard way by not doing anything (live and learn), so you can examine the results for yourself.
I used a one part epoxy for this project to test its workability. I have used two-part epoxy before and it works well. The one part epoxy also works well. I checked around the visible joints along the road surface and tacked down any gaps with CA. The previously mentioned overlap ensured that I had a good surface to glue to.
I mentioned that there were some inconsistent seams between the stones. With an open area and nothing on the sidewalks yet now is a good time to perform any adjustments to the latex. If you want to make the gaps shallower you will need to fill them in. I tested two different products for this. Latex is a soft product and provides a fair amount of 'give' when working with it. I used some Squadron white putty in areas and Testors contour putty in others. I selected these two because they are different in consistency: coming out of the tube Squadron is harder than Testors. I used a narrow spade type dental tool to apply the putty. I found that it was easier to apply the thinner Testors putty. It is similar to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread - it's easier to spread the jelly than the peanut butter without smashing the bread. For our European readers, Nutella and honey. For our Asia readers I'm at a loss - sorry. The Testors spread easier and was quicker to clean up with a scrape of the pick or a QTip.
Finishing was done in traditional fashion. I applied a thick coat of acrylic craft paint (Americana) first, making sure to work it into the seams. Then I applied a number of oil washes of various colors (all dark). Since rubble was going to cover most of the sidewalk I wasn't overly concerned with creating much variation on the stones. The last finishing step was to add various layers of pastel powders. I used standard artist pastels scraped into a powder form. They went on very well and covered the sidewalks nicely.
I am a huge fan of latex as a medium, it's light, flexible and easy to work with. Kancali does a wonderful job with detailing their pieces. You will be able to tell they put a ton of time into making a good product for you. The one draw back to me of this product is the sagging and the amount of effort it will take to accommodate that. This piece my least favorite of the Kancali line. It's not a bad piece, but it does carry with it a fair amount of work compared to other pieces in the Kancali line or to other 'stiff' product from other manufacturers. If this is the style sidewalk you want, go ahead and buy it but add in a bit extra time to your project schedule.