Last year, about this time, I was contemplating a big Indian/Loyalist game on the frontier during the American Revolution. I haven’t done the game yet, and honestly don’t know if I will anytime soon. The scope in my mind is a lot bigger than my grasp.
In any case, as I was preparing, I realized that I didn’t have many frontier habitations. How can Butlers Rangers burn down the frontier if there aren’t any buildings to burn? A friend of mine had shared some of his experiences with laser cut wagons at 4Ground miniatures. I perused their catalog, checked out their buildings from the American frontier and thought I would give them a try. I ordered from my local hobby shop, and they immediately went into the big pile of “all things Smyth,” as in I forgot I even owned them. But as I was deciding what to work on this summer, I set these aside to finish.
The two buildings I purchased were the Pioneer’s Log Cabin and the Settler’s Log Log Timber Cabin. Each came in a sealed plastic bag with four slabs of laser cut plywood pieces. The top was carefully sealed and the full color instruction guide was included with the parts. Together the two kits cost about $60, which is pretty fair for quality buildings–if you’ve priced a structure from Miniature Building Authority lately. . Because the structures are raw wood, the different colored wood examples work pretty well.
I would love to say the buildings went together quickly and without a hitch in a matter of moments, but they didn’t. It could be that any building project for me is just going to take longer because I”M BAD AT BUILDING STUFF! But honestly, because we’re assembling structures with PVA glue (Elmers or something similar) sometimes things just need to dry. I assembled both buildings over three evenings including two Mariners games and the Republican presidential debate, which was easily as long as a Mariners game.
I can say with truth, that I was quite pleased with the way things went together. The instructions took me step by step through the pieces I would need at each phase of construction and give a rough picture of how they went together. The pieces were of high quality and did go together well. The construction was mostly pretty darned easy–good fit. The finished interior and exterior had nice attention to detail, though there were some gaps I’ll share more about. I could easily recommend these to another user.
However, I am not without some constructive suggestions. First, there is the matter of the directions. Though they give an order to things, the lack of even simple written directions at times left me trying to figure stuff out and tearing things apart to reassemble. I felt like Tonto, with half the vocabulary, giving directions on sewing a shirt to The Lone Ranger. “No Kimasabee, it go here.” The lack of clarity led me to mis-assemble the chimney on one of the buildings, though it is obscured by a chunk of the roof. Pity, because the detail is so great. Another issue with the directions is although the piece numbers are printed on the color directions, they blend right in and are difficult to read. For those of us in the geriatric set, this is a problem. Bigger, darker, clearer would be better.
In the case of the Frontier Log Cabin, some of the pieces really needed double assembly so the detail would show on both sides. For the most part, 4Ground is really good at doing this, But for this model, some of the finishing pieces could be better.
Overall, for price, quality of detail and ease of assembly, I can at least give these models a solid B, maybe even a B+.