Category Archives: MBZ

Weathering Laser-cut Buildings: MBZ Project

MBZ fills a particular niche for model railroaders in Z, they offer buildings age old building types along railroad yards, farms and countryside scenes along small streams and rivers. MBZ’s style are buildings with the patina of age through deep cut detail work this quality becomes apparent.

MBZ sells a whole host of paints and supplies particularly suited to finishing these buildings through a technique of sponging on water base paint after applying a base coat of primary to retard too much soaking in of the finishing touches. How to videos show these paints to be easy in applying and relatively opaque although dilution of paints and light touch with sponge applicator is well suited to vary the transparency of the paint. I am new to MBZ kits and although I have not tried their paints myself I have seen finished examples at Reynauld’s in Elburn, IL, they are really quite good and the paints give the impression of realism that is almost required if you intend to build these kits, they are of course delivered in similarly pigmented parts thus monochromatic and unrealistic.

I am well versed in a technique that many modelers employ: dry brushing. For those unfamiliar it is a painting technique that is unlike any other in bringing out surface detail. The technique itself is suggested in the name ‘dry brush.’ After saturating a brush with paint continuously run it back and forth over a paper towel until traces of paint can be seen. With a light touch and testing in a small area first use the brush to selectively add color either soot staining on roof tiles around a chimney or soot above a locomotive shed door thereby playing on the impression of accumulated soot from steam locos over time.

There is a little bit of artistry and technique combined with personal preference during the dry brushing application, but it is fun to see details become three dimensional and the life of a building carefully constructed come into being.

I often times mix paints for dry brushing and/or apply layers of different colors. The paints I choose are railroad colors available at my local dealer, and they are all water based. Water base paints dry matte whereas oil paints will dry with a gloss that can be cut back with thinners but why bother since water based paints work so well,  and they are easy to work with, and clean up is a cinch.

For this MBZ building I used a combination of four paints by Polly Scale and Modelmaster separately applied: Grimy Flat Black first to bring up details throughout the building, Roof Red to generally add a hint of color to foundation and ever so light touches to shutters and shadow areas under eaves and dormer, Vermont Green mixed with Pullman Green to give a subtle impression of moss on shake roof tiles, Pullman Green lightly applied throughout building for another color to add depth plus added to shadow areas and chimneys, lastly Grimy Flat Black to give uneven streaks to roof and chimney caps plus dirty up the window frames.

Before dry brushing:

After dry brushing:

Siding: Weathering is an individual thing and the amount is often times based on preference, two techniques for MBZ weathering are this companies painting kits and technique as well as traditional dry brush, but other techniques can be used included rubbing dry pigments into the paper and sealing with a light spritz of matte lacquer, literally blowing a puff in the air and walking the building into the mist, do not directly spray the building! Explore explore explore and remember to have fun!

Siding: If you have invested a small fortune in the premium railroad paints made by Polly Scale, Railroad Colors, Modelmaster Testors with the small glass bottle and metal cap here is something of value to mention. Eventually your water based paint will spill over the sides and cement the cap on, run the whole bottle under hot water for several minutes and the cap will free up!

3 Laser-Cut Kits from MBZ

MBZ of Germany is the manufacturer of laser-cut building kits in multiple gauges. In the United States Reynauld’s of Illinois is the exclusive distributor and seller of these kits, but finding them in stock and ready to ship is another matter, if you place an order for one that is out of stock it will take months to receive from what I have heard. The range of architecture represented in the MBZ line-up is vast mostly comprising railway and rural building types. In appearance the buildings look like older types existing after years of life, the materials and manufacturing methods further reinforce their appearance.

The kits I have thus far assembled are three including two bridges and a building. When you receive one of these kits it will probably be delivered in a plastic sleeve with part sheets and instructions. Instructions are going to be fairly minimal with a single illustration, but there are fewer parts than other manufacturer’s kits. You might also discover some parts either broken and bent, if this arises some special consideration will be required to modify or repair sections. I have not found this to be a big deal and probably due to the nature of the materials that are appropriate to the buildings.

MBZ buildings do away with the framework other laser-cut kits employ that exterior panels attach to give thereby giving a solid feel and straight walls, with MBZ floor and side panels are simply glued together. I received all three kits with warped parts maybe due to the material and laser-cutting? Some bending will work and at least help straighten parts. Gluing in sections will also be needed to keep things straight between two pieces forming a corner. A slight scent of burnt paper was evident during construction, and prep work is required to remove glue resistant carbon dust, the manufacturer suggests a sanding block or old wire brush for removing this deposit left from the laser-cut burning.

The 3 kits I made were Small Stone Bridge (MBZ R16079 – $8), Bypass (MBZ R16014 – $24), and Halbrelief Erstfeld “2 Dimensional Structure” (MBZ R16058 – $49). *Prices currently posted on Reynaulds website.

The Small Stone Bridge is a nice kit and beautiful addition to detailing a small stream, it detailed on the underside which is a nice touch. Building this is a little tricky, the paper is thick, small and requires bending: all challenging features. I wish I had this stone bridge in real life to add to a leisurely stroll in the countryside!!!

The Bypass is a rail bridge with beautiful masonry and iron railings. Not enough room for a train below, it is intended to extend over a small road/path or stream. The very look of this bridge gives the impression of the year 1900!

Halbrelief Erstfeld or 2 Dimensional Structure does not have a door or a back wall, but it does have lots of shutters. The rustic nature of this building brings to mind a small town residence circa 1900! I imagine it looking good in a forested area at the end of a town or railway depot, the back can be finished off and placed away from the main attractions on the layout otherwise solve the unfinished look another way.

Too many buildings by just one manufacturer on a layout does not offer enough difference thereby making MBZ an interesting manufacturer to consider adding. If you model contemporary these buildings will give the contrasting theme of buildings before.

Siding: I used Noch’s new glue 61104 for laser-cut buildings, but the manufacturer recommends UHU Hart glue. The manufacturer also suggests painting the kits before assembly with their water based pigments applied by sponge, but before painting the parts are prepped to remove carbon dust and primed to prevent too much wetting created by water based paints.

Laser-cut Buildings by 3 Manufacturers comparably priced!

A number of manufacturers offer laser-cut building kits here in the United States and abroad. Three German manufacturers are of particular interest due to their extensive line-up and varying design themes: Archistories, Faller, and MBZ. And their complementary European architecture suitable for German trains. I did not include Marklin’s fine laser-cut buildings because they do not offer anything as of yet in this price range. And some of their more modest size building kits come with freight car sets.

First I am a big big fan of Archistories thus a particular prejudice for these buildings need to be admitted to, but I want to compare options from these manufacturers that may make suitable companions in a town of your design.

I offer a simple comparison of one building by each manufacturer similarly priced, I purchased all three in the United States in price range $45 each. Archistories “Frye Railway House” purchased from ZScaleMonster.com (official USA distributor and also available from ZScaleHobo.com), Faller’s “Osterode-Sud Wayside Station” purchased through my local Marklin dealer by way of Walthers, and MBZ’s “2 Dimensional Building Kit” purchased through Reynauld’s (MBZ’s official USA distributor).

All three manufacturers offer something the others do not owing to each brand’s consistancy. For Archistories is a range of railway buildings including roundhouse, loco sheds, stations, water towers, and even operating grist mill and windmill all based on historically accurate examples. Faller is now offering townhouses, but they have released several small train stations, barn, and lumber mill. MBZ offers numerous railway buildings and rural buildings including barns and houses.

Innovations are hallmarks of Archistories and Faller, Archistories buildings include partition walls allowing for lighting specific rooms of there “Frye” house while Faller continues to use window masking with curtain detailing that is quite good (new LED technology makes lighting these masks much more possible). Faller also designs their open timber buildings (4 so far) with timber framework and individual inserts for stucco which give a very accurate prototypical look. MBZ offers excellent stone and masonry bridges for small rural settings that complement the rural structures of other manufacturers including their own.

Laser-cut is better than plastic with prototypical materials translated quite well into the matte cardstock of laser-cut. Precision engineering is also possible with laser-cut, thinner materials with fine detail etching creates the closest thing possible to the prototypes in Z, plastic is thick and chunky, its gloss distracting without painting intervention.

All three buildings could go on the same layout, each is accurately scaled. And in ‘Z’ many more buildings can be included on a layout in a given amount of space than any other scale, several towns can be realized with rural highlights connecting them.

A simple description of a building is often tied to construction value here it is most evident. Archistories buildings across their line-up are precision kits of the highest value with sharply delineated details at the corners, windows, and seamless marriage of materials. Faller likewise produces precision kits with realistically tinted materials and wooden features including doors and posts. MBZ is a less precise building kit bordering on primitive, their buildings are uniformly tinted so painting is necessary by the modeler, parts can arrive torn, parts are usually warped requiring extra attention to remove, and the materials have to be prepped before assembly to remove carbon dust generated by the laser-cutting that would otherwise impede gluing.

Instructions and constructions: Archistories instructions are the very best in the industry with no real comparison with any other manufacturer, if you follow the instructions in order you are assured of success: perfect corners and seamless roof. Faller’s buildings come together much in the same way as Archistories starting with a framework structure followed by exterior panels and detail work. Faller’s instructions are mostly excellent, I have assembled all of their laser-cut buildings and found that their roofs do not come together nearly as well as Archistories, a little gap is always found in the finished building. Roofing gaps are not possible with Archistories buildings unless a mistake was made during assembly. MBZ is another matter, their instructions are minimal, but so are the buildings which are simple glued constructions of floor, sides and roof. Just the roof is treated to an underlay making these kits a little more flimsy than I would like and no window masks or partition walls, chimneys are simple affairs with this MBZ kit and dormer windows are not possible to fully expose. The shutters are a nice touch with this kit, but foundation masonry is missing in the design along with a door. This kit is also described as a 2 dimensional building so it is also missing a back wall. The paper used for this MBZ kit is a lightweight cardboard that had the faint odor of having been burned, and the acetate had to also be cleaned of carbon. It sounds like a lot of criticisms for MBZ and maybe not!?! MBZ is producing kits based on prototypes of a certain age, and the reality of these prototypes may be accurately portrayed by these kits based on design but also materials. Well what do I mean by this? MBZ kits have a softer look to them than the other two manufacturers partly owed to the heavy laser etching and cardboard which may translate the time worn nature of these buildings much better than any other material.

Availability is a non issue with Archistories (ZScaleMonster.com and ZScaleHobo.com), they are always available through these dealers. Faller seems to produce their laser-cuts in a limited number so buy’em when you see them available at Walthers or better yet preorder them from your local dealer if you have one, if not order from an on-line retailer. MBZ is available from their USA dealer Reynauld’s in Elburn, IL, but their available inventory can be quite limited and back orders can take months from what I have heard. EuroTrains in Canada publishes an accurate inventory on their website which can be helpful.

In closing, each manufacturer discussed is making consider contributions to Z, but each in their own unique way: Archistories creates buildings the closer to real-life than the other two, Faller creates buildings with the traditional open timber construction using real timber framework and stucco inserts, and MBZ creates buildings that have endured the test of time.