Plastic is over rated.
No, really, it's good at a lot of things, but no matter what you do with it it's still plastic. Sure, it can be sculpted and detailed using every trick known to make it look like wood, but you don't get the feel, the weight, the smell. You get plastic that kinda looks like it, but little else. If you're going to make something look like wood, then why not just make it out of wood? Wood is cheap, durable, renewable, and adds authenticity. It's easy to substitute, but there's nothing else like it.
Doing it right is something of a lost art; you don't see a lot of toys and the like made of wood these days. Sure things spring up from time to time, but for the most part it's just a novelty. However, in Japan, the art of building models out of wood rather than plastic is still alive and well. You can find models of Japanese castles, furniture, boats, and other such things made mainly of wood in very impressive detail. One thing is for sure: building a wooden model isn't the same as building one out of plastic.
Admit it, you're intrigued or at least mildly curious about the process of building a model out of wood. Follow me after the jump for a beginners' guide in this review of Cobbanii's 1/12-scale wooden desk and chair.
Figure Name: 1/12-scale wooden desk and chair
Figure Maker: Cobbanii
Retail Price: ¥1,200
Available at: HobbyLink Japan
So this review is going to serve a dual purpose of not just exploring this set, but also as a beginner's guide to building this. I've never built on of these before, so it's foreign territory for me as well. I've always wondered just how these were designed and built and saw it as a golden opportunity. I would imagine anything I've learned here will carry over to any of Cobbanii's sets.
This is how it looks in the package. It's a pretty simple, nondescript plastic bag that contains everything. I was surprised to find there was actually a pair of desks and chairs in there. Good deal. Of course, this is also where things start to get intimidating.
There's four basic components here: thick pieces, thin pieces, the desk top, and that thing in the middle is a template. The template probably has a better name in Japanese, but I don't know what that is so we'll just go with calling it a template. It's made of very thick, rigid paper and not only does it make sure you're putting the right pieces in the right spot, but also has enough strength to hold them together. That last part is key because this is by no means snap model. Despite what it says on some sites, this kit does require glue to assemble. Super glue works just fine, but make sure it works on wood. They all don't, and liquid is probably a better choice than gel.
Instructions are much more simple than you'll find with any plastic kit. If you can't read Japanese, then that's fine. Like with plastic models, the images are really all you need. It's not entirely without problems. For example, one of the desk legs is shown with the holes for the cross sections at the bottom rather than the top. Unlike with plastic kits, the numbers are on the sheet rather than the pieces, so plan on doing a lot of comparing along the way.
From a distance, it might look like these are just sheets of wood with black outlines to show where to cut, but fear not; these are all pre-cut. I'm guessing a plasma cutter is used to precisely cut out the pieces. A burn smell still lingers on the pieces which I find pleasant, but more importantly the burns give an appealing depth to the pieces. The little triangles indicate the one tiny little spot that wasn't cut out to keep it on the sheet.
We're going to start with the chair because it has fewer parts. I should point out now that if you want to stain this a different color, you'll want to do it now since the glue is going to get a little messy and you won't be able to stain over the glue. And believe me, you'll want to make sure you're working on a surface that you don't mind getting glue on because you will. In this image, you can see the template in action. As I mentioned before, it's not just positioning the parts right, but it's also putting some pressure on them to hold them together.
I'm really amazed by how well the pieces go together. I've assembled my fair share of plastic models that aren't this precise. The little nubs from where the pieces come off the sheet can be troublesome so always remember to remove those.
If you've done everything right, then the parts should come together looking like this. The only thing holding that together is glue, so make absolutely sure it has dried before handling. Chances are you'll find you didn't use enough glue when you pull it out of the template, so be prepared to re-glue often.
Once you've done this for both sides, it's simple to apply some glue to the cross-sections and insert them. Make sure they go all the way through; they should stick out the other side just a bit.
Next, the supports for the seat portion are added. This is where I'm once again impressed by the precision engineering as they fit in place perfectly, neither too big nor too small. You probably don't even need to glue them in place, but they probably should be.
Finally, it's just a matter of adding the two seat pieces and there you have it, a completed 1/12-scale student chair. Not the most comfortable looking thing in the world, but for many people like myself who grew up with wooden chairs in school like this, it's a familiar sight. Like I mentioned before, the burn marks from the cutting process does a lot for the look. I really don't think staining is needed.
Time to move on to the desk. For the most part, the desk goes together the same way as the chair, so we'll just touch on the bigger points for this part. One thing you have to keep in mind when assembling the desk is that unlike the chair the desk has an inside and outside. The key here is to make sure you swap the position of the two legs so that they line up properly when you put them together.
This is probably the easiest part because it's just a matter of taking the three cross supports and sticking the two ends together.
This, however, is the most frustrating part of the build, the bottom of the desk. There's no support for it or grooves to hold it in place so you need to eyeball it to get it in there right. But once again, to their credit, the engineering is amazing and the fit is very precise. It's actually held in place simply from the pressure of the surrounding sides, no glue required. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to move it into place you'll likely end up with something unglued. Yeah, not fun at all. And since it's a thin piece there's a lot of fear of the part just folding in half on you. Took a ridiculous amount of effort, but I managed to get it just right. Also remember that there's a front and back, but they were nice enough to put a tiny "f" on one end.
Scratch that, this might be the easiest part of the desk, the top. Just put a little glue on the tiny squares and put the desk upside down on it. There, done.
And that's it; two or three hours later and you've got yourself a pair of desks and chairs. When you look at them like this it's hard to believe they're only being held together by glue. I find it easy to look at the pictures and forget they're not the real thing held together by screws and nails. They're pretty sturdy and can take a little abuse if you've used the right glue, while at the same time being feather light.
But now that you've got them is there anything you can actually do with them? That depends on what you want to do with them.
If you're hoping to use them with your figma then you're probably going to be out of luck. Even the fairly petite figure like Nagato here towers over the set. Being 1/12-scale means they're designed to be in scale with a 6-inch male figure, assuming they represent a 6-foot-tall person. That means a student using this would be considerably smaller than that. At over 5 inches, Nagato is much larger than 1/12-scale and therefore too large for the set.
For a middle school or elementary student-sized figma, the fit isn't bad. The hardest part is getting the legs underneath, but a lot of the trouble in that comes from figma having issues with sitting well in the first place. In reality, these are probably best used for scenery and not as functional desks. That aside, wooden desks went out of style with the Sh˘wa period, as modern Heisei period desks are made of metal and plastic. If you truly want a desk set to fit with you figma, then go plastic.
That's not so say you can't have fun with them at all. You just need to be a little creative.
[Thanks as always to HobbyLink Japan for providing the review sample!]Photo Gallery: (19 images)
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