Which Came First – the Base or the Model?

Which came first?

I often complete a model and then think about the base that it will sit on, but it could easily be the other way around. Every now and then I create a new base and then think to myself that this would be perfect for that 1/48 Panther tank. The base concept can be born via the creativity process or as a necessary means to display your project right from the start. It doesn’t really matter at what point it comes into being but rather that the intention is to include one as part of the overall plan.

Lets consider a simple base where you are simply displaying the model, ie. no ground work or figures, and just want a simple flat base. There are a few considerations or questions to be asked, such as:

How thick a base do I need?

The scale and size of a kit will determine the most appropriate thickness of the base. The base thickness should not over power the size of the model and is particularly important for armour and naval kits. A 38mm Jarrah base is perfect for a 1/35 Tiger I but way too thick for a 1/72 Churchill. A 38mm thick base will also accommodate a name plate that can be easily read. However for a 1/72 Churchill, a base of around 20mm thick will suffice as the proportions are more appropriate.

How big a base do I need?

Well it depends, but it should be appropriate for the model dimensions and if ground work will be required. When I talk about size I actually mean the kit dimensions verses the top surface of the base where your model will sit. I never have too much space on either side of a model if the kit is on its own with no ground work. In this example based on the trusty 1/35 Tiger I, I would have a minimum of 30mm between the sides of the tracks and the outer edge of the base and the same again for the front and rear. A maximum space is dependent on a few things, such as if you are placing a name plate on the top surface or perhaps adding a figure. The general rule here is that too much space can make the model look lost, and too little space can make the model look crowded on your base. The overall view of the kit on the base should look natural and not forced or exaggerated – said the spirit wood god…………

IMG_5101Red Gum base with Chamfer edge work: The barrel falls inside the base, but only just and the sides and rear have ample space to make it all look uniform. I also applied the 30mm rule for the space around the slab, for which I have used model railway timbers to create the edge work.

Falaise07036And here’s my reference for the above build and would have looked much better on a timber base – don’t you think!

Do you want the model to fall within the boundary of the base?

Ok, this is dependent on the modeller but I personally like to stay within the lines of the base. The main reason for this is to reduce the risk of any hands or objects damaging the build and because I think it looks more controlled and neater in appearance. There are many modellers that have produced stunning builds where the model is outside the base boundary, so I think its a personal choice but one that will impact on how your finished project will look.

Will you be adding a name plate?

Not all kits have to have a name plate, however I think it adds a level of interest and provides the viewer with information about what they are looking at. Positioning of the name plate can be either on the top surface or on the side edge. Base thickness will be a consideration as it will determine the width of the name plate and font size. Name plates on figure bases are usually always on the front face of the base such as in the example below.

Alpine Base44By Jeff Thompson

What are the overall color tones of the kit?

Why do I ask this? Well because this may determine what color wood would be best for your base. Any build that is predominately of light or pale colors would contrast better against darker wood. However, you could use a lighter color wood (Pine or Tas Oak) if the light colors are broken up with darker tones such as with camouflage. Any model once completed will contrast very well against a darker wood such as Jarrah or Red Gum, so the choice needs to be thought out to prevent your model from being washed out by the base color.

In Summary

I hope this sheds a little light on selecting a base and perhaps answered a few questions along the way. But of course, the choice is always dependent on the model being built and the dreaded issues of space that we all have.

So which came first, the Model or the Base? – well this is as complex an answer as when compared to the Chicken or the Egg. But we do know that without one you cant really have the other although one is more about genetics while the other is about modelling and the final finish.

Happy modelling!