Let me just start by saying that I really, really wanted to love this model. It looks gorgeous, and has a lot of great details. And I do really like the way it looks. But I did not love the building of it, which is usually my favorite part of these models. It’s vying for the title of my least-favorite build, unfortunately.
This turns out to make for some poetic irony, though, as it makes very clear a point that I wanted to cover in this post, as this is the first “review” model I’ve built, and I wanted to make it clear that I will still give you my honest opinion about models and builds, even if I get them for free. And, while I imagine Fascinations would prefer that the first official review I build would get reviewed well, I also think they want me to be honest about it. So, it’s sad to start of with a negative sounding review, but I think y’all know by now that it’s not common that I find a lot to complain about with Metal Earth models. But this one… it just wasn’t a great experience.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do official reviews, when AnimateOrange suggested I talk to them about it. I rather enjoy participating in the various creative photo contests with them, and I wouldn’t feel right about participating if I had an established relationship with them. However, in the end, I decided to go ahead with it, as I’ve also felt bad for participating in too many contests. So now, I’ll do reviews, and do non-entry participation to encourage others to show their creativity and participate themselves. Anyways, back to the review at hand.
So, yeah… I usually like writing up these reviews, cause I like writing about what I like. And I really do want to like this model. But it was such a pain in the butt. Well, I’m gonna try not to be entirely negative. The color contrast does look great, and I really like the layered eaves or whatever they are called. It’s a wonderful effect. And this model is photogenic, that’s for sure. It was a perfect model for some creative photos, as you can probably tell from my rather unique gallery for this model. I had a lot of fun preparing and shooting that gallery. But now it’s time for the rough part… the build review.
So, the build starts out pretty tame. Right off the bat, you end up forming a couple of pairs of statues on pedestals. It suggests that you make two identical forms of each, but if you want to hide the tabs a little better, flip one of the statues around (mirrored) per pair. That way, when you set them on the base, as shown in the instructions, you can place the folded tab towards the middle of the base (facing the back for the front pair, facing the front for the back pair). Don’t worry about the back pair’s tabs being visible, the walls in the ground floor actually separate the statues each into their own room.
In the next series of steps, you’ll be attaching a whole lot of the same parts (6 and 9) to the outer walls of the ground floor (parts 5, 7, 8 and 12). Be careful when attaching part 6 on along each edge of parts 5 and 7: make sure to twist the tabs a full 90 degrees, and keep them sticking straight out. Then, when attaching part 9 to the outside edges of parts 8 and 12, twist these tabs about 45 degrees, creating a V shape that points towards the middle of part 8. This allows for the tabs from part 6 on the back of parts 5 and 7 to “slot” into the gap of the V shape of the tabs from part 9 on the back of parts 8 and 12. This won’t happen until a later time, but it will make your life easier, trust me.
In this same area, you begin the balancing act of attaching the inner walls (parts 10,+11, and 13+11) to the narrower exterior walls (8 and 12). These are attached with simply two tabs on either end of part 11 through the inside walls of the arch (10 and 13) and the exterior walls (8 and 12). Doing this is fun, though, because the tabs are parallel to each other, so there’s nothing to keep the parts perpendicular to each other. That is, if you don’t want to twist the tabs, which I hate twisting exterior tabs. So I folded each pair of tabs in opposite directions, so as to create a stabilizing force. It’s not the strongest connection, but it’s passable. Just be careful with these sub-assemblies once formed.
The next part of this balancing act is where the nightmare begins. To attach all of the ground floor walls together, you “simply” use the 4 tabs and slots at the top corners of the exterior walls. Yep, that’s all that’s going to hold all this together until you attach it to the base. And those interior walls… be sure not to get them all mangled while you are folding those tabs, because there’s no tabs or slots used to connect the interior walls to the nearby exterior wall. Nor are their any tabs on the bottoms of those walls to slot into the base. So you need to keep them nice and straight while you do this. And heaven forbid you didn’t twist the tabs for those projections on the edges of the exterior walls in such a way that they can coexist without trying to occupy the same physical space. Sorry, getting a little rant-y here. This is not an easy task, made harder if one, again, wishes to not have twisted external tabs. I really don’t know what thought process led to all of this being held together by only 4 tabs, but I almost wonder if it started with a dare or a personal goal of using the absolute minimum possible tabs for this. I just don’t think it was a good idea, and I wish they had added some more tabs in here. At least it gains some stability once you’ve attached this mess to the base, but be sure to check on those interior walls once you’ve attached it… gotta straighten them out as best you can, and just hope that friction holds them in place.
And now we get to the most unfortunate discovery, a design mistake/flaw. And mistakes happen, that’s just part of life. I just wish this one had been caught in product testing. I found it while I was attempting to build and attach the little side structures to the base next to the ground floor. You see, the slots in the roof sections of these pieces are too far apart. Or the angle of the roof is too shallow. Because when you form the roof (part 14) to match the frontage of the roof, the slots are way to far apart to match the rectangular shape of the walls of the structure (part 14). I managed to force it all together, and maintain the angle of the roof, but the walls ended up spreading outwards on the open end, making a rough V shape, which doesn’t match up with the outline on the base where you are suppose to attach these structures. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that Metal Earth can fix this without re-running the entire production run. It’s not a show-stopper, as you can still get the model together, but it’s a little disappointing.
We finally come to something that seems rather simple, at this point, which is attaching what I consider to be the eaves (parts a, b, and c) to the roof of the ground floor (or the floor of the second level). I would recommend that you attach parts b first, as it is slightly thinner than a or c. If you attach parts a first, it makes it harder to hold parts b in place. In addition, I would recommend that you only twist the tabs on these parts 45-60 degrees. Then, once you have attached all the eaves, fold these tabs down in an outward direction, while still twisted, at an angle away from the center of the piece. The reason for doing this is not aesthetic, but to make attaching this roof/floor to the walls of the ground floor much easier. If you leave them twisted 90 degrees and standing straight up, it makes it very hard to access and secure the tabs that will slot up through this floor when finally attaching the second level to the assembled model. I kinda wish that Fascinations had staggered these tabs side-to-side some, so that they could be folded over without twisting (as they are, the slots are too close together to make folding an option without twisting first), and it would make it easier to identify which part/tab goes to which slots.
And after that respite, it’s back to the balancing nightmare as you get to repeat a lot of the madness of the ground floor for the second level. Blessedly, the second level does not contain interior walls, but instead had 4 solid exterior walls… that still, unfortunately, are secured together with a mere 4 tabs, along with the protrusions along the edge that create tab conflicts on the interior. This can be weakened by the same strategy as the ground floor (twist 90 degrees for parts 6, and 45 degree V-shapes for parts 9), but connecting the 4 walls is still quite the circus trick.
Following that, you get to attach the second floor to the ground floor, which is hopefully a little easier for you if you followed my advice with the twisting of the tabs for the “eaves.” Then you fold all the edges of that floor thing down. Or, well, you can, unless you did it the first time they told you to do that, before attaching all the eaves. Slight directions mistake there, hahaha. Then you attach the guard-rail around the second floor balcony (twisting those tabs is a tight fit, you can forget about folding). Oh, but maybe you should have attached the balcony rails, and then folded the edges down all around? But that doesn’t make sense, because you folded those edges down way back before attaching the eaves, right? After that, you get to do a repeat of the eaves building exercise (don’t worry about order this time, they’re all pretty much the same thickness), then a little spacer, and you are ready for the final section of this build… the Guessing Game!
If you’ve built many Metal Earth models, I’m sure you already knew that the roof of this model has a lot of guessing and approximating of curves. There are some things you can do to get some guidance, such as comparing the parts you are shaping to the parts that will be connected or adjacent to it. And because it’s all guessing / estimating, every builder’s experience will be slightly different. My experience was… not great. I had a lot of wrong guesses, a lot of wrong estimates, and a lot of points where I thought I had followed the guidance of one adjacent part, only to have another one prove me wrong. It was so bad that the final piece I attached… well, it tried to bend in half while I was attaching it, just because of the sheer stress on the part from my incorrect shaping. Or maybe it wasn’t me, and the necessary shaping just creates a lot of pressure on the roof trim. I don’t know. But it was frustrating, that’s for sure. Anyways, let this paragraph serve as a warning that most of the “horizontal” parts of the roof are ambiguously curved, and you just have to do your best job trying to shape them. I’ll try to indicate good parts to check your curves with as we proceed.
Starting off the roof seems fairly easy, with shaping the largest section of the roof (part 30), and attaching a cross-beam (part 31) across the apex of the roof. And while this seems simple, it doesn’t really work out the way the instructions suggest. In the instructions, the cross-beam appears to form with the widest section in the middle, and thinner sections as the sides, folded at 90 degrees. In reality, the middle section is narrow, the sides are taller, and the fold ends up being somewhere around 75 degrees, It’s a tight fit, but you need to make sure not to flatten the apex of the roof too much while attaching this, since the next parts (32, twice), slide onto the end of part 30 over the apex. Which is actually a good way to check that you have that fold angle correct. Unfortunately, the part fits so tightly that I had to mash it into place. It takes a whole lot of force. As for estimating the curve, you can use parts 31, 41, and 42 can be used for the curve sloping down from the apex to the edge. Part 43 can give you an idea for the curve along the edge of the roof (the center gap on the edge will be filled by part 38 later in the build, so you can kinda ignore that). Keep in mind that the roof is slanted downward, and the edge trim (part 43) is slanted outwards at the bottom a little (at least, it was when I finished my build), so the angle between the edge and part 43 is quite a bit less than 90 degrees.
Moving on from there, you get to start forming the narrower sides of the roof. This section is actually rather easy to put together, excepting the guessing game of the curves involved. You can use part 44 to help you estimate the curves in parts 33 and 35. Again, remember how the roof trim tilts out, and estimate your angle appropriately.
Following this, you attach these side-roof sections to the larger roof section. This can be a bit tricky, as your curvature estimates are most likely at least a little off. However, I did find that trying to recurve the large roof to close up the small gaps in the corner where parts 30, 33, and 34 meet is not a good idea. I did that, thinking that I was getting the curves more accurate, but it bit me in the buttocks when it came time to attach the ornamental ridge parts on the roof, as I had overcurved the large section of the roof by quite a bit. So if there’s some gaps, let it be… you can try to fix it later on, but you might hurt your build if you try to do it now.
Next you repeat the shaping and attaching of the part that fills the gap on the edges of the large section of the roof, a very similar process to that done for the narrow sides. Harking back to the curving of the large roof, you can once again use part 43 to help guide your curve estimate.
Which brings you to the frustrating little ornamental ridges for the roof (parts 41 and 42). These were extra frustrating for me, because my roof was way to curved for them, and so I had to attempt to flatten out the roof for each one. And, being an unfolded part with two tabs that are in a parallel plane, you’ve got to take care when attaching them to keep them tightly fitted, and aligned correctly while you twist the tab, so that it ends up holding itself in place, straight(ish) and vertical. Not only that, but part 42 presses up against part 41, and does this weird thing where the last tab on it goes into the gap between two pieces… no slot, just stick it through there. Oh, and make the gap if you need to. And then… twist? I guess. That’s what I did. It was kinda weird. And it also didn’t want to allow that part to remain straight. Oh well, I was pretty frustrated and exhausted at this point, so I just went with it.
Finally, you end up at the very last process in building the roof, attaching the edge trim. This is where you really find out how [not] well you estimated the forms of those curves. In case you can’t tell from what I’ve said so far… I didn’t do that very well. For me, I chose to attach part 43 to both the front and the back before attaching part 44 to either side. I did this because I thought it would be easier, what with the tabs in part 43 slotting into part 44. And it was. Until the second use of part 44 (which, technically attaches the same way as if I had followed the instructions, so I don’t feel bad for doing it my way). In the process of trying to force all the roof sections to form the way they were supposed to form, but allow my to attach that last part… well, that part ended up crumpling in towards the model… which I don’t think I noticed until I had secured all the tabs. So I spent a good bit of time attempting to straighten the part back out, but it still has the telltale signs of a slightly-mangled part. Again, oh well, at least I’m almost done with building this model!
And, surprisingly, finishing the model wasn’t that bad. The roof went on without much trouble, just a little bit of finessing the tabs on the top of the second floor to the right angles to poke through the roof, and then some slightly awkward maneuvers to fold those tabs over without damaging the roof. Ta-da! It’s done… well, mostly. I did have to spend a little bit of time trying to balance out the roof, as I still had some unevenness to the curves that caused it to look rather funky. But it’s done. And it’s beautiful. And I don’t know that I ever want to build it again.
This build took me roughly 3 hours and 45 minutes, spread across 4 build sessions. I’ve uploaded the build videos into a playlist on YouTube, so you can watch and experience my stumbling through it if you like. Or reference it to learn what not to do with the roof. I’ve embedded it below: