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Product Lab - September 2007

Published: August 14, 2007
Get wet with Electrifly's PBY Catalina
Product: Electrifly's new electric-powered PBY Catalina ARF is a great way to get customers flying off the water. The kit features a fiberglass fuselage and factory-covered built-up wood wing and tail. It comes with two props, hubs and adapters.

The customer will have to purchase the motors, speed controllers, battery and servos. The instruction manual suggests buying a couple of spare ESCs and servos.

Performance: The PBY Catalina goes together fast, but there are a couple of things customers should keep in mind during the building sequence. The prop for the right motor was about 1/16-inch away from the canopy. That's way too close, since props will flex some while the motor is running. I discovered the narrow tolerance after the wing was finished and attached to the fuselage.

While it takes customers out of the manual's building sequence, I suggest that they put the wings together, attach them to the fuselage and check the clearance before they glue the mounts to the wings.

The other difficulty in assembly I found was attaching the control horn on the rudder. This is done with the rudder already attached, and there wasn't a lot of clearance to get a drill in there.

Again, going a bit out of sequence, I suggest attaching the horn and then gluing the rudder on.

The instructions call for three hinges on each side for the elevator, which makes it too stiff to move. Two on each side works fine for such a light plane.

One item should be added to the instructions, and it would be good to alert your customers. Since water can get in anywhere, like a seam where the covering comes together, the covering should be double-checked to make sure it's on tight. A bead of CA glue should be run in spots where the covering comes together. There was a 1/16-inch gap up front on my review plane where the wing and fuselage come together. Some silicone sealer should be used here.

Those flying off the water for the first time are going to need some way to get the plane back if something goes wrong. A small boat or kayak would be handy. A fishing pole with a tennis ball attached would work too, if the plane isn't too far away from shore.

They'll also want to bring along paper towels to dry off the plane. A sheet or two should also be placed inside the fuselage in case water gets in, so it won't slosh around and change the center of gravity. The battery and receiver should be wrapped in a waterproof bag or balloon as a precautionary measure.

When I put the PBY Catalina in the water, pointed it into the wind and advanced the throttle, it got off the water in less than five feet. Once I got the plane up in the air, I easily flew it at half throttle. It's also capable of low-level aerobatics like loops and rolls. My battery lasted about 10 minutes, after which I brought her down for an easy landing. This is an easy plane to fly and so much fun off the water. Any pilot who has mastered the basics of flying will enjoy it.

Marketing: There are plenty of opportunities here. All the items Great Planes lists for the PBY will easily power other electric aircraft, so it's not like you're stocking inventory for this aircraft alone. Remind customers that a special charger is required for LiPo batteries, and a second battery is always a good idea.

Reviewed by Paul Daniel

Product: PBY Catalina ARF
Maker: Electrifly
Stock No.: GPMA1154
Street price: $139.99
Other items used: Two RimFire 28-30-950 motors (GPMG4560), two SS-25 ESCs (GPMM1820), 3200 mAh Electrifly LiPo battery (GPMP0623), Futaba 6EX 2.4 GHz radio
Availability: Great Planes

  • Plane looks great put together

  • Flies beautifully

  • Fun water takeoffs and landings

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    Warhammer's art a force to be reckoned with
    Product: The Art of Warhammer is a new collection of art for the Warhammer fantasy setting, tracing the world's evolution, through art, from the mid-'80s on. The 224-page hardbound book, full of glossy images, features a matching dust jacket and introduction by Rick Priestly, Warhammer creator.

    Performance: The Warhammer fantasy world has long been known to be a dark, foreboding place, where great armies clash and evil is only barely kept in check.

    Visceral, powerful, and emotive are the words that come to mind when looking at much of the artwork in this book.

    And such terms are what define the Warhammer setting. Rarely do you see anything that could be categorized as beautiful, but rather the viewer is confronted with hard-bitten, war-weary figures, landscapes upon which armies of uncounted numbers drive hard into each other, and beasts of unspeakable horror either engaged in deadly melee or staring angrily out from the pages, almost daring the viewer to stare back.

    Beneath each picture or vignette are the piece's title, artist and the publication in which it originally appeared. While I am a fan of fantasy art, I was surprised both at how much of the art I remembered seeing and the sheer amount I had no idea existed.

    Marketing: This book will definitely appeal to those who are involved in the Warhammer fantasy miniatures or role-playing games. Within its pages is a wealth of visual information, as well as illustrations of major heroes, villains and battles woven into the Old World's fictional history.

    If you have a strong art section in your store, consider stocking a book or two there, as artists, especially those with a tendency toward fantasy, may very well find the contents inspiring and educational.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell

    Product: The Art of Warhammer, compiled by Marc Gascoigne and Nick Kyme
    Publisher: Black Library
    ISBN: 978-1-84416-413-4
    MSRP: $50
    Availability: All major games distributors; visit

  • Tie-in to Warhammer games

  • Inspiring fantasy art

  • Excellent quality, construction

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    Lasgun Wedding is a lighthearted romp through a dark world
    Product: Lasgun Wedding is the fifth book in the Kal Jerico saga. The book is a fun, lighthearted romp through the nightmarish, though admittedly comic-bookish underhive of the Necromunda world.

    Like others in the Kal Jerico series, this book can be picked up and read at any point in the series without readers feeling as if they're coming into the middle of a larger story.

    Performance: The real surprise is that unlike much of what Black Library publishes, which is the literary equivalent of anime fan-art, Lasgun Wedding, while no Hugo Award winner, is a very fun and fast read.

    The book, and the series overall, do a nice job of picking up a few of the threads of the Warhammer 40K/Necromunda universe and weaving it into an enjoyable yarn.

    For instance, in Lasgun Wedding, you get a peek at Spire politics, noble morality, Spirer rigs in action, and more of the ups and downs of the underrated Bounty Hunters.

    The characters are amusing, especially the ever stuck-on-himself Kal, and Will McDermmott does a fine job of keeping the action moving in the hell-world of Necromunda.

    Marketing: It can be difficult to make the decision to carry novels in your store. However, if you're already stocking game materials by Games Workshop for Warhammer 40K, you might consider carrying a few of the novels that tie into the world.

    If you don't have any Warhammer products, Black Library publishes a full line of Warhammer novels (both fantasy and 40K), and Lasgun Wedding would make a great introduction, as would other novels like The Ultramarines Omnibus. Building interest in a game world with a couple of novels might open the door to bigger game sales.

    Reviewed by Craig Johnson

    Product: Lasgun Wedding, a Necromunda novel by Will McDermott
    Publisher: Black Library
    ISBN: 978-1-84416-462-2
    MSRP: $7.99

  • A rollicking read

  • Good intro to Necromunda world

  • Good tie-in to Warhammer 40K

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    Playroom Entertainment's games make for a woolly and unspeakably good time
    Product: It may be difficult to decide which games to purchase from the myriad games companies right now. However, Playroom Entertainment's games Unspeakable Words and Mother Sheep are two games that are easy to learn, good for a wide age range and whose price points aren't likely to shock dollar-conscious consumers.

    Both games come housed in boxes that are the perfect size for fitting in a bag and taking along on visits to friends or on trips. Full-color rules booklets are written in English, French, German, and Spanish.

    Performance: Meant for two to six players, Unspeakable Words was designed by industry veterans James Ernest and Mike Selinker. A word game with a twist, the designers use the early 20th century writer H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu (pronounced k-too-loo) mythos to make the game interesting.

    Inside the box is a deck of 96 letter cards, a 20-sided die, and a plastic bag of 30 Cthulhu pawns - which look like little green squids. Each player gets five Cthulhu pawns and is dealt seven cards. Players form words from letters in their hands and lay them out on the table.

    Each letter in the word has a point value determined by the number of angles in the letter and displayed on the card. For example, an "A" is worth five points, an "E" is worth four points and an "O" is worth zero points. All the letter points in a word are added together and that's how many points the player scores on his turn.

    The twist is that after scoring, the player has to roll the 20-sided die and get a number equal to or more than the points he just scored; rolling less means that the player loses a Cthulhu pawn.

    The player then draws cards from the deck back up to a seven-card hand. Play proceeds around the table until someone reaches 100 points and still has a Cthulhu pawn left, or the other players have lost all their pawns and succumbed to paranoia and insanity.

    The rulebook for Unspeakable Words is clearly written, and the game is easily learned. After a couple of games, players can incorporate optional rules like the unspellable oath in which a player with one Cthulhu pawn left can make a word out of any number of letters and score it, even if it's gibberish, since insane folk can believe anything is a word.

    In Mother Sheep, a fun and funny game designed by Jeb Havens and intended for two to six players, ages 8 and up, players' "shepherding," or, more accurately, spatial visualization skills are put to the test.

    The game includes one Mother Sheep, 10 sheep tiles, 10 sheep pawns, 80 fences in a bag, one corral board and 18 My Sheep cards.

    To set up the game, players put the Mother Sheep in the center of the playing area, the corral board off to the side, and distribute the sheep tiles randomly around Mother Sheep. Each sheep tile has a name that corresponds with a sheep; for example, Francesca, Norman and Bob.

    Then a sheep pawn is placed on each sheep tile. Each player draws one My Sheep card. The card lists five sheep that the player must corral in order to win the game.

    Although none of the cards is the same, most of the My Sheep lists overlap, so opposing players might be trying to fence the same sheep. Next, players draw three fences from the fence bag and keep them as "secret fences," which can be played any time during the game; however, three is all they get.

    The player wearing the most wool goes first, taking three fences from the bag and placing them face up on the table. These are considered "community" fences. During each turn, a player chooses one of the multi-colored fences (secret or community) and places it in such a way that the color segments overlap and eventually build a fence surrounding each sheep.

    After a sheep is fenced, the sheep pawn is put in the corral on the corresponding name. The first player to fence in all five sheep on his list is the winner.

    Marketing: Due to their small size, these games would be great candidates to keep near the register. Their price point is just right for a great impulse buy.

    These games are also great alternatives to typical kids' games, adding a bit more interaction, but still honing spelling and math skills, or developing strategic thinking and color recognition.

    Definitely suggest them to parents browsing games for their children, but remember they're great fun for adults too.

    Reviewed by Tim Kidwell and Sue Brettingen

    Products: Unspeakable Words (No. PLE26100) and Mother Sheep (No. PLE25100)
    Maker: Playroom Entertainment
    MSRP: $20 each
    Availability: E-mail

  • Fun and kid-friendly

  • A lot of bang for the buck

  • Very easy to learn

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    SCX PRO Citroën Xsara a winner
    Product: When a slot car is billed "For Competition Only," it had better be more than simply a nicely decorated race car body on an otherwise unremarkable chassis.

    The SCX PRO 1:32 Citroën Xsara captures not only the look, but also the high performance of world-class rally action.

    SCX's Xsara is modeled after the most successful car in the history of the World Rally Championship. The car debuted in 2000 and was only recently replaced by the Citroën C4 in 2007. The Xsara took Citroën team driver and rally superstar Sebastian Loeb to 28 races won and three championships from 2004 to 2006.

    Performance: This Xsara is decorated for the car that was driven in Rally Argentina 2006 by Loeb's teammate Dani Sordo. The car is also available in the paint scheme of the car that Sebastian Loeb drove in Rally Sweden.

    Inside the cockpit are painted driver and navigator figures that even have the prototypically painted red-, yellow-, and black-striped helmets.

    Since it's designed for competition, the car doesn't have working headlights or taillights, and the body shell itself is much lighter than most models. A movable drop-arm guide with a locking pivot keeps the Xsara on the track, while its in-line Motor Pro Double Rally power plant makes it a four-wheel drive speed demon. Even without magnets, the Xsara was smoother and faster than my Ford Focus WRC car made by another manufacturer.

    Marketing: Don't let "For Competition Only" scare off some potential customers. These attractive and fun-to-drive cars aren't much more expensive than a standard slot car and are a blast to run.

    Now catching on in the U.S., rally racing is already a popular slot-car niche in Europe. SCX sells many rally track upgrades that offer an opportunity for crossover sales.

    Reviewed by Dana Kawala

    Product: Citroën Xsara WRC 2006
    Maker: SCX
    Scale: 1:32
    Stock No.: 50250
    MSRP: $69.99
    Availability: Distributoys, 847-850-5335 or

  • Great performance

  • Fully adjustable

  • Nice addition to slot-car line

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    Fun is in the cards with Paper Cellar products
    Product: Like scrapbooking and stamping, card making is one of those hobbies with infinite possibilities. Consumers are limited only by their imaginations, skills and pocketbooks. More and more companies are offering products related to these hobbies.

    One of the relatively new players is Paper Cellar. Founded in the UK in 2003, Paper Cellar specializes in card-making and scrapbooking supplies, such as card and envelope packs and kits, stickers and raffia.

    With an office in Oviedo, Fla., the company is now getting into the North American market and emphasizes its commitment to manufacturing environmentally friendly products.

    Performance: I received samples of a number of the company's winter-themed products: the Snowflake card kit, and stickers of gold snowflakes, tags and Christmas greetings. The company's card kits, part of its "Make It Yourself" (MiY) line of products, contain five blank cards and envelopes, along with themed embellishments.

    I used examples shown on the back of the kit as inspiration to put my cards together. Crafters can also go to the company's Web site ( and click on the "Ideas Gallery" link for more suggestions.
    Crafters often use stamping products to put their cards together, but these can be messy and time-consuming, especially for those new to card making. Paper Cellar's card kits give beginners enough embellishments to create a homemade card without the need to stamp.

    I consider myself an intermediate-level card maker, so I used the card kit as a base and added several other products, including red raffia and stickers of ice skates and gift boxes, to create two cards: one with a Christmas theme, and another featuring ice skates.

    Finding the white cardstock included in the kit to be a bit flimsy, I reinforced it with some of the company's specialty papers, including holographic, glitter, and handmade paper that had a leathery texture.

    Since I work with it on a daily basis, I'm a self-admitted "paper geek," and I was impressed with the quality of Paper Cellar's specialty papers. I thought the faux-leather paper was especially unique, very nicely simulating a leather surface.

    There were a few drawbacks to the cards included in the kits. Because they didn't fold evenly, I needed to trim them with a paper cutter to get them to line up. Also, because they're square, as opposed to rectangular, they require extra postage if you're mailing them in the United States.

    Once I decided on the layout of my cards, I positioned the embellishments and paper without glue, but even after I started attaching them, they didn't stick too much to the paper that I couldn't rearrange them. The embellishments were attractive and easy to use.

    Marketing: You may already carry some arts and crafts supplies in your store, but if you don't, consider Paper Cellar's products. The company packages its wide range of items in clever and creative ways and at reasonable prices that will entice beginners to give card making and scrapbooking a try, while at the same time tempting more advanced crafters to snap up all sorts of accessories to give their creativity free rein.

    Stamping products, pens, paints, stencils, glues, and tools, such as scissors and knives, also offer potential add-on sales. Make sure you suggest these items to customers, and place them close to Paper Cellar products and any other arts and crafts merchandise you offer.

    If you don't already have one, consider creating a special section or corner of the store for these items to draw in women and children.

    Reviewed by Joni Keller

    Products/Stock Nos./MSRPs: Snowflake card kit (CK/02/0015, $7.99); leather handmade paper (pastel, A4HM/LE/MX04/P002, and red/green, A4HM/LE/MX04/P003, $5.99 each); Ice Skates self-adhesive stickers (ACC/02/0004, $3.99); Presents Hologram Pink self-adhesive stickers (STK/05/0042, $4.49); Raffia Mix red/green (RAF/RG/MX03/01, $4.49); and other assorted envelopes, stickers and paper.
    Maker: Paper Cellar; 1-800-805-0818 or

  • Wide range of products

  • Reasonably priced

  • Good intro to card making

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    Laserkit produces a steam-era grain elevator
    Product: Laserkit offers an early 20th century grain elevator kit in O scale, appropriate for the steam and early diesel eras. Structures like this could be found along railroad tracks in almost every town from the southern Plains to the upper Midwest; some still exist, though greatly modified.

    The kit, modeled on a "Northwestern Line Elevator" plan from a 1913 edition of the Grain Dealers Journal, includes laser-cut wood and paper parts for the grain elevator, dump house and office, plus a sheet of replica agricultural advertising signage.

    All that's required for assembly is cyanoacrylate and wood glues, a hobby knife and a couple of squares to keep everything plumb. With a footprint of 10- by 17-inches, it offers a lot of impact without taking up a lot of real estate.

    Performance: Building the elevator and accompanying buildings is a straightforward affair thanks to Laserkit's nicely illustrated instructions and accurately cut parts.

    The design is well thought-out; the parts go together with tabs and slots, and minimal sanding is required. I took a modular approach to construction, building the elevator in several subassemblies before putting it all together.

    I suggest bracing the interior of the long faces of the elevator to avoid warpage. The tall structure is built in two halves. If for some reason they don't go together exactly as they should, don't fret, because a lateral trim piece will hide the joint.

    I painted the main structure before applying the adhesive-backed trim, doors and windows. All are scale thicknesses, and the multi-part windows and doors look fantastic. A bit of medium to thick CA is good for attaching the agricultural signage to various points on the building. The signs really bring the elevator to life.

    Marketing: No period layout is complete without a grain elevator. This one gives a feeling of mass without taking up too much space, and would work great for O scale steam railroaders whose space is limited or are looking for an easy addition to their layout.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Farmers Grain & Stock Co.
    Maker: Laserkit/American Model Builders
    Scale: O
    Stock No.: 472
    MSRP: $149.99
    Availability: Walthers

  • Nicely designed and cut

  • Small footprint, large structure

  • Evokes a steam-era feel

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    Proto 2000 releases excellent models of EMD F7A and F7B
    Product: Proto 2000 has released a sharp-looking model based on one of the most popular diesels ever, Electro-Motive's F7. More than 2,200 F7 A units and 1,400 B units were built from 1949 to 1953. They could be found on railroads across the country into the 1970s.

    Walthers chose Great Northern as the introductory paint scheme to match the models with the company's Empire Builder passenger cars.

    Performance: Proto 2000's F7 A and B feature all-new tooling. The injection-molded shell nicely captures the body contours of real F units, and it features excellent detail. Separately applied details include grab irons, wind deflectors, horn, antenna and steam generator. The cab includes an interior with two painted crew members.

    Prototype-specific details include a three-chime horn and a winterization hatch. End-to-end coupling is realistically close together.

    Lighting effects are based on specific prototypes. Our GN sample has a lower sealed-beam headlight and a simulated Mars light in the upper headlight, and the effect is quite realistic.

    The models run smoothly, from a creeping start to full speed. Models are available with or without factory-installed DCC and sound. The sound-equipped models feature non-turbocharged EMD 567 engine sounds, and the effects are realistic. The DCC-sound models also operate on standard DC, but you'll have more control of the sound effects when operating with a DCC system.

    Marketing: Look for additional sales in matching single locomotives to A-B sets. As with any sound-equipped model, a working demonstration will help show the realism of the sound features. These excellent models should be popular with anyone modeling the 1950s through the 1970s.

    Reviewed by Jeff Wilson

    Product: EMD F7A and F7B
    Maker: Proto 2000 by Walthers
    Scale: HO
    Road names: Great Northern; Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; Chesapeake & Ohio; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific; New York Central; and Southern Pacific
    MSRP: A-B sets with sound and DCC, $369; standard DC, $269; single A or B units with sound and DCC, $189; standard DC, $139

  • Smooth operation

  • Realistic sound

  • Prototype-specific details

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    Rule the road with Sword's Oshkosh truck and snowplow
    Product: Sword's version of Oshkosh's P-Series truck equipped with a snowplow won't clear nearly as much snow as the real thing, but it does make a beautiful display piece or a great addition to an O scale model railroad layout or diorama. A 2-axle version is also available; both come painted orange or yellow.

    Performance: Some assembly is required. One has to attach several provided detail parts, including the light-mirror bar and the plow. Attaching the light bar is a straightforward process; the plow installation is easy but a bit more involved.

    Simulated hydraulic hoses from the truck and the plow must be attached to pipe elbows. Using a pair of tweezers speeds the process.

    The truck features opening doors and hoods that reveal the cab interior and detailed power plant, a dump bed that raises and lowers and an opening dump gate. Like the real truck, the rear set of axles can turn independently, reducing its turning radius.

    Other nice touches include soft tires, hydraulic lines and wiring under the truck; a lever-operated door on the dump gate, chains and soft-rubber mudflaps.

    The Oshkosh plow is no less detailed, featuring two sets of bogie wheels that lower, simulated hydraulic arms and a soft rubber lip that keeps the snow and slush off the truck.

    The details are very close to scale thicknesses, and the highway yellow paint is opaque, even, and smooth. There are numerous gauges and warning labels inside the cab and on the cab door. The overall level of detail is impressive, especially in a vehicle of this size.

    Marketing: This is a product that will probably do very well wherever real snowplows roam. It's a unique subject most die-cast collectors won't have on their shelves already. Having one on the counter is bound to get you a lot of comments and some sales.

    O scale model railroaders don't have to have a winter-themed layout to want one of these either. Since the plow is removable, it can be "stored" while the truck performs warm-weather duties.

    Reviewed by Hal Miller

    Product: Oshkosh P-Series 3-Axle Truck with Snowplow
    Maker: Sword Models
    Scale: 1:50
    Stock No.: SW3005-Y
    MSRP: $109.95
    Availability: DHS Diecast Collectables

  • Unusual but common subject

  • Fantastic level of detail

  • Appeals to multiple markets

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    Premium ClassiXXs makes splash with Porsche transporter
    Product: Martini & Rossi, the widely known distiller of Martini vermouth, entered the racing world in 1968 with limited sponsorships before making its bigger splash with Martini Racing in 1969. That year, it hooked up with Porsche to form a partnership that led to winning the 1971 24 Hours of LeMans in France. Wins came again in 1976 and 1977 with Porsche 936s.

    The Martini Racing's livery - dark blue, light blue and red stripes on white or silver backgrounds - quickly caught spectators' attention at the tracks, and that's where BUB's 1:43 racer transport comes in. Martini Racing used a huge (for the day) white rectangular Mercedes-Benz Transporter to haul its racers to racetracks throughout Europe.

    Performance: This fine specimen is a major chunk of metal from Premium ClassiXXs, which has been turning out distinctive models since 2002. Premium ClassiXXs particularly focuses on the 1950s and '60s, which places it right in the wheelhouse of most Baby Boomer die-cast collectors.

    Like the rest of its wares, this Mercedes transporter is hand-painted and assembled. Detailing of the many rivets of the metalwork on the truck's sides looks good, and there are well-attached side reflectors, plus chrome mirrors and door handles.

    Markings are well executed, from the swish of the Martini logo to the small logos of sponsors. Overhead are three skylights built into the truck's roof and large opening doors at the trailer's tail. Good-looking chrome ramps also are included for creating an attractive display.

    Interior trim here is modest. For this price you might expect some detailing inside the trailer, perhaps some decals of work cabinets or tools to give it a more authentic look.

    Marketing: Collectors looking for a solid, good-looking transport to use along with some 1:43 Porsches from the late 1960s and early '70s will be hard-pressed to find anything like this. Put this on display with vintage LeMans racers. It'll move quickly!

    Reviewed by Mark Savage

    Product: Mercedes-Benz Martini Porsche Race Transporter
    Maker: Premium ClassiXXs/BUB
    Scale: 1:43
    Stock No.: 12202
    MSRP: $110
    Availability: DHS Diecast Collectables; Replicarz; Sunrich Toys and Hobby

  • One of just 2,000

  • Good for LeMans diorama

  • Great Porsche accessory

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