Diels Engineering 1/24 scale Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

Dave Diels has been producing high quality 1/24 scale printwood kits of flying scale models for more years than I care to remember, and his products are distinguished by meticulous attention to detail, and a very high standard of outline accuracy. The CAD drawn plans in his later kits are works of art, and I thought his recent Curtiss SB2C Helldiver kit would be a good example to show you what to expect should you decide to have a go at a Diels Engineering kit.



Well, it's a big box, and it needs to be! The plan is on no less than six sheets, and is rolled gently with the tissue so it sits around the rest of the kit contents in the box. You can see from this view that there are a lot of bits to be cut out!


This is the plan sheet on which you build the fuselage. It is typical of Dave's recent kits that he supplies copious construction notes on the plan, so make sure you study these carefully before you begin. Construction is traditional crutch and keel, but note how the keels have to be fabricated before assembly.



Laser cut kits are becoming much more common now, but I still think there is a place for printwood. Firstly it helps keep the cost of the kit down, and secondly, there is something theraputic I think in sitting down with a new scalpel blade in the knife, cutting out parts as carefully as you can from good quality balsa. That is another point worth mentioning here, by the way, The wood selection in Diels kits is extremely good, and you won't find any sheets of the "heart of oak" variety. Those pictured above are 1/16" balsa. Fit of parts is usually exemplary in Diels kits - if you cut exactly down the centre of the printed lines, the parts should fit perfectly, and your stringer slots should even line up properly as well.



Here is the plan sheet with all the flying surfaces - plenty of wing area there and the three upper spars will hold the section nicely under the tissue. The section is quite thick to get a good scale appearance - some modellers may prefer to thin it down for better efficiency, but I think I will leave it as it is. From experience, I would suggest reinforcing the outer four ribs, which are cut from 1/32" sheet, by adding 1/32 x 1/16" strips along the bottom edges. This local increase in thickness will prevent them buckling when you water-shrink the tissue.



More printwood sheets. The lower two are 1/8" and the upper 1/32". I'm not sure about doing the undercarriage doors in thin balsa, I think they would be very vulnerable in a heavy landing.



Another detail-filled plan sheet. The undercarriage is not the simplest to recreate, and my personal preference for WW2 models like this is now to omit the landing gear altogether and fly in "wheels up" configuration. They look much better in the air like this in my opinion. You could of course make the gear "plug-in" allow the model to be displayed on its wheels.



The 1/16" strip wood is all supplied cut, and retained in, a single sheet of balsa. This has the advantage that the individual strips should have similar stiffness which will help to keep your fuselage straight and true. If there is some variation across the sheet, choose the stiffest strips for the wing spars.



More fuselage details, plus cowling, nose block and prop hub/spinner construction.



The vac-formed canopy is large, clear and thin, inviting you to add at least some cockpit details and crew figures.



A 3-view for scale judging purposes is included, and glazing variations and scale prop details for all the different versions are covered on either this plan sheet.....



....or this one. Here you can also see the white sheets of Esaki tissue supplied in the kit, rolled with the plan, so uncreased.



Dave's usual wide bladed 7 inch prop, plus rubber, nose bush and rubber peg. The parallel shape of the prop blades mean the tips can be simply clipped to the desired diameter. For a model this size, 7 inches should be about right.



Finally here are the nicely printed decal sheets, one of which is for the dive brake holes at the wing trailing edge. If you can get these on cleanly they will look very good - much easier than having to draw all the holes by hand. To avoid silvering the decals will need to put onto a gloss surface, and one way of doing this is to apply a couple of coats of Johnsons Clear (Future Floor Wax in the US) to the area where the decals sit before application. You can mist over some matt varnish afterwards to blend everything back in. Alternatively, finish the model using airbrushed Xtracolor enamels which dry gloss, and make decal application a breeze.

So, how to sum up? Well, this is a fairly challenging project, both to build and I suspect to trim (there isn't a huge tail moment), but the resulting model will be very impressive. Probably not something you would build for the kit scale class, but it would be a good candidate for an electric conversion - several Diels designs have done well in the open classes at the Nationals, not least my Aichi Val in 2008. The accuracy of the Diels designs do help to get excellent scale marks from the judges. As a rule of thumb for stable flight with an electric conversion, aim for 9 degrees of dihedral under the wing panels and set the wing so the bottom of the root rib sits at 3 degrees positive relative to the stabiliser.




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