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Roden 1/48 scale Heinkel He 51 with WIP gallery

The fledgling Luftwaffe of the 1930s needed a primary fighter, and they found one in the handsome Heinkel He 51. The biplane reigned supreme in the early months of the Spanish Civil War, but was soon outmatched by modern Russian-built fighters and relegated to ground attack.

Roden’s He 51 includes markings for two Legion Condor planes, one in overall gray, the other gray and green.

The molding is generally good, although some parts required a swipe or two with a sanding stick to square corners and refine mating surfaces.

The interior includes stringer detail molded inside the fuselage halves and a separate tubular structure. The latter fits together without the benefit of locating pins, but the seat and floorboard provide alignment. Throttles and other details are included.

Unfortunately, Roden doesn’t provide decals for the blank dials on the instrument panel. I used Airscale decal dials to dress it up.

The fuselage closes around the assembled cockpit perfectly — no sanding or trimming was necessary.

The good fits continue forward, with the nose and upper deck parts needing no adjustment. I left the deck off until after the exhausts were installed. Because of the aircraft’s design, the exhausts pose a problem no matter how you cut it. Difficult to mask in place, they also are hard to fit after painting. There’s a little flash on the parts that must be removed for a clean fit.

I had to work on the mating surfaces of the landing gear struts to get a good fit with the outer sections, which are molded with the fuselage halves. The final structure is rock solid. I cut a slot in the bottom of the inner half of the wheel spats so I could install the wheels after painting. The big radiator on the belly features finely molded screen detail on both faces and fits the housing seamlessly.

The only problem in the build showed up during installation of the lower wing; the fit is extremely tight and forces the lower wings down into a pronounced anhedral; He 51 lower wings should have a little dihedral. I trimmed the fuselage wing mount, the wing fairing on the lower wing, and both wing roots until there was enough play to angle the wings up. Tape stretched from wingtip to wingtip across the fuselage held the angle as the glue dried.
Choosing to paint the two-color camouflage, I thought the suggested RLM 02 gray was too dark. I replaced it with RLM 63 light gray as suggested by references, and used RLM 62 for the green and RLM 76 light blue for the undersides. The paints are all Testors Model Master enamels. Pieces of a business card masked the fuselage while I airbrushed the exhausts.

The decals were stubborn, and only multiple applications of Microscale Micro Sol forced them to cooperate. But they were very brittle, making it difficult to trim edges without chipping the ink. The stripes on the tail were too big, and parts of them broke as I removed them from the water. I have heard that using a hair dryer instead of setting solution may work better with Roden’s decals.

The windscreen fit well, but it’s not especially clear.

Roden’s accurate attachment points and struts make installing the upper wing a breeze. I attached the center struts first, then clicked the outer ones into place. The optional antenna posts on the wings will interfere with the decals, so wait to install them until after the markings are placed.

I rigged the biplane with EZ Line, a stretchy nylon thread. Roden does not include a rigging diagram in its instructions, but the wonderful box art does a good job of showing where most of the lines run. In addition, Silver Wings — maker of a resin 1/32 scale He 51 — has an excellent rigging diagram on its website,

I finished my He 51 in 26 hours, about average, and the decals were the only stumbling block. Anyone who has built a biplane or two should have no problems building Roden’s kit.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the January 2016 issue.

Roden includes a reasonably detailed cockpit in its He 51 featuring ribbing molded inside the fuselage walls.

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