SMALL - espritmodel.com SMALL - Telemetry SMALL - Radio

Stevens Aeromodel Indoor and Backyard DiddleBug Review

So, where did the idea of the Diddle series from Stevens Aeromodel come from, anyway? Napo Monasterio dusts off the original model in the last (for now, anyway) of his series that looks at these tiny and fun planes.

Splash
This is a simple build, simple enough for a first-time pilot, and it won't take more than just a few evenings.
This is a simple build, simple enough for a first-time pilot, and it won't take more than just a few evenings.
Wingspan:24"
Wing Area:95 sq. in.
Weight:2.8 oz.
Length:18"
Wing Loading:4.2oz/sq. ft.
Servos:Two Blue Bird BMS-303 sub-micro servos
Transmitter:Spektrum DX6
Receiver:Spektrum AR6000
Battery:Common Sense 2S 200mAh 10C LiPo
Motor:GWS-LPS-B2C-CS motor gearbox combo
ESC:Castle Creations Pixie 7P
Manufacturer:Stevens Aeromodel
Available From:Stevens Aeromodel
Price:$24.95

Introduction

Teacher: OK kids, let's review what we've learned over the past few months! Which small plane has Trexler wheels and looks funny, yet is a wonderful slowflyer?

Class: The Stevens Aeromodel MudBug!

Teacher: What about a plane that looks like its big brother, yet it's an equally great trainer?

Class: The Lil'Squirt V2!

Teacher: And what about a scale model that weighs less than 3 ounces yet has a great detail and...

Class: The 1919 White Sport Monoplane! The 1919 White Sport Monoplane!

Teacher: Very good! What about that one that's small, yet flies uncontrollably fast and it's a total hoot to fly and even does rolls?

Class: The E-Spresso!

Teacher: Wow, you kids have been reading up on your Ezone reviews! I'm impressed! Let's see if anyone has heard of an earlier one, which hasn't been reviewed in years... it looks sporty, but still flies gently thanks to its dihedral, yet...

Kid in the back of the class: I know, I know! The DiddleRod!

Teacher: Very good a gold star for you! Now, here's the bonus question... There was a plane that came out even before the DiddleRod. It was the first one of the Stevens Aeromodel Series, and it was also small and had very gentle flying characteristics. It's been around for almost four years now. Does anyone remember?

Class: (Mute)

Teacher: Ah, I knew I'd get you all eventually... Well, get ready for a special bonus lesson in the history of Diddle-sized planes. I present to you... the first of its kind... the one that started it all... the reason why we've learned about the other ones... an oldie but a goldie, a plane worth reviewing despite the fact that it was released four years ago... the DiddleBug!

Kit Contents

Much like the other planes, the DiddleBug comes carefully packaged, and it's the usual pleasure to peruse the carefully crafted, laser cut kit and the the full size plan and instructions manual.

Kit Includes:

  • Several balsa sheets
  • Small plywood sheet
  • Small bag of goodies, which includes tires and wooden dowels
  • Pushrods
  • Landing gear wires

As you can see, it's a simple kit that goes together quickly, yet one that shows off Stevens Aeromodel craftsmanship at its best.

Here's what you will need to finish the kit:

  • X-Acto knife and sharp blades
  • Thin CA with CA tips. I used Mercury Adhesives' M5T.
  • Sandpaper (400-grit is what I'd suggest, and preferably in some sort of sanding block)
  • Clear finish either water-based or lacquer-based, usually available at your hardware store or hobby shop
  • Hinge tape (Blenderm is my hinge tape of choice)
  • So-Lite covering
  • Covering iron
  • Soldering iron and heatshrink
  • Hobby square and ruler
  • Velcro tape
  • Motor: GWS-LPS-B2C-CS motor gearbox combo, comes with two 7x6 props and spinners
  • Receiver/ESC: Either a micro receiver and a brushed speed control (five to seven amps is more than plenty) or the recommended receiver/ESC combo from Stevens Aeromodel, the SA-SPF-5-ESC
  • Servos: Two BMS-303 ultra-micro servos (recommended by Stevens Aeromodel) or similar
  • Battery: 200-250mAh two-cell LiPo battery. Stevens recommends the LiPower (LP-250), available from his site.

Assembly

By all means, this is a beginner kit. It's so simple and well cut that you'll barely even need the X-Acto knife and sandpaper. Everything fits into place just as you'd expect, and the building process just goes together by wicking CA glue here and there. It's that simple.

Fuselage

The first order of business is to put together the pylon that will help support the wing. It's made of two cross grained pieces which adds stability. It also doubles as a motor mount, so be sure to attach it securely, and don't be shy about using a bit of extra CA glue here and there. It will make the whole structure a lot more rigid.

As you move on to the fuselage itself, the parts go together so easily that you don't even need to use a hobby square or anything. The parts just notch in a way that right angles are perfectly achieved.

Now, when it comes to gluing the horizontal and vertical surfaces, I'd suggest that you just stop right there and wait. You're going to have to cover the horizontal stabilizer, and it's going to be much easier to do so without it being attached to the fuselage.

The motor stick mount, like the rest of the bug size planes, will need a touch of sanding which you can do by rotating it on your trusty drill against some sandpaper. Don't go too sanding crazy, however, or you might end up with a bit too much wiggle room in the motor mount. The old adage holds true here: check twice, sand once.

Tail

There's little to do in this department. Besides adding some cross braces to the horizontal stabilizer, all you need to do is sand the a 45-bevel in the control surfaces to allow for more-than-healthy travel rates for such a small, easy-flying plane. And, like I mentioned before, it's easier to wait to glue the empennage until you've covered the horizontal stabilizer.

Wing

Here's another quick build: Take wing frame out of box. Glue ribs. Glue spar. Repeat for other side. You're done.

Really, it's that easy.

Sealing and covering

Now here's something that's not mentioned in the plans. This is a wooden plane, with barely any covering. And without much covering, there's the risk of moisture problems. And with moisture problems come warping problems. And with warping problems... well, you know the rest.

One thing that later installments of the indoor series have recommended is to seal the wood with any sort of polyurethane covering, and I would recommend it for this one, too. All you need to do is to lightly spray a thin coat of your favorite flavor of lacquer-based sealer (I used Deft Clear Finish), and you'll be set. No more moisture/warping/you-know-the-rest problems.

Once you've sealed the plane, the next step is to cover the horizontal stabilizer and the wings with your favorite color (or colors, if you're feeling artistic) of So-Lite. As the name subtly implies, this is a very thin and light covering, and it goes on very easily. It's just a matter of cutting templates of the shapes (copying the plans would be a good idea, so you don't destroy your only set), heating your iron to about 190 degrees, sealing the edges and then shrinking it. It took me all of 30 minutes to do all four small patches of covering, and a first-time builder shouldn't have a problem doing so either.

And, as always, I like to point folks to this wonderful covering tutorial, which will take answer all your covering questions and then some.

Now that you've got everything sealed and covered, go ahead and glue the wings and the tail empennage. Please be sure to double check with a hobby square to make sure everything is lined up correctly. While this is far from a precision-aerobatics plane, you still want it to fly straight.

Radio installation

I used Blenderm tape to attach the control surfaces, and after that I was ready to install the servos and pushrods. Using thin CA works fine for attaching the servos. A couple of drops will secure them in place without a problem.

For the pushrods, I went back (or is it forth?) to the newer releases of the indoor models such as the MudBug and Lil'Squirt V2, and so I made them adjustable simply with a piece of heatshrink. Here's how you do it.

  • Make your pushrods about 1/2-inch longer than they need to be. Add a Z-bend on each end.
  • Cut the pushrod into two, about an inch or two from the end (it doesn't really matter, actually, but that's a good place to do it)
  • Reattach it with the piece of heatshrink, which you (yeah, you guessed it) will shrink in order to secure it.
  • You can adjust the pushrod this way, and once you're happy with the trimming, put a drop of glue on each end of the heatshrink. Your control surfaces are centered, secure and ready to go. Rejoice.

The receiver, ESC and battery go at the bottom of the fuselage, and you'll have to adjust accordingly until you hit the CG right. If you're using the stock motor, it'll be easy to hit it without much fiddling. Rejoice (again).

Completion

There's little else to do beyond this point. Should you feel like adding scale detail to this quasi-scale model (it does look old-timey in a funky way), you can add the faux glow engine. It adds a nice level of detail.

I always put the landing gear in last, so I glued it here at this point. As with the DiddleRod, the wheels are made of vinyl, and the wheel pants are a neat detail. You need to be rather careful, however, to not glue the wheels to the wheel pants when installing the landing-gear wire, though. What I've found to work best is to spin the wheel as you apply the glue. That way, your chances of gluing the wheel are slimmer, though still quite possible.

Flying

As a three-ounce slow-flyer model, you can expect the DiddleBug to not be a top performer in windy situation. So, 4mph breezes will likely keep this little plane in the hangar. However, it will perform wonderfully in small spaces your cul-del-sac, a parking lot, a small gym, you name it. The maiden was on a calm evening on a football field the best of both worlds.

Taking off and landing

The scale wheels look nice on the plane and on the ground, but when it comes to doing their job on the grass, they unsurprisingly fall a bit short. If you're on the pavement on an indoor surface, you'll be fine, but on grassy surfaces, you're better off just going the hand-launch way: Rev it up to half throttle or a tad more, and lightly toss it into the wind* and away the DiddleBug goes.

Landings are a bit of the same story: Grass landings (other than on a golf-course green) will almost always leave your plane belly-up. No worries, though, for as long as you're coming down gently, you won't damage the plane at all. On smoother surfaces, however, you won't have that much of a problem with nicer landings.

Basics

The plane is as gentle as you can imagine it being: It just moves along slowly and gracefully along the skies, which makes it a wondering morning or evening flier to relax with. I tend to fly it a little bit above eye level and keep it within a 40-yard range, sometimes less. As I mentioned, it's perfect for tight quarters.

The recommended control throws work just fine there's no need for insane travel rates for the rudder, for the small GWS motor won't allow you perform snap rolls, anyway. As with any plane, less is more when it comes to control throws at first, so feel free to tame them down at first and then move on from there.

Aerobatics/special flight performance

Just look at this plane huge dihedral, tiny control surfaces, old-timey looks, and it just says to you, "Please handle me with care in the air, and please don't try to make me do a loop with my little motor." So, as expected, there's little to be done in the aerobatics department with the DiddleBug.

It's just the way it is, though: It was built as a slow plane that would easily straighten itself out, have gentle flying characteristics and just help you have a good, relaxing time. Mad maneuvers are just not what the DiddleBug was created for.

Now, if you must try, I managed to do a couple of quasi-loops and rudder rolls, but the were quite awkward, and they involved having to dive down a bit to gain speed.

And if you really can't resist, a small brushless motor might allow you to have a bit more exciting of a ride. Then again, you might have to do some work around the motor mount (changing the thrust angle and maybe moving the CG).

One thing that did surprise me, however, is that this little plane can catch even the faintest of thermals. On my maiden morning, the DiddleBug starter lifting up while I was flying at 1/3 throttle, and I frankly didn't know what was going on. Only a moment later I realized I was picking up thermals. And then it clicked with me that the wing design is a perfect platform for getting some serious lift. I was so pleasantly surprised, I kept looking for more that morning, and I had a grand ol' time with it.

Is this for a beginner?

Not only is this for a beginner, but it was designed to be a beginner plane for Bill Stevens' son. So if Stevens used it as a trainer, why shouldn't you?

It build fast and easily, and it flies wonderfully. It's one of the very few planes I have not had to trim at all, and it will self-correct when you need it most. It is durable despite its somewhat-fragile balsa looks, and the little momentum it carries helps the cause as well, for it won't hit the ground or a wall with much force. And, should the worst come to happen, repairs are just a drop of thin CA away.

It doesn't use expensive or esoteric electronics, so it does not require a large investment unlike other indoor models. And finally, it can be flown in small spaces so you can have some serious fun at the local park or even a decent sized backyard.

Flight video

Downloads

Conclusion

It's an older kit, almost four years old now, but in the spirit of reviewing all the indoor/backyard planes for Stevens Aeromodel, I figured I would give this one a chance.

And boy was I glad I did. It flies great (almost as great as my all-time favorite from those series, the MudBug), and it makes for a perfect first-time plane platform. The gentle characteristics make it both forgiving for beginners and calming for the more-seasoned flyers.

Much good has come out from Bill Stevens' drawing board after this kit was released in 2004, but you can tell that this was a solid foundation on which to improve the backyard series.

Pros:

  • A perfect first-time plane with both looks and durability.
  • Easy to fly and trim (if you ever need to, because I didn't have to touch the trims at all).
  • Fun to build a perfect introduction to balsa kits.
  • Good price for the kit, and it accepts normal electronics (except for the servos, but those are no more expensive than you average micro servo).

Cons:

  • This being a beginners' kit, it would be nice if it included four small swatches of So-Lite instead of having to make the investment of buying the big roll of So-Lite (of which you'd use about five percent).
  • With the new releases including some nice building ideas, it would be nice if this one got a bit of a face lift too (such as including the heat-shrink trick for the pushrod trims).

(Many thanks to my wife, Sally, for the great photos and video!)

Last edited by Angela H; Feb 18, 2008 at 10:59 PM..

Discussion

Reply
Thread Tools
Old Feb 21, 2008, 11:54 PM
BEC
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
Auburn, Washington USA
Joined Jan 2001
12,940 Posts
Looks good!

I find mine will loop from level flight on a fresh charge. Rolling it, though, is interesting as you noted.

My daughter (whose EasyStar review is here: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=300157) much prefers flying a DiddleBug - and my wife has also soloed on it. Great little airplane.

There is a trick to landing it without flipping it over (on pavement or a smoother surface). Flare HARD just before touchdown - full back stick. Both the Lil' SQuiRT and the MudBug are much easier in this regard. On a really smooth surface (a gym floor, for example) this isn't needed. But on anything rougher, it is.

When I fly in my cul-de-sac I like to take off from the cap on my little Mazda pickup - kind of like a carrier. Picnic tables also work.

Oh - and about sealing: my current DB is bare wood (no sealer), is over three years old and is fine - and I live in the Seattle area! I don't fly it in the rain, of course, but I don't live in a de-humidified house either.
BEC is offline Find More Posts by BEC
Last edited by BEC; Feb 21, 2008 at 11:59 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 12:09 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
United States, TX, Kingsland
Joined Sep 2005
5,137 Posts
Great Review Napo. I love the little DiddleBug. What size prop were you using on the 6.2:1 gearbox?

Was the "1 point" landing the result of the dog chasing the plane till the battery ran out, or Sally's laughing, or the wind? Must have been the wind.

Mike McD
kingsflyer is online now Find More Posts by kingsflyer
RCG Plus Member
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 12:44 AM
Registered User
oldschoolvdub's Avatar
Santa Maria, CA
Joined Oct 2007
332 Posts
Seems like it would be a great build for someone who has never actually done a complete build on a plane. I was thinking about trying this out as my first full build. Any thoughts?
oldschoolvdub is offline Find More Posts by oldschoolvdub
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 01:05 AM
Suspended Account
Utica Il.
Joined Dec 2002
4,222 Posts
I read through all 116 pages of the didle designs and figured I'd start with the real deal as this will be my first actual build and it seams that the Stevens products are some of the best for first time builders ( and Bill is a great guy and good friend) so why not give it a go?
If I have some fun with this one I'm gonna order the mid wing design next and have downloaded every plan on the very long didle thread as there are some AWSOME designs there!!!

The micro adventure is about to begin, sho0uld have my kit tomorrow but will not be able to start on it until next week sometime, can't wait!!!

Go for it!!
Randy
termite is offline Find More Posts by termite
Reply With Quote  (Disabled)
Old Feb 22, 2008, 01:16 PM
I prefer Deans
Phaeton's Avatar
Netherlands
Joined May 2006
1,218 Posts
Napo,

A joy to read again. I can almost smell the new balsa

Yvo
Phaeton is offline Find More Posts by Phaeton
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 01:20 PM
D'oh.. Dumb Left Thumb
dekan's Avatar
London, UK
Joined Nov 2006
5,398 Posts
Anybody tried a 10g brushless motor.....
dekan is offline Find More Posts by dekan
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 03:27 PM
BEC
Registered User
BEC's Avatar
Auburn, Washington USA
Joined Jan 2001
12,940 Posts
The standard prop for the LPS-C gearbox on 2s is the GWS 7x6 RS. I tried several others on my DiddleBug and always came back to that prop in the end.

Now at 7000 feet above sea level (my parents' house in Santa Fe, NM) I ran a "B" and a 6x5 RS and that was a bit much for the motor. OTOH the 7x3.5 HD wasn't quite enough.

I have a Park 180 that will find a home probably in my MudBug when I can get a "rountuit" and I figure out a clever way to mount it.

Here's my DiddleBug thread from shortly after the airplane was designed: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=202688

This is the thread that Bill introduced the airplane with: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showt...hreadid=199168

Remember it was designed to teach a 5-year-old to fly on....
BEC is offline Find More Posts by BEC
Last edited by BEC; Feb 22, 2008 at 03:32 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 05:14 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by BEC
Looks good!

I find mine will loop from level flight on a fresh charge. Rolling it, though, is interesting as you noted.

My daughter (whose EasyStar review is here: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=300157) much prefers flying a DiddleBug - and my wife has also soloed on it. Great little airplane.

There is a trick to landing it without flipping it over (on pavement or a smoother surface). Flare HARD just before touchdown - full back stick. Both the Lil' SQuiRT and the MudBug are much easier in this regard. On a really smooth surface (a gym floor, for example) this isn't needed. But on anything rougher, it is.

When I fly in my cul-de-sac I like to take off from the cap on my little Mazda pickup - kind of like a carrier. Picnic tables also work.

Oh - and about sealing: my current DB is bare wood (no sealer), is over three years old and is fine - and I live in the Seattle area! I don't fly it in the rain, of course, but I don't live in a de-humidified house either.
Bernard,

Thanks for those tips -- I agree with you that the trick to good landings is to flare up at the end. Otherwise, these little wheels tend to leave you belly-up really easily.

That sounds really fun about taking off from the car -- I'm going to have to try that out!

I'm going to try to buddy-box mine and let my wife fly it, along with some of my co-workers' kids and friends who have been wanting to fly for some time. It would definitely be a good trainer.

I live in Alabama, so it's quite humid here, too. I chose to go the safe route and sealed it. If you don't get too spraying-happy, you won't really be adding much weight to it at all.
Spackles94 is offline Find More Posts by Spackles94
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 05:20 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingsflyer
Great Review Napo. I love the little DiddleBug. What size prop were you using on the 6.2:1 gearbox?

Was the "1 point" landing the result of the dog chasing the plane till the battery ran out, or Sally's laughing, or the wind? Must have been the wind.

Mike McD
Mike,

Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad you're enjoying your DiddleBug, too. It has jumped up on my "favorite planes" ranking.

I was using a 7x6 GWS slowflyer prop. That's the one I use for all my diddle-size planes.

About the one-point landing: It was a combination of all the above. I was already worried that I didn't have much battery left. I had been trying to avoid the dog (who belongs to this really sweet lady we see at the field a lot), and the dog was going crazy. We were laughing so hard because the dog had been after the plane for two minutes straight. So, when I had finally "evaded" the dog, I took my chances and landed, and it was downwind.

At that point, I didn't care much for how the landing turned out.
Spackles94 is offline Find More Posts by Spackles94
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 05:23 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldschoolvdub
Seems like it would be a great build for someone who has never actually done a complete build on a plane. I was thinking about trying this out as my first full build. Any thoughts?
Go for it. It doesn't get much easier than this kind of plane -- and even if you make small mistakes, you won't notice much of a difference. It's a great plane for getting comfortable with covering, too.
Spackles94 is offline Find More Posts by Spackles94
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 05:23 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaeton
Napo,

A joy to read again. I can almost smell the new balsa

Yvo
Thanks Yvo, I appreciate it!
Spackles94 is offline Find More Posts by Spackles94
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 05:26 PM
War Eagle!
Spackles94's Avatar
Birmingham, Alabama
Joined Feb 2007
7,876 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by dekan
Anybody tried a 10g brushless motor.....
Dekan,

There are a few people who have either put E-Flite Park 180s in their diddle-sized SA planes or have put similar configurations. If you look at the other reviews, you'll find people who have done so with quite a bit of success. You might need to work on the thrust angle a bit, but as long as you pre-plan for it, you should be fine.

I almost went with a brushless motor from Dons RC. He has this series of new brushless motors that are tiny yet powerful. They would also made a nice mod, and I believe they would also fit the dowel mount just fine.
Spackles94 is offline Find More Posts by Spackles94
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 22, 2008, 11:31 PM
Effumall
kelberts's Avatar
Joined Nov 2005
3,619 Posts
How about foam wings on a Diddle Rod? (Needed after numerous encounters with the wall - lol!)
kelberts is offline Find More Posts by kelberts
Reply With Quote
Old Feb 24, 2008, 10:02 AM
"Have Glue - Will Travel"
dawnron1's Avatar
Ft. Worth, Texas
Joined Jan 2004
2,428 Posts
Napo, great review as always. And the second half of the video was a hoot, er, howl!

What the heck was that dog, a Labradoodle?

Ronnie
dawnron1 is offline Find More Posts by dawnron1
Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Category Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
RV-4 Project -Stevens AeroModel Stevens AeroModel Parkflyers 167 Jun 22, 2006 12:37 AM
Ultimate 10-300 - Stevens AeroModel Stevens AeroModel Parkflyers 395 Jun 27, 2005 02:25 PM
Stevens Aeromodel Park Cap 232 sukhoi26mx Parkflyers 37 Nov 20, 2002 07:51 PM
Stevens Aeromodel Cap 232 w/ speed 300....9-cells too much? phoneguy Parkflyers 4 Nov 07, 2002 09:35 PM
Stevens AeroModel Cap 232 E-Challenged Parkflyers 3 Oct 27, 2002 05:31 PM