Curtiss Jenny Restoration

Welcome! We hope you enjoy following the restoration process of a 1918 Curtiss JN4D Jenny. Once completed, the aeroplane will be flown and displayed at the Candler Field Museum in Williamson GA (30 miles south of Atlanta). You can contact me below by clicking on "VIEW MY PROFILE"

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Location: Peachtree City, Georgia, United States

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

dyeing fittings

Soldered a few more cables today. One issue kept coming up and it had been really frustrating. When I soldered the cables, the flux seemed to take the dye out of the cad plating. You can see that below. I tried wrapping the fitting with tape and took extra care to not let the the flux come into contact with the fitting. But it never worked.

I called Paul Dougherty. He told me that the original Curtiss shackles and turnbuckle ends were originally cad plated a silver/white color. Today, modern hardware is plated with a golden color. He mentioned that you could soak the ends in a lye/water solution and it would remove the dye, but he had not done it but a few times.

So, I called Frank Pavliga. Frank is another antique airplane guru who built a beautiful Waco 9 recently. I was told that he knew more about the process. Sure enough, he did. The process works rather well. The fittings turn silver. However, they take on a "galvanized" silver look and have a slight "chalky" appearance.

So, I decided to try the process on a spare cable. First, you have to find pure lye. Apparently, lye is a very dangerous chemical. Your big chain stores (Lowes and Home Depot) don't sell it. They pulled it from their shelves a few years ago. Apparently they were worrived about the corrosive and caustic effects. I knew plumbers used lye to clear drains. So a trip to a local mom and pop hardware store (thank goodness for them) yielded had Household Drain Opener....which was 100 percent pure lye.

I added three or four teaspoons to water. Make sure you use a glass container. Otherwise the lye will eat through your metal container.

Then I soaked the fitting for about 30 minutes. Don't breathe the fumes and make sure you use cold water.

I worried about having residual caustic lye trapped in the crevices of the cable, so I made a solution of baking soda and water as a rinse.

After the fitting turned silver, I washed it with the baking soda solution and then doused it with cold water. Here are the results:

They look great. Before I do all the other fittings, I will let the test fittings sit for a month. I want to make sure that it stays the silver color and does not get too chalky. My other option is to paint the fittings silver or simply leave them alone (stains and all). I will debate this one for a while. Anyone out there have any experience with this?

If I were to build another Jenny, I would have had the fittings cad plated silver before soldering them in place. Live and learn.

More this weekend



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