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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Since it was a rainy day, and the kids were home, and the wife wanted the dining room painted, I only had a couple of hours of shop time. But, I did get the engine bearer hold down plates made.

The round rod will be cut to size later and all four rods will be heat treated shortly. Then a little plate will be brazed to the top.

I also finished the last bit of coppering on the seat rails and supports. They are complete and if the rain stops tomorow, I'll get them varnished.

Ken Rovie, who spearheaded the amazing scratch built Jenny hanging in the museum at St. Paul, MN sent me a few patterns they used to make their castings. Although I already have the "fan" casting, someone else might need one someday and we can cast one from Ken's pattern. Thanks, Ken!

Before I had to call it a day, I spent a bunch of time measuring, guessing and studying the intricate cuts I needed to make on the rear gear leg soon. Just like the front leg, I want to get it right the first time. Just like the front leg, the cuts on the back leg are also critical. Stay tuned.
A number of people have asked me "What about your wings?" A friend of mine is building them right now. We decided this several months ago when we measured the progress on the fuselage. Not wanting this to turn into a ten year endeavor, we decided to speed things up a bit more and have John Gaertner work simultaneously on the wings. Here's a picture of his progress.
His workmanship has exceeded our expectations!
John is also a talented machinist. For example, he built the special eye bolts inside the wings.
Plus, he's doing the CAD work for our castings.
You can see more pictures at
As the wings progress, I'll post more pictures. Until then, I have to finish the last coat of paint in the dining room.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fuselage rigging

As you may have read in the last post, I had a heck of a time trying to rig the fuselage. I went from the nose to the tail, squaring each bay as I moved aft. By the time I got to the tail, I could not get the last two bays to twist square.

Well, I now know why.

Philippe Villard from Saint Julien de Chedon, France was nice enough to e-mail me and give me an answer. Philippe wrote:

I greatly enjoyed to witness your huge progress made in the restoration of your Hisso powered Jenny. Hisso sounds something for a french citizen...

I'm an Aerospace Engineer,, working as VP Marketing (after a long decadence into aircraft structure design !) for DAHER , a Tier One Aerostructure company. We are also Aircraft Manufacturer (TBM 850 : the fastest certified mono turboprop) from Morane Saulnier, ante WW1origins ! Spare time is quite scarse so I'm very frustrated to be unable to finish some restoration / homebluiding projects.

I guess, following advice from guys working on the rigging of Bleriot XI or equivalent fuselage structure that you have to start from the aft end to the nose of the fuselage.

Explanation : larger the "cross section" of the fuselage, larger the counter acting momentum to recover "squareness" and eliminate twisting of the fuselage. If you work your way rearward, from the front end, the fuselage sections are getting smaller and smaller ,and momentum forces cannot counter act forces to "untwist" the structure.

Sorry for my poor engineering explanation and moreover my poor english... Just my two cents !

That made perfect sense to me. I never thought about it that way. So, those of you rigging a Jenny someday - start at the tail and work forward!

Jenny restorer Chet Peek also took the time to e-mail me. He also rigged his Jenny from the tail to the nose and it worked well for him too.

So, I loosened all the wires this afternoon and started over - from the tail - and I had the fuselage rigged in about an hour and a half.

Thank you Philippe and Chet!

It's nice to know there are people out there willing to help.

More later this week


Monday, March 23, 2009

Fuselage rigging

I spent the greater part of the afternoon rigging the fuselage today. I thought this would be an easy task, but I ended up spending way too much time on it. I started at the front and worked my way rearward, ensuring that each bay was square and level. It went pretty well until I got to the last three bays. Somehow, I developed a twist at the tail post. I've been frustrated trying to get it out and I'm still tweaking it. It's pretty close, but I'm not satisfied yet. Anyone have any advice about how to rig a wire braced fuselage?

I used a simple bubble level taped to a board so I could span the longerons vertically and horizontally.

Sometimes you have to put away the tools and take a break.

My friend Ed Rodgers at Indian Lake High School sent me this neat picture. I cropped it a bit to see more detail, but it's still a great picture. Looks like the barnstormer isn't going to starve on this particular day.

Also, Paul Dougherty sent me these photos of the newly displayed Jenny in Washington DC. The Golden Age Air Museum had their annual bus trip to the Air and Space Museum and they were delighted to see the incredibly original JN4D above their heads.

The airplane was stored at Silver Hill for many years and thankfully the museum decided to display it untouched as it flew back in 1918.

More later this week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Landing gear

Back to the front gear legs - I cut them to rough shape with the bandsaw and sanded to fit. I was worried about taking off too much material, so I would sand a little, re-fit the leg in the peach basket, sand a little more, re-fit and so on.

Here's how it fits, although this is not the final cut. The peach basket still needs a bunch of welding, but when that's done, I'll go back and do the final fitting.

The front gear legs in place.

I also built a simple jig to align the gear. Nothing fancy. The peach baskets clamp to the blocks which were set at the proper distance from the centerline.

More later

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fuselage and landing gear

I know its been a week since my last post, but I have not been idle. I decided it was time to put the Jenny on its gear. As you can see from this photo, the square end of the gear leg has to be cut at all kinds of funny angles to fit inside the peach basket. The original drawings were somewhat vague, so they didn't help.

I already have a set of carved gear legs, so I didn't want to ruin them by making a wrong cut. So I took several pieces of scrap pine and cut/sanded them to get the correct shape. This took several attempts. Here's one of the practice pieces. This is where a lot of my time had been spent lately - trying to figure out how to make these cuts! Hopefully this weekend, I'll start cutting the carved gear leg.

Spring has come to Georgia and the shop needed a good scrubbing. Plus, since building the gear was the next step, the jig table needed to be broken down. I had some help with this.

Here's the shop now - cleaned, rearranged and minus the center of the table. A day's work.

Here's the fuselage in the sunshine.

More this weekend

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Had a chance to put more copper on the other seat rail today. But, I underestimated how much I needed and I ran out! Got to order more.
So, I built some of the floorboard straps instead.
They are just .035 sheet steel.

I'll drill them later. It doesn't seem like much, but I took a bunch of time to clean the shop and wipe the dust off the fuselage before building the straps. Spring is around the corner and I wanted to get a jump on spring cleaning!
Till next time

Monday, March 02, 2009

Coppering on Seat Rail

I had gained a helper today when I announced to the family that I was going to the shop and copper the right seat rail.

I tapped brass nails into copper and spruce.

He beat finishing nails into some old scrap pine.

A pulley attaches to the seat rail here. Both pieces of wood have a common copper piece.

Ready to be drilled.

The finished rail ready for the final varnish coat.

Brighton was quick to point out my mistakes.

And he helped put the rail back into place.

We also coppered the bottom of the seat rail supports.

The Jenny at the Golden Age Air Museum is nearly ready to fly. Paul sent me these pictures the other day. I really enjoyed seeing them and I figured you would also.

Here's another shot. They are working on the OX-5 right now.
Good Jenny day.