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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tail Skid and Tail Shoe

Months ago, I bent the tail skid into shape. I spent a lot of time working this piece but I never seemed to get it to fit "just right". I got pretty frustrated so I decided to leave it alone and build something else on the airplane.

But, now it was time to finish the tailk skid. I was not looking forward to frustrating myself again, but that did not happen. Within five minutes of heating and tweaking, I had the tail skid perfectly alligned! Ha! I guess I just needed some time away from it.

The tail skid utilizes a steel washer at each pivot point, so I cut that out of some .100 steel. They will be drilled later.

Then, I took some 3/16 in steel and cut a long strip. This will be the tail skid shoe.

It's pretty thick stuff, so heat needes to be applied. I used a 1 1/2 in tube as a bending bar.

You have to move the steel around the tube, but eventually it will make the nice tight curve.

Here is how the curve fits on the tail skid.

As you can see, the shoe makes a tight curve at the end and a gentle, sweeping curve further up the skid. To make the upper curve, clamp the steel around the tube the same way, but heat a large area and hammer on the top of the steel. This spreads out the bend and gives you a nice, slow curve.
More later

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fuel Tank

Today, the outside of the tank was cleaned with the Marine Clean solution. With a scotch brite pad and some elbow grease (lots of that) the dirt, gease and grime came right off the tank.

The rust was a different story. I was able to remove a lot of it with the scotch brite, but the POR 15 was designed for rusty surfaces and I was not worried about leaving some of it there.

After the tank dried, I applied the Metal Prep solution.

Then, the POR 15 was applied with a brush.

Here's the original tank drying in the shop.

You know, I debated long and hard about using the original tank. It was pretty beat up and far from perfect. There were a few dents, digs and surface rust areas. Nothing was bad enough from keeping it from being airworthy, it just looked...well...old. But's 91 years old. What did I expect?
The POR 15 did a good job giving it a shiny finish, but you can see the old rust areas (pitting) which would never go away unless I used body filler and I didn't want to do that. So, do you make a nice, perfect, NEW tank or use the old one?
If that old tank could talk, what would it say? Stories about young cadets learning to fly at Kelly Field, Texas in 1918? Giving passenger rides out of a hayfield in Kansas? Perhaps a crash or two along the way?
Nah, I'll take the original tank. Just for old times sake.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fuel Tank Sloshing and Raw Castings

Interestingly, and much to the relief of north west Atlanta, the rain stopped today. I was also surprised to see the inside of the original fuel tank dry after the little fan circulated air all night.

So, it was time to pour in the fuel tank sealant.

After the selant is in the tank, rotate the tank until the entire inside has been covered. Don't forget about the internal baffles, too. They need to get covered.

Then, you drain the remaining selant back into the tank, but do not put the lid back on or try to save it. The stuff expands as it dries and you'd blow the lid right off. I was also amazed how much selant came out of the tank - nearly 3/4 of the can - at a slow rate..

Then, the little fan was put back to work circulating the air. Plus, with the tank sitting outside in the hot sun, the sealant dried rather quickly. After several hours, I took a peek inside. The entire fuel tank was coated beautifully.

More good news today - the raw castings arrived ! Here you can see the front stick pedestal, front and rear rudder bar pedestals and throttle quadrants. More castings are coming, but this was the first batch completed.

The castings were made by Mr. Ben Douglas at Dove Works Foundry in Anniston, Alabama. I was pleased with their work and I would highly recommend them.

The parts are raw castings, which means they are rough and grainy. They will be sent to John Gaertner for finish machining.

I couldn't resist seeing them in place....even if they are not ready to be installed yet.



Monday, September 21, 2009

Tank Prep and Gear Leg wrapping

Since it was raining (and has been for the last two weeks) I decided now was the time to clean out the old fuel tank. The first step was to pour Marine Clean into the tank with an equal amount of hot water.

Then, slosh it around to coat the entire inside. After that, set the tank in a different position every two hours to ensure that each part of the tank becomes immersed in the solution.
Drain and rinse thoroughly with hot water. Man, you should have seen the dirt that came out!
The next step is Metal Ready. This prepares the metal for the sloshing compound. Same as before - pour one can of chemical and an equal part of hot water. This time, rotate the tank every hour. As you probably guessed, this was an all day affair.

Drain the Metal Ready and thoroughly rinse with water. I used a hose this time. It took a lot of water to get the tank clean.
Sloshing compound (the next step to seal the tank) will not adhere to a wet tank, so I have a little fan blowing air into the inside of the tank right now. I'll leave it there for a day or two, but since we're getting bombarded with rain, the humidity is high and the tank might not completely dry for a long time. We'll see.
During that time, I got the wrapping done! Total - 4 longeron wraps and 12 gear leg wraps.

Here's a close up of a wrap in progress.

After the wrap is complete, remember to coat the fibers with Shelac.

Here are the gaps and wrapping case anyone else wants to restore a Jenny.

Last wrap!

John Gaertner has been steadily working on Wing #3.

The tip bow is in place and awaiting the final shaping

And the mahogony leading edge is in place.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gear Leg wraps

Started wrapping the gear legs today - same method as the longerons - wrap with cord and seal with shelac.

I was not able to find any wrapping dimentions in my pile of drawings, so I called Paul Daugherty and he measured his Jenny for me. Here is a diagram so future Jenny builders will not be in the same predicament. The numbers on the left represent the gap between wraps. The numbers on the wraps are the wrap thicknesses. I'll make the same diagram for the rear gear leg when I finish wrapping it soon.

My father was here for a visit this week. He and my wife inspected my work.



Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Longerons wrapping and fuel tank soldering

Today I spent some time sealing the holes in the fuel tank with solder. I wanted to eliminate as many leaks as I could this way before using the fuel tank sloshing compound. I put some water in the tank and the solder held - no far !

Also, the fuel tank support pieces were sanded and given a second coat of varnish.

Before the turtledeck can be built, the splices on the longeron are wrapped with cord. I guess the Curtiss engineers were worried about strength because the splice is glued, held together with two brass screws and now wrapped with cord.

After the last wrap, the cords were given a coat of shelac.

Here is the first of three wraps completed today.

As I promised, here's more information about the Sidcot flying suits being manufactured by John Gaertner.

The Sidcot flying suit was developed late in 1916 by Sidney Cotton, (thus the abbreviated name “Sidcot”) was used by the British, French, and later, American Air Services. Service members found that the leather flying coats in use were simply not protective enough for the piercing cold of the high altitudes, often as high as 20,000 – 22,000 feet. A one-piece flying suit was found more protective.

Later models of the Sidcot were provided with electrical heating systems. In 1918, the American Air Service copied this design and the suit was affectionately dubbed a “Teddy Bear” flying suit


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Landing Gear Wires

Well, all the wires for the landing gear have been soldered. After soldering, I soaked the turnbuckle ends in the lye / water mixture to give them their original silver color.

Here you can see the wires in place.

And a close up of the front wire.

John Gaertner sent me pictures of the first Sidcot suit he had made. He hopes to be able to get these suits into production by late October or early November, so if anyone wants one, let me know and I'll get you in touch with John.

The collar is 100% pure lambs wool and the zippers are custom ordered nickel plated with locking tongues.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Gear goes together & firewall fabrication

"Where did the wheels go?" Brighton asked.
"I have to put them back on."
"Can I help?"

With Brighton's help, we got the gear back on the aeroplane today.

Here is a picture of the finished peach basket.

The bracing wires needed to be soldered yet, so I worked on them until the rest of the kids got off the school bus. Then it was homework time, dinner time and off to their baseball practice.

Also, I had time to cut out the galvanized steel firewall.

There are a couple of bends in it.

With a little trimming, I think it will fit just fine.

Also put a coat of varnish on the back side of the fuel tank slats.