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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fuel valve

I went to MSC and picked up the valve that fits the sump in the fuel tank.

* For you future Jenny builders, I'll save you some searching - it's a Brass Right Angle Valve 1/2 in. MSC P/N 04479499

You'll also need a brass threaded piece of pipe to fit into the tank.

Anyway, in order to attach the fuel shutoff rod to the valve, an adapter must be made. First, bens some sheet steel around a tube using heat.

The valve had an oblongated hole, so I used the original piece as a pattern.

You also need a start/stop tab which will be bent 90 degrees.

And the other end bent to accept the rod. Here's the valve in place.

Before the day was finished, I laminated the turtledeck side stringers. I don't think I have any more clamps!

More soon,

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Decided to tackle the turtledeck today. I didn't pre-cut the grooves in the bulkheads because I wanted to make sure the stringers were nice and straight. I did cut the grooves in the first bulkhead and the second to last bulkhead. Connecting the two gave me natural straight lines.

Once the stringers were in place, I marked their location on the bulkheads.

Putting a dado blade in the table saw, and setting it to 1/4 in., the grooves were cut. The cuts were 1/4 in. deep which when the stringers were inserted left 1/4 in. sticking out.

Then the bulkheads were reinserted and the stringers put into the grooves.

Nice and straight.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Shut off bracket and brass hinges

The rear brace for the fuel shut off rod is made from a few pieces of 1/16 in. steel and a piece if 4130 tubing with a 5/16 in ID (so the shutoff rod fits).

The steel pieces were bent 90 degrees and welded together. After welding, the tubing was cut to length.

Here is the bracket prior to clean up by the bead blaster.

And here is where it goes.

The bracket will be screwed to the wood during the final assembly.

Tediously, I cut the long brass piano hinge into 1 1/4. pieces.

Then, with the help of the grinder and various files, the hinge gradually took on the appropriate shape.

Here is the pile of hinges after grinding. The top three have been dressed with the file and are ready to be drilled. The hinge at the top right is an original Jenny hinge on loan from Frank Shelling. It makes a great pattern!

The hinges will hold the turtledeck to the fuselage. Sorry for the poor photos. I think my trusty old digital camera has finally started to fail me. But I heard a rumor Santa was bringing a new one for Christmas. Lets hope so.

Also, the mahogany strips have been glued to the door and I epoxied the bottom hinge strips today.

More soon,



Friday, December 11, 2009

Fuel Shut off Mechanism

The fuel shut off tower has some lightening holes drilled in it. The top hole is drilled at an angle so the fuel shutoff rod angles upward.

There is also a lightening hole at the top. I drilled four holes, used a Dremel tool to grind out the inside, and finished with a file.

Also, the handle was drilled for the 5/16 in. rod.

Now you can see where everything goes! The rear support has to be built yet.

Because the rod is angled, a rotateable joint must be made. This straightens the shutoff rod as it goes forward to the fuel tank valve.

To do this, we will make two circles out of solid 5/16 in. rod.

The jig is just two pieces of 5/16 tubing welded together at the top. The bottom is held tightly but the vice. With a torch, I heated the rod until it was red hot. While it was hot, I bent the rod around the jig. Simple. All you have to do is heat as you go.

Here's the solid rod out of the jig.

With a bandsaw, cut down the middle. Then, you can either heat the rod again and hammer the ends together, or just hammer them cold. The rod is thin enough to go together cold.

Now, the tricky part is to get the second loop inside the first loop. I made the second loop using the same jig, but made sure the gap at the end was split wide enough for the first ring to fit.
Here you can see the gap in the second ring. Just heat with a torch and close the gap with a pair of vice grips.

Here is a test fit after welding. I can't wait to see everything after it is blasted and painted.

I got an interesting photo in the mail today from fellow Jenny restorer Phil Mintari. Check it out:

Phil writes: This picture was taken in LA somewhere around 1924 to 1926. Notice the one Jenny has an extra set of king posts on the upper wing.
Phil is right! Guess the wing walkers wanted another set of wires to hold. I don't blame them! I also noticed that the first Jenny is Hisso powered and has a camera man cranking away in the back seat. Another subtle difference is the change from cables bracing the last set of struts to the upper wing, to what looks like stronger steel tubing faired to an airfoil shape.
Between the extra set of king posts and the steel struts, I guess these stunt pilots were worried about structural integrity. I can only imagine what the Jenny must have flown like with two wing walkers standing on the upper wing! I guess these early pilots didn't know any better because and all the airplanes flew that way, but my hat still goes off to them.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Front fuel shut off handle

Here is my friend Walter Ivey examining that big piece of Mahogany I told you about. We could probably make two or three dozen fuel shut off handles but, the big piece of wood was available and you can always use the scrap for something else, so why not? Thanks to Garret Millworks in Fayetteville, GA for this piece.

The shut off handle is 1 3/8 it it's thickest point. So, we ripped a piece of Mahogany to 1 3/4 in. You want a little extra here. After marking the center on both sides, use an awl to make a small hole where the lines cross.

This is where the lathe will "grip" the wood. Best thing to do is remove the "grip" and hit it with a mallet to make the teeth bite. It's best to do this with the grip off the lathe rather than wack the wood while it's on the machine and put stress on the gears.

Once the piece is firmly on the lathe, just slowly make the square piece round. The slower the speed of the lathe the better. It will be very rough when you're finished.

The next thing - make a small groove in the wood until the thickness reads 1 3/8 in. That will give you some reference as to your widest point.

Make several "measured cuts" and then whittle down everything until smooth. Now the piece is 1 3/8 in wide the entire way. Increase your lathe speed for this part.

Mark your ends and radius points. The piece is 4 in. long, so mark a center point (2 in.). From here, it will taper at a 8 3/4 in. radius until near the end. remember that pattern we made? Now is a good time to reference it. The ends are 1/8 in wide and there's a 1/4 in radius leading up to it.

Start carving. It's easier to see what you are doing when you put the blade at the botton but look at what is happening at the top. You can see the shape happening as you carve.
Checking with the template as you go.

Since the piece of rough stock was 12 in long, we decided to make two handles.

Cut the ends flush, but leave enough wood to hold everything together. You can cut them apart with a bandsaw later. I think we increased the lathe speed one more time by now.

The ends got turned down to 1 1/4 in and given a 1/16 radius.

It's done!

After the pieces were cut, Walter drilled the holes for the pin.

Three handles and the rear cockpit shutoff wheel (I didn't make that!). One handle was given a coat of linseed oil just to show the beautiful grain.

While I was making Mahogany sawdust in the other room, Walter was making a custom guitar. He has made several and I know nothing about guitars, but I do know about craftsmanship, and Walter's work was very impressive.
Thanks, Walt for letting me use your wood lathe. I really need to get one of my own. Someday....

Monday, December 07, 2009

Baggage door

Pretty productive day today - if you count driving all over town tracking down material productive! The first stop was a millwork in Atlanta to get some thick Mahogany to make the fuel shutoff handle. Below you can see the template I made to use when turning the stock tomorow.

The rest of the morning was spent tracking down the baggage door lock. Home Depot didn't have it, nor did a local hardware store. So across town I went to Lowes. They had it - a perfect substitute for the 1917 baggage door lock if I ever saw one.

After lunch, I re-made the baggage door and cut the angles on the bandsaw, finishing them on the belt sander.

Lots of fitting and sanding......

The strips hang over the door by 1/4 in.

Before you glue everything together, each strip gets a 1/8 in. radius. Before you bevel everything, please read on!

Now it can go together for good.

To install the baggage door lock, mounting blocks must be added. So, when you round the edge of the top strip - keep the center 2 inches square! That's where the lock attaches. I had to cut off the bevel and add square pieces to make it fit. Oh, life is about learning...right?

The bottom strip is not so critical. It works with the rounded edges. just add your lower blocks for the hinges and you are fine

Ready for glue!

Before the kids came home from school, I cut the big hinge into 1 1/4 in. pieces. These pieces will be shaped into the turtledeck hinges later.

Tomorrow morning, I'll spend some time on the lathe making my new Mahogany block into sawdust....and a few fuel handles.
Till then. Enjoy