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, May 28, 2012

Windshield copper frame

 Ah, the copper windshield frame - much head scratching here.  I thought long and hard about how to make the copper fit the frame.  I cut a few strips and tried bending it around using various methods but all I did was frustrate myself.

So, I did what I usually do when don't go my way - I called Paul Dougherty at the Golden Age Air Museum and asked how he made his Jenny windshield frames.  Paul made a steel windshield pattern, but after talking about it, we decided the copper could be formed right on top of the soft Lexan.

First, I cut a copper strip  bigger than needed and bent a 5/16 in flange on one side.

 On the flange side, I used the shrinker to make the curve.

Then, the flange side was tapped with a ball peen hammer to form the 10 oz. copper around the Lexan.

It would have been so simple to just bend a straight piece onto both sides of the windshield, but Curtiss  didn't do that!  The copper got wider at the bottom.

 The angle was measured and marked.

 And the excess copper was cut away with a tin snips.

Next, the front part of the copper was formed around the outside of the Lexan.

This really did not take that long before the copper was formed smoothly around the curve.

Then the little #40 holes were drilled around the perimeter.

The frames were trimmed and the next step is to replace the cleco's with rivets.

 I started messing with the front frame when I ran out of time for the day.

Good news - the tachometer came back with a clean bill of health!  I sent the tachometer to Bill's Speedometer Shop and they cleaned the tachometer and got it working for a nominal fee.  They also built the tach cable and the 2:1 reduction drive.  I was extremely pleased with their work and I would recommend their services.  However, they can only build cables for Experimental and Replica aircraft, not certified stuff and of course old cars.  For those of you crazy enough like me to build a Jenny, here is the info:

 Bill's Speedometer Shop
c/o Bill Heidemann
2945 Bridlewood Dr.
Sidney OH 45365

Phone: 937-492-7800
Cell: 937-726-2136


 Lastly, I had the pleasure of spending two days with Hermann Diebold and his son Marcel from Stuttgart, Germany.  I know Hermann though our mutual passion for Bucker airplanes.  Hermann was spending the holiday in the states and dropped by for a visit.  We went flying in my Bucker Jungmann, plus Ron's J3 Cub and Richard Epton's monstrous Gull-wing Stinson.  We did other things too.  Marcel blended in with our four kids like part of the family and went swimming, ate steak and ice cream and amazed us with his mastery of the English language.  It was a tremendous visit and I was sad to see them leave.

More soon.



Thursday, May 24, 2012


Utilizing some .006 in. thick Lexan, the patterns for the windshields were made.  The Curtiss drawings call for .006 "Celluloid".

The patterns were easily cut out with an abrasive cutoff wheel.  Afterwards, the edges were sanded smooth on the belt sander.

 Two windshields- front and back

 The frames had #40 holes drilled about 1 3/8 in. apart

Then the Lexan was drilled.

Here is a trial fit. The edges of the frame need to be cut yet and the other end of the Lexan gets a copper enclosure.  Next time....

 I'm proud to say that Brian and Ron have ALL the wings, tail and ailerons coated with Poly Brush now.

More soon.  Enjoy


Monday, May 14, 2012

Well, the Curtiss drawings indicate that the window frames are .050 sheet aluminum so I got a sheet of that and started working the shrinker and stretcher. This thickness of 3003 works a lot better than the thin stuff I was using for practice.


I found that if you work in small sections,  say three or four inches at a time, the process is easier.  Shrink the top of the frame first.  Then flip it around and stretch the outside.

 All those "teeth" marks from the shrinker/stretcher came right out with the belt sander and some hand rubbing with 220 grit.

 Since the frames will not be burnished, I am debating about painting them silver or just leaving them alone.  Let me think about it.  If I leave them alone, they will be rubbed with some 400 grit to make them smoother.

 Front and back frames.

Ron gave a wing the first coat of Poly Brush.

Ron and Brian admiring their work.

 You know, sometimes you get tunnel vision.  I can attest to this fact.  We have been debating, lamenting, thinking and expending a lot of energy trying to come up with a paint scheme for the Jenny.  Should we do the Browers Cake Cones?  Baby Ruth? A paint scheme historically accurate to Atlanta?

I got an e-mail from Ken Gulliford who made me smack my forehead with my hand.  Please read this:

Not to be presumptuous but I have a solution.  I have always been a dreamer and I would frequently dream about being a pilot back in the time when Barnstorming was popular.  I would dream about what my plane would look like and it varied with whichever plane I was in love with at that time.  I have read every syllable of your narrative during the work on your Jenny and I am always intrigued by your very fertile imagination.  Why is it necessary to emulate a certain scheme when you have shown such love of reproducing an example of the early days of Barnstorming when I am certain that you have many times placed yourself in those early flyer's shoes.  It would be interesting to me and I am sure it would be to many of your followers, what your plane would look like if you time traveled back to those days.  What would you have chosen to show your individuality?  Just a thought, maybe enough to spark your thinking.  Just think , you might even have been the original Great Waldo Pepper.

Yes Ken, I was also a dreamer as a kid.  I have fond memories lying on my back in the Pennsylvania grass with a plastic model airplane outstretched towards the clouds.  My school teachers told my parents I would be a straight A student if I weren't daydreaming about airplanes all day long. You are right.  Our Jenny paint scheme has to come from our imagination.

And it will be.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Louvers and windshield frame

 The louver reinforcement brackets were drilled and cleco'd in place today.

And so were the brackets on the main cowling louvers.

Wanting to switch tasks (rather than build all the brackets for the other side) I decided to play a little with the windshield frame. I made a windshield template out of some .016 sheet aluminum.  The sweep of the windshield was about 23 degrees.  This corresponded with the Curtiss drawing.

I grabbed some leftover 3003 aluminum .032 thick and sheared it into 1 1/2 in strips.

Then the 23 degree angle was bent in the brake.

Using a stretcher, I began working the center of the frame.

I used the shrinker on the top of the frame.

This might help you visualize it.  The side that attaches to the cowling needs to be stretched to make the curve.  That is fine, but you need to shrink the other side to take up the slack.

More shrinking and stretching work.

This is where I stopped for the day.  I didn't want to go too far because the drawings call for a .050 piece of aluminum to be used for the frame.  This is good - the thicker aluminum will have more "meat" to it and won't split so easily.  Plus there is more thickness for all the sanding that will be needed to take out the shrink/stretch marks.   I didn't have any .050 laying around so I practiced with some .032.

 This is called learning!  I was trying to get a feel for the process.

I went to Aircraft Spruce this evening so now I have a piece of .050 aluminum ready to be turned into a windshield frame.

Paint schemes - This is still in it's infancy and I'm hesitant to publish anything.  I always liked the Brower's Pound Cake Cones logo on the side of this Jenny.  From the beginning, we decided to do a barnstormers motif and this particular Jenny flew at Candler Field in Atlanta back in the 1920's.

I suspect this paint scheme was the standard Army brown sheet metal / amber dope fuselage with black lettering.  I asked Bonnie Rowe Jr. if he remembered this company, but he sort of remembered Brower's as a local mom and pop bakery.  Being the typical barnstormer, Doug Davis probably talked them into painting their logo on the side of his Jenny....for a fee of course.  He was a starving pilot and money was money.

Anyway, we thought there were plenty of military paint schemed Jennies around and we wanted to do something different.  We liked the look of the burnished cowl - very 1920's - and the blue really compliments the burnishing.

Jan Moffett is a talented local gal who designs all our posters for the museum events.  I asked her to play around with Photoshop to see what the Brower's logo would look like on the side of a blue Jenny. 

Recently, we unearthed a picture of Doug Davis in front of a Jenny with the Baby Ruth logo on the side! I remember Bonnie Rowe Jr. telling me he used to sit in the front seat of the Jenny and toss out Baby Ruth candy bars when he was a little kid.  So, here was another local paint scheme, historic and related to Atlanta.

  Jan played around with this one too.

My wife likes this scheme.  I'm still not sure about the red on the blue.

Or, we can just skip the logos all together and put the Curtiss logo somewhere in silver, maybe checkerboard the tail and fly the thing.

We are still a long way from spraying that final color coat.  I just wanted to let you see our thought process. 



Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wing doping and Louver braces

 The rib stitching is done !!  Ron also got the first coat of Poly Brush on the wing.

Interestingly, I found this picture on the internet.  It looks like a factory worker is applying dope with a big brush.  I guess all Jennies had the dope applied in this manner.  Imagine all the brush marks!  Ron and I were contemplating - when did they first start spraying dope?  Anybody know?

This is how they painted the US Army markings - with a brush!

Back to the present time - I drilled the holes for the louver brackets.  They are spaced 2 inches from each end and one hole in the center.

 Here is a bracket cleco'ed in place.  See how it reinforces the louver?

 This is one of the brackets.

 People often ask me how they built so many Jennies in so little time.  I have been working on this ONE for six and a half years.  Well...these pictures might tell the answer.  They threw manpower at it!

This gal probably spent eight hours a day, six days a week nailing the plywood reinforcement pieces on the wing ribs.

 This guy built fitting after fitting.....

 I count eight men assembling a wing......

 I bet this crew could true a fuselage in a few minutes....


 Hand carving a propeller....

 Making a spar by hand - 1916 style....