1/16 Scale Jenny Barnstormer Diorama
by John Reid

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The idea:'Memories of Flight School"

The basic storyline for this diorama will be a group of WW1 Canadian and American veterans viewing an old Jenny Canuck being converted into a barnstormer.

It is the mid-1920s ,Armistice Day somewhere in Canada, after the commemorative parade at the local airport.The pilots are engaged in conversation about their early flight training on the Jenny.The airplane will be without fabric much like my earlier Albatros and Nieuport dioramas.In one corner of the hangar there will be an old chase car similar to the ones used for the car to plane transfer stunts. I have completed most of the research and the hangar floor plan. Here is a list of changes that I have discovered in order to change the Jn4c to the Canuck version.I will not go into a lot of detail,the purpose is to point out areas of concern that may interest the modeler.

The Canuck has

  1. no down thrust engine
  2. different rudder,elevator and horizontal stab. shape
  3. double ailerons.
  4. interwing aileron struts.
  5. rear cockpit cowl shape.
  6. Dep type landinggear.
  7. metal tail units.
  8. short straight exhaust and short straight collector.
  9. prop nine foot Flottrop.
  10. wing stagger.
  11. pointed trailing tips on all wings.
  12. center section straight trailing edge.
  13. lower wing trailing edge is straight (flush to the body).
  14. changes in braces and wires on kingposts.
  15. position of rear cockpit windscreen.
  16. horizontal stab braces.
  17. different tail skid at tip.
  18. RAF experimental airfoil.

This is what I have discovered so far.i Also keep in mind that some changes such as wing stagger can cause other changes to the fuselage ect.....This list is only meant as a guide I will be doing a multi-part article on this build and will post more info from time to time on this web site.

Jenny Canuck Diorama Part 2

Please note that I am in no way connected with the Model Expo Company although I have given them permission to use some of my Albatros Diorama pictures on their website. All kits are courtesy of my pocket book and I am only writing this series of articles as a source of information for my fellow modelers. Also please note that the following text presumes that you already have the Model Expo instruction booklet and plans for the JN4c Jenny. I will only point out those areas where my build of the Canuck version differs from the JN4c.

The airplane kit:
Although it is quite expensive to purchase, this kit is of superior quality compared to this company’s previous two subjects, the Albatros DVA and the Nieuport 28.The metal castings are now of a much better quality and are composed of a much stronger material with little or no deburring required .As far as the fit of the various metal parts I will have to leave that to a future article in this series as I am just now completing the lower wings. The wood and laser cut parts are of their usual high standard and the plans and instruction booklet are clearly written and should not be a problem for the experience builder.

Because this build will be the Canuck version of this aircraft I have had to make a number of modifications to the drawings. (Please see the list of modifications in part1)

The car kit:
The car kit is a 1/16th scale Minicraft Mercedes Benz no.11218. I have highly modified this kit to look somewhat like a picture that I discovered in the Time-Life book” Barnstormers and Speedkings”.To date it is about 75% completed.Iwill send in detailed pictures when it is finished.

The figure kits:
These kits are all Model CellerWW1 airmen kits and not a mixture of Tamiya WW1 and modified WW2 kits as I have used before in the Albatros DVA and Nieuport 28 dioramas I find that the Model Celler heads are slightly larger and therefore look best as a group. I do not foresee a lot of modifying of these figures, as their various poses are relaxed and interesting as they are modeled. The figures will be of anonymous Canadian and American airmen of the era in order to fit into the dioramas storyline. I will however modify the Baron von Richthofen figure to become a Barnstormer of the 1920's

The hangar:
I have worked out the basic floor plan and established where the aircraft, chase car and figures will be placed. Before I attempt to build it in wood I will construct a model of the hangar in foam board and decide on the placement of windows, doors, hangar fixtures and furniture etc…..

The hangar will be of the style of the era and will be cut away to reveal the interior. Some parts will be realistic and other parts left to the imagination. Everything will be protected with plexiglass. This part of the build I will save for the nice summer days in my back yard.

Starting The Build

The upper and lowers wings:
To date I have completed the upper wings without ailerons. These will be built separately. The lower wing drawings have been modified to reflect the numerous changes that were listed in part 1 of this series. One of the lower wings is now finished and it is just a shorter version of the top wing. It is therefore actually easier to build than the JN4c as there are no cutouts along the trailing edge and the wing tips require no bending of the wood. All four wings of the Canuck are basically the same.

The wing ribs supplied in the kit are already laser cut on plywood sheets (thank God!!!).I would suggest that before you break the ribs free that you stain and seal them while they are still attached to the board. I used a tan prismacolor permanent marker for staining and then spray lacquered the entire surface. Don’t worry about the rib edges, as they will be sealed with glue when installing the cap strips. Staining at this time also insures that there will be no ugly glue marks on the wood surface.

I would also suggest that you glue down as many of the rib stiffeners that you can while the ribs are still attached to the board. These ribs are mostly lined up one under the other on the board, so to save myself from having to deal with tiny pieces of wood I simply glued down one continuous strip of wood and then cut the stiffeners to their proper length. Then, I freed the ribs from the board.

I had no problems with setting up the wing jigs. The only thing that I would caution you about is to make sure that you prefit all the parts together and not assume that the laser cut everything 100% correctly. Generally some areas need only slight sanding or filing.

When assembling the wings you will notice there are very small dowel stringers that run the entire length of the wing both top and bottom. The instruction booklet gives you two options here, of either gluing or not gluing down the under-wing stringers at this time. I choose not to glue them as I wanted to build up the wings drag and anti-drag wires using real wire and not use string as the kit suggest. I wanted to leave myself lots of room to work on these wires located between the ribs without the small fragile dowels getting in the way. The kit supplies the material for this small doweling as a square piece of wood. I carefully rounded the edges and at this scale it looks like small dowel.

If you decide to use the kit supply silver coloured string for the drag and anti-drag wires that would be fine too, as these wires on the real aircraft were actually wire cable. A friend of mine told me that he did just that and then soaked them with very thin CA glue to avoid any sagging.

I used beading wire and made my own turnbuckles out of wire eyelets and the plastic coating from telephone wire which I painted brass and silver. After all the rigging was complete, I then glued down all three stringers and the wings wire trailing edge.

I then began work on the wings leading edge plywood covers. These covers are on the top of the wing only. I would suggest that you not use the kit supplied plywood for this because if you have to sand it you may sand away the top layer of wood and leave an ugly looking stain mark where the plywood’s glue shows through. I bought some thin paper backed maple veneer for this and it looks fine even after sanding,

I next installed the ribs cap strips and release the wing from the jig. I had originally planned to fabric cover parts of this aircraft including the wings. But after giving it a lot of thought and carefully looking at the pictures of my previous two dioramas. I decided that the strength of what I do is in the openness of the airplanes structure that allows for a lot of depth in the diorama .I also like the interesting lines and designs of the aircraft’s open structure, so why cover it with fabric?

Memories of Flight School Part 3

After building the upper and lower wings I decided that I needed a change of pace so I started to work on the five pilot figures. The figures are all Model Cellar productions. The only figure that required some minor changes was the barnstormer which was originally a Red Baron figure. The fit of the various parts is excellent. I pinned and epoxy glued everything together with only a minium of filler around some of the joints. I use Jo Sonja paint on my figures as it dries absolutely flat. You can add your own varnish to the paint mix and obtain the exact amout of shine that you require. If the figure gets too shiny you can wash thin coats of paint over top and tone down the shine. I used the Time-Life book, Knights of the Air, as my primary reference for the uniforms. The heads I am painting separately as I want to attaché them at the correct angle when their relative positions to each other is decided.


Originally I was going to build a hangar modeled after the WW1 era hangars at Camp Borden in Ontario. I decided however, that to do a good job I would have to travel there and take numerous measurements if I wanted to be historically correct and then it still would not fit into my storyline of the barnstormer era hangar.In doing some further research I came upon a painting of the Toronto Flying Club hangar of 1938 which I thought must represent the era pretty well….. it is a white wooden hangar with a peaked black and white checkerboard roof which appealed to me. The interior will be from my imagination based upon a youth misspent hanging around airports. I plan to do an unheated hangar as we used to have here in Canada with an interior heated walled off workshop. I think that I will return to the model railroad type lighting arrangement as I can forsee a lot of nice lighting effects through the interior workshop windows etc… I was going to use foamboard as a mockup for a wooden hangar but after I got it built and all the measurements made I decided because the hangar was going to be a more permanent type structure, unlike my previous hangars which were little more than sheds or barns,that I would revise my building methods and use the foamboard as part of the internal structure. Because I didn’t see any need for special effects like light shining through the cracks in the boards I decided that I would sheath the interior with tongue depressors and the exterior with coffee stir sticks. I glued the basic wall structure to the foamboard and built it up piece by piece. It is very simple and easy to do and you can make changes as you go along with an exacto knife. Just cut the windows and doors in the foamboard and frame around the openings. I pre-assembled nine roof trusses and laid them on top of the walls.The next step will be to weather the trusses and finish framing the walls. The tongue depressor floor has already been weathered and is attached to a solid pine base. I have glued everything together this time as I got tired of breaking drill bits on pins and nails. The floor is laid as in my previous hangars except I used a grafite pencil to represent the nail heads. I think that it looks better and is more in scale. Well that is where I am to date. If everything goes well I will have the basic hangar finished by the end of the summer which will give me the long Canadian winter to finish the Canuck. I have obtained (as an offer I couldn’t refuse) a second Model Expo Jenny kit that I plan to build as a JN4c basketcase being robbed for parts. The various disassembled parts will be lying around the hangar or shown in storage in various states of disrepair. I plan to show most of the areas where the two versions differ. It should make for an interesting diorama when it is finally finished.

Memories of Flight School Part 4

The Hangar continued:

Finally the sheathing of the hangar walls is finished. Now that was a boring job! If I never see another tongue depressor in my life that would be OK with me. But before I did that job I had to frame the interior of the hangar walls with pine strips. Two sizes were used 7/16x1 1/16 and 3/8x3/8.The framing was easy, I followed the framing techniques I found in an old book on construction. I do not have any information on how the actual interior of the Toronto Flying Club hangar looked in those days so most of it is from my imagination and my fading memory of other old hangars. The tongue depressor strips I used were quite thin, about 2mm. I had to sort them out to find strips that were not too bent, twisted, knotted or discoloured. I rejected about 50%. The strips were then measured, cut to length, sanded and glued to the foam board. I drew vertical lines on the foam board to keep things straight. Because the strips are so thin and the fact that I don't seal the wood before glueing, the moisture in the glue tends to warp the strips. Clamps and pins were used where necessary to prevent this. This is not a hard job but it is repetitive and not very creative but can be very rewarding, as nothing looks as good as real wood. I find that I like to have my hangars look like old barn siding or in this case whitewashed wood that has been aged. I have my own method to achieve this. Basically, the secret is to paint and weather the raw unsealed wood, then use a matte varnish‑sealer in your paint mix and then finish up with chalk pastels. Because the wood is so rough the pastels will not wear off the surface. The procedure is basically as follows when using acrylic paint. For the whitewashed exterior of the hangar I used very thin washes of white gesso mixed with a touch of raw umber plus a matte sealer varnish airbrushed or brushed on the raw wood. Let the paint soak into the wood and repeat the washes until the desired intensity of colour is achieved. The colour should be applied carefully so that it is still transparent enough so that some of the colour and texture of the wood shows through. If the white seems too bright wash the entire surface with a very thin wash of raw umber and matte varnish medium. (When I say thin wash I mean the consistency of dirty water. Your paint can never be too thin for this operation.) You can speed up the drying process by using a hairdryer. These washes should be put on with a large brush (3/4 inch or so) Use an old one as the rough surface will soon ruin a good one. This thin raw umber wash can also be stippled (dabbed) on with a stiff bristled brush for a more irregular effect. You can also use an old stiff bristled toothbrush and after most of the paint has been removed from it flick on a spray of colour.The wetter the toothbrush is the larger the particles sprayed will be. Try to be subtle. After letting the wood thoroughly dry, you can start using your pastels. On the now white‑grey exterior I use various shades of the grey chalk variety (Not OILS) Here again you must be very subtle in their application as you do not want a whole lot of contrast, just a little shading. I grind up my pastels on very fine sandpaper to create a very fine dust like soft powder. Then with very soft brushes (preferably old) I brush on the grey colour between the individual boards and on any surface were dust and dirt would gather. A lighter grey could be used to highlight certain areas. I have an airbrush but I still prefer this method. Please note that the pictures that I sent in with this article shows just the bare painted wood with no pastel weathering. If you would like a small preview of how it should look when finished please see my article on the Nieuport 28 diorama. The final step would be to spray a fixative‑sealer over the finished surface but this is not necessary if you have already added your matte varnish to the paint mix. The pastel shading and highlighting will not rub off such a rough surface. The procedure for the interior grey finish is much the same except here I used a mix of white gesso and a little black gesso to achieve a darker grey. I then used my very thin washes of raw umber The weathering techniques are the same as for the exterior but here the pastels used were a darker grey. The hangar floor was done the same way except here I used burnt umber or an even darker grey to represent oil and grease drops and splotches. Well that is about it.Now it is on to completing the weathering of the walls and then on to the plywood roof. I hear they used felt and hot tar in those days.

Memories of Flight School Part 6

Memories of Flight School Part 7

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

As you can see I have changed my mind about finishing the roof of the hangar.I guess I needed a change of scene after a summer of hangar building,so I decided to start on the Jenny Canuck fuselage. After completing the basic fuselage,I went on to finishing the aircraft interior as per the instruction booklet.If I had to do it all over again though I would get the gear on before doing any of this.No matter what the booklet says,it is much simpler to get things lined up while the fuselage is basically still a square box without seats,fuel tank etc..to get in the way.You can build these parts if you like but make them removable until after installing the gear.I have included a few pictures of the jig that I built for keeping things straight.The instruction booklet is very vague on this but these pictures are pretty much self explanitory.

The engine is only temporarily installed and is removable.It is very heavy and makes manouvreing the model difficult,so I will leave it off until the next step is completed,that of building the center section and its struts.The same basic jig will be modified to accomplish this.This procedure pretty much follows the way we built the 1:1 scale Beech Travelair D4D back in the 60s.I have included a picture of that aircraft at just about the same stage as the Jenny model is now. For a step-by-step online build of this model go to www.theaerodrome.com go to Forum,and click on How to Build Aircraft Dioramas.

Memories of Flight School Part 8

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

The airplane has now been set back on its U/C struts and the tail lifted level.Blocks have been arranged to hold the aircraft steady so that the center section and struts can be aligned with the plan ,in the modified jig. The horizontal stab/elevator assembly,fin and rudder are finished. Please note the differences in the Canuck and the JN4D. TheCurtiss Ox5 engine is now ready for installation.

Memories of Flight School Part 9

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

Here are the latest pics.

Memories of Flight School Part 10

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

Here are the latest pics.

Memories of Flight School Part 11

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

Another update

Memories of Flight School Part 12

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

Another update

Memories of Flight School Part 13

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

Another update

Memories of Flight School Part 14

Kit: Scratch (1:16)

I have now finished just about all the components of this diorama and am in the final build up stages.The only major item left to do is the Camel/Ford van addition that I plan to put outside the hangar walls.I am hoping to be finished and have the diorama delivered to the Canada Aviation Museum by next Spring.I have hundreds of pictures of this build up to this point but the ones I will post here now are of the beginnings of the final assembly.These first two pictures give you an idea of the general arrangement of the major components of the main hangars interior.

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