Jeff Fox Propeller man in his workshop at Manakau A Prop with a history 2014
A World War I aircraft propeller, smuggled to Horowhenua by mail in 1919, has returned for a project to preserve its engineering history.
Manakau propeller maker Jeff Fox brought the original Sopwith Camel propeller, spanning more than 2 metres, back from Taupo about three weeks ago. The propeller came from one of the iconic biplanes flown in France during the Great War.
Fox said he was contacted by Taupo man Tony Long who saw an article about the propeller- maker in an aviation magazine.
Long's propeller came from a Camel flown by his father in France during the war.
After following up an invitation to go to Taupo and look at the piece of wartime history, Fox asked if there was any chance he could make a pattern from it. He was told "you'd better take it then", by Long.
Fox has used the propeller to shape a "master" on a copy router, which he designed and created himself.
The master - half a propeller - can be used as a pattern to shape more propellers for any Camels that are built, he said. Meanwhile Long told the Horowhenua Mail his father Wilfred Long returned to farm north of Levin after the war - and the propeller came with him.
Tony Long said his father enlisted in the cavalry and while in Egypt was wounded and told he was no longer fit for service. "So [they said] 'we'll send you to England and you can learn to fly an aeroplane'." Wilfred Long moved from horseback to aircraft and flew a Camel in combat in France.
When peace was declared Long flew to England where he and other pilots slept in pup tents beside their planes, Tony Long said. "He looked at his mate [in his tent] and said 'we haven't got much out of this war, I've had a bullet in me you're wounded. I want something'." The pair grabbed a spanner then went out and undid the prop off Long's Camel, smuggled it out of the aerodrome "then posted it to New Zealand, by surface mail".
Tony Long said the propeller lived in his father's house till he died in the late 70s, and he has had it ever since. The prop was in Horowhenua for "most of its life" on the family farm north of Levin, he said. Long said he knew little more about his father's wartime experiences because he never liked talking about it. "About the only thing I remember him saying is they [Camels] were a hell of a thing to fly, and if a Jerry got on your tail you just let go of everything and the machine took off. And then he said the trouble was recovering it again."
Fox, a builder, became involved in propeller-making in the early 90s as a spinoff from doing woodwork for vintage cars, and meeting people involved in aircraft work too. He has made propellers for planes from World War I, including a number for Sir Peter Jackson, through to homebuilt aircraft and microlights. The propeller, and a scrapbook of photographs taken during the war by Wilfred Long, will be returned to his son this weekend, and be hung back up on his hallway wall.
A little information about Jeff Fox.
Jeff Fox, Builder, carpenter, Joiner, vintage car and motor cycle restorer, designer and machinery builder, and now a well respected aeroplane propeller maker.
A very talented and respected tradesman.
10-6-2018 The Horowhenua Historical Society held a meeting at Jeff and Kerrie's property at Manakau.
This was a most impressive and informative meeting, with Jeff giving a detailed talk and information about the work he does, projects he has worked on, machinery he has designed and built, and how he goes about his daily business, and finding spare parts for restoration work.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Jeff's wife " Kerrie ", supplied the members with afternoontea. A very interesting and worthwhile meeting
A nicely finished propeller made by Jeff Fox ready for a customer
1914-1918 First World War Sopwith Camel areoplane, showing
Clough said the members enjoyed their trip to Fox's shed, part of a busy schedule of workshops and speakers across the weekend. ''What an amazing guy, and so much of it is self taught.'' Fox's work has seen him make propellers for planes from World War I, including a number for Sir Peter Jackson, through to ''homebuilt and microlight stuff''.
'I mainly specialise in the bigger props ... most of my stuff's in the range of six foot to ten foot.''He said the propellers are mainly made from sapele mahogany, American ash, and European beech.The woods are hard, stable, have a straight grain and are light enough, ''under 40 pounds per cubic foot of weight'' by old specifications, to be used for propellers, he said. His propellers are laminated: created by sticking together many layers of the chosen wood with an epoxy adhesive, and held together in a press. The layers in the raw propeller form a fan shape, with the grains laid opposing each other, he said.Once the lamination is completed, the propeller-proper is shaped using a copying machine designed and built by Fox. He has hand carved ''masters'' for the large machine, a copy router, which are used to reproduce the shape on the laminated item. Sunday 10 th June 2018 The Horowhenua Historical Society held an afternoon meeting at Jeff and Kerrie Fox property at Manakau. Jeff and Kerrie hosted a most interesting afternoon, showing the members around Jeff's workshop and the work he had done and current workin process. Following are some of the photos taken during the meeting.
''The copier follows the master, and machines the 'blank','' he said.Once the general shape has been created there are hours of sanding and balance-checking on the propeller.
''And then there's hours of varnish coats - they've all got a minimum of seven or eight layers of varnish over the props.'' Over the years he has built propellers for planes ranging from Tiger Moths, to Gypsy Moths, to most recently the propellers for a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 replica.
''Quite a few of Peter Jackson's Vintage Aviator collection aircraft I've built props for.''The last job building a three-blade propeller for the replica German fighter came after a flight accident involving its owner, a pilot. ''The guy ran out of fuel and he had to deck it in a paddock and it broke the prop. He picked that up yesterday [the replacement], and he's going to try that one out.''
SIDEBAR Menzsheds are community groups that gather mainly retired men to work on practical projects individually or as a team. It aims to boost members' mental health, and wellbeing. The next annual conference will be in two years in Christchurch.STORY:
| Jeff and Kerrie Fox, hosts for the HHS meeting 10-6-2018 |
HHS members Gary Phillips & Mrs Bolitho enjoying the meeting
Jeff Fox givng a talk on the tools he
uses and how they work.
Jeff Fox describing a machine he designed and built to make propellers
An interesting corner in Jeff Fox's workshop
Horowhenua Historical Society members arriving at meeting at Jeff Fox property in Manakau 10/6/2018
| Jeff Fox showing a group from Menzshed Organization, around his workshop 8th March 2014 |
1 Mr Jeff Fox 2 Mr. Tom Hayes President of Horowhenua Historical Society
Vintage motor cycles restored by Jeff Fox
More vintage Motor cycles restored by Jeff Fox
Jeff gave a historical talk on every motor cycle that he restored, Where they came from ?, previous owners, how he found parts to do the restoration Very interesting
Member of HHSociety enjoying looking at the machinery in Jeff Fox's workshop. 10-6- 2018
A busy corner in Jeff Fox's workshop, much of the engineering is done here.