Sunday, January 19, 2020

Binns Road's invisible knots

The 0-E book of models for the 'alphabetical period' of Meccano contains hundreds of models to build. No step-by-step instructions, but a single picture with sometimes a caption with guidance on the construction.

Small, relaxing puzzles still, to put together. E.g. this little model of a band saw for Outfit A.

In this simple model a length of cord (part no. 40) is used to represent the saw. Remarkable is that the cord is smooth, continuous and of the right length. There isn't a knot in sight, did the Model Room at Binns Road have a secret way to create smooth, invisible knots?

By turning the knot out of sight, the model can be made to look the same. But the knot is there...

Wanting to be able to untie again easily, it's not an actual knot but a bow. Not cutting to size every time, it has excess length too - all makes for a rather excessive knot.

Even with this over-the-top knot in the cord the model still works fine. Perhaps Meccano did have a way to create invisible knots, but quite possibly the Model Room also just turned the knot out of sight for the picture. Or possibly re-touch the picture even.

A question to write the company about (ask the Editor or Spanner), or would've been in '37. Today we'll just wonder - and have a bow knot :-) 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Safari Tropical

After dropping off some stuff at the large, local charity shop I also did a quick round. In the whole store there was one typewriter. An Olivetti.

An Olivetti Tropical portable typewriter. Not a name I'd seen before, looks a bit like an Olympia Traveller. The touch felt very light and everything seemed to work fine. Very likely a fine writing machine with many decades of use in it - however this is not a styling that appeals to me at all. A far cry from the first Olivetti portable machine indeed.

Small surprise at the rear of the machine. Despite its beige-box styling, there perhaps is something tropical about the machine.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Olivetti Ico typebar-rest felt simple improvement

This Olivetti MP1 typewriter is in very good condition. That is good, because they are not machines I would like to 'mess with'. They are too rare, dare I say valuable, and stylish to want to risk damaging it.

Having said that, a very simple little fix is possible without too many risks - giving the typebars an even 'rest' again.

A start with any newly acquired typewriter can be to clean the type of any accrued dirt or caked ink. It's a good idea to place a cloth under the typebars, to protect the machine and collect any dirt. In this machine's case, cleaning was hardly necessary - a light brushing, no hard-ink poking (needle) was needed here.

The type in detail, with foundry-mark AR. That would be Alfred Ransmayer & Albert Rodrian or 'RaRo' as the typeface font maker.

The typebars in a mechanical typewriter usually drop back on a typebar-rest of felt to dampen the sound and reduce any bounce-back. Over decades the typebars will have made a dent, compacting the felt and reducing the effectiveness.  In the case of the Ico, this can also cause some typebars to hit a metal tab as they fall back - giving a sharp, loud 'tick' for those typebars.

Using the cloth under the typebars, these can be coaxed up all together and held in raised position with a clip. This should prevent any damage (bending) of the typebars and gives access to the typebar-rest.

The imprints made by the typebars on the felt can be clearly seen here. In many typewriters, this felt strip is in some way clamped or held tight in brackets. The Olivetti engineers realised that there will always be 42 out of 43 typebars pressing down on the felt, so designed the strip of felt to simply lie loose between guiding-brackets or tabs.

The felt can simply be picked up taken out.

And then be turned over and placed back.

This gives the Ico again a smooth, even typebar-rest with the original material that should prevent 'ticking' of typebars against the metal tabs as well as improve the dampening.

So again the full array of typebars lying at rest with improved dampening- against the original felt. A first, simple 'fix' without much risk to the Olivetti MP1 Ico.

Friday, November 22, 2019

New old stock Olivetti ribbon

An Olivetti ICO is a bit special, a good reason to use the new old Olivetti ribbon I picked up years ago. 

The ICO (or MP1) will not take a full 10 meters, only about 6 meters or less. It has the small spools, like e.g. the Remington Portable machines of the era. So a length of the silk ribbon was wound onto the original ICO's spools. (The Olivetti MP1 is overall remarkably similar to a Remington Portable 3.)

Replacing the ribbon is fairly straightforward, no fiddly or fragile reversing mechanisms. The spool-covers are held on by spring-clips - pull up a little and they can be slid off sideways. Replacing them is similar, probably best sliding them on whilst pressing down at the same time. Simply pressing down will not work so well - may partly account for some of the machines missing their spool covers.

The ribbon is fainter than it will have been when new - even inside the shrink-wrap it dried out over the decades.

Nevertheless, the Olivetti MP1 now has very crisp and readable Olivetti typing! 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Olivetti MP1

The machine as received, before any cleaning. An Olivetti MP1 Ico portable typewriter in glossy black.

This really is exceptionally clean. As if it was cleaned and refurbished only yesterday, e.g. as if from a typewriter collector's collection. The dust and dirt in the machine however is witness that it was not used for some decades. It must have been stored in a warm and dry environment; 'one careful previous owner'. Or in this case two careful owners, as I was told by the seller.

The case lid still holds the brushes that I think are original. Almost expecting the envelope with the user manual to be in that third clip, it is however exceptionally rare to find that still in-situ.

The right-back hinge still has the rubber grommet, though that is about to split in two and give way. A slight bend in the hinge-bracket suggests the machine did get a knock at some time in its life. A small damage to the corner of the wooden base seems to confirm this.

Some dirt on the front-feed rollers, correction-tape flakes perhaps. The front feed rollers have quite a flat to them, from having been pressed against the platen for decades.

The draw-band is thick, braided cord, unlike the waxed string of other machines. Unsure if this is original or the result of an older repair - judging from the overall state of the typewriter it's probably original.

Titling up the machine on its back-hinges, the whole mechanism is beautifully rust-free. Also here some dust and accrued dirt that is consistent with sitting idle for years - or decades.

The serial number 26524, giving the date of production as probably late 1935.

Overall a very clean example of a very stylish typewriter. By the look of it, this should require only some light cleaning and perhaps a few minor repairs such as re-fitting hinge grommets.

First text - a dry ribbon and a bit sluggish still, but the machine types - beautifully!

Friday, November 15, 2019

New arrival (first in years...)

Just picked up.

After several years of not acquiring any new typewriters (and even giving an Erika M a miss a year ago), again a new machine. This should be a machine that's worth finding another space for - also splurged rather on this one.

Upcoming weekend of unpacking and slow, gentle cleaning - discovering a new (old) typewriter model. More (and pictures) to follow!

Monday, November 11, 2019

How does a Yankee jam?

Had been browsing the online auction sites, something that can lead to an impulse buy. Perhaps this is also a subject that's in-line with the typosphere; vintage tools - another analogue, chip-less technology domain. So to add to the tool-chest I got delivered a very clean looking Yankee No 30A screwdriver.

These are of course very common, though not quite as common here as they are in North America. This specimen was manufactured by North Bros. in Philadelphia, made in the United States of America.

The subject of old tools is again a niche where the internet provides quite a lot of information - e.g. that Stanley purchased the North Bros. company in '46, so this screwdriver would pre-date that. It notes the '23 patent date for the improved ferrule and handle-mounting, so it's post '24.

An odd thing is that it is not nickel plated all over (or chrome plated, as it would be post '31). It's however mentioned online that during the war years, nickelling was abandoned to conserve materials and the parts were blackened or brushed brass. The steel (not brass) main tube was indeed originally blackened, traces remain, so that this particular screwdriver probably dates from '42 to '45 or so.

Another thing is that it's in very good condition, almost none of the usual dings and scratches. As if it was never used much, kept in a box or chest all the time. The wooden handle looks too good to be original in fact, as if it was re-finished at some time - most (all?) Yankee handles of the era are red. Then again, looking around the aforementioned auction site a bit, some handles seem to have been stained and lacquered like this.

When unlocking and testing the screwdriver, it worked beautifully and then suddenly would jam solid. Only after some 'knocking' would it come unstuck. Being curious what could be the cause and wanting a tool to be functional, took a look inside.

The brass sleeve can be slid off the ratchet mechanism, as is explained elsewhere on the net. Small screw removed, sleeve rotated to let the notch slide under the small 'bonnet' and it's off.

Playing with the mechanism exposed, no clues as to how or why it would jam. It still jammed, but certainly not on the ratchet gears. (Strange spiral marks on those ratchet collars by the way, can't imagine what wear-mechanism'd cause that. Could this be a tool-return scar during manufacture?)

Looking further, took a look at the one other possible point it could jam; the washer on the end of the spiral-shaft that keeps it in. So removing the end-screw (this is the No 30, the springless version, otherwise take care to extend it first...) the handle can be pulled off. This incidentally also makes clear that the tube indeed was originally blackened.

That holding washer is actually more of a malleable c-clip, that fits on a recessed bit of the shaft. It can be seen and accessed through the opening in the side of the tube. This clip should be tight, but here it was rattling quite loose. It was narrower than the recess for it too. Testing a bit, it turned out that this c-clip could tilt a little and then wedged itself tight inside the tube.

To remedy this, the tube on a wooden block, c-clip rotated in 'c' orientation and then given a few blows with a hammer (via another 'anvil-block'). This closed the open beak of the clip and made it tight on the shaft. Handle back on and screwed tight - and the screwdriver has not jammed again. So this probably was the cause of the jamming.

Unknown if this was a manufacturing fault or caused by someone having tampered with it more recently. (Perhaps when they took off the handle to re-finish it?)

Maybe it was an original fault - it happened on and off, so could've been missed in factory checks. That could also explain its near-new condition; as a temperamental tool it would have seen little use. Yet too expensive and functional to be discarded.

Even though the finish is unusual, the handle does look very 'credible'. The dimensions seem a bit off, the screw is recessed more than it should, but the seat is milled in the handle correctly. Maybe wartime new sub-contractors with small variations...

Not sure if the handle tube will be cosmetically blackened again. The brass tube shows no hints of ever having been blackened, maybe somebody once did a stellar polishing job or maybe it never was blackened at all. In any case, we may well leave it all as-is - with a bit of oil on the bare metal.

So still (or for the first time since '43?) a fully functional, usable ratchet spiral screwdriver.

In the tool-chest :)