Saturday, August 13, 2016

Remington Portable typebar fitting

Continuing the rebuilding of the battered Remington Portable typewriter: The re-attaching of the springs from the bell cranks to the crescent-plate is fairly easy. The springs can be hooked by hand to the hole in the bell crank when it's lifted. With small needlenose pliers the other end is easily fitted into its hole in the crescent plate.

Yet another example of identical parts that probably aren't. The springs do have two different ends, one hook design for fitting in the crank and an elongated hook for fitting to the plate. There are left and right-hand wound springs (why...). Somewhat worryingly some springs are shorter than other springs; that may be random from older repairs, but also could be by design. Could be different lengths for different positions to compensate for different character's linkage shapes. Oh well, we will experience that when (if) it is fully assembled again.

The typebars can then be fitted. Fortunately these are all numbered, so laid out approximately sorted from left to right.

Same as with the bell cranks, starting from one end the typebars are fitted and the pivoting rod is fed into the segment one typebar at a time.

A surprise that now has me wondering about the Remington factory and its quality processes; the typebars should be stamped with the numbers 1 through 42. This machine however has no typebar 12 and two typebar stamped as number 14. 

How does that happen? Did the factory run out of #12 typebars? And then somebody took another #14 and bent it to the right angle by hand? (Is there another machine out there with no #14 and two #12 typebars?)

Notwithstanding this minor numeric confusion, all typebars got slotted into their proper places again :-)

Next up is re-assembling the ribbon-spool mechanism (puzzle!).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Remington Portable bellcranks are not all identical

Who knew. Only after starting to put them back did I notice that these little levers look the same, but come in left-handed and right-handed varieties. That was also when the remaining goo lodged around the pin became evident. So all off again. With a toothpick the thick, sticky brown grease can be pushed off.

So a small cup is filled with hot water and soap to soften it all up. Quite a bit of poking to get that grease away. The most effective way turned out to be using a toothbrush - holding the part and brush submerged in the soapy water, then wipe all off with paper towel and toothpick. That then gave 22 left-handed and 20 right-handed cleaner bell cranks (or 'intermediate levers', according to Ames).

After some experimenting it turns out that the mounting side of the small connecting plate is the hint to use a left or a right sided bellcrank. The crank should be in-line with the key-lever underneath (makes sense). Getting them wrong also becomes noticeable as they then won't fit properly and jam in the segment.

Before putting the bellcranks back, the fixing wire was given a quick polish. Won't make much difference in how light the machine runs, but having it smooth may make inserting it in the segment a bit easier.

This is still a fairly dirty, worn and beaten-up machine. One of the 'clevis' springs is broken and several cranks show some signs of being ever so slightly bent. May be from original adjustment, but given the overal state of the thing I suspect it's from plain hammering too hard on the keys.

Still unsure if this typewriter will become completely whole again, but now with the row of 'intermediate levers' mounted. One small step forward. Next up is fixing all the springs. Keeping this a relaxed and slow-moving project.

Experience gained; beware of identical-looking parts that aren't!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Meccano Motor Magic and the manual was correct!

Still available, albeit now via online auction sites. What looked like a nice one of the right period popped up - and even managed to get it! It duly arrived very well packed in this small blue cardboard box.

Inside is, as advertised, a small clockwork motor for powering Meccano models. These 'Magic Motors' are fairly common online, but usually just the motor & key are offered. This one came in the box complete with all its accessories.

Still (or again) attached the inspection label and the key in its small paper envelope. A small time capsule almost, this might even be from unused stock. If not, it was always very carefully looked after and kept complete. Guarantee slip stamped for 1952.

The great thing is that it comes with the half-inch pulley. This you really want to have, to be able to drive models built from a standard Outfit. Also the full set of six drive bands were in the box. Three pairs of different lengths, still rubbery and very usable.

Carefully stored the ephemera and then instructions given to the crowd on how to wind it with care according to the arrow on the motor; it works! Excitement all round, so out with the Outfit number 3 and see what can be made. After some tinkering (and failing) with putting it on wheels, a much easier model is a pneumatic road drill. (Hadn't thought of that.)

This does work and is surprisingly and satisfyingly noisy!

It may well be that the spring by now is too old to drive a small car, but a simple windmill should be manageable. With a set of special Windmill Sail parts (number 61), a little windmill is made. Maybe not the most ergonomic spot for the motor control though...

Moving the motor lever; it does work and whirrs the metal sails round at a good clip (sharp edges and all).

The little motor does fascinate them. No batteries, lasts forever! Even though the youngest is getting much more adept at the little screws and nuts, Meccano parts do require a different approach to construction than what they're used to. It is clearly not stacking bricks or just snapping parts together. Step-by-step instructions or some guidance are really needed for the 7 year old. (Except for that pneumatic drill, that was his own original idea.)

Overall the experience with this 1950-ies Meccano convinced me that actually the cover illustration of the manual is correct. Leaving aside that unrealistic, giant dragline; this is not a construction toy that can simply be given to children to play with. 

It should be played with by children together with a parent close at hand!


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Some steps to revive a leathercloth typewriter case

The carrying case of the Corona Four typewriter was still sound and relatively undamaged. It had of course accumulated 91 years worth of dust, dirt, scuffs and corrosion. A few simple steps can make the case much more presentable again and help prepare it for its next 91 years.

The first thing I do is to clean it with a very little water and soap. Some lukewarm water with a strong degreasing detergent is good. I'll use washing up liquid or general household cleaner, the strong liquid stuff. (These shouldn't contain any alcohols, many hand-soaps do!) As a first quick action, wipe all surfaces gently with a damp cloth (not wet!) to get off the superficial dirt. Then there'll still be lots of dirt however.

With a soft (!) toothbrush some soapy water is brushed onto the dirty surface. Making small rotary motions the dirt is worked loose, then a rag or paper towel is used to pat it dry and take off the dirt. In this picture of the case lid the left side has been cleaned, the right-hand side still shows the dirt of decades clinging to the case.

When doing this, take care not to use too much water; that's bad for the wooden case and may cause the leathercloth to warp and lift. Also don't rub hard or use a hard brush as that might well scratch the surface.

The inside of the case is treated the same way - especially the case bottom was very dirty and needed several goings-over. The bit in the back has been mostly cleaned, the rectangular area in the front-left only wiped off - there is a difference :)

After the case has been cleaned and left to dry (though it should not have gotten really wet from this), small repairs are made. That is mostly glueing down lifted edges of the leathercloth and sealing the edges of scuffs with PVA glue (known trans-Atlantically as 'Elmer's Glue' I believe). As always and everywhere with gluing, it's best to use very sparing amounts.

When all the loose bits are firmly attached again, the case is given a polish. It is 'Leatherette' of course and not leather, but regular black shoe-polish works well. It adds some extra black to even out the colour and the wax does help to protect and soften a bit the dried out leathercloth. Apply with a cloth (press in when needed) and polish up to a bit of a shine with a soft (!) shoe-polishing brush. The case lining was green, so that's polished with some natural wax (furniture) or Carnauba. (For coloured cases, e.g. a gramophone case, I'll sometimes shop for a shoe polish of the right colour.)

Before doing anything else, it's probably a good plan to let the case stand for a few days. It'll have a strong odour of concentrated shoe-shop for a few days. With any remaining solvents evaporating it also gives the wax some time to form a proper protective layer. (The whole polishing thing is best done outdoors anyways, with all the solvents in a polish...)

Then the metal case fittings - these can be said to have 'patina', but in this Corona Four case I think it's just dirt and rust.

With the power of Brasso metal-polish and a cotton rag, that case lock can look much cleaner again. Polishing the metal fittings by the way I'll do only after giving the case a first protective polish. Any spills or rubbing of metal-polish can then be wiped off clean again and won't stain in the leathercloth. (When fittings are just too far gone and only pitted, dark metal remains, I'll paint the fittings black. A gloss or satin smooth finish generally looks fine and definitely is cleaner.)

When polishing the inside fittings to bring back some of their shine, a sheet of thick paper or cardboard is held next to them to protect the case lining next to the fitting.

With some more Brasso even the plain metal handle latches look better again.

Much cleaner!

Again fit for 'home-use' instead of being something that needs to be 'kept in the shed' :)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Meccano update...

Again it is proven that in the internet age, every niche interest has its niche. Also Meccano. There is an extensive and helpful 'Meccanosphere' that is perhaps not explicitly labeled as such, yet just as extensive as the Typosphere. The site of the Christchurch Meccano Club of New Zealand is a vast trove of information, its parts library and galleries are for the metal construction toy much of what The Database is for typewriters.

Any needs for current or vintage parts and spares are addressed by a range of online sellers of parts - some with very complete webshop. The two wheels to complete the 1950-ies Outfit 3 were then easily sourced and these duly arrived for quite reasonable expense by post. Like platens also old Meccano rubber goes hard and brittle; for the rubber parts (motor tyres, drive belts) new reproduction parts can be easily purchased.

Building with the set, the instruction book has a very different approach to what the modern-day Lego builder is used to. Instead of the step-by-step instructions to build a model (or perhaps 3 from one set), one image of the finished model is provided for many different models. For some models a list of parts is given, but otherwise it is left to the ingenuity of the builder to figure it out.

Now with the large wheels also in the set, some of the larger models could be made. These can become more challenging and definitely exceed the attention span of the 7 year old. They are even taxing for the older siblings trained on the Danish construction toy.

Such finished models can be surprisingly large - are quite substantial models, being all metal.

This Meccano is surprisingly enjoyable to tinker with for the mechanically inclined, even (or perhaps especially) in this internet age :-)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Spotted! Hey that's the one that I made...

Scanning the vast library that is the internet for documentation for my new Corona Four typewriter, stumbled across a seller of reprints. Browsing the other items listed by this Canadian seller, spotted a familiar leaflet amongst his large collection of printed manuals.

That's a gramophone that I have. That's a leaflet that I have. That actually is the leaflet that I made!

Based on photo's of original, worn leaflets I created a reproduction from scratch. For images I used scans from record sleeves and tweaked the whole to look 'right'. The typography of the front page is almost right, with Garamond in different styles.

Some of the small differences with the typeface of the original are that the serifs of the capital 'T' extend over the line, the original is flat, and that the slant of the capitals is less than the slant of lower case italic text (top line).

Another difference with an actual original is the advertisements on the last page. These are correct HMV texts and images that I took from HMV record sleeves. The speed tester image however shows a gramophone with a No. 5 soundbox and arm - that makes it slightly period incorrect. (That's why I cropped it to not show the actual soundbox :)

The printing of the seller is a bit off unfortunately, not nicely centred on the page. Also it should really be printed on an A3-sized sheet and then cut to size. For printing your own, I provide a PDF file with folding and cutting guides.

Posted and shared these files online on this blog a while back. The 'part no.' on the edge of the last page I changed to 2014D, this was the fourth version I made in 2014 :-)

Oh, methinks I also recognise my scan of a Remington Portable instruction booklet amongst the offerings. Printing on A4 works fairly well for this document, though it should really be just a little larger. Pity that the seller didn't print the cover in color. Made quite an effort to properly scan and isolate the text from the background, but now realise I probably haven't posted that page online yet. Printing on greenish-grey thick paper then captures the look and feel of the original very well then.

So I think "spotted"!

Ah well. Would've been nice to see the seller state that these are available digitally as well or provide a link, but it's a service to be able to buy these manuals ready printed. (Maybe will mail him my better color front-page.)

Unexpected. Still - nice to see some of my scans 'proliferate' :-)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Corona Four

That little black wooden case contains an early Corona Four typewriter. The case looks exactly like the Corona 3 case, except it is larger and it does not have the fold-down front-flap.

The Corona Four really is the Corona 3 without the folding and with a 4-row keyboard. Other than these two, admittedly major, changes it is amazingly similar to the venerable '3'.

The spool covers are present, but rusty. Especially where the return-lever will mar the spool cover when you forget to lift it up before trying to return the carriage. This is an early Four, with the old design spool covers (pre '28 ?) and the ribbon selector on the old '3' spot instead of beside the keyboard (pre '27 ?).

Other than that it is really in very decent condition with a good, solid carrying case. All rubber lost its spring of course and probably one paper-bail spring is missing. But apart from these points merely a layer of dust and light tarnishing of the metal bits. The case still has the brush and oil tube held in the clip. Very well preserved typewriter all in all.

As a bit of a surprise (for I'm told a Dutch first owner) this typewriter has a British keyboard layout - i.e. it has an '@' character that's quite useful nowadays and an astounding array of fractions that I'm not sure were ever all that useful. Machine labeled at the back for the London branch of Corona at Aldwych House. An early machine, patents still pending.

The platen was stuck solid to the front feed rollers. After breaking the platen loose with some gentle yet persistent force, the machine still works as it should without any further tweaking. Working fine at 91 years old with probably decades of storage.

Again am amazed how robust these small portables are :)