Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sighting of an Adler (and a tenor)

Usually typewriters in (American) films of the thirties and forties are readily recognised as common (American) machines.

In this scene from the (German) movie 'Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt', a slightly less common (German) typewriter can be seen. It is used by the secretary at the theatrical agent's office, sitting on her table.


It's fairly small in the image, but it is clearly the distinctive profile of an Adler thrust-typewriter. Still gleaming and shiny, it may be an Adler 7.

The pair walking away from the camera are the main characters of the film - two friends, a clown and a singer. The tall one is the clown, the diminutive figure is the singer.


The actor playing the singer in this film is the tenor (and cantor) Joseph Schmidt. The film premiered in Germany in May 1933...

Despite his small stature, Joseph Schmidt had quite a voice!  As witnessed from the record(s) found over the past couple of weeks.

:-)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Felt for Four rubber

A simple tweak that can usually be done with an old typewriter is to replace the felt of the typebar rest. It often is compacted and may be moldy, a source of the 'old typewriter smell'. Replacing with new felt will improve the sound dampening and for some machines improves the line-up of the typebars at rest too.

This Corona Four portable typewriter types quite nicely, but is horrendously noisy. Of course the platen is the main source, but the typebars return-drop was also very noisy and all little bits help.

On these Corona machines however the typebar-rest was not of felt, but consists of a rubber tube held in a channel-strip. This tube will surely have been soft and dampening when new; today it is rock solid. The net effect is a nice, loud 'clack' as the typebar drops back - makes sense as a hard hollow tube being struck on the side is pretty much the design of a tam-tam / jungle-drum.


To replace the typebar-rest, the first step is to remove the front panel. The four small screws were corroded fast on this machine, but leaving a small (small!) drop of oil on each screw for a few months solved that completely. Now also easier to clean and polish the bit behind the top bank of keys.


A small rubber-band will keep the typebars out of the way and allow the typebar-rest to be taken off easily, by removing the two small screws at either end.


The old, hard rubber can then be pried out of the channel-segment. (Taking care not to bend the fairly flimsy metal part.) Before you do this, you may want to measure the height of the rubber in the channel.


Not having soft rubber tube at hand in the right diameter, decided to replace with felt. To make a strip of the right thickness and height, had to fold-over a thick felt with a third layer inside - spots of glue to keep it all in place. It needed clamping tight to let the glue dry and keep it in shape - does look a bit like an exotic caterpillar...


Not to worry about the length, to be cut to size after fitting, but do fuss about the correct height. The height needs to be large enough to provide enough damping, but if it's a bit too high then the typebars are too close together at rest. Then the type-slugs will foul each other and/or make extra noise as they drop back. (As I found out... : )


With the channel-segment fitted with a new felt strip that is tucked in nicely (sharp screwdriver to push it to the bottom at all sides), it can be fitted back onto the machine. All the typebars should now again line up nicely - and make just a little less noise as they drop back.


And then of course mount the front panel again (the typebars just peeking over the rim). A slightly less noisy, but still very loud little typewriter.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Then two come at once

Like the proverbial buses. A few weeks after buying a Joseph Schmidt record, I got a small rack of records via/from a colleague and that contained the same record.

Listed on the index booklet for the Plattofix record rack, at the bottom of the page the record by Joseph Schmidt: O Sole Mio and La Paloma.


This Plattofix rack probably dates from the forties', but most of the records are older. The index seems to have been filled out over a short period, the records loosely ordered by genre. Later some records were probably broken, their entry replaced with a stuck-on label written in another hand.

Again the same record, but surprisingly now on the fairly uncommon Esta label, made in Czechoslovakia with all label text in German (export). 


This seems exactly the same recording as the Elite Special record (Swiss) from a few weeks ago. The same artist and same orchestra and sung in German. Strangely though, the matrix is different - they did do a transfer.

Similar to The Typewriterdatabase, there is an online collaborative database for shellacs. (And a few other, more private sites.) On this community database site (www.45worlds.com/78rpm) these two recordings can be found first on a 1932 release on the Broadcast label. Either the recording was sold to others after Broadcast was shut down in '34, or it was a recording (Ultraphone?) widely sold for some time to any and all.

Anyways it is neat to see how a collaborative database can add information on niche subjects, this would not have been so easy to see before 'the information age'.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Technical colour, a brilliance never before attainable

When first introduced, the strips and plates of Meccano were nickel plated. This gives the small mechanical models a fairly neutral and technical appearance - albeit a bit boring perhaps.


Starting first with a bright pea-green lacquer on some parts in '26, from 1927 on then all strips and plates are a technical dark green and red. This coloured 'New Meccano' fits well with machinery colours of the time and gives the small models nonetheless a livelier appearance. These are toys after all. (Freelance monoplane in period parts by 8yr old.)


Then without any advance warning a new colour scheme is announced in a black and white advert in the Meccano magazine of November 1934. This proudly announces new blue and gold parts! To illustrate what the monochrome print cannot convey, some newly re-painted example parts alongside the magazine.


In the following December 1934 issue an article then shows some of the newly introduced parts and how these can be used.


The plates do overcome an issue with the Meccano system by then that all models are 'wireframe' and are becoming a bit antiquated. Also a completely new range of lettered sets is introduced that is different from the previous numbered range. A whole slew of complex upgrade sets is carried to bridge every possible gap between the old and new ranges.

They were indeed right - the models really are in eye-popping colour. Comparing the old dark green and red with the new colour, the system made a clear step towards being the toy that it really was and moving on from the origins of also being a system of mechanical demonstration. (Both are examples of 'most useless machines' created by the children.)


Having re-painted a small batch of parts in the blue and gold colour-scheme, these proved the most popular with the intended age-group today. At least a first seeing them, the parts 'wow' with their colour. There was a bit of a mixed reception at the time as I've read, with comments that it was not quite 'boys stuff'. Even so, am suspecting it could have been similar back then - if they ever did do some 'consumer testing' with the intended age group, the colours probably 'wow'-ed them too back then :-)

Brilliant technical colour!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Three more items, a cross-section

The large thrift shop (with that Erika M) also had a vast store of records. Bins and bins filled with vinyl. Bins with large, once expensive box sets (now for 1,-)

Just as we were going to leave, spotted a small carton on the floor labeled '78'. And indeed the box contained a small set of around 15 shellacs. All were in similar sleeves, clearly came as a set from one source. Had a quick browse and selected three of them. At 1,- per record the shellacs are expensive compared to the large vinyl box-sets, but still very affordable :-)

It's a nice cross-section of the collection in the box, a set that probably grew slowly over decades. Records were expensive. (And this was not a wealthy area...)

When getting new shellacs, part of the fun is discovering the music and finding out a bit about the discs and their context:


This is the most recent disk of the three, one by Joseph Schmidt. Already had a nice recording of him, so felt sure I'd like this one too. This looks like a forties' issue, and that could be. The actual recordings or matrices could be older, as there's a 'Broadcast 12' issue from '32 with exactly these two songs. Not mentioned on the label, but he actually sings the song in German. (A buyer 'd want to know that, I would think.) The disk was manufactured in Holland for the Swiss "Turicaphon" company, so it could perhaps be a post-war pressing. Joseph Schmidt died at the Swiss border in '42.


The next record is easy to date, as it contains the mechanical copyright notice 1927. Got this one, if only for the label design - the Polydor figure (alien?) is grandiose. And of course 'Alte Kameraden' is a classic - also back then an echo of a previous era I think. Polydor was the name used by the Deutsche Grammophon outside of Germany. The Gramophone Company's German assets were expropriated in the 1st World War, but this now-German company could of course not use the Gramophone Company name or trademarks (Nipper) in the rest of the world - hence Polydor. And the little alien.


This last record was not in its sleeve, but had spotted a sleeve with the title written on it so shuffled them about to get this one back in its sleeve. This disc looks quite old and it also sounds old - from digging around various corners of the internet it can be dated to about 1912. It has the typical acoustic recording sound of that era, the singers giving it a good effort (gusto!). When bought new this was a high-end, luxury item, a record for the new talking machine. Judging from the mostly late 30-ies and later discs in the box, the family perhaps got this as a hand-me-down or purchased it second-hand.

Listening to this record gives the atmosphere of a very different era - the time just before 'the lamps went out'. The title and message of this song: "Lasset uns das Leben geniessen"; let's enjoy life.


Three records - now with a bit of context :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sightings (and a purchase)

We went to a local thrift shop yesterday. It's a fairly large store that raises funds for the shelter next-door to it, and attracts quite a lot of visitors from the area. The place is neatly organised in sections with the different halls categorised, an area full of books, another large hall filled with furniture etc.

There generally aren't a lot of typewriters in local junkshops, but here next to the general tools section was a shelf with typewriters. A good selection, but of course all fairly modern and (to me) not appealing machines. (With the possible exception of the little Brother near the back.)


At the head of the aisle a very solid looking Olivetti 82. Can imagine that was deemed a bit too heavy for the shelf. It still is a very striking styling, almost as if a regular Lexikon 80 was given the 'low-poly' treatment. You can see some 70-ies design language already emerging, I think.


Further on in a furniture section surprisingly was a lone Erika from the late thirties'. This looked a bit forlorn, missing one spool, but otherwise it seemed in fine shape. The touch was still very light and free.


A very nice Model M - so with all the luxury features of keyboard tab setting and clearing.

This trip I actually bought something. Looked at that nice Erika M, but left the machine sitting on its table in the furniture section. ("Enough typewriters!")

For 1.50 did pick up the little banjo-style oilcan lying next to the Diaspron - should come in useful :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rubber, still rubber

This is amazing.

This is a little motor tyre, in the Meccano system this is part number 142c. This particular specimen can be dated to around 1930. Made by Dunlop (in England, hence it's a tyre).


The amazing thing about this particular tyre is that it is still rubber. At a guess, let's say Shore 70. Even the 1950s tyres have all gone to stone, rock-hard. The two other part 142c that were in this job-lot had turned to unrecognisable lumps of donut-shaped tarmac. This particular tyre would have experienced the same storage conditions over the past 90 years or so as the others, yet this one is pristine.

Natural rubber is a strange material...