Friday, March 6, 2020

Newly discovered Melotyp (from the shed)

In the March 4th program of the 'Tussen Kunst & Kitsch' television programme (similar to the BBC's Antiques Roadshow), a Melotyp machine was shown.

This is the music-typewriter also known as the Nototyp or the Rundstadtler machine. Seen earlier in an old magazine article (here posted about some years back) and it was the subject of a very informative post at the excellent Australian Typewriter Museum blog.

This particular specimen was brought to the show by the owners who'd found it in their dad's shed. Failing to sell it at a jumble-sale (thinking 10 Euro was just a bit too little, holding out for at least twenty...), they did a bit of online searching and then decided to take it to the show.

The fragment on the typewriter starts at ~15m into the show. The machine is shown and some background to it is given by the expert.


The decals on the top-plate are in great condition.


Same for the keyboard, in great condition for its age.


And the machine still types music too:


What looks like a rubber-band attached to the carriage (first screengrab image) in the show suggests that the carriage spring of the machine is broken or otherwise out of order. Given that it is essentially an Adler with modified type, it should not be too hard to fix or replace the carriage spring.

Unlike regular Adler's, this Melotype is very rare indeed. This newly found machine probably increases the total number known by ~10%. (And nearly sold for a tenner - who knows; for home-decoration or steampunk project?)

There are it seems still rare machines out there in sheds and attics. And for the Melotyp - maybe the company did manage a first production batch of machines beyond the first prototypes as suggested from the advertisement - otherwise another of the five remaining in Europe has now been located.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

New useful part - boiler - and a steam winch

The twenties and thirties were the most active period of development for the Meccano system with many new parts being added. Such new parts would be announced in the Meccano Magazine, usually with a fairly small notice introducing the new part with a small image and a suggestion for its use.

In this January 1928 issue, a larger notice is placed for an important innovation; the new boiler, part 162.


The image shows what is perhaps a prototype with a square-cornered cut-out to represent the firebox-door. The production items have rounded corners. In some ways it is an odd part to be added, having limited use. (A common reason for rejecting reader-suggestions for new parts is that it would have few uses.) It is mainly an ornamental part - very handy for creating steam engines of course, but otherwise limited in its use.

A new part would then also be worked into new models in the instruction books. The boiler 162 was added to Outfits 3 and up - and e.g. used here in an Outfit 4 model for a steam winch (4.25) in the October '28 printing of the manual.


There are some similarities between this model and the January example of the vertical engine. It may be they were all created in one session in the model room on the occasion of the introduction of the new parts. On the other hand, there are not too many ways to create a cylinder and motion with the new parts. In any case, the models do capture the essence of their subjects quite well.

The steam winch (or 'donkey engine') is a nice little model - here in vintage, period parts.


(With the exception of the 'smoke', that's new and not an original part.)

Very much unlike today's construction toys, these Meccano mechanisms need to be fine-tuned and adjusted to make them work. As such, it is a good representation of a steam engine - also needing a bit of alignment and oiling to make it all operate smoothly.


As nearly always, some small modifications from the instructions is needed to make it work. E.g. some shimming of the cylinder sleeve to give clearance for the cylinder-ends to fit.


Strangely, the cylinder-line is set below the the crankshaft. This does not help smooth running and is not 'sound engineering'. Perhaps this was meant as something left for the builder to improve on.

The rapid evolution of the Meccano system at that time also threw up another issue. Another little detail that changed, was the bearing of the electric motor getting larger around 1929 (room for a grease-cup). The model can't be built with the new motor, the gears will only fit with the earlier type with a short journal bearing of the drive-shaft. The model built here with a short-bearing 4 Volt motor, this specimen likely from ~1928.  (Next to it a later 6 Volt motor with grease-cup, this one dating from ~1930 or so.)


Overall a fairly simple and pleasant model to build - including some mechanical 'tinkering'. The 'important' boiler here is however purely an ornamental part. For a system that was sold as 'real engineering in miniature', perhaps not all that important an addition.

Still nice :)



Saturday, February 8, 2020

Another Safari, back case spotted!

A casual browsing of the local thrift-stores over the past week turned up a few typewriters this time. Often there aren't any typewriters, but this time a first two were set out on a table. Modern, beige machines with a plasticky look.


An Erika and a Triumph. Both probably still there on the table. (Though there's a trader near here that seems to positively hoard these machines to then put them on the classifieds-site at prices that I think are perhaps 'optimistic'. Anyhow, these machines may well turn up online shortly as well.)

A next shop had a single black leatherette case on a table! First vintage machine in ages.


Viewed from a distance - that looked like a pre-war Remington Portable typewriter case.


And indeed it was - containing a Remington Junior from the mid-thirties in 'attic-condition'. Case was dusty, but quite solid still. The typewriter itself a light dusting and rusting all-over.

Made in the U.S.A, exported with a Dutch/International keyboard and now after 80-odd years sitting in a second-hand store.


A budget-machine, basically a Remington Portable #3 with various extra conveniences left off. Not sure how much Remington left off, it may also be that this machine's had parts removed over its past ~85 years. For example; the carriage does have the mountings, but no line-spacing selector poppet.


Also visible in the picture is the rust on all the nickelled parts. A damp attic, then.

Despite the very reasonable asking price (fifteen), left it there as a project for somebody else. Very neat machines though, these Remington Portables  :)

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!