Sunday, October 22, 2017

It is our earnest desire

...it is our earnest desire that [it] shall give the greatest satisfaction.

Those sentiments came with an online purchase that arrived last week. This is clearly a phrase that is not from a recent warranty statement. In fact it was included with a nearly a century old toy. Much worn and the box has lost its lid and some of its shape, but the instruction leaflet was still included.


The clockwork motor itself has some spots of rust on the outside, but otherwise is still in fine working order. They were right in their claim that the Meccano Clockwork motor will do excellent service for many years.

The printing code on the leaflet dates this to February 1920. A next known printing run of this leaflet is September 1921, so the motor likely dates from some time between the two dates. The text and layout of this leaflet likely date to 1916, when Meccano started making their own motors. They had been buying these from Märklin originally, but the Great War (World War I) halted that supply of course.

This clockwork motor would have been very much a luxury item in 1920, affordable only by the well-off. (As was Meccano, to be honest.) These motors were then still supplied in 'austerity' plain strawboard boxes and only by the mid twenties were the boxes upgraded to a blue fully labeled version. Today these motors are still (or again) not all that cheap, but thankfully well within reach of many now.

Also today there is the wonder of digital image editing. With a scanned image of the old leaflet, a cleaned version was created and printed to go with the motor in a newly made box.


On the other hand it turned out that today it is not so easy to find matching brown paperboard made from straw. A century ago this would have been the raw material for nearly all paperboard, but today it nearly all is grey paper-pulp board. The local crafts-store here sell a large sheet of this 2mm thick board for a very modest sum.

Some yellow watercolour ink can create a more yellow/brown colour of the board to match the original box. What proved more difficult is that the modern board is very dense in comparison to the old strawboard and near impossible to crease and bend cleanly. It will break at the edges. Nevertheless a new lid and also a new box base were made from the grey board. More of an impression than an exact replica, but it does look the part and serves its purpose of storing the motor safely. A reproduction label then added to complete the impression of the article when new.


From references on the net (no interest so niche...), this particular motor can be identified as a nickel motor of the 'Meccanoland designation' type 6. It has the letter stamping not on the reversing lever, but on the motor side-plate. These motors are known with F, J or K, this one has a 'K'. Am curious, but have no idea on the meaning of the letter (could be initial of the person that assembled it? the subcontractor that supplied it?).


Should you have one of these early Meccano Clockwork motors that inadvertently lost its paperwork some time during the last century; an image of the instruction leaflet below - measures about 200 by 255mm:


And a newly created small reproduction box lid label:


The whole point of this new box and leaflet were to add it to the newly boxed set of nickel Meccano. Now also the motorised models in the 1920 book of models can be made. Such as this Mechanical Hammer (model 147). (There's a subject you're unlikely to find in today's construction toys! - can't see a mechanical hammer appealing much today - unsure what appeal it had back then. Perhaps it was still modern and a marvel of progress...)


In a quickly assembled model, the motor does its work fine.


Very noisy. Surprisingly noisy. This model must've annoyed the rest of the family and possibly the neighbours, also in 1920 :-)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

About succulents and Royal

Recently picked up an album - a so-called 'Verkade album'. Between '03 and '40 the cake-manufacturer Verkade published these illustrated albums, with the illustrations enclosed with the company's product. (Collect them all...)


This is a 1932 album; 'Vetplanten' ('Succulents'). The undoubtedly knowledgeable Mr van Laren gives much and varied information on the care of succulent plants and the various species thereof.


Notable on the title-page of the album is the mention that it was printed and bound by Blikman and Sartorius, Amsterdam.


In the field of typewriters in The Netherlands that is a familiar name; they were the importers/distributors for Royal typewriters. They are notable for having pasted their company name on each and every typewriter they supplied. So much so that often on the local online-ads site there is listed a 'Blikman & Sartorius' typewriter for sale, model 'Royal'. (They were however by no means the only importer to do so. James Plant prominently labeled every Underwood that passed his warehouse and Ruys tagged all Olivetti machines with their own brand. Blikman & Sartorius were the most consistent and 'visible' in doing this, though.)


As example of their eagerness to place their name, they went to the trouble of taking this Royal De Luxe portable machine out of the case and rub off the 'touch-control' label. They then put their company name prominently on the centre front of the machine.

It was perhaps a company policy; everything that leaves the door gets labeled :)






Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Well preserved motor - kept in its box

It must have been always kept in its box, a fine Meccano number 2 clockwork motor. This was for the Dutch market, a 'Veermotor No.2'.


Where the label has worn away on the box lid, it could be seen that the Dutch label is a paper pasted over an English printed box. The motor inside is in a surprisingly good condition. With the paint good still and really no rust, this motor is altogether too nice to play and build with today.


Even the spring is clean and free from corrosion - like new.


The included instruction sheet is multilingual and also a bit strange. The Meccano company made the effort to print and paste a Dutch label on the box and then included instructions in English, German, French and Spanish. No instructions in Dutch.


Another strange thing is that the Dutch warranty slip is pasted over the remnants of a torn-out slip. From the remaining printing codes, both seem from the same era (printer code suggests 1931). An original 'U' (United Kingdom?) slip was replaced with an 'H' slip (Holland, likely). Seems very sloppy for such an expensive item. Perhaps needed to quickly fill an unexpected export order, but still.


Had bought this item to get a dark red motor to go with the period set for building. On the pictures of the listing it looked decent enough and was stated to be in working condition. When I got it, it turned out to be that this particular motor is too well preserved to mar with screws. It'll mostly continue being kept in its box. A very nice time capsule nevertheless :)

Below a larger resolution image of the instruction sheet, should you have one of these and be curious on its use :-)




Sunday, July 30, 2017

Junk Shop machine spotting

Found another new thrift store in town, well perhaps more a junk shop. This one has a very wide variety of items from fairly credible old furniture to broken electronics and assorted 'junk'.

Also several typewriters.

First spotted is this remnant of a typewriter. Somehow somebody removed and then lost the body-panels. (Why?)


Even the back panel is gone! (Having gone that far. why stop and not take off the carriage cowling.) Makes the typewriter a bit harder to identify...


Next up was a (to me) uninspiring modern machine, a Royal Apollo 10 that will originally have landed in Germany with its QWERTZ keyboard.


On the shelf above it sat an adding machine. Jammed solid with unfortunately a cracked housing. (Not a typewriter, but we'll class it as related machinery.)


The next and last machine was a solid looking Remington standard looking somewhat unhappy. This is probably the maximum number of typebars that can be jammed in a machine. Unsure what caused the damage to the paint and wordmark on the top cover; it almost looks as if it's been too hot. Was it baked? Blowtorch? (That would explain the tabulator-bar being all bent.)


Not sure how wel that white label will come off (but not much lacquer left anyways), it advertises that the asking price is a full 15 Euro for the machine.

No prizes for guessing what machine was purchased - no typewriters were acquired that day. (Nor any adding machines, for that matter ;-)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Night Alarm machine spotting

Old movies are a place to see vintage mechanical writing machines in use - in their time. This is especially so when the story revolves around a newspaper - and many films do.

The 1934 crime drama 'Night Alarm' is all about the intrepid newspaper reporter uncovering the 'fire-bug' (and getting the girl). Overall it is a bit dated. The acting is quite decent, but there are some unexpected jumps and shortcuts in the story as well as an eyebrow-raising musical number halfway. It does have some lively action scenes with firetrucks and cars screeching round the corner. (Regarding the odd jumps in storyline; this surviving copy may well have been heavily cut down for broadcasting on television. It could well be that a half-hour's worth of acting was cut out. For many films, the television edit is the only copy that remains.)

To properly set the newspaper scene at the beginning of the film, it shows the typesetting room with several linotype (I think) machines.


And in more detail.


From there on, the action moves to the newsroom to introduce the players.


An array of desks with standards.

Although a bit dated, the film still is quite watchable and is readily available even; 'Night Alarm' can be seen or downloaded over at The Internet Archive.



Machine spotting!

Monday, July 24, 2017

No interest so niche... (a screwdriver)

It's been said before; these are amazing times. With the global flea-market and antique-shop that is the internet, it was possible to find and purchase for a very reasonable sum the correct pattern screwdriver for the re-boxed nickel-set.

To be fair, for a mid-twenties set it would more likely be the longer, closed nickel item. This type is more common in 1915 sets than '25 sets. But this is the exact pattern as shown in the parts-list in the 1920 booklet.


It is again confirmed. There is not a niche-interest so tiny that it is not served somewhere on the internet.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Typewriter Desk-Case

Browsing an old Popular Science magazine, spotted this typewriter desk-case.


The typewriter case that folds open to form a proper table was patented, published as US patent 1,661,015 filed in 1926 and published in February 1928.

The case folded open as a table.


And closed for keeping the typewriter in it (and all the legs as well...).


Somehow it didn't catch on. Wonder if the design actually made it beyond one prototype. Compared to the later travel tripod cases from e.g. Underwood, the design perhaps has drawbacks:
- Even though it's a complete desk, the typewriter needs to be taken out of the case completely and then placed loose on the table-top (the outside of the case).
-The case cannot be used in the normal portable manner, cannot just open the lid to have the machine available for use.
- The complete desk and folding wooden legs likely are somewhat heavier and bulkier than a metal tripod in a regular case.
- The narrow wooden 4-legged table needs a decent surface to stand on, a three-legged stand is likely more forgiving and stable for typing use. An adjustable leg's a hassle (and cost).
Nevertheless; an ingenious case it is.

This type of folding case seems to have been 'in the air', looking at this folding lunch table/box from the same year...


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cardboard box for keeping the nickel bits

A while back I got a small collection of early nickel Meccano pieces. Despite their dating to probably around 1920 they were in great condition. In the meantime some extra period-parts were found to make it almost a set that can be built with.


To keep the collected nickel-era parts a bit better and add to the overall experience, decided to create a fitting storage box.

The smaller sets of that time were sold in cardboard boxes - the gallery of pictures available at the New Zealand Meccano Club site and on the net in general give a good idea of the type of case. It was made of cardboard, sometimes with wooden parts for strength, and covered in black paper or leathercloth. (The largest sets were available in sturdy oak cabinets.)

Today in the internet-age the delivery of online purchases yields a continuous supply of sturdy cardboard - saving a few of these boxes gave a good set of strong and flat sheets to construct a box with. Making up a dimension and arrangement of compartments to fit the parts and not following a very specific prototype, a new box was taped and glued together (paper-tape and PVA glue). Most of the original boxes had lift-off lids, for this case however a hinged lid was chosen. Using a cotton ribbon backing to form the hinge. The inner and outer surfaces were covered with a light-green and black covering paper.

The most important finishing touch then is applying the labels.


Again the galleries in New Zealand provided several high-resolution scans of various labels. This provided enough source material to assemble and mock-up a lid top label. The box lid label is a reasonable representation of a label as used in the early 1920-ies, the outfit number would have been in the roundel at the lower right corner.


The lift-out tray has small lifting tabs of cotton ribbon. The tray layout is inspired by the layout of the inventor's outfits of the day. A regular outfit would not have had the large 3" spoked wheels. Even though some models in the 1920 manual use them, they had to be bought separately as spare parts. One could also buy a special accessory inventor's set - these would contain a set of large wheels as well as the newly introduced braced girders.

The image on the inside of the lid seems a bit quaint, even for 1920-ish. Meccano started using this image around 1913 and kept using it well into the twenties. Another aspect that remained constant for a long time is the unattainable models on the box lid.  From these very early box labels right through to the 1960-ies, they showed large structures that could never be built with the contents of the box. Something to aspire to, I suppose.


Building the occasional smaller model with the vintage nickel 'set' is now very much possible and a pleasure. Only a very few parts extra needed still to make up the content of a period Outfit 1, and already it has a wide range of special extra parts such as the windmill sails. Reproduction small parts boxes hold the brackets and a set of new brass nuts and bolts. Overall it now is a bit of a time-warp experience.

Stored this way the nickel set is great for playing with again, also by the youngest - there is no paint that will be wearing off or any fragile vintage packaging to worry about. Building a model from the manual is not what is wanted however; freelance planes, cranes and automobiles are more the thing. (Aeroplane with some parental assistance - fuel cart his own construction, borrowing the boiler from a '29 set.)


Should anybody have some stray nickel bits and want to replicate (or just have a good look at the graphic design of these vintage toy labels), the images in higher resolution below:


Friday, June 30, 2017

Remington Portable lifting tray fitting (and a stop)

Now that the ribbon mechanism is back in place on the 'lost cause' machine, the lifting tray is the only thing still missing from the typing mechanism. The Remington Portable typewriter has a lifting mechanism, pushing back a knob on the right-side of the machine lifts the typebars to the typing position (as is very well documented on the net).

Hadn't yet mounted the sideplates to the segment that hold the crescent-rods or fulcrum-wires in place. These also have the mounting eyelet to pivot the protective hooks about. When mounting these plates, you'll want to play with the shifting of the carriage to get access for the screw. (Or mount this before assembling the ribbon shaft, of course...)


Some rubber-band is helpful in keeping the typebars out of the way during the procedure. Not clearly shown in the below image, but on the right can be seen one of the flimsy looking push-bars that do the lifting of the tray and in the lower-right the hex-nut of the uppercase-right shift adjustment.


Another preparing step on this machine was to fit one of these shift-stops.

A Remington Portable has four adjustable stops for the carriage shift, this machine was missing one of these stop-assemblies completely. These stops are mounted on the inner sides of the machine frame. The trapezium-shaped 'vane' is part of the carriage-shift link and travels between these two stops.


The stop assemblies consist of the stop-block itself, two mounting screws, eccentric adjustment-nut and a spring-washer. Luckily the spare-parts box contained a full extra set of these parts. (Just not in nickel-plate - this 'lost cause' machine must have been a sight when new - everything was bright shiny metal!)


There are thus two screws for each stop accessible from the outside to adjust the shift, that is what the cut-outs in the side of the outer frame/housing are for. This way the machine can be adjusted with only removing the top panel to get access to the eccentric hex nut.


Back to fitting the lifting tray; with the typebars out of the way the lifting tray can be lowered into its guides (B) and then fixed to the lifting bars (at A). Opening the bracket at the end of the lifting bars can be a bit fiddly. In this case with a badly mangled typewriter it also needed some forming to make it all meet up again.


 The 'hook' part that protects the typebars is then fixed to the tray and the segment endplates (C).


Unleashing the typebars again, these rest against the felt rim of the lifting tray and can be raised and lowered by the knob at the side of the machine. In the lowered position all the typebars rest flat on the lifting tray.


Except the '6' key.  (Drat.)

The linkages of the '6' key had been rather bent and the connecting rivets broken. The repaired linkage is apparently almost right, but takes a little too much space and won't go as far down as the others. Will be seen how to deal with this, it may be resolved raising the lower position of the tray a little. Something to have a look at with the machine more completely assembled. Not yet declaring it a 'lost cause' completely :-)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The princess and the lamp

A while back I picked up an old magazine at a thrift shop for a few cents. Tucked in a stack of old paper was this special edition of the illustrated weekly paper 'Het Leven' (Life). This is a special January 1938 issue to commemorate and celebrate the birth of a princess!


With a suitable band of orange on the cover. Inside it is filled with related pictures; the nurses, the vicar, the bottles. However not a single picture of the baby or even her name (that came later).


The issue proudly ends with the magazine's best picture of the royal couple. On the inside of the back cover a full-page advertisement urging the reader to enlist in the KNIL (colonial army).


The back cover is selling subscriptions to the magazine. On this special occasion of the birth of a princess, when you take out a subscription you will get a modern, deluxe lamp! The connection of the occasion to a lamp escapes me, it may have been apparent to contemporaries - but rather doubt it.


To add another dubious linking with the happy occasion, you will also recieve free an American detective novel; "The Criminal Doppelgänger". Somebody filled out their address on the return card in pencil, but then probably thought better of it and did not send it in.  Alas - no lamp :-)

From another era. But that lamp was strange then too, I'll wager.