Saturday, November 17, 2018

Toy-store with 97 year old new item on the shelf

Unlikely the store know, nor that the brand-owners would like to know it, but it just struck me that the shop had a near-century old new item on the shelf.

The gifting season is nearly upon us with December 5th approaching rapidly, so toy-stores are well-stocked. When browsing the shelves this morning (incidentally for a birthday gift, not on behalf of the holyman), was struck by this box illustration on the shelf.

Very prominently on the front of the vehicle is a triangular plate. Now that is a very recognisable classic Meccano part; the 'flat trunnion' part 126a.

The part 126a was introduced in the September 1921 issue of the Meccano Magazine (top-right of page 3), following on the part 126 'trunnion' introduced in the May issue of the same year.

The naming is a bit odd, as it is most certainly not a trunnion. The part started out as a trunnion-support, but somebody at Meccano got confused apparently and they named the support 'trunnion'.

The 2018 issue 'buggy' does look modern and of course has plastic shaped-parts as well. Nevertheless it is still very much Meccano and still compatible with century-old parts - it even contains a near-century old part. (There's also a strip part number 3 in there I think - that design is actually more than a century old.)

Today's Meccano is a brand owned by a Canadian company with its design-offices for Meccano in California. From what I gather, they are trying hard to be a modern technical toy including robotics and electronics and would not like to emphasise their heritage. With the amount of look-alikes and low-cost 'knock-offs' also on the shelves, I can imagine that it is not an easy task to catch the attention of children (and parents) today. And that's not even mentioning the ubiquitous Danish product with its technical bits.

Nevertheless, they still do have parts on the shelf - have done for a century. Good show, that.

Friday, November 16, 2018


Continuing to accessorise the pre-war typewriter - a stapler. Just purchased a booklet-stapler.

This Trioh branded stapler is almost like-new. Very rigid design, all metal (save the cork base under the metal baseplate). Will staple booklets with its angled arm. Very simple spring to feed the staples.

From a brief scan of the net; these should be fairly common. This model was made by the Hamburg firm of Wolf & Sager probably from the early 30-ies. There are an astounding amount of small variations, judging by a quick image-search on the net. Different staple-feed spring designs, a multitude of baseplate variants - but all follow the same basic arrangement. Built to last.

This specimen seems the most simplified of the design, and does not have a DRM/DRGM marking, making it probably a late (post-war) manufactured model.

The stapler came with an additional cardboard box.

And indeed - should keep us in staples for decades to come.

With thousands more red-stripe staples - these have weak spot at the painted section, allowing you to cleanly 'un-staple' the paper by breaking it in half. Red-stripe staples are still being manufactured and available. These boxes are 'patents pending' (though not telling what application numbers actually are pending), suggesting they might be the same age as the stapler.

The black lacquer and chrome makes this a good match for the pre-war portables :)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Yet more plastic...

Took time for a quick de-tour on the commute to browse a large thrift store. On one shelf, spotted a black case that looked like it could contain a typewriter.

The case is made of hard plastic. Looking closer anyways to read the label - yes that's a typewriter.

Lifting up the lid to peek inside; yes it is indeed a typewriter. It is electric, plastic and all beige. A Smith-Corona C400 electric typewriter.

It's still plastic machines season here...

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Typewriter spotting, typeface spotting too

Last week watched a simple film, an unremarkable and somewhat dated "Seven Keys To Baldpate". The version watched was released in 1947 and produced on a limited budget with unremarkable acting. The story I think rather shows its age, feeling more like a 1920s crime novel than a late forties 'noir' film. (As was remarked by a critic at the time...)

This 'aged' impression would not be far off - the story was written by Earl Derr Biggers and first published in 1913. That name would be recognisable to the public back then as the creator of Charlie Chan - a successful series of detective novels and several films featuring the Chinese detective created by Mr Biggers. This name might help draw in the curious to watch the film (- it did last week).

Coming back to Baldpate - the main character is a writer that is continually pulled away from his very nice Royal portable typewriter by the many goings-on. (An Aristocrat? Or an Arrow?)

The typewriter even gets featured in-action and close-up (when Kenneth actually gets the time to sit down at his machine). Quite a distinctive typeface, very unlike the more usual pica. (Royal 'Book'?)

A small 'typographical bonus' when watching this film, even though it's a bit dated with a convoluted story - it does still entertain.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Entering the plastic period

Several typewriters were spotted in a quick scout of a local thrift store. The first machine was this little Olivetti Lettera 12.

Even with an asking price of 5 Euro, this did not appeal. The machine housing does make it look sleek and styled for its period - it is however all plastic. As this is (probably) a seventies' machine, the carrying case is also all plastic. Carrying case is not quite right of course, as it is only a cover that simply snaps over the typewriter.

(The Olivetti was sitting on top of an equally seventies' (or eighties') Erika machine in a zip-case. No pictures...)

Moving right along - we saw another peek of plastic as we lifted the lid of a typewriterish-looking case.

A nicely molded housing of an Adler typewriter with quite tall plastic keytops. Perhaps because it is bigger, or because it had a proper carrying case, but this one is three times as expensive as the Olivetti.

The supply of pre-war all-metal machines seems to have dried up for now - we've arrived in a plastic era here :-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Decorative cover art

Decorative - perhaps not quite classic art-deco, yet definitely decorative art.

This is the cover of a small booklet about succulants. I.e. a practical guide to keeping these plants. Part of a larger series of practical guides on a wide array of subjects - 'knowledge and ability'. No date in the book anywhere, but the spelling places it in the early 1930-ies (Dutch spelling evolves rather).

This is a textbook, an introduction into physics aimed at 11 year olds. Titled 'thinking, finding and appying'. The styling definitely evokes the late 1920-ies, yet this revised 15th printing actually dates from 1953.

Just decorative.

(Well, actually also informative; everything in these books still true and valid.)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Little blue Magic Motor (and Outfit B)

A little bargain bought online last week. Postage actually came in at triple the purchase price, but still not too bad.

This is a little Meccano 'Magic Motor' in the pre-war blue colour. The printing code on the box dates this to 1938, correct for the blue motor with a mazac (zinc) pulley and this type 'A' of winding key.

Somebody has written '2/-' on the box in pencil. That will have been the price - so probably this was written on it in the shop already. This advert in the March 1938 issue of the Meccano Magazine confirmed that 2 shilling was indeed the price in '38. Not pennies, but not too expensive either and the cheapest motor on offer.

This is too good still to be repainted and works fine, it will go with the re-created 'blue & gold' outfit. This set of re-painted vintage parts has slowly grown. Over the past year the parts from lots that were too far gone and rusty were cleaned and repainted in the blue and gold scheme. To keep it all together and make it easy to use and store, a new box was created from paperboard sheets.

This box and the set of parts were based on the 1934 Outfit B. With 3D-printed pegs and clamps in a 'stringing-card', the parts are laid out the same way - it does have a certain 'presence' when opening the box.

For comparison, below is an image of the Outfit B from the '34 catalogue (this and more images in the NZMeccano gallery).

Something different with the newly created box, is that it's constructed as a two-layer box with a lift-out tray. This makes it practical to store any additional parts as they are periodically added to the blue and gold collection of parts. Quite a lot of parts have been added beyond the B...

There are actually two parts in the above image with their original finish still - the bright semi-circular plate and a square plate. They are right next to each other, upper-right of the bottom layer. The blue colour varied quite a bit.

The instruction book contained a page with a selection of models from the previous pages, modified to be powered with the little clockwork motor. Now with a matching blue Magic Motor in the set, some of the little colourful models will be set in motion too.  Fun little puzzles to make!

Friday, September 14, 2018

D&P Kubus Rechenstab

A while back, I managed to snag the little instruction booklet that goes with an erly 20th century Dennert & Pape sliderule. In addition to the explanations on the use of the 'Normal' sliderule, it also contained a chapter on the 'Kubus' sliderule.

Guess what turned up.

Somewhat worn and damaged, this sliderule came in a small lot. It has a replacement cursor or runner, but otherwise it is period. The original would have had a narrower aluminium framed single-line cursor. This three-line cursor looks like a late thirties to early forties item, but of course fits this rule fine.

The early Dennert & Pape sliderules have a year code in the well; this specimen was manufactured in 1920.

Very plain, simple sliderule with only added the E and F scales (according to the invention of Max Rietz). The well is plain with only the German patent number for the metal tensioning plate design.

The metal tensioning plate was rather rusty, now cleaned up. The label with conversion tables is quite unreadable. From what remains, it contains the conversion factors for many measurement units that are long obsolete - such as the Prussian 'Ruthe'.

The scales were cleaned up first with a rubber eraser and then a light steel-wool polishing. The three tensioning screws all needed loosening, as the rule was keeping the tongue in a very tight grip (not letting go!). A small snippet of lacquered cream-coloured paper fills in a missing corner of the right-end of the D scale - still visible as off-colour, but less jarring than dark wood.

Now with an actual 'Kubus Rechenstab', I can continue with section II of the little manual! :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wrong period

Spotted today - a typewriter for the right price, but of the wrong period for my collection. (And am out of storage space in any case :-)

For a very reasonable 10 euro, a quite modern looking Olivetti Lettera DL. Even though it is a late 1960ies design that was made into the seventies, to me the styling looks ahead of its time. Would not look out of place in an eighties' setting. (The design was commented on some years ago on The Filthy platen. Having seen it, it really is a striking design.)
As is often the case, the machine seems to work just fine with a remarkably friction-free touch. Not so sure about that plastic ribbon, but that's about all.

It'll have to go, the thrift shop is closing down. Somebody will for sure get this, and then be getting a fine writing machine :)

Friday, September 7, 2018

A beautiful database

One of those things that were once common and have quietly disappeared - the card index to the library.

Not only does this index survive, it really is the most beautiful database I've seen. For data protection not a firewall or virus-scanner - but a fire-extinguisher and climate control.

(It's the index of the Carnegie library in Reims, finished in '27.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Typewriter hiccup (1928)

With old typewriters, the escapement may sometimes skip a space - the age of the mechanism I've always thought. Hence with some surprise I noticed what I think is a machine 'skip', in a proper document too. (Top line.)

This would surely have been typed out by the secretarial staff of the mayor's office, in any case by a professional typist. It may not have been noticed at the time, or too minor/late to justify a re-type. It is in the first line, so maybe the typist was still getting into the 'rhythm' of the machine - or it was an old machine. There are no obvious typo's in the actual text, but the year '1917' is remarkable for using the capital 'I' instead of the lower case 'l'.

This page was typed in 1928. The document from city archives is the transcript of the speech of the deputy mayor at the dinner held for the festive opening of the rebuilt town hall of Reims.

Seeing evidence of contemporary typewriter 'hiccups' makes it a bit more 'normal' when an 80 year old machine will occasionally skip a space today - it's just part of how the machine works :-)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Low end (Continental) safari

Having just read of the rich seam of typewriters that may be spotted on a San Fransisco area safari, I'm prompted to share at least one machine that I keep encountering in my occasional visits to the local thrifts.

This machine is priced at a very reasonable EUR 7.50 and has been for months.

It's been sitting on this shelf, next to a fifties' Remington standard with damaged paintwork. The typewriter does still function, carriage moves and it seems to type fine. The ribbon looks a very recent replacement. The case looks worn and is probably moldy. There is absolutely no visible marking or decals on the machine - the paper table is the one part that is missing from the typewriter.

So a puzzle.

It took a little bit of digging around the internet and especially looking at images in The Database to identify this as almost certainly a Continental 'Klein-Conti' or Wanderer 340. This is a fairly common machine here and is even more common in Germany. The color of the paintjob is unusual, to me suggestive of it being a post-war specimen. (Did not find the serial number.)

Even though the price could be fine merely for a new ribbon, did not get the machine. Apart from it being incomplete and 'too modern' for my liking, there is a fairly strict stop here on new typewriters. So no new project typewriters. :-)

Friday, August 3, 2018

D&P sliderule - 111 and calculating

Occasionally picking up a nice sliderule (that is not priced through the roof), recently acquired this compact Mannheim sliderule. In the images it looked a clean and complete early 20th century sliderule.  It came complete with the original cardboard sleeve, all were indeed still in very decent condition.

The markings in the well of the sliderule confirm it is a Dennert & Pape manufactured sliderule. With the original cursor, aluminium framed.

The year-number on early D&P rules was marked in the well at the left-most end - this particular rule marked '07' was manufactured in 1907. That makes it 111 year old today in 2018.

The rule was well looked after and stored in reasonable conditions over that century, it is still fairly straight and the alignment of the scales is still great. Even though the sliderule has been obsolete for decades, this specimen is still fully usable. (And provided it's stored well, likely to last centuries more.)

What didn't last so great, was the label on the bottom of the rule with concise instructions on its use. The metal spring-plate that D&P included to provide the tension on the rule has corroded. Even though the rust has not impaired the functioning of the spring much, the label definitely shows its age and is partially gone/illegible.

The English label does show that this rule was likely manufactured for export to Britain originally.

Again on the A and B scales there is an extra marking around 1143 or so. This marking was also on another 1908 Dennert & Pape rule and also on this 1910 specimen shown at the online Sliderulemuseum. Was this done for the British market only?

Still puzzled by the meaning of this extra marking.

Several weeks after getting this antique, the instruction booklet for these rules popped up on a German online-auction-site. So purchased the instructions for what is probably an excessive price for a thin, worn piece of old paper - but at EUR 10,- an entirely affordable excess!

The booklet contains no date or printer codes, but it probably dates from around 1910. It references the 'cubic' sliderule, treating it as a special. This 'cubic' rule section reads as being for the 'Rietz' scale arrangement, patented by Max Rietz in 1902. The overall 'look and feel' places the booklet unlikely to be later than 1920. By then also the 'Rietz' sliderule was overtaking the 'Mannheim' rule as the standard scale arrangement on continental/German sliderules.

So the gaps in the instruction label on the bottom of the sliderule have been filled in with the full instruction booklet that originally would have been with the sliderule (German market, at least). Disappointingly however, no mention of any special marking on the A and B scale - so that still is a mystery.

For the curious and/or owners of a D&P early 20th century sliderule, the 'short manual' on the use of the normal and the 'cubic' sliderule is now available on the Archive.

Still curious for that 1143-ish marking. (What am I overlooking?)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Talkie art deco (use each needle only once)

When playing records on a 78 rpm wind-up gramophone, every side needs to be played with a new needle - so these needles were widely sold. Mostly in small tins of 200 needles. This is just such a tin. Très art deco.

The design and labelling 'Columbia Talkie Needles' is partly obscured by the paper wrap-around seal. As is the message to 'use each needle once only'.

The paper seal repeats at the bottom of the tin that it contains 200 needles.

When breaking the seal and opening the tin, the paper inlay again cautions against using a needle more than once.

When lifting up the paper, the reverse again repeats the message to use each needle once only!

And inside are still about 200 pristine gold-toned needles; to be used once ONLY.

(Having survived to this day, these needles may not be used for a while, or ever - not even once only.  :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Carrying handle quick repair (when riveted to case)

The handles of the carrying case of older portable typewriters are often riveted to the wooden case and not screwed. Usually the 'splayed' type of rivet is used that is hard to remove without seriously damaging the case. This can make it a bit of a challenge to repair the carrying handle when that succumbs to old age and fatigue. On some old cases you see rope wound round the metal rings, or the handle is just missing.

On this case of an Adler portable typewriter, one end of the handle had given way and the other end didn't look too healthy either. Did not want to completely fit a new handle - aiming to keep the machine as close to original (albeit worn) state as possible.

Simply gluing seemed unlikely to be strong enough. With a strip of metal sheet however, tin can or similar, the leather handle-ends can be 'fixed'. (Tin snips...)

The space between the top two and the lower two layers of leather are cut open in case of any stitching in the way. Then a thin metal strip is fed between these layers, with the handle mounted in position over the rings/lugs of the case. The strip is inserted about an inch into the handle and as wide as the space between the side stitching allows. The edges of the strip can be sharp, best use needle-nose pliers to drive it into position.

The broken leather end is glued in place again. The handle now probably still won't be able to take the weight of the machine. To fix it in place, a nail is driven through the handle on a still-strong section of leather and through the metal strip. A strong, thick nail or an awl to drive the hole - then a thinner nail is inserted. This nail is then bent round like a staple (pliers). The pointy-bit of the nail should be tucked safely away...

With the glue all set and the nail in place, the carrying handle is now again firmly fixed to the case. It does show as a repair, but not too bad for a quick fix.

When handled with care, this fix should be strong enough to carry the machine for a couple of decades to come.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Type-in at an art festival...

See article about the 'editing room' tent at the Oerol Festival.

The article is in Frisian, that Google Translate actually does support (sort of). The English translated text is a bit surreal - dadaist prose generator...

But there are pictures at the bottom of the page that explain; machines at a festival for anyone to come and type up a simple story and pin it to the wall. Just type :)

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.