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.


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 ( 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...

Friday, March 16, 2018

Get ahead faster, improve your homework

To convince you it is a wise decision to purchase a typewriter, several manufacturers advertised not so much the machine itself, but rather the benefits you will experience.

Royal's effort here starts somewhat negative - this is not an appealing advertisement. Sitting down browsing a Popular Science magazine, this is not a headline that will instil much positive feelings when looking at the admittedly attractive machine.

A few months later, the headline is much more upbeat. Instead of noting a negative, it touts the possibilities. Much more likely to make you view the advertised machine and its make in a positive light.

A bit later still, with this advertisement they really manage to argue for the purchase of such an expensive machine for the family. Especially when the argument is that will help school results of offspring, there will be a willingness to spend the money.

Well, that does convince, doesn't it.

Well, maybe not. Today however similar arguments are used to advertise the modern-day equivalent products, such as the laptop or the tablet computer. Perhaps not quite as crass as in the old Royal magazine advertisements, but usually it is shown that the product can be used for homework.

As could this portable typewriter, it still can. The modern-day tools can however do so much better in many ways. How would the equivalent product of 80 years hence have improved further in helping the family 'get ahead' and to help make homework faster, I wonder...