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! 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Olivetti MP1

The machine as received, before any cleaning. An Olivetti MP1 Ico portable typewriter in glossy black.


This really is exceptionally clean. As if it was cleaned and refurbished only yesterday, e.g. as if from a typewriter collector's collection. The dust and dirt in the machine however is witness that it was not used for some decades. It must have been stored in a warm and dry environment; 'one careful previous owner'. Or in this case two careful owners, as I was told by the seller.


The case lid still holds the brushes that I think are original. Almost expecting the envelope with the user manual to be in that third clip, it is however exceptionally rare to find that still in-situ.


The right-back hinge still has the rubber grommet, though that is about to split in two and give way. A slight bend in the hinge-bracket suggests the machine did get a knock at some time in its life. A small damage to the corner of the wooden base seems to confirm this.


Some dirt on the front-feed rollers, correction-tape flakes perhaps. The front feed rollers have quite a flat to them, from having been pressed against the platen for decades.


The draw-band is thick, braided cord, unlike the waxed string of other machines. Unsure if this is original or the result of an older repair - judging from the overall state of the typewriter it's probably original.


Titling up the machine on its back-hinges, the whole mechanism is beautifully rust-free. Also here some dust and accrued dirt that is consistent with sitting idle for years - or decades.


The serial number 26524, giving the date of production as probably late 1935.


Overall a very clean example of a very stylish typewriter. By the look of it, this should require only some light cleaning and perhaps a few minor repairs such as re-fitting hinge grommets.


First text - a dry ribbon and a bit sluggish still, but the machine types - beautifully!

Friday, November 15, 2019

New arrival (first in years...)

Just picked up.


After several years of not acquiring any new typewriters (and even giving an Erika M a miss a year ago), again a new machine. This should be a machine that's worth finding another space for - also splurged rather on this one.


Upcoming weekend of unpacking and slow, gentle cleaning - discovering a new (old) typewriter model. More (and pictures) to follow!

Monday, November 11, 2019

How does a Yankee jam?

Had been browsing the online auction sites, something that can lead to an impulse buy. Perhaps this is also a subject that's in-line with the typosphere; vintage tools - another analogue, chip-less technology domain. So to add to the tool-chest I got delivered a very clean looking Yankee No 30A screwdriver.


These are of course very common, though not quite as common here as they are in North America. This specimen was manufactured by North Bros. in Philadelphia, made in the United States of America.

The subject of old tools is again a niche where the internet provides quite a lot of information - e.g. that Stanley purchased the North Bros. company in '46, so this screwdriver would pre-date that. It notes the '23 patent date for the improved ferrule and handle-mounting, so it's post '24.

An odd thing is that it is not nickel plated all over (or chrome plated, as it would be post '31). It's however mentioned online that during the war years, nickelling was abandoned to conserve materials and the parts were blackened or brushed brass. The steel (not brass) main tube was indeed originally blackened, traces remain, so that this particular screwdriver probably dates from '42 to '45 or so.

Another thing is that it's in very good condition, almost none of the usual dings and scratches. As if it was never used much, kept in a box or chest all the time. The wooden handle looks too good to be original in fact, as if it was re-finished at some time - most (all?) Yankee handles of the era are red. Then again, looking around the aforementioned auction site a bit, some handles seem to have been stained and lacquered like this.

When unlocking and testing the screwdriver, it worked beautifully and then suddenly would jam solid. Only after some 'knocking' would it come unstuck. Being curious what could be the cause and wanting a tool to be functional, took a look inside.

The brass sleeve can be slid off the ratchet mechanism, as is explained elsewhere on the net. Small screw removed, sleeve rotated to let the notch slide under the small 'bonnet' and it's off.


Playing with the mechanism exposed, no clues as to how or why it would jam. It still jammed, but certainly not on the ratchet gears. (Strange spiral marks on those ratchet collars by the way, can't imagine what wear-mechanism'd cause that. Could this be a tool-return scar during manufacture?)

Looking further, took a look at the one other possible point it could jam; the washer on the end of the spiral-shaft that keeps it in. So removing the end-screw (this is the No 30, the springless version, otherwise take care to extend it first...) the handle can be pulled off. This incidentally also makes clear that the tube indeed was originally blackened.


That holding washer is actually more of a malleable c-clip, that fits on a recessed bit of the shaft. It can be seen and accessed through the opening in the side of the tube. This clip should be tight, but here it was rattling quite loose. It was narrower than the recess for it too. Testing a bit, it turned out that this c-clip could tilt a little and then wedged itself tight inside the tube.

To remedy this, the tube on a wooden block, c-clip rotated in 'c' orientation and then given a few blows with a hammer (via another 'anvil-block'). This closed the open beak of the clip and made it tight on the shaft. Handle back on and screwed tight - and the screwdriver has not jammed again. So this probably was the cause of the jamming.

Unknown if this was a manufacturing fault or caused by someone having tampered with it more recently. (Perhaps when they took off the handle to re-finish it?)

Maybe it was an original fault - it happened on and off, so could've been missed in factory checks. That could also explain its near-new condition; as a temperamental tool it would have seen little use. Yet too expensive and functional to be discarded.

Even though the finish is unusual, the handle does look very 'credible'. The dimensions seem a bit off, the screw is recessed more than it should, but the seat is milled in the handle correctly. Maybe wartime new sub-contractors with small variations...


Not sure if the handle tube will be cosmetically blackened again. The brass tube shows no hints of ever having been blackened, maybe somebody once did a stellar polishing job or maybe it never was blackened at all. In any case, we may well leave it all as-is - with a bit of oil on the bare metal.


So still (or for the first time since '43?) a fully functional, usable ratchet spiral screwdriver.

In the tool-chest :)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Es Leuchten - Mercedeses

In the light musical film 'Es Leuchten Die Sterne', Mercedes machines can be spotted. Twice.

The secretary uses a Mercedes standard typewriter in the first scenes, using it to put on paper her determination to go to the big city (i.e. Berlin) and make it in the movies.


Given the overall production values of this 1938 film, the amount of typing errors and careless use of the machine is a bit surprising. Not as 'grĂ¼ndlich' as I'd have expected for a German 'feel good film' of the era. Or perhaps it was intentional, to illustrate the secretary's heart is in movies - and not accurate typing.


As she arrives in Berlin, inexplicably the whole populace bursts out in joyous song extolling the virtues of the city. This is of course a very positive movie, showcasing great German stars (Die Sterne), history and modern achievements.

As part of that latter category, we get shown another Mercedes machine.


To avoid missing it, the names are spelled out of the drivers - three of the most famous racing drivers of the time; Caracciola, von Brauchitsch and Lang.


As embodiment of modern German achievement they then 'race' their cars across the screen as part of the show.

The storyline is not very important, obviously - it's an excuse to show a series of show-numbers and lots then-famous faces. And even showing not one, but two Mercedes machines :)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Box for the resistance controller

The Resistance Controller was sold by Meccano from the late 1920s to regulate the speed of electric motors. It is a fairly simple variable resistor to be placed in series with the motor. The cardboard lever slides a brass contact over the resistance-wire, wound on a ceramic core (it can get hot).


These were made for use with the new, electric Hornby trains as well as for use with the Meccano motors. Despite its age, it still works fine - shown here installed to regulate the speed of a 4 Volt motor of ~1928 vintage driving a Meccano model.


This fairly 'thumbed' specimen was bought for a few Euro and came without a box - but with lever intact and complete with the original 6BA thumb-screws.

Even though most Meccano pre-war parts are fairly robust, this Controller is made of thin sheet and the lever is a fairly vulnerable part. So decided to have a go at making a new, reproduction box for the Resistance Controller. One of the wonders of the current times is that information on such niche items is readily available. Including many images of the boxes these items were originally sold in.


Following the images online and checking comparable boxes for clockwork motors, a new paperboard box was cut, folded, glued and stapled together. For sizing, the controller itself was taken as the guide. Starting with the lower box to be a fit for the part, then making a lid to fit the outside dimensions of the box. The overlap of the 'flaps' is as per the original, as are staples. To protect against scratching, the staples were covered with a dab of PVA glue on the inside of the box.

The original boxes were from straw-board (yellowish), that is not so easy to get today. So used dense paperboard (grey). No matter - this is very sturdy and it'll hold the item.


This Resistance Controller was sold in the 'Hornby Series' range of train accessories, so a bright red box. Using good quality photographs from some online-listings as guide, the artwork for the box was reproduced and printed on red paper.



The layout of the covering was determined from the photographs, and from the limitations of printing no bigger than a sheet of A4.


Applying the labels on the box -  a decent looking and very sturdy reproduction box to keep the part safe when it is not in use.


On the inner flap of the lid, a 'printers mark' added to make clear it is a modern reproduction. Should there ever be cause for confusion; for now the contrast is obvious - an old and battered part in a pristine box.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Variable speed drive demonstration model

Some relaxing tinkering with the vintage bits of Meccano. In addition to the instruction manuals and 'book of models', the Meccano Magazine is full of inspiration and little (and large) models to build.

In the December 1945 issue on page 422 is e.g. this very compact demonstration-model of a variable speed drive, sent in by a reader from Hull.


Built with Meccano parts from around 1930, a variable speed drive is built within the spirit of the illustration and text. As is very often the case, some deviations to make it possible with the fit and range of parts at hand.


And it does work, very well actually. The motor has a runtime of at least a full minute with 'power'. Using the handwheel then to change the pulley position as it is running causes the driven wheel to noticeably speed up or slow down, relative to the driving wheel.


The side view shows some of the changes and how the driven axle is supported. By adjusting the position of the driving faceplate/wheel (on the axle with the gear), the force of the rubber-tyred pulley on the driven plate can be adjusted. Adjusted so that it still drives without slippage and also does not press/jam everything solid.

A relaxing little puzzle to tinker  together - and a very neat, visible demonstration of variable speed drives. With thanks to A. Bedford of Hull.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Associated ephemera - haberdashery

Even though these are 'consumable' items, probably a great many of these cards survive - like these.


An amazing amount of these snap-fasteneres were jammed in in an old jam-jar. Amongst a load of fairly recent generics (for offspring to craft with), a surprising number of older cards. Many with the original product still on the card. A snapshot of haberdashery packaging from probably the late 1930-ies to the late 1960-ies.

Some cards have used fasteners snapped back onto a card - waste-not, want-not!

Some of the older Koh-I-Noor buttons/fasteners have an unusual 'castellated' rim, neat. The spelling of the advertising on the back of these does suggest a date no later than ~1950. (Dutch spelling evolves rather.) The one card that was the lower-corner of a sheet carries what is probably a printer's mark 'I 40', quite likely 1940.


Another little bit of trivia this threw up; there are a few 'Prym' cards in there as well. This company is still in business and has been producing metalwork since 1530. Still makes snap fasteners too.


Not quite so ephemeral :)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Singer 28K sewing machine

The sewing machine is clean and working again!


This is another niche subject it's possible to totally 'geek-out' with. Looking again at some more online resources (there's e.g. ISMACS), it turns out this is not a 128 from '29. Despite the bobbin-winder being high-up, it does not have the eject-lever for the shuttle - so a type 28. Also the serial number falls in the range released on January 8, 1930 for a batch of type 28 sewing machines (according to the really most extensive serial number database at ISMACS). So it's a 28K from 1930 manufactured in Kilbowie, Clydebank, Scotland.

In any case - a very neat and decorative small machine that again works absolutely fine. Here threaded (with of course thread on a wooden spool) and it has already been used quite a bit.

Apart from general cleaning and polishing the thread-tension disks, the only part that needed attention was the cam-roller for the feed-dog motion (white arrow). This was seized-up and sliding over the cam surface instead of rolling. This made the machine go 'heavy'.


The machine tilts-up for access. Some oiling and coaxing of the wheel restored motion. With general oiling of all parts, the machine rapidly got into its own again. Positively purring away.

The hinges that hold the machine in its wooden base had come loose a little. With a large screwdriver these were fastened again. (Never thought I'd ever have a need for this large screwdriver, but it was just the right size.)


The machine drops over hinge-pins and then fixed by set-screws. These set-screws turned out to be the only part missing on this machine. Not essential, but will be nice to get a set later. It turns out that screw-thread in Singer machines is non-standard and Singer-specific. Hadn't thought about it, they started mass-production in the 1850-ies before well established standards - so created their own.

The rubber feet at the corners of the base had disappeared, leaving only the nail protruding. These were covered by some new felt feet. For grip, the felt was 'infused' with some plasti-dip.

With the machine out of the base, the date that was scratched into the bottom became easier to spot. This looks like a date from a professional servicing. Perhaps the machine was serviced and sold again by a dealer second-hand in '54 to a new owner. These were once very expensive items!


Judging by the the state of the machine and how all the adjustment screws were all jammed 'tight', the last time it was used was probably a frustrating failure. Then it was probably put away in an attic or cupboard for a few decades, to end up in the local council recycling-centre's store.

Still some small things to add/put right, but already this Singer is functional and being used again.

Highly recommended, these - both for restoring and using.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Cleaning up the impulse buy machine

The machine was clearly well-used, with wear to the finish from fabric and hands sliding over the surfaces. After use, the machine must have been stored away for perhaps decades, judging from the dust, dirt and 'tiredness' of the wooden case.

The wooden carrying case for the machine is similar to typewriter cases in that it consists of a base and a lid. Very different is the domed, steamed 'bentwood' and the lacquered finish. With the gold decal the case looks more like early Hammond cases.


The general 'tired' look of the case with the varnish being broken in spots could be revived very nicely with furniture wax. There may be other and better methods, but this will fill the bare spots and protect the wood and create a more even finish. Working carefully around the decal, not taking any chances with rubbing or solvents from the wax-preparation damaging it. As can be seen in the image with the corner waxed, it brings out the depth of the wood again.


The metalwork of the machine had some superficial rust as well as general grime. After cleaning with a damp cloth, a basic, quick polish with a little bit of Brasso brings out the shine again. An important part to clean and make smooth again is the thread-tensioner (or so I have gathered from the vast array of resources online about these machines).


That's the complex looking spring-assembly with knurled nut on the side of the machine head. The two dished discs in that stack pinch the thread to create tension during sewing. These fortunately cleaned up well and are here again assembled.

The damage to the decals and paintwork of the machine can be seen very clearly here. The cast frame of these machines was painted (dipped) in black lacquer, then decals and then followed by a clear-coat of shellac.


The clear shellac has been worn away on most of the machine - the spotty, brownish layer on the bed are probably remains of this protective shellac coating. We'll have to see how to tackle this.

Maybe this will be left as-is; it is a well-used machine and will be permitted to look it. Getting it to work again is the main thing (it's being eyed by a daughter, keen on using it).

Very different mechanical technology again, very neat to tinker with and fix-up :-)