Saturday, March 23, 2019

Stripping the panels

Now that the 'wreck' Remington Portable typewriter has come this far, the next step was to take it apart again. Or rather, to take off all the bodywork.

And all the various mounting screws, rods and sundry parts bagged. Keeping these in a little bag per panel or part to mount should prevent trouble later on.

Later a new felt strip will be made for the lifting tray, but first the body-panels were going to be stripped down for a re-paint.

Stripping the old lacquer of a typewriter can be done in many ways I suppose. What worked reasonably so far is lye (drain cleaner) or alternatively acetone. Either way, the key ingredient is time. A bottle of lye is a cheap and reasonably easy way to remove or at least weaken the old lacquer, when handled with care.

The steel parts were placed in a shallow bath of drain cleaner in a stainless steel container (a roasting pan).

Almost immediately the black paint starts to give off. It will however take a few hours for the paint to have softened enough so that it can be brushed off. Warmth also helps a lot - leaving it in the sun for a while, covered with a lid, is a good plan to speed things up.

When using lye, it is of course important to not get any of it on yourself (or anywhere else, for that matter).  It is rather dangerous stuff.  Protective clothing (no bare arms, etc) and gloves can be a good idea. The parts in this case were handled with pliers and a large bowl or basin with water was placed next to the lye bath. When the paint looks like it is crumpled and bits of paint start to drop away, the part was lifted out of the lye with the pliers and placed in the water. This dilutes the remaining lye clinging to the part so that the part can be handled for rinsing and scrubbing.

Some paint will stay on the part, but generally is softened so that it can be sanded down smooth.

One other very important thing is to use the lye method only with the steel parts and not with aluminium. Aluminium would react badly with the strong alkaline. (The Internet has videos...) The top-cover panel of the Remington Portable is an aluminium casting. The part would probably not survive a dip in lye very well.

For that reason, the top-cover was placed in a shallow bath of acetone (in another, old roasting pan) and covered with a plastic bag. Without enclosing the bath, the acetone would evaporate very quickly and not have any effect on the lacquer at all.

With some addition scrubbing and sanding (fine grit sandpaper as well as steel-wool pads), the first batch of parts were prepared for painting.

After cleaning the parts were dried quickly to limit any rust forming. They were then quickly given a coat or two of grey metal-primer with a very light sanding between coats.

The outer frame of the typewriter is the hardest to strip, if only for its size. It does not submerge well in a shallow bath. Also making it difficult to clean is that this part seems to have been given a double layer of paint by the factory. The lacquer on the bottom and the insides of the part drops away fairly quickly. The more important outer surface is much harder to remove unfortunately.  Two different layers seem to peel off (eventually). More sanding to do there still...

Small painting detail of the underside of the paper tray - distinct fingerprints.

Somebody in the London factory of the Remington company had some of that black paint on their hands when they handled this part as it was lacquered, back in 1927.

(The finger prints survived the paint-stripping. Maybe will add some when spraying the machine in its new colour :-)

Some sanding to do still on that outer frame, then to look for paint. Colours!