Saturday, May 25, 2013

Corona 3 'automatic'

A folding Corona. These are indeed relatively common machines, also locally here. They pop up regularly on the local auction site (though sometimes with eye-popping pricetags). Several months ago I got this one also online, and had it shipped to me by a very kind seller stamped with many many stamps.

The case has been repaired with a piano hinge, an old repair. The front flap of the case is a weak point and many show up online with this bit missing or broken. Otherwise the case looks fine and hardly any rust on the hinges. Amazing how small it really is.

When taking it out of the case, it looks like all the mechanics of the machine really fill the available space of the box. Not a lot of space left (just a small gap for the spare ribbon tin).

With this one I was quite lucky, all the defects and damages were minor and easily fixed. It now types quite nicely again. The left Fig-shift key got badly bent at some time, this makes the shift-lock a bit harder but I'm not going to try to bend anything back. It had a ribbon that still had good ink, but was rather worn and torn with holes. This is now replaced with a new ribbon (nylon). When the kids found out that such things as purple ribbons existed (and that it would then print in purple!) it absolutely had to get a purple ribbon. So of course it has.

This is a late model, serial number 673841. From the available lists online this would be from 1934; one year when relatively many were produced.

It came without any manual, so the online resources came to the rescue with two different scans.  These really were useful; I'll admit the locking of the 'shift' before folding was not immediately obvious to me (but did figure it out). One that I'd never have found without the manual is that there actually is a carriage lock too. Many thanks to the kind people that scanned and uploaded these. And very impressed with the amount of functionality that Corona engineered into such a compact machine.

These manuals were all for 1920-ies models and showed the knobs to be fastened+loosened to change ribbon travel. With some reading up, the various models become clear with the 'Special' models introduced in 1929. This by the way matches the little spike in production volume. The 'Special' still have the knobs to change ribbon travel direction. This machine has the ribbon looping through a wire 'S'. When the ribbon is pulled taut at its end of travel, it pulls the wire 'S' sideways and switches the travel. It can also be done manually by pushing the squarish push-rods in front. Ingenious.

With some trawling around, I'm guessing that around 1934 another product refresh was launched with an automatic ribbon reversing mechanism. This would match the little spike in production numbers.

Coincidentally I now found (and bought) a manual for the Corona 3 'automatic' from an antique book seller. This booklet has a printing date of 1937 and it labels the machine as an 'automatic'. The pictures and instructions do indeed show the automatic ribbon reversing mechanism. (Will scan.)

 So now a Corona 3 'automatic' it is.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Copies letter without carbon paper

New on the market in 1931. 

Ingenious. Sounds fiddly though, especially when making more than one copy. Must be very specific to a particular model of machine to be able to use the paper guide to hold this extra device.

The extra feature that the copy also can be two-color probably did not outweigh the extra hassle. Also not sure it wouldn't smear the copy with ink during linefeed, needs to take care with inking levels.

In any case it was not a roaring success that drove carbon paper off the market - carbon paper can still be bought even today!

Come to think of it, carbon paper probably pre-dates typewriters as well. And after a very quick scan of the collection of niche interests that is the internet - yes it does!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Post scriptum: yesterday used my Remington Victor T to type a letter (and two drafts, the backspace did not erase...). I was really struck again by how loud that machine is. Maybe this is partly because the platen is hard, but it made me appreciate the noiseless feature.

Monday, May 6, 2013

N38954 on it's feet again

Tried that - no difference. Maybe this is just how it was meant to be (or the mechanism has a bit more internal resistance that it had when new). It is actually more the typebar mechanism, vibrator-bar and keys that go 'ka-thunk'; the carriage is not the main culprit.

But back to the subject of feet.

It took a while, a month, for the package to get to my door. After paying the customs charges to the postman, I got the package. It had been opened for customs inspection - I can just imagine the customs inspector reading 'typewriter parts' and going; 'huh?'.

The new feet do make the machine complete again.

The original feet had gotten totally out of control. I guess this specimen had been equipped with the special cushioned feet, as Remington proudly advertised; see mid second column:

Probably great in 1933, not such a hot idea in 2013. The remains of the old feet had to be chiseled away. Literally. The black had become like tarmac and the red gave off a clingy type of dust and both had worked their way into the machine and into the case-lining. There is still some of the black tar clinging to the machine and feet-cups.

But now with the new feet from TTS; fit the machine great:

By the way; learned that the screws could do with a final extra turn after settling after typing a page or two. As the pictures show, the lettering on this machine is not so great anymore. On the back the remains of the original markings can still be seen very vaguely as an imprint in the lacquer. The wordmark on the front and paper tray have lost their gold crispness. Nevertheless, the machine is on it's feet again and it types!

Mind-boggling that spare parts for such an old and obsolete machine can still be purchased today. Again the wonders of the digital, internetworked world; otherwise would never have known about TTS and this would just not have been possible.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The digital world or how to load a stack of sheets evenly...

There may not be the actual need for these little tricks anymore. For getting multiple copies it is nowadays more important to locate the print-dialog.

From Popular Mechanics, November 1936.

Such tricks and tips would I guess be common knowledge back when typewriters were in common use. Exchanged and passed on between users, both home and office. (I do think I remember being demonstrated this trick of loading a stack as a kid - 'ages ago'. But memory is an unreliable thing...)

When using a typewriter today there is usually no throng of fellow-users around you to help and assist with such little tricks. This is where the 'wired' world fills the gap and really helps out! From the basic (but potentially really confusing) "where's my 1 ?" to "best to not hit the full-stop (.) too hard".

With the digital world, the cost of communication and the impact of distance on communication has basically approached zero.  Like Clay Shirky observed in this Wired article, this now makes niche-interests possible, even mini-niche interests like typewriters in the 21st century.

I think it could be argued that the mechanisms of the digital world are fueling this interest, enabling for this interest; "Meganiches can address any interest, even one that users themselves wouldn't have thought of until they stumbled across a captivating Web page."

Nice, this digital world :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Speedline Corona

Now I did see this sensational new portable typewriter in many pictures online. Now still to be among the first to own one is unlikely; the ad is from '38 announcing the new '39 model. But even if not amongst the first, from what I read about it and saw of it; I did now want to own one :-)

Did not mail the coupon to Messrs. L C Smith & Corona, but started checking for one to pop-up on the local auction site. After a couple of weeks a Sterling gets listed and in burgundy too. It looked a bit worn, but after holding off for some weeks; did bid and did buy. (Passed earlier on a mint-condition Silent in crinkle...)

So a Sterling.  And that really is what it is.

Sterling design, it's styling is spot on and "looks as though it could be no other way" as a designer friend commented. And that, he said, is very hard to achieve in design. It really has a 'zing', has a swing to it.

Sterling engineering. Very light touch, easy typing and the carriage positively purrs as it returns. The shift is light as promised. The mechanism to me looks brilliantly simple. In engineering, it usually takes a lot of effort to make something look simple.

I've now had it for a couple of weeks and used it a bit, really am impressed with the 'sensational new typewriter'.


After cleaning, this machine looks much better than it did. Some paint chipped from the cover (where it hits the carriage on opening if that is not to the left), the rust actually makes it less noticeable. The 'B' is bent a bit. Some scuffs and a scratch from the carriage return lever. But for all that - this New Speedline Corona still looks and works great after 75 years!

Joy :)