Saturday, July 27, 2013

Impressive mechanics (not about a typewriter)

That fact alone makes them both a bit special in my mind.

Somehow this large vessel survived and is still in working condition, kept now as a museum ship in Hamburg (yes, it has its own wikipedia entry too:). In the summer there is not so much icebreaking to be done in these parts, so the ship was doing a ferry-run special from the small island of Borkum to the Eemshaven harbour and on to Emden.

With the family we took a day trip to catch the Stettin on the Borkum to Eemshaven stretch. To my happy surprise you get pretty free run of the ship to look round. The engine room is open for passengers and you get to see all the machinery working up close. Didn't have a good camera with me to capture the swoosh-swish of the large rods and crankshaft; but (of course) a video on the net gives a good impression, engine room shown from ~1:30. (Oh, and the sound on the video is good, but it just can't do the whistle justice. Louder in real life. Much.)

Can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something in the appeal of such mechanical contraptions. Very visible mechanics, an explicitness about their workings and function.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wide carriage

A six-feet wide carriage (about 183 cm, nearly 2 meters!). I'm imagining that needs a very solid carriage escapement for such a large moving mass (or move very slowly).

Will also take up some desk space, six feet either side of the machine.

Can't quite imagine how it would be to index a six-feet wide and 12-feet long sheet of paper. Unless very thick card, surely this would crinkle and crease at indexing. Maybe the trick was to keep it rolled up inside the carriage, the picture seems to show this.

Regardless the practicalities, I'm guessing it didn't catch on in a big way in drawing offices. If there was a benefit, it must have been for a very niche application. I've myself worked in a drawing office. Rows of drawing boards and some colleagues still wore white coats too (not only for show, useful when you're inking a drawing or filling your pens).

Lettering and dimensioning a large sheet is quite fast, even when using a character-template for lettering. Only if there would be reams of text on a sheet can I imagine that typing could be faster. And then it would be easier to type the paragraphs on a regular sheet and paste it onto the drawing using photographic copying. More common is to keep all the text (instructions, bill of materials, etc) on separate regular size sheets. Niche application then, needing many variable typefaces (defense plans).

Anyways, a very wide carriage that :)

Maybe widest ever?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Swedish Machine Seen As Prop In A Småland Shop

Småland is very much Sweden, so not all that surprising really that a typewriter used as a prop in a bookstore is a Halda. The machine looked cosmetically fine but disturbingly many keytops were missing. Weird - would customers to the shop surrepticiously pry off a keytop? They are plastic, not chrome-rimmed. Or maybe the machine was like this when it was put in the shop as a prop, perhaps the mounting of keytops on the machine just wasn't that solid.

Didn't look at the machine closer, keeping track of 3 kids in a busy bookshop makes for a lot of distraction :)

This was a bit of a special bookshop, having books of only one author. Located  on a picture-perfect little shopping street inside a themepark around the books by that one author.

When holidaying in Sweden, we visited the Astrid Lindgren World. An astonishingly large and surprisingly busy park. Not cheap and not cheaply done either. Was great for the kids (and parents) to see the settings for many of the stories. Stories are being acted on the different stages during the day. Between the plays the stages are children's playgrounds, with the actors hanging around still. Good food there too! A recommended park should you ever find yourself in the area with kids in the age-bracket for Pippi and the others.

But back to the sighting. Doubt that this is the machine Astrid Lindgren herself used, but didn't stop to ask about that. Thought it unlikely that the staff would know; if it was it would most likely have had a sign next to it stating so of course.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reviving Victor's Case

A while back I experimented a bit with patching-up the case of the Noiseless. The 'leatherette' covering had come undone in a few spots and it looked worn and grey.

The first step was (naturally) cleaning with a wet cloth (water with a little dishwashing liquid). After fixing the covering back in place, I wanted to see if I could make it look a bit less tired. It isn't leather, but it did look very dried-out so I thought I'd experiment with some polish. The 'waxing' might be good to make the covering a bit less brittle and using black polish might make it look less grey.

First experimented with the back, when that looked fine and did not crumble I did the whole case. When also after a couple of weeks the case still looked fine with no obvious ill effects from it's treatment, I dared to also tackle the case of the Victor. That case was now looking very 'tired' compared to the Noiseless'.

Also on this one I applied regular black shoe/leather polish in the normal way, i.e. applied with a cloth lightly rubbing it in and over the surface. Then vigorously polishing with a soft (black) brush gets the wax into the valleys of the texture and spreads it out evenly. That really makes a difference; instead of having a worn, old case in the house it now looks smart and quite presentable (and acceptable!) again.

The one item that still stands out is the handle. Looks like this was made from papier-mâché (?) over a thin metal core. The outer fake-leather layer has mostly come off, leaving an uneven, worn surface. No idea yet on how to tackle that one. Any suggestions on that are most welcome; curious if anybody has managed to revive/repair/replace these worn handles.

At any rate, the clean black case now matches the shiny black machine inside it a bit better :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Does a ribbon dry up?

When I got the Speedline it was a bit moldy and the ribbon more than a bit moldy. One of the first steps in cleaning the machine was to take that ribbon out (plastic spools) and toss it in the bin.

Being able to then take a brand new Kores ribbon (on a set of plastic spools) out of its box and put it in was I think remarkable of itself. To take a machine that is over 70 years old and still being able to put in a brand new replaceable/consumable part that fits perfectly is remarkable. That is a very long support lifetime. The future is hard to predict, but I doubt that will be possible with the battery in a laptop or the cartridge in a new laser-printer 70 years from now.

But anyways; the new nylon ribbon works great; the machine functions just as it should (i.e. it types). Still, the sight of the plastic spools in the machine was to me still a bit jarring, just not quite right. With the cover closed, you do not see the spools of course, but I know they are there. They should be metal and square-spoked, like shown in the instruction manual.

So I managed to get a very nice set of metal spools of the right pattern for a Speedline of this era. First I was going to rewind the new nylon ribbon onto the new (old) spools, when I spotted an old ribbon offered for sale online in its un-opened packaging.

An Olivetti plastic ribbon 'tin' with a metal spool. On the label it said the still-sealed ribbon was a black, silk ribbon. In general I am not a fan of Olivetti, but I do have an appreciation of their product quality (I do get the 22's clean 50-ies style, it is just not my cup of tea). It was sealed and it said silk, so I made a bid and got it. (Well, the getting was more complicated than normally, but in the end it arrived and very well packed too.)

I'll admit I hesitated a bit on deciding to use this old stock, but went ahead and opened the box, removed the seal. Bonus of course is that an Olivetti ribbon has the reversing grommets.

The ribbon looked fine, but the grommets probably had some sort of rubber centre fitted. The grommets are fine, but the rubber (?) had totally gone to goo and had to be wiped off.

With the silk ribbon rewound onto the Corona spools, then placed them into the machine. So here the machine with the correct, square spoked metal spools and a new old silk ribbon.

Typing then. (Nylon on top, silk on bottom half.)

It doesn't come across in the scan, but the nylon ribbon typing really looks a very dark purple. The fainter silk ribbon has absolutely no color bias. But it is fainter.

That had me wondering, does a ribbon dry up? The plastic sealing certainly is porous to many gases, would allow drying out. Then again, the seal and then the box would have mostly restricted any airflow for anything to evaporate in any way. I'm sure the pigment cannot have gone anywhere, that must all be there still.  (The next item to wonder about then is; what actually is the inking of a ribbon?)

I'll give it a try first. Then we'll see what ribbon we keep in...