Sunday, December 28, 2014

Remington Portable #2 in red

Since getting this 1928 Remington Portable last May, it's now been cleaned up further and been generally mucked about with.

Took a bit of a chance then on a not-so-clear picture in the online listing. The machine did have the fancy paintwork as was visible in the photos, but also was very dirty, worn and abused as was not so visible in those photos.

Even after an initial cleaning of the machine and removing the odd carrying handle that was bolted onto the case, the machine still looked a bit of a project. Witness to the solid engineering of the people at Remington back then, the machine still typed a treat (allowing for effectively not having any feed rollers left).

Now that the machine is re-assembled with new feed rollers, re-covered platen and generally polished up - the machine looks better. The metal and paintwork still look their age, but I think now much more respectably so.

After several tries, the carriage functions fine again with the newly covered platen. Learned along the way; e.g. that a platen surface must not be too grippy. When adjusting paper, the sheet is drawn around more than half the platen surface, it works a bit like a belt-brake then when trying to straighten the paper. The heat-shrink tubing works well in practice - not too grippy, hard surface and nicely black.

The holes in the front of the case were closed-up with some Sugru. Have been experimenting a bit with this material and it really does stick to almost any surface. Also for re-building rubber parts and chipped feet it works well, but contrary to the claim made by Sugru it is not grippy. It is a bit elastic and very smooth and will have your machine skidding over the table with every carriage movement. Painting on a very thin layer of Plasti Dip adds grip then. For this case, the feet were gone too far and replaced by new PU stick-on feet of about the right size.

As probably with many of these machines, the original leather carrying handle was missing. Using the handle of the reference machine a new handle pattern was made and a new handle fitted. The result is not ideal, a second time I'll know how to do it right. The cheap leather belt I used was fake leather (very dense felt in middle) and I didn't have the right type of string for the stitching, but it looks credible and it works.

Pattern drawn on a bit of paper, glued to the belt and then cut out. Awl to make holes and then stitch around. Sealed the sides of the fake-leather with Plasti-Dip. The rusted metal brackets put up some resistance to being opened up for the new handle, but luckily it all bent and nothing broke off.

Opening the case, the machine is again mounted on its base with new rubber grommets and a new mounting screw on the rear-left corner. That mounting pillar had been broken off completely. A new mounting was made with an M4 screw with washer and the M4 nut seated firmly in the hole in the base (Sugru again). Also a reproduction instruction manual - striving for completeness. (And perhaps it can help prevent the case being forced down over the extended platen knob in the future.)

With the new rollers and platen the machine still types very nicely. The alignment of the type could still use some tweaking, but the stroke is very light and the carriage positively purrs when it is returned. Most of the rust is now gone, even though a lot of the nickel plating was also gone it again looks like a proper metal machine again. The carriage return-lever actually came out shiny as if new from under its decades of dirt and grime.

The paintwork was touched up only very little - it is a very hard finish to replicate. The machine has four layers of lacquer to create this finish as far as I can tell. All parts have an original (default) black finish, then the red background. To create the black cracked pattern, another layer of transparent lacquer is applied and then the black applied over the almost dry transparent layer.

Unfortunately a large area on the lifting-tray was damaged and flaking off. It is now camouflaged, but that spot still looks a bit botched. Other than that, still a very striking and special finish on a much used machine.

The machine looks like it was not only used, but also has been in a fight or two and did not come out well of those. E.g. there's a bit of a dent in the rear of the outer frame that suggests a serious knock.

Not sure what the origin of the keyboard is, could be Portuguese? It has a very complete set of diacritics (that type on the preceding position) and a key for the ç and ñ characters.

Overall very complete and usable. The only character that could still be nice to have on a machine these days is an @ sign.

Can only wonder how this little machine made its way around the globe.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Illustrations of the Balston word-writing machine

Came across some more pictures of the Balston machine, the new (in 1930) electric word writing typewriter written about earlier.

More detail of the 'keyboard' and a drawing of the appearance of the actual machine. To call it a keyboard doesn't do it justice really though, more an 'operator control panel' worthy of an aircraft. Probably sketched from a prototype that surely must have been built.

Drawing dated 1929, noted as being from the Balston Automatic Writing Machine Co. of 11 West (?) 42nd Street, New York. Not the luckiest year economically to launch such a new, expensive machine.

Overall it still looks like an unwieldy machine. Swanky offices though!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Grommets success and a platen fail

New rubber grommets. Outer diameter a bit smaller than the original and inner diameter a bit bigger, but a decent fit. To compensate for the thin plate of the frame, some packing string soaked in plasti-dip was wound around to act as extra 'gasket' or filler. 


Ergo a second attempt; now with heat-shrink tubing. This time only the two screws of the right-hand platen bracket from underneath the carriage base and one that holds the margin bar are removed to wrestle out the platen (black arrows).

With these three out (taking care to catch the nut of the inner bracket-screw) and the margin-bar nudged to the side, the platen can be wrestled out to the right-hand side. (This works easier when also the ruler-bar is removed, by the way. The ruler comes off very easily with loosening its two screws at the outer ends.)

The platen out again, the ratchet and linefeed-release need to be unscrewed. This allowed the inner-tube to slip off easily (talcum powder!) and the new heat-shrink tube to slide on. This one has a diameter of ~41mm and can shrink to ~19mm. Shrinking it to size really needs a heat-gun; a hairdryer works but really doesn't get hot enough. Making it shrink evenly without creases or bubbles probably would go better with more practice, but overall it shrunk on fairly well.

Re-assembling the machine again, with a shiny new platen surface! The nut that holds the inner of the right-hand bracket screws is a bit fiddly to fit - a length of sticky tape on a small cardboard strip helps to keep this in place when re-assembling.


Linefeed and indexing are all haywire now. Beginning to have a suspicion of the causes. One was incorrect mounting of the ruler (easy fix), the other could be to do with the ratchet (all needs to come apart again...).

Getting to know the machine :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unpacking a new mainspring

Waiting for the new rubber grommets as feet for the #2 Portable. What did however arrive in the meantime was a new mainspring for the HMV102 portable gramophone.

A couple of months ago it started to have trouble keeping speed. At first only on some louder passages, but then on any record. Even after re-greasing the spring it was painful to listen to the false notes as the motor struggled and failed to keep speed. This meant that probably the mainspring was just spent and needed replacing.

Luckily and amazingly newly manufactured mainsprings are readily available, so an order was placed and duly received. It arrives tightly wound and held by a steel wire.

Unpacking a new mainspring is a bit tricky. To contain the force of the spring uncoiling and prevent the inch-wide steel spring from inflicting injury, it was first wrapped in a rag. With the spring in the rag the steel wire was cut, immediately followed by a roar and rumble as the spring expands against the rag. Slowly releasing the rag then gives a controlled uncoiling of the new mainspring (without injury).

For the HMV102, disassembly and taking out the spring is very clearly and helpfully described at a blogpost at Project Repair. Following those steps, the old spring was taken out again. Ultimately the new mainspring needs to be packed tightly again into this drum, but first it needs to be greased all over. Then its end needs to be hooked over the peg inside the drum wall. Can be done but the new straight spring makes this harder than it was with the old one.

Re-packing the new spring into the drum made clear that the old spring was spent. The new spring put up much more of a fight over being forced into the drum than the old spring. Again: do NOT let go of it when halfway.

Going through the steps in reverse order assembles the whole thing again. Hardest step is fitting the drum back on the centre shaft again, this is a very tight fit and the new spring centre hole does not centre over the drum opening. Several tries and some tweaking gets it back on however.

With the new mainspring fitted the HMV102 now keeps speed again.

Analog and fixable machines :)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Model C from Belgium

In the school playground I remember seeing other kids with the red Viewmaster (or View-Master), but never paid much attention. Vaguely remember looking in one and 'not getting it'. Until the recent post on i-dream-lo-tech about these stereoscopes, I hadn't realized how long they've been around for. That post made me very curious to experience one of these again.

The bakelite Model C (as I learnt) is remarkably common and before long a viewer that was made in the Belgian factory made its way to here. (From the hive-mind that is the internet this viewer can be dated as mid-fifties. The Belgian factory started 1953, the model C being sold up to 1956.) 

No different from the Portland-made viewers, but 'Made in Belgium' and with text mainly in French. Complete with instruction card (remove before use).

With already a few reels dating from the same period - I 'get it' now. The kids by the way also 'get it', were totally wow-ed by the images.

By now the 3D images have the added dimension of time. The views of Windsor Castle e.g. are very period typical, right down to a proper bobby pointing the way in the first image.

Nice :)

(Thank you Ton!)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to wrap that around a platen?

The typewritten look must be in fashion. That's a sizable tablecloth (linen). Am trying to imagine how they wrapped that into the typewriter... :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Adjustments, adjustments, adjustments

It's back.

With some tweaking and adjusting the machine, it now types again! Several surprises in the adjusting (and it's not done yet). The hardest part to get right so far, was the line gauge. The new rubber platen is very grippy. So much so that the slightest touching of the line gauge to the platen blocks the carriage advancing.

Bending the line gauge away from the platen however immediately interferes with the ribbon vibrator. Turns out there is a very narrow margin of adjusting the line gauge to be free of both the platen and not trip up and catch the ribbon vibrator (especially writing caps in red).

Another adjustment to be done was the carriage bearing rail. Worried about the sprocket leaving its track and any play, I'd initially over-tensioned the carriage. Given the four screws that hold the rail a turn to loosen and gently letting the rail move out a bit. That way a close fit without putting any pressure on the bearings was found. Another thing is that this is really best done without the outer frame fitted.

This outer frame blocks easy access to some screws. Best put on as a last step. Another tricky one is the crossbar that holds the rear bottom screws of the outer frame. This crossbar must be put in place before sliding the outer frame in place - there is no way to get it in afterwards. The tensioning nut on one end of the crossbar can be used to wedge it in place. Getting the tension on this nut wrong will block the shift, by the way. If the inner frame is pinched or pried open there, the shift levers are pinched and it won't settle back to lower case.

Next to the reference machine, the patents on the Remington Portable typewriter are also a neat source of information. These show the construction itself as well as some of the reasons-why behind the construction.

The actual tension on the carriage motor spring is a bit less critical. Just enough tension to accelerate the mass of the carriage at the very end of the line. With the adjustments removing all the little snags and frictions on the carriage, the spring can be released until the least tension that still works is found.

As a last step, the spacebar limiter bracket (part 76 with pads 77 in the figure) was fitted again. After fitting this little bracket, nothing worked anymore.

That was a bit surprising actually. When typing the carriage no longer moved, piling all letters on top of each other. Poking and prying around a bit, the cause was found in that the bracket kept the spacebar down a bit too low. When the spacebar is not let back up far enough, the lever that releases the escapement is not fully releasing the escapement mechanism. Then the escapement is stuck 'half-way' and nothing indexes anymore. Some careful bending and/or new pads (part 77) fixes that.

Still to be tweaked is the position of lowercase and uppercase against the platen, but it does now type again.

The new soft platen is a mixed result so far. On the plus side the grip on paper is solid and the sound a bit less harsh than a hard platen. On the down side the rubber is so soft that the imprint of the characters gets a bit smudged when striking a bit too hard. Overall it makes the machine very sensitive to the typing itself in quality of printing.

Maybe to take off again and replace with something more firm (and reduce the diameter of the right hand side a bit more).

Starting to look better (and type better :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Waxed string drawband

The drawband of the Remington Portable typewriter was broken. With the carriage back on the rails, a new drawstring now needed to be attached.

By the look of it, the drawstring was made of waxed hemp rope. The hemp rope that was in the local shop was much too thick (24 lbs) and online sources are happy to sell you 5 miles of the stuff but not 50 cm. As a substitute to stay close to the original, simple packing string was used. A bit thicker than the original, but still fits the pulley.

The snippet on waxing string gave some practical advice on how to do this.

Ergo some wax, string and a spoon. Turned out that the easy way is not all that easy really. Perhaps the wax I used was not soft enough, but the method advertised is not helpful at all. End result of the attempt may not be the ideal waxed string, but at least a somewhat waxed string...

One end of the string is attached to the eyelet opening on the drum and the string routed around towards the pulley underneath the carriage (orange). From there the string can be led to the other end of the carriage fairly easily. By lifting the carriage release, the string drops in neatly into its path next to the indexing ratchet bar. At the far (right, left in image :) the string is clamped in the hook-plate that is held by a screw on the carriage. The hook-plate can be pried open with a sharp screwdriver and clinched over the new rope.

With the carriage all the way to the right (left in view from underneath...) is all the length that is needed. Some more won't do any harm, but too much rope takes up space on the drum and too much rope can make a winding jump off the drum. (Discovered that one, hard to unjam that rope from the drum axle.)

By turning the tensioning screw (blue) on the drum, the spring is wound and pull placed on the carriage. Make very sure the carriage is running freely when testing for the least tension needed that will index the carriage at every position.

The lever (green) next to the drum will release the spring tension. By rocking this lever, the spring is unwound a fraction of a turn at every click.

The fancy lava red Remington is getting there: placing a new drawstring was much less fiddly than expected. (Ensuring the carriage runs freely with adjusting the bearing rails and line guide was much more fiddly though :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New felt, type lined up

On the Remington Portable typewriter the typebars rest on the felt strip that edges the lifting table. Over time the typebars make a dent in the felt. Uneven wear over time per typebar leads to the row of type to be out of alignment.

To fix this, new felt was mounted on the lifting table edge. The black felt strip is rounded on the top and clamped by a metal strip on the bottom of the lifting table. To make it nicely rounded on top, the felt is bent double. Because the felt controls the position of the typebars in the raised position and needs to be out of the way in lowered position, the size of the felt matters. It's about 5 by 8 mm when clamped. (The original was folded double, the new felt that was at hand was thinner and folded over twice to get the thickness.)

The felt strip is clamped under the metal strip that is screwed underneath the lifting table. Some small  unevenness can be corrected by tugging and tucking the felt under the clamp. The old, original felt in the picture shows the dents made by the typebars.

With the new felt mounted and the lifting table back in, the typebars in the lower position lie flat resting on the felt and/or table. Also already mounted in the picture are the housing top and the outer frame. For mounting the lifting table, the housing top should really be removed for access to screws that clamp the lifting table to the lifting arms. (It's tricky enough even then.)

In the raised position, the typebars make an even curve that is approximately horizontal to the machine. (The paint on the lifting table is badly damaged, had a bit of a disaster there as well. So much tension in the paint layer that it just flakes off at the slightest breeze. Now fixed down at the edges, but messy.)

Now with the second attempt at a new felt strip, the typbars are good enough in both positions and can still take some 'settling in'. The left and right-most typebars are hardest to get right and to align nicely with the protecting hooks.

It's getting there. Adjustments next.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reference material

Getting the carriage back together of the red RP2 typewriter showed up the limits of the pictures I took during disassembly. Just not enough detail. The mounting of the raising mechanism likewise could have done with some better photographs.

For the Remington Portable (#2) there is as far as I could find out no service manual available. Coupled with the fact that these really are charming little machines, I went for the totally decadent option of getting another machine as reference material. (Imagine doing that back in the twenties when these cost $60.)

I've read mixed stories about Ebay for typewriter buying, but took a chance on the British version of the site and bid for this machine that looked interesting and had very reasonable shipping cost from Britain to the continent. With an interesting bidding experience, won it and got it shipped very promptly with decent packaging.

Looks its age of course, but importantly it is complete. Now also have the sizes and pattern for all the grommets and the leather carrying handle.

The machine inside with some rust in spots, but otherwise decent. Nice green lining inside, no warranty label in lid. The decals are in the old, #1 style on the top of the machine. No decal on the paper-tray. The machine in the pictures is already cleaned with nickel polished a bit. The spools were badly rusted, so these have already been re-painted. Other than that, it is as received.

The Remington Portable above, ready for putting paper in and typing. The rubber of the carriage is in good condition. The platen is hard as expected (looks like slate), but all rollers are fine. Some sticky keys, yet everything seems to work and most importantly; the machine is complete (and assembled :)

The machine was (first) assembled in November 1927 - serial number NZ700077. Or perhaps it is 70007-7. The last digit seems to be added in a slightly different typeface and alignment to the main. Still wondering what the 6-digit serial numbers are for these machines, most machines have a 5 digit serial. Was the main number added in the factory by a numerator (would make sense) and the last digit manually for some machines? Was the last digit added only in the British assembly plant? The world of Remington serial numbering :)

The machine's keyboard is a bit wobbly, all the keytops are slightly out of alignment. The keyboard is one of the things that made me notice the listing; it has the + and = signs and even some Greek characters. These keys are clearly a later modification to the machine, the British fraction keys having been replaced together with all keytops. The typeface of the keytops looks too modern for the twenties, more mid to late thirties. Also the keytop-rings are I think of a different type than those of the standard Portable keyboard. The Greek character keys have engraved disk as keytops instead of the paper disks as on the other keys. Suspect the standard sheets of cut-out keytops did not have the Greek.

Now am wondering what profession would need a keyboard with alpha, beta, gamma and mu...

(Update: probably statistics.)