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 :-)