Monday, March 23, 2015

Remington Portable with new keytops

Probably sometime during the fifties, the keyboard of this little Remington Portable #2 typewriter was altered. Some of the regular assortment of fractions of the British keyboard were replaced by greek and math symbols. This was likely done for a student starting on statistics needing to write reports - taking a then already old (cheap) machine and have that modified.

The new, assembled typeslugs look convincing, the keyboard a bit less so. The way the keys are all a bit askew and out of alignment suggest they were mangled a bit, perhaps the old rings were pulled off without the right tool - who knows.

Most keytops were replaced with late forties/early fifties Imperial labels (as spotted by Nick of x over it), the greek symbols from engraved disks. No idea why all were changed. Perhaps the whole set of keys was changed to match the '+, =' keytop that could be had in the Imperial set. Strangely the '%, ½' label is from yet another range, could be original or just one label that was floating around the workshop at the time. Some of the Imperial labels start to come out from under the rings on the side, somehow not a good fit for the keys and rings.

Net result of it all is that the chrome (not nickel) rings and the assortment of labels give it a bit of a jumbled look. And when new, some machines even had white keytops that made them look rather smart! 

Unfortunately most machines today do not look quite as bright as they do in these user manual pictures. The paper has yellowed and certainly the celluloid has tanned. Many originally white keyboards now have keys with varying shades of ivory through tan to sometimes even deep ochre.

Benefit of these later replacement keytops was that the new chrome rings were held on with three small tabs. Some keys were already loose; these rings looked easy to remove with standard tools. That made it relatively easy to consider replacing all keytops with new labels. These Portable #2's are plentiful and this one had been messed with already, so did not feel bad about tinkering some more.

Having decided to change keytops, it becomes possible to consider what typeface and colours to use! Could do something really fancy, like red keytops to match the Remington label. Or a very fancy twenties typeface...

With a drawing program, quickly some colours and typefaces were tested. For colour, very quickly found that plain black on white worked best for me (or at least; liked best by me).

Experimenting with a serif typeface made me think of Corona, rather than a Remington. Usually the special keys and top row have a contrasting serif typeface to the sans-serif main keys - experimented a bit with that, but one typeface made for the cleanest look. Keyboards of the time use a sans-serif that looks a bit like Johnston, so experimented a bit with that (top left). For the special keys it does have some drawbacks, so in the end came back to a clean, thin Gill Sans typeface for all keys (bottom right).

Even though Gill Sans really took of in the thirties, it was actually designed and published  in the late twenties so not too out of place on this typewriter with its modified keyboard. With the chosen design, one sheet was (laser-) printed on thick white (ivory) paper and one set of disks on a sheet of transparency.

Taking off the keytops was surprisingly difficult. The tabs bend out of the way
easily enough and did not even break as I feared. The rings had however rusted with the key cups, making some of them very hard to remove without doing major damage. In the end they all came off without any major mishaps. Decided then not to replace the whole keytop insert, but place the new label and sheet on top of the current laminated card labels. (One small dab of glue on the side of the label holds the orientation. Should come off again without damage to the visible part of the older label.)

The keyboard does look very shiny and new now. Makes the contrast between the chrome rings and the nickel of the rest of the machine also less jarring (to me...).

(Now with the keyboard all clean and new, the rust spots on the paintwork start to look a bit out of place. Hmm...  :-)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Polishing power

Not sure now if they were ever lacquered. One strange thing also noticeable, two steel and two brass rivets used to fix the clasp to the base of the case. Must have been a reason for that...

In reality not quite as blindingly bright as in the picture, but clean and bright. It does make a case a little more acceptable to have in the house though :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Objective completeness and correctness

The Bausch & Lomb microscope had two replaced objectives when I got it. Given the age of the instrument and that it had been used at least into the seventies, that was not so strange. The high power objective had been replaced by an Olympus 100x and the low power 4x also by an Olympus (black, red ring).

The 4x was still perfectly good, the 100x unfortunately had dirty lenses. Probably old immersion oil plus some growth (?), not sure if or how this could be cleaned. Regardless of quality, it just didn't look right. Similar to a twenties typewriter with plastic spools - perfectly functional but not 'right'.

Fortunately in the online era, it becomes possible to scout and buy parts globally. These objectives of the 'double knurl' type are not all that common and just don't happen at all in Europe. So at (surprisingly considerable shipping) expense, found and got shipped across the Atlantic replacement objectives of the correct type.

This looks much better (to me at least ;-)

Very lucky that also the new 97x high power objective seems to be in excellent order. Clean and gives good image. From the serial number MK7316 this particular objective was manufactured in 1943. Probably won't be using the oil-immersion objective all that much, but good to have the complete, functional set.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Something odd on the title page

A while ago I picked up a book at a local church fund raiser, in nice condition and a good read as well. The title page was puzzling at first.

It clearly states that the author is Paul de Kruif (a very Dutch name), with Dutch translation by Dr C. Easton (an English name).

What I didn't know, was that Paul de Kruif was at that time a rather well know American micro-biologist who wrote "Microbe Hunters" in '26. So it was indeed written in English and translated into Dutch (by Dr. C. Easton).

Fifth printing in '39 of the Dutch translation, hardcover book with dust jacket. Still very readable stories about the discoverers and discoveries of the small world of microbes. About how human understanding and successes in battling disease were achieved - relatively recently.

Friday, March 6, 2015

First aid for typewriters

From the May '41 issue of Popular Science. (Not very recent, but then; neither are my typewriters :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Adjusting RNP mainspring tension

This turned out to be not so obvious as expected.

The Noiseless Portable had a very heavy going carriage. The mainspring tension was high and the carriage did not run all that freely on its rails in the middle of a page. After all the tweaking of the Portable #2's, an attempt to improve the RNP seemed in order.

Releasing the tension of the mainspring is again done by the rocker-catch (blue), moving this back and forth will release the ratchet one tooth a time. At least, that is what it should do. There is a risk of whirring wildly, so moving the rocker-catch between both positions very deliberately is best.

With reduced tension the carriage return still was heavy. With reduced spring it becomes now easier to get a feel for where the carriage is sluggish. Part of the cause may have been the line-gauges fouling the carriage. The bigger reason was likely old, hardened grease on the carriage bearings in the middle of the rails. The outer ends can be cleaned (oily rag) with the carriage at the extremes, the middle section however can't be reached so. Having read up a bit on recommended cleaning and how to deal with (old) oil and grease, some white petrol was brushed on the raceways. Moving the carriage back and forth and then removing dirt with a rag, the raceways were probably made cleaner. At least the rag was dirtier and the carriage moved a lot easier.

Even now with the bearings cleaner, the carriage is heavy (mass) and does need a fair bit of spring tension to index quickly. Tightening the mainspring again was less obvious than expected.

There must be a screw somewhere that I missed, but there is no easy tightening screw-collar as found on e.g. the #2. With some browsing of online resources, tightening seems to be doable by winding up the ratchet itself (green). Using a tool (e.g. small screwdriver, small needlenose pliers) this can be done, taking care to press the rocker-catch firmly back into the ratchet at every stop you make. Not elegant, but it gets it tightened.

The original reason to get out the white petrol was actually the escapement. The RNP's tendency to skip could very well be caused by the escapement catch being slow to re-engage. Parts of the mechanism becoming slow is quite likely, with over 80 years of dust and grime accumulating. So with the machine upright on some rags, petrol was applied liberally over the escapement and then worked in.

Impossible to tell if that completely solved it, but the skipping after this treatment has reduced. It is now possible to type a few lines of the letter 'a' without a single skip.

Hoping this holds up :)

After this little tweaking the RNP still has a (too?) heavy carriage return. (With no brand-new reference machines, how to figure out how many Newton force a carriage return should need?)

 It does now have more consistent indexing speed and is much less finicky on typing technique :)