Friday, December 30, 2016

Beige machine spotted

A beige and angular typewriter; Torpedo 'Cicero' in a shop.

Looked a bit dejected, three keys down.

To avoid any confusion, a small label explains that it is 'decoration' and not for sale. Either way, it is in a bit of a surprising spot. Placed in the cooking section next to the cutting boards. To be fair, also with cooking books. And it is a ''Chickpea' of course :)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Bausch & Lomb 32mm 4x objective

The newly acquired microscope came with two objectives on a three-position nosepiece. One empty spot to fill - ideally with a low power objective. The 10x objective is of the divisible kind, the lower portion can be unscrewed to change from a 10x to a 4x objective. (Snippet from the December 1939 issue of Popular Science.)

Even nicer would be to fit a 4x objective at the empty position. With the amazing global flea-market that is the internet, one such objective was found to be for sale. Even though it was located in Santa Barbara it was easily purchased and shipped with amazing speed to the Low Countries.

For being nearly 90 years old by now this objective is in fair shape, only one small blemish (nick) on the front lens. Whilst this will reduce sharpness in a part of the image, it is not in focus so not too damaging. This would probably make the objective be rejected for laboratory work, but for hobby-microscopy at low powers it is still fine.

To clean the objective, used demineralised water with a soft cloth. A 'camel-hair brush' to flick off larger dust or particles. When carefully wiping clean lens surfaces of 'condensed' dirt, regular tap water would evaporate and leave a thin film deposit on the lens. With demineralised water, it can be gently (!) wiped clean and dry.

With three objectives of the right pattern fitted in the nose-piece, it does look the part again. Also it now works fine for magnifications from 20x up to 430x. For practical, hobby use, that's plenty of power.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Fastening the iris screws

This is the item in the cleaned-up wooden case.

This is another Bausch & Lomb microscope. A biological microscope with a 3-position revolving nosepiece, condenser and simple stage with clips. Came with the original 5x and 10x eyepieces and a 43x and 10x (divisible) objectives. Overall in great shape, the finish is immaculate and all the glass still very clean. This instrument was used with care and the case did its job of protecting it very well.

From the serial number, this fine instrument was made by the optical craftsmen at Bausch & Lomb in 1939 in Rochester, NY.

One of the two small issues with the instrument was that the screws that hold the iris assembly together were loose - this is not an assembly you want to have to piece together again...

Three screws (arrow) around the circumference of the iris hold it together. These screws are however completely inaccessible in the assembled instrument. To get at the screws, the substage assembly with condenser, iris and filter-holder needs to be taken apart.

The mirror pulls out, it is held by split-end of its pin in a hole. The substage assembly then can be driven down off its rack and pinion. Then the iris assembly screws off the Abbe condenser. Because the iris lever fouls the substage frame, the condenser needs to be unscrewed from the frame first. For this, remove the three screws around the condenser flange (thus also loosing the alignment of the assembly with the tube).

The iris assembly again tightened, the whole is screwed together again and fitted back into the frame. With care, the dovetail slides back on and the pinion onto its rack. With the three screws in the condenser flange not quite tightened, the assembly can be centered again.

Compared to e.g. typewriters, there is surprisingly little information online on the repair and adjustment of these instruments. However for the centering of the condenser, there is a very helpful paragraph in the small booklet 'Use and Care of the Microscope' by Bausch.

With some tweaking, the substage is again nicely entered in the view.

The other small niggle is that the fine adjustment does not quite line up anymore. It all works fine, but even at the top of its range, the two lines do not line up. Maybe it had a knock at some time that pushed down the fine-adjustment pawl, or it got serviced and not lined up then. (The line on the arm is very faint, just above the line on the moving part of the coarse adjustment.)

Perhaps indeed from a servicing - the optics and adjustments are all fine. These parts are a bit too tricky for now to tamper with. Leaving it as it now is - a perfectly serviceable microscope!

One of the slides that was in a small box in the case; small intestine. This particular microscope will be great for the children to explore the world of the minute :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fine steel wool and some wax

New arrival - not in a black leathercloth case. The case has sustained some scuffs and scratches, protecting the item inside. Nickel plating direct on plain steel is not the most durable finish, vulnerable to corroding in moisture.

Started the cleaning - most satisfying when taking some steel wool to the handle. Won't bring back the plating, but it will look (and be!) much cleaner again.

Similarly taking some furniture wax to the case. The lacquer has been scratched and dented. Not going to re-finish the case, but some wax on the scratches will protect the wood and make the scratches much less noticeable.

Next up will be the item inside, some careful cleaning should do it. There's however a bit of a challenge waiting with some inaccessible screws needing tightening...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Small physics demonstration

In the '28 manual, there's an instruction to construct a Newton's disc. The small apparatus with a colour wheel should demonstrate that the primary colours (or colours of the rainbow) fade into white when mixed by spinning the disc rapidly.

So to build one. Built from period parts with some modifications and improvements. It seems to have been the purpose of the instruction manual to show constructions that have a lot of scope for improving. Two strips for some bracing were well within the parts-list of a number 2 outfit. Likewise some improved bearings with a bush-wheel and a two-stage x4 gearing.

The instruction manual image suggests it being hand-held, the design also works well as a free-standing little apparatus (with a set of newly printed rubber feet).

Quite surprisingly it actually works; reality conforming to theory! Hard to capture as the shutter of the camera is faster than the human eye. The centre ring still shows colour at ~300 rpm in a picture, but shows completely monochrome, light grey to the human eye. Amaze the kids ;-)

With Meccano being a construction system, then everything of course taken apart again for a next little build.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Most dangerous substance in the house (and a use thereof)

There are a lot of hazardous substances in the house, not least things like bleach and drain cleaner. The small bottle of cyanoacrylate glue might actually be candidate for being the most dangerous substance in the house. A bit similar to how the 'Dremel' might be the most dangerous tool in the shed. A 'Dremel' looks fairly harmless, yet will do serious damage in an instant when you're not paying full attention.

The cyanoacrylate glue also looks fairly harmless - it's a small bottle of glue. But unlike the regular 'hobby' glue, you need to keep paying attention or it'll inflict damage that may require some medical attention. This glue polymerises (hardens) in seconds and sticks very well to just about anything - fingers, tables, eyelids...

That great adhesion does make it ideal to repair metal parts that have become loose or broken. One such instance is the brass boss in some Meccano parts. The bosses in older spoked wheels (19a) seem to have worked loose often. Also in this example 2" pulley, the boss is loose and can rotate in the wheel.

The key thing then is to get a small amount of cyanoacrylate glue in the gap between the boss and the pulley and not get it anywhere else. I.e. especially not touch the glue at any time - don't get it anywhere near yourself.

To do this, a toothpick is given a drop of the glue on its tip. Then this tip is pressed into the gap, letting the glue be pulled into the gap by capillary action. Resist any urge to guide or rub things with fingers...

The glue polymerises in seconds, triggered by water (moisture in the air). Giving it a minute to be sure, the boss is again fixed firmly on the pulley wheel.

A dangerous substance to have in the house - but very good for fixing loose mechanical parts (or perhaps cracked frames and castings).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Somebody just had to already have tried this

When something can be imagined, then there is bound to be somebody that has actually tried it.

And so it is with the suggestion that a typewriter could perhaps be constructed from Meccano. This fine example is shown here on a blurry scan from the 1932 book of prize winning models.

Meccano could actually be very good to show and experiment with various methods of creating a typewriter linkage from keypress to swinging typebar. The machine constructed by Mr Pantanella does go much further however.

Almost like creating a model of the Notre Dame from matches - definitely taking it to another level...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Colourful covers of Meccano literature

The very early Meccano parts were 'monochrome' in nickel and brass, the literature did come with colourful covers. The instruction books with models, but certainly the magazine covers of the late twenties come with colourful illustrations of the mechanical wonders of the age. 

Included in the instruction book are already a few pages with general engineering mechanisms. Instruction book is actually a bit of a misnomer; these booklets are rather a collection of pictures of models without any instruction on how to build them. Finding out how to construct these models is explicitly left to the ingenuity of the builder, to foster and promote his mechanical prowess.

Included in the larger outfits and also available separately was a booklet containing 'standard mechanisms'. A booklet complete with a wide variety of mechanical functions and how these may be achieved with Meccano parts. Explicitly advertising it as proper mechanical engineering in miniature.

These more complex mechanisms in this booklet fortunately do have descriptions of their workings and some hints on how to construct these.

To offer more inspiration and provide a steady stream of mechanical engineering input, the Meccano company published a monthly magazine. This copy of the March '25 issue has a report on the assembling of a large floating crane, also shown on the front cover.

And e.g. an article on copper. This does have me wondering how riveting this would have been to the intended readership, even then...

Today old issues of the Meccano Magazine are offered for sale online fairly regularly, if wanting to browse an actual paper magazine. To browse and get a feel for the content (with period advertisements); all copies of the Meccano Magazine are available at The Archive. All scanned at very high resolution and freely readable or downloadable as a PDF document.

Just for viewing the colourful covers - well worth a browse :-)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Manufacturing firm footing for Meccano models

The tinkering with the small screws of the Meccano has grown a bit - so has the collection of parts. Even though there is a wide variety of parts to build many different types of models and mechanisms, there was one part lacking that I would have expected. Maybe it is an expectation from working with the older typewriters; the Meccano system did not have rubber feet.

All nice and well when building on a workbench, but having rubber feet would be nice to prevent a small model from marring a tabletop. And as with typewriters, prevent models from skidding all over the table. A pulley fitted with a rubber tire could be used of course, but wanted something more compact - like a collar or bushing.

So we got some made.

With the easy availability of 3D modelling software and easy access to very affordable 3D printing in rubber, getting custom feet manufactured is not only doable - it's probably even less hassle than finding the right part in the hardware store. A quick design was made in Sketchup for a half-inch round by a quarter-inch high foot and a set of these printed locally via 3DHubs in black Ninjaflex at 100 micron layer-height.

These simple rubber feet can be bolted onto a plate or to the angle bracket that Meccano often show as 'foot' of a machine model. Using a longer bolt, adjustable feet are possible too.

The model, trivial as it is, can be downloaded from Thingiverse here.

(The barrier to replacing broken or missing rubber feet on machines is getting lower and lower :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Monochrome Meccano

Before there was colour, there was monochrome. Same with Meccano. Before 1926 or '27 the parts were not painted, but nickel-plated.

Clean and shiny, these date to around 1920 and would have come with this instruction book.

Localised in Dutch, also sold separately - quite expensive too at Hfl. 1,25. (An English-language version of the 1919 edition of this manual can be found here at the very extensive site of the New Zealand Meccano Club.)

The Meccano system was seriously protected by patents, both utility and design patents. Unlike English, Dutch has evolved quite a bit over the past decades and this manual really illustrates this. Its phrasing and spelling looks very quaint to modern eyes ('ye olde'). Notably odd spelling of Britain in the title page.

Before being published as a separate book of standard mechanisms, the instruction book included a section with some basic standard mechanisms. (Also some odd printing errors in the text; printed in England, a Dutch-speaking printer would have caught word-contractions and similar mistakes.)

The range of parts was already extensive (and about to expand a lot more during the twenties and thirties). Some parts were only available as separate spare-parts and not included in any outfit. The given prices again illustrate this was not cheap.

Despite the high price, or perhaps because of it, the reader is cautioned against considering buying anything that is not the genuine article. On the back cover of the booklet is explained that Meccano is more than a mere toy! It is true mechanical engineering in miniature. Any imitation is not following sound engineering principles and thus would be bad for the development of the child. (Oh dear.)

To be fair it actually was the technology of its day in miniature, arguably the Arduino of its time.

Still it is an enjoyable toy, still :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sightings of beige machines

Sightings from a very small 'safari'; a browse at the jumble sale of a local church. Had been wondering if there'd be any shellac records or gramophones or other interesting vintage technology. There actually were two typewriters, however these were of a fairly recent vintage - the 'beige period'.

The Olympia manual typewriter could have done with a wipe from a damp cloth to clean it a bit, otherwise probably fine. Regular keyboard, but with the 'ij' key.

The one other machine was equally beige and, as an electric, edging even closer to the impending PC-age.

This Torpedo Electronic 700 typewriter has a fairly extensive keyboard with a neat assortment of mathematics or engineering symbols.

Even though the asking prices at the event overall were very modest, passed on both. 
(Instead from the tools-section picked up an old screwdriver and folding rule :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Der Schreibmaschine - ein Gerät der Feinwerktechnik

Leafing through this book about designing for precision manufacturing.

The introduction of course explains all the ways precision manufacture matters.

And there it gets the essence typewriters in a single line. Roughly translated; "With the typewriter there is provided a precision-manufactured machine that can capture and keep human thought through time."

In a nutshell :-)

The book by the way is filled with examples of mechanical design solutions. Those precision-manufactured mechanical details that typewriters are full of...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Art and Pleasure

Become member of the society "Art and Pleasure". 

Was playing some records from a stack of early thirties' records and came across this advert on a record sleeve.

Not a bad offer for getting continued variety in records, though still significant money. This record-club was run by the record and gramophone shop of Kiekens in Harlem, then located on number 24 Breestraat (Broadway). Probably long defunct (as will be the society "Art and Pleasure").

(Broadway in old Harlem is actually anything but broad - rather a narrow street by today's standards :)