Friday, January 22, 2016

Small fixes for the Remington Portable

The refurbished Remington Portable #2 typewriter still needed some tweaking to fully work as it should. Not sure what issues were caused by the re-assembly and taking apart and what issues it already had (and I just hadn't noticed earlier). The whole typewriter is slightly awry, probably it took a knock or had a fall. Still works good enough, with only some minor issues.

One of these minor issues was that the line-lock did not work. When reaching the end of a line, the keyboard is not locked. It happily would pile letters on top of each other - the line-lock did not engage. Looking closely at the mechanism and seeing what parts move generally gives a good clue as to what part to tweak on these machines.

In this case the tab that is hit by the margin-stop should be pushed just a smidgeon further by the carriage to trip the line-lock. Now before forming (bending) any tab, there should be some adjustment mechanism for this. And there is! Also detailed on pages 10 and 11 of the excellent Ames service manual for Remington portables (PDF) at the Classic Typewriter page. (The mechanism of a late forties' Remington portable is very similar/same as the original twenties' machines.)

Under the machine the line-lock tab pulls a rod that actuates the line-lock via a rocker. The end of this rod has a bush with hex flange that can be adjusted (the 'Line Lock Pull Wire Adjusting Sleeve', to give it its full name). First loosen the lock-nut that is on the end of the rod. Screwing the bush further onto the rod engages the line-lock earlier and vice-versa.

Moving the bush half-turns to find the right position - it needs to be so that the line-lock engages for both left-most and right-most key of the keyboard exactly when the carriage hits the right margin-stop. Then lock in place and the line-lock works just fine again.

By the way, the small return-spring on the rocker can easily get loose, e.g. when fixing the spring or draw-cord. If this spring is loose or lost, the line-lock will not dis-engage when the carriage is returned.

Another little niggle was an occasional left margin error. About one in 20 carriage returns it would go one position further than expected. The probable cause was that the margin-bar is wobbly. Depending on chance and the force of the return, the margin-bar would flex away just enough to move to the next tooth of the escapement. The proper fix would be to fix the margin-bar position so that the carriage stops centred between two escapement positions.

Unfortunately the tab-bar can't easily be made rigid, the parts are 'loose'. With pliers some careful forming of the tab or lip on the left margin stop, the left margin again stops centre between escapement positions. Hasn't had a wobbly left margin since.

Small tweaks. The whole mechanism of the Remington Portable typewriter is actually very accessible and understandable. Even without taking the top cover off, much of the machinery can be seen and the function of the parts traced by just looking under the machine.

Neat machines :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Service of the Corona Standard

Although bought as candidate parts-machine, still had a go at patching up the 1943 Corona Standard. (Typewriters though a 'utensil' pick up historic context. No provenance came with this one, but its manufacturing date+place and it having been in Belgium do give it context. At the very least it allows conjecture as to how it came over to Europe. Perhaps similar and inverse to a recent post in the Typosphere about 'one to get rid of'; this made me reluctant to relegate it as 'parts'.)

The machine was of course dirty and had a few things wrong and broken, the most noticeable thing however is the keyboard. The machine had new type soldered on and all character keytops got new tags for the odd 'AEU' layout. Probably done somewhere in the mid to late forties.

This new keyboard was probably applied in a Montpellier shop. Looking at the keys today, it wasn't done all that well. The new keytops were of a quality that age badly (or were already old when it was done). More telling is that the Corona keyrings were re-used and actually applied wrong. The Corona keyring has four tabs, with two closely spaced to flank the keypad-stem to prevent rotation. The re-fitter either didn't realize this or didn't care, so the rings were applied without the rotation lock. This way they can even be slid off without needing to bend a single tab. (One did.)

Not going to re-solder everything to revert to a QWERTY layout, but I was going to try and make it look cleaner and complete again. The nice thing about the Corona standard keyrings is that they're mounted with tabs and not pressed on; so no special tools are needed to remove them. Wanting clean keys, fully replaced the keys with new 3D printed keytops (dimpled pad for the Corona 'touch') and new 3D printed plastic keyrings. (Not yet found a solution/source for new metal keyrings...)

The 3D printed rings are a press-fit. The keytop is a press-fit into the ring. The assembled key is a snap-fit on the keypad of the machine, the flange of the keyring scrapes over the stem at the back of the keypad to prevent rotation. After some experimentation, printed the rings in carbon-filled black filament. This gives a nice matte finish and is a bit stiffer than regular PLA filament. Had a go with chrome paint, but the matte black looked best on this austere machine. When doing the whole keyboard, found out that there is some variation in size of the keypads per row that I hadn't taken into account. So the top row needed a bit of double-side tape added to keep everything in place and fix rotation. (The 3D files for the keytops and rings can be found on Thingiverse. Should anybody have a Corona needing new keys... :)

The dimpled pads got a sticker with a Corona-inspired typeface, then got a protective layer of 'Microfix' against wear. This should last a while - with this layout I can't imagine the typewriter will be used heavily for turning out many pages...

Another item was the carriage return rattle. Here I had the great benefit of a comparison machine. The '38 Sterling carriage positively purrrrs when returning, whereas this '43 Standard rattles like it's falling apart. Some closer inspection showed that part of the escapement (the 'moving dog' part I think) oscillates wildly only on the Standard when returning.

This part is/should be kept under pressure by a small spring with adjustment bracket. This then prevents it from wildly vibrating and rattling on the carriage return. On the Standard this spring was 'idling'. Using a screwdriver and pliers (to push the bracket whilst screwing) this spring was put under a little tension again. The Standard now returns again without excessive sound-effects. Not quite purring, but sans-rattle :-)

Even with the spring tension fixed, the dog doesn't quite clear the starwheel nicely on the return. This still gives a hard edge to the return sound that needn't be there. Haven't spotted an adjustment for that (yet).

Some other small adjustments were made, like forming the master-escapement-trigger-finger to make the escapement reliable again for all keys. The re-fitter probably tried to make one key a dead-key by bending the keylever-escapement-finger. After years of (dis)use that was all a bit of a hit-and-miss, now mostly fixed. (All this did demonstrate the need/use for diverse types of pliers.)

Still to mull over: one issue of a missing linefeed detent roller:

Getting there :)

Friday, January 15, 2016

A very good year for Adler Favorit 2's?

When adding my Favorit 2 to The Database, noticed that pretty much all of the Favorit 2's were dated to 1948.

To do a check if that really was remarkable, did a histogram plot of all Adler galleries in The Database per year. (Assigned the 194x Favorit 2 machine to '47 from comment field.)

Low numbers to do statistics of course, but even amongst this plot of all types of Adler machines, the peak for '48 is noticeable (click image to zoom). The Favorit 2 model was supposedly produced from '37 or '38 to '52, so doubly curious - was '48 somehow a peak-year for portable thrust-action typewriters?

A single pool of serial numbers is used for all Adler machines, standards and portables of all types up to about 1950. Taking the difference in starting value per year gives a 'block-size' maximum for machines produced for that year. Plotting these numbers in a bar-chart gives a visual overview of the Adler annual production.

Wasn't all that certain if the numbers were start-with or up-to numbers for the year. Plotting both cases in a graph makes it plausible/confirms that the numbers should be read as 'up-to' for a given year.

The dip in block-size for '14-'18 suggests that the block-size is indeed a proxy for annual production volume. This also confirms that 'up-to' is the correct reading. The Great War started late '14 and wouldn't have affected production much at the start. Likewise it is unlikely that a large numbering block would be reserved for '17, more likely for '18 (or later even).

Much more noticeable in a graph than in a list is the drop from about 1940 to 'no-data' (zero?) when Adler was converted from typewriters to war production. Also here the 'up-to' interpretation makes more sense than the 'start-with' scenario.

Same as in the histogram of galleries in The Database, the year 1948 stands out rather.

In reading all this, it should be taken into account that all these numbers are only approximate. Like Ted pointed out to me on this; these Adler numbers are not factory ledgers but rather age-lists compiled for dealers in machines. Once every so often, the trade organization would enquire at the distributor what serials they were at. This makes the nice round numbers understandable ("Oh, we shipped machines up to 240,000 last year") and underlines that these are not exact per year really. The lists enable saying a machine was made around-about approximately 1936 for example, but not reliably if it was a '36 or a '37 machine.

All that being said, the graph does show that the serial number list is at least a bit of a proxy for production volumes.

Another item that stands out in the graph is a 'zero' anomaly for 1924/1923. This could be an error somewhere in the process of compiling such lists, it could also be from the economic upheaval during the second half or '23. Hyperinflation really got out of hand during the fall of '23. The block for '23 being about double the expected size with '24 being zero however makes the most plausible explanation an error somewhere. Perhaps with the economy in tatters, the list compilers didn't update the lists that year.

Then also looking again at the '48 and '49 peaks; the current Triumph-Adler website states that production was re-started in '46 with the small portable. Given that the factory (much of the country) was rubble, this would have been low numbers to start with. Also it is plausible that the dealer organizations enquiries on updating age lists didn't start for a while - not until, say, '48 perhaps. From all this, the block for '48 could be re-interpreted as the cumulative ramp-up of production from '46 to '48.

The numbers after '50 and certainly after '59 are unlikely a good proxy for production volumes. Other models start to muddle the general numbering. Specific models' numbering ranges match with the general numbering on the whole, but not always or exactly. Around '57 Adler merged with Triumph, having cooperated on typewriters already for a long time. Around '59 Adler had taken over Gossen and kept its numbering, with their own serials jumping to 800,000. So only looking at the list up to '50.

With all of the above, a couple of small tweaks to the serial numbers suggest themselves. A split of the '23 block over '23 and '24 is the more likely actual production date for serial numbers. Similarly the '48 block of serials is more likely to include '46 and '47 production serials, likely a ramping up in volume towards the volume of '49 and 'Wirtschaftswunder'.

The shaded columns contain the new, estimated serial numbers in bold. The annual block plot with these tweaked, newly estimated serial numbers evens the volumes out a little. Only a little though, it still is all approximate. The '29 peak is a bit odd (optimism before the crash?), as is the '18 number (clean slate, start new range maybe).

Coming back to the original observation of '48 being a remarkable year for Favorit 2 typewriters - it was. To be fair there are still too few datapoints to really confidently update agelist data. Nevertheless the tweaked numbers are probably a closer approximation of the Adler serials than the original printed agelists.

This really shows what great a resource The Database is! The galleries really add to the serial number lists. With enough galleries added it is becoming a resource that can enable adjusting/compiling agelists of itself.

It certainly added context to the, let's now say, somewhere-in-the-late-forties Adler Favorit 2 typewriter :-)

(S E & O)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Bare Eagle

In preparation for a better, more thorough cleaning of the Adler Favorit 2 typewriter, the body-panels were again taken off. It takes more than one session to get rid of the level of dirt (and rust) this machine had. This time without the panels, a look at the mechanism of this 'different' typewriter.

The whole machine is built onto a single cast baseplate. Also all the bodywork is screwed onto that baseplate.

Loosening the top cover screws at the sides, the top cover lifts right off. The main housing slides off after removing two side screws at either side and loosening the rear side screws. The rear panel that also holds the carriage-lock clasps is then sneakily still held by two screws underneath the machine. The full bodywork of the Adler Favorit 2 typewriter then comes off. Heavy panels too, made of 1mm thick sheet metal.

(The spool covers can be simply taken off.) Removing all this then gives the bare Adler portable typewriter...

Apart from the carriage lock that was part of the rear panel, this is the complete and functional mechanism as bolted onto the baseplate.

This typewriter does things different from most machines. It of course has a thrust-typing mechanism instead of the more common swinging typebar. It also does not have the usual spring drum with drawcord, but instead a single, long coil-spring that draws the carriage. The machine is carriage shifted, but shifts down instead of the usual up. It does not have a ribbon-vibrator, but a rocking movement moves the ribbon to the platen and back (Farbbandhinundherzuckgabelmechanismus?). With the shifting this means that regular characters print with the top of the ribbon and shifted characters use the lower half of the ribbon. To top it all off, the right margin stop is not a margin stop - it sets the position where the bell sounds, but does not stop the carriage from moving right to the end of its rail!

Underside of carriage rail and escapement:

Margin rail with stops and escapement in the bell:

The backspace push linkage (and return spring) into the escapement:

On the left and right ends of the carriage a simple threaded pillar with nuts act as the carriage adjustment. Simple and effective (and very accessible):

On the left side of the baseplate the shift linkage that pulls the carriage down to shift:

The ribbon advance mechanism is compact and inside the ribbon-cups. It works on every carriage movement; even advances with the spacebar. The ribbon reverse is simply activated by tension of the ribbon on an empty spool and works very well (enthusiastically so, with a very satisfying 'CLACK').

The typeslugs with supports for the thrust-action aligning. Cleaning the type is a bit trickier with not-so-great access and any dirt dropping on the 'sliding table' well. The black triangular plates that flank the sliding plate do screw off however, enabling better cleaning.

Meanwhile the machine is again a bit cleaner. Some rusted parts were touched up and the lines on the scales were refreshed with new wax. Overall a very sturdy, if basic machine.

Already in the late forties when this typewriter was made, it must have been an anachronism. Even though it sports a 'modern' grey crinkle finish, it's essentially still a turn-of-the-century typewriter that lacks many of the by-then expected features and ease of use. Because of the horizontal thrust-action and the shifting mechanism, visibility is rather poor - typing in all-caps is pretty much blind-typing.

Nevertheless; despite this machine's hard platen (loud) it is quite light and easy to type with :)