Sunday, August 28, 2016

The long tail of obsolescence

Ordered this online. This is for a product that's probably even more obsolete than typewriters. Nevertheless, this replacement chimney for a common Kosmos burner can today be found fairly easily online. (Well, once you find out that you need a 6 lignes (written as 6''') sized chimney or lamp glass for a Kosmos.)

Today in the digital, connected world it is easier than ever to source supplies and replacement parts for obsolete articles. Only 20 years ago I suspect it would have been much harder to find - though perhaps even then in specialty 'boating' stores.

Lamp oil is of course widely available, also new wicks are being manufactured. To my astonishment, there's even a company in France that still manufactures oil lamps and burners to pretty much the exact same pattern as our century old little kitchen lamp.

Is this the internet enabling a very long tail for obsolete technologies?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Remington Portable typebar fitting

Continuing the rebuilding of the battered Remington Portable typewriter: The re-attaching of the springs from the bell cranks to the crescent-plate is fairly easy. The springs can be hooked by hand to the hole in the bell crank when it's lifted. With small needlenose pliers the other end is easily fitted into its hole in the crescent plate.

Yet another example of identical parts that probably aren't. The springs do have two different ends, one hook design for fitting in the crank and an elongated hook for fitting to the plate. There are left and right-hand wound springs (why...). Somewhat worryingly some springs are shorter than other springs; that may be random from older repairs, but also could be by design. Could be different lengths for different positions to compensate for different character's linkage shapes. Oh well, we will experience that when (if) it is fully assembled again.

The typebars can then be fitted. Fortunately these are all numbered, so laid out approximately sorted from left to right.

Same as with the bell cranks, starting from one end the typebars are fitted and the pivoting rod is fed into the segment one typebar at a time.

A surprise that now has me wondering about the Remington factory and its quality processes; the typebars should be stamped with the numbers 1 through 42. This machine however has no typebar 12 and two typebar stamped as number 14. 

How does that happen? Did the factory run out of #12 typebars? And then somebody took another #14 and bent it to the right angle by hand? (Is there another machine out there with no #14 and two #12 typebars?)

Notwithstanding this minor numeric confusion, all typebars got slotted into their proper places again :-)

Next up is re-assembling the ribbon-spool mechanism (puzzle!).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Remington Portable bellcranks are not all identical

Who knew. Only after starting to put them back did I notice that these little levers look the same, but come in left-handed and right-handed varieties. That was also when the remaining goo lodged around the pin became evident. So all off again. With a toothpick the thick, sticky brown grease can be pushed off.

So a small cup is filled with hot water and soap to soften it all up. Quite a bit of poking to get that grease away. The most effective way turned out to be using a toothbrush - holding the part and brush submerged in the soapy water, then wipe all off with paper towel and toothpick. That then gave 22 left-handed and 20 right-handed cleaner bell cranks (or 'intermediate levers', according to Ames).

After some experimenting it turns out that the mounting side of the small connecting plate is the hint to use a left or a right sided bellcrank. The crank should be in-line with the key-lever underneath (makes sense). Getting them wrong also becomes noticeable as they then won't fit properly and jam in the segment.

Before putting the bellcranks back, the fixing wire was given a quick polish. Won't make much difference in how light the machine runs, but having it smooth may make inserting it in the segment a bit easier.

This is still a fairly dirty, worn and beaten-up machine. One of the 'clevis' springs is broken and several cranks show some signs of being ever so slightly bent. May be from original adjustment, but given the overal state of the thing I suspect it's from plain hammering too hard on the keys.

Still unsure if this typewriter will become completely whole again, but now with the row of 'intermediate levers' mounted. One small step forward. Next up is fixing all the springs. Keeping this a relaxed and slow-moving project.

Experience gained; beware of identical-looking parts that aren't!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Meccano Motor Magic and the manual was correct!

Still available, albeit now via online auction sites. What looked like a nice one of the right period popped up - and even managed to get it! It duly arrived very well packed in this small blue cardboard box.

Inside is, as advertised, a small clockwork motor for powering Meccano models. These 'Magic Motors' are fairly common online, but usually just the motor & key are offered. This one came in the box complete with all its accessories.

Still (or again) attached the inspection label and the key in its small paper envelope. A small time capsule almost, this might even be from unused stock. If not, it was always very carefully looked after and kept complete. Guarantee slip stamped for 1952.

The great thing is that it comes with the half-inch pulley. This you really want to have, to be able to drive models built from a standard Outfit. Also the full set of six drive bands were in the box. Three pairs of different lengths, still rubbery and very usable.

Carefully stored the ephemera and then instructions given to the crowd on how to wind it with care according to the arrow on the motor; it works! Excitement all round, so out with the Outfit number 3 and see what can be made. After some tinkering (and failing) with putting it on wheels, a much easier model is a pneumatic road drill. (Hadn't thought of that.)

This does work and is surprisingly and satisfyingly noisy!

It may well be that the spring by now is too old to drive a small car, but a simple windmill should be manageable. With a set of special Windmill Sail parts (number 61), a little windmill is made. Maybe not the most ergonomic spot for the motor control though...

Moving the motor lever; it does work and whirrs the metal sails round at a good clip (sharp edges and all).

The little motor does fascinate them. No batteries, lasts forever! Even though the youngest is getting much more adept at the little screws and nuts, Meccano parts do require a different approach to construction than what they're used to. It is clearly not stacking bricks or just snapping parts together. Step-by-step instructions or some guidance are really needed for the 7 year old. (Except for that pneumatic drill, that was his own original idea.)

Overall the experience with this 1950-ies Meccano convinced me that actually the cover illustration of the manual is correct. Leaving aside that unrealistic, giant dragline; this is not a construction toy that can simply be given to children to play with. 

It should be played with by children together with a parent close at hand!