Friday, June 29, 2018

Talkie art deco (use each needle only once)

When playing records on a 78 rpm wind-up gramophone, every side needs to be played with a new needle - so these needles were widely sold. Mostly in small tins of 200 needles. This is just such a tin. Très art deco.

The design and labelling 'Columbia Talkie Needles' is partly obscured by the paper wrap-around seal. As is the message to 'use each needle once only'.

The paper seal repeats at the bottom of the tin that it contains 200 needles.

When breaking the seal and opening the tin, the paper inlay again cautions against using a needle more than once.

When lifting up the paper, the reverse again repeats the message to use each needle once only!

And inside are still about 200 pristine gold-toned needles; to be used once ONLY.

(Having survived to this day, these needles may not be used for a while, or ever - not even once only.  :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Carrying handle quick repair (when riveted to case)

The handles of the carrying case of older portable typewriters are often riveted to the wooden case and not screwed. Usually the 'splayed' type of rivet is used that is hard to remove without seriously damaging the case. This can make it a bit of a challenge to repair the carrying handle when that succumbs to old age and fatigue. On some old cases you see rope wound round the metal rings, or the handle is just missing.

On this case of an Adler portable typewriter, one end of the handle had given way and the other end didn't look too healthy either. Did not want to completely fit a new handle - aiming to keep the machine as close to original (albeit worn) state as possible.

Simply gluing seemed unlikely to be strong enough. With a strip of metal sheet however, tin can or similar, the leather handle-ends can be 'fixed'. (Tin snips...)

The space between the top two and the lower two layers of leather are cut open in case of any stitching in the way. Then a thin metal strip is fed between these layers, with the handle mounted in position over the rings/lugs of the case. The strip is inserted about an inch into the handle and as wide as the space between the side stitching allows. The edges of the strip can be sharp, best use needle-nose pliers to drive it into position.

The broken leather end is glued in place again. The handle now probably still won't be able to take the weight of the machine. To fix it in place, a nail is driven through the handle on a still-strong section of leather and through the metal strip. A strong, thick nail or an awl to drive the hole - then a thinner nail is inserted. This nail is then bent round like a staple (pliers). The pointy-bit of the nail should be tucked safely away...

With the glue all set and the nail in place, the carrying handle is now again firmly fixed to the case. It does show as a repair, but not too bad for a quick fix.

When handled with care, this fix should be strong enough to carry the machine for a couple of decades to come.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Type-in at an art festival...

See article about the 'editing room' tent at the Oerol Festival.

The article is in Frisian, that Google Translate actually does support (sort of). The English translated text is a bit surreal - dadaist prose generator...

But there are pictures at the bottom of the page that explain; machines at a festival for anyone to come and type up a simple story and pin it to the wall. Just type :)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sighting of an Adler (and a tenor)

Usually typewriters in (American) films of the thirties and forties are readily recognised as common (American) machines.

In this scene from the (German) movie 'Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt', a slightly less common (German) typewriter can be seen. It is used by the secretary at the theatrical agent's office, sitting on her table.

It's fairly small in the image, but it is clearly the distinctive profile of an Adler thrust-typewriter. Still gleaming and shiny, it may be an Adler 7.

The pair walking away from the camera are the main characters of the film - two friends, a clown and a singer. The tall one is the clown, the diminutive figure is the singer.

The actor playing the singer in this film is the tenor (and cantor) Joseph Schmidt. The film premiered in Germany in May 1933...

Despite his small stature, Joseph Schmidt had quite a voice!  As witnessed from the record(s) found over the past couple of weeks.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Felt for Four rubber

A simple tweak that can usually be done with an old typewriter is to replace the felt of the typebar rest. It often is compacted and may be moldy, a source of the 'old typewriter smell'. Replacing with new felt will improve the sound dampening and for some machines improves the line-up of the typebars at rest too.

This Corona Four portable typewriter types quite nicely, but is horrendously noisy. Of course the platen is the main source, but the typebars return-drop was also very noisy and all little bits help.

On these Corona machines however the typebar-rest was not of felt, but consists of a rubber tube held in a channel-strip. This tube will surely have been soft and dampening when new; today it is rock solid. The net effect is a nice, loud 'clack' as the typebar drops back - makes sense as a hard hollow tube being struck on the side is pretty much the design of a tam-tam / jungle-drum.

To replace the typebar-rest, the first step is to remove the front panel. The four small screws were corroded fast on this machine, but leaving a small (small!) drop of oil on each screw for a few months solved that completely. Now also easier to clean and polish the bit behind the top bank of keys.

A small rubber-band will keep the typebars out of the way and allow the typebar-rest to be taken off easily, by removing the two small screws at either end.

The old, hard rubber can then be pried out of the channel-segment. (Taking care not to bend the fairly flimsy metal part.) Before you do this, you may want to measure the height of the rubber in the channel.

Not having soft rubber tube at hand in the right diameter, decided to replace with felt. To make a strip of the right thickness and height, had to fold-over a thick felt with a third layer inside - spots of glue to keep it all in place. It needed clamping tight to let the glue dry and keep it in shape - does look a bit like an exotic caterpillar...

Not to worry about the length, to be cut to size after fitting, but do fuss about the correct height. The height needs to be large enough to provide enough damping, but if it's a bit too high then the typebars are too close together at rest. Then the type-slugs will foul each other and/or make extra noise as they drop back. (As I found out... : )

With the channel-segment fitted with a new felt strip that is tucked in nicely (sharp screwdriver to push it to the bottom at all sides), it can be fitted back onto the machine. All the typebars should now again line up nicely - and make just a little less noise as they drop back.

And then of course mount the front panel again (the typebars just peeking over the rim). A slightly less noisy, but still very loud little typewriter.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Then two come at once

Like the proverbial buses. A few weeks after buying a Joseph Schmidt record, I got a small rack of records via/from a colleague and that contained the same record.

Listed on the index booklet for the Plattofix record rack, at the bottom of the page the record by Joseph Schmidt: O Sole Mio and La Paloma.

This Plattofix rack probably dates from the forties', but most of the records are older. The index seems to have been filled out over a short period, the records loosely ordered by genre. Later some records were probably broken, their entry replaced with a stuck-on label written in another hand.

Again the same record, but surprisingly now on the fairly uncommon Esta label, made in Czechoslovakia with all label text in German (export). 

This seems exactly the same recording as the Elite Special record (Swiss) from a few weeks ago. The same artist and same orchestra and sung in German. Strangely though, the matrix is different - they did do a transfer.

Similar to The Typewriterdatabase, there is an online collaborative database for shellacs. (And a few other, more private sites.) On this community database site ( these two recordings can be found first on a 1932 release on the Broadcast label. Either the recording was sold to others after Broadcast was shut down in '34, or it was a recording (Ultraphone?) widely sold for some time to any and all.

Anyways it is neat to see how a collaborative database can add information on niche subjects, this would not have been so easy to see before 'the information age'.