Sunday, March 28, 2021

Underwood Champion re-assembled with new felt-lining - and Singing Typebars!

After the tinkering with the carriage, wanted to temporarily re-assemble the whole typewriter to experience the result. The re-fixing of the ruler had a very noticeable effect on the carriage and how it holds the paper; much improved.

(For tinkering and test-typing, rolling a sheet around the platen is handy)

Before putting the body-panels on again, I did want to replace all the sound-proofing padding. This old (paper-pulp?) padding was warped and fouling some mechanisms, plus it is probably the main source of the moldy old-house smell. So the remaining sheets of padding were removed and used as template for cutting new patterns from stiff card.

Could have used a bit thicker card still (a next time), but the idea was to use a paperboard backing to stiffen/dampen the thin metal body-panel and cover the paperboard with felt as the sound-proofing towards the mechanism.

Thicker felt for the rear-panel, thinner 1mm felt for the side-panels and the cover. First totally covered the card patterns with a paper-glue (stick) and then placed on the felt - to let it settle flat placed a large, heavy book on top. When set, the laminated panels are cut out of the felt sheet with scissors and glued to the inside of the body-panels (card to the panel, felt facing mechanism).

The margin-release button with its push-rod now is clear from the side-panel padding (lower left). The margin-release again works and the button pops back as it should.

Exercising the machine a little now that it's re-assembled, it still is not a very comfortable typewriter with a very uneven 'touch' of the keys. Not what I would expect from an Underwood machine. Despite a good clean (with white spirit, should have removed most old gummed up dirt), it is still uncomfortable to type on. What is more and worse - it now squeaks! Like there's mice.

Looking in a bit more detail at some of the typebars quickly revealed more 'issues'. Not sure if this is contributing to the squeaking, but typebar-links are not supposed to look like that.

That thin, spidery link is not an original Underwood part. Several more typebars have 'suspect' linkages. Have not seen something like this before; how does this happen to a typewriter?

So now up next is tackling Singing Typebars...  :-)

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Refreshing the scales on the ruler

On the Underwood Champion typewriter, the carriage ruler is plain metal with a black scale. The lettering is very crisply recessed (etched?) and the ruler is also thicker than on most typewriters. Even so, the scale did lose some of the black coloring over its last 80-odd years.

Refreshing such scales is fortunately a fairly easy matter. Again using the advice in Teege's excellent book on typewriter maintenance, a proper wax crayon and a hair-dryer are all that is needed.

Using the hair-dryer to heat up the metal ruler to somewhere between 50 to 70 degrees Celcius (take care, do not burn fingers, use a rag or kitchen-towel to handle) and then quickly going over the scale with the wax. The wax will melt and fill the scale. (This etched, plain metal is ideal for re-filling markings. With painted metal a bit more care is needed to avoid heat-discolouring, even more care with plastic parts to avoid warping.)

After letting it cool a little, the excess wax can be wiped off with a towel. This leaves a nicely refreshed ruler with crisp black on 'white' lettering.

(Resisted the temptation to use a fancy color, staying with the original, sober and very readable black.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Underwood Champion carriage exploration (and repairs)

Before dismantling more of the carriage, wanted to test the feel of the carriage rails. (It felt 'heavy'.) So block the drawband on the spring-drum, press carriage-release and move the carriage back and forth by hand. Then letting go again of it all, the drawband wound itself around the spring-drum - unpowered carriage. Surprise.

Consulting the Ames-manual; the drawband should have been clamped on the protruding screw under the carriage by a nut. That nut was obviously missing, causing the drawband to drop away as soon as tension was released. There the opportunity for the first little fix - now with a small nut again!

This is where my little OXO-tin of treasure came in. A few years ago, I managed to get all the removable bits from a ~1929 Remington Portable that had rusted beyond redemption - sent to me in an OXO-tin. The RP2 has gone to Typewriter Heaven (Dreaming Lo-Tech?), but leaving a valuable resource of screws, nuts and sundry bits :-)

The tin already supplied screws to replace the missing body-panel mounting screws, and miraculously it had a single nut of just the right size.

A next step was removing the platen. Following the instructions of the Ames manual, this turned out to be very easy. Undo the set-screws left and right, use the right-knob as a prod to push in the left-end platen-rod and take out the platen.

Then to get access to the feed-rollers, the paper-tray can be easily removed. Undoing the pivot-screws at both ends of the carriage (green circle) allowed the tray to be taken out. Removing that gives the chance to clean out the decades of dust and dirt hidden in the carriage recesses.

The rear and front feed-rollers can then simply be lifted out of their journals. In below image the tip of the pivot-bolt that holds the paper-tray can be seen just jutting out of its threaded-bush (green rectangle).

The problem that caused the carriage-ruler to be a bit wobbly and the paper-fingers to not really guide the paper also becomes visible. The ruler is held on the carriage by two brackets, these were both loose. What was more, the left-most bracket mounting-screw had lost its lock-nut. The bracket is held straight in the ruler-base by a slot, and can easily be tightened again. It is however a single, very tiny screw. This was not a size that I could find a nut for, so resorted to an alternative method to reduce the chances of it working loose again - lacquer!

Very noticeable in pink (light red, I was told...), a small dot of nail-polish should now help prevent the little screw from working loose. (With thanks to daughter for providing 'light red' lacquer.) When mounted again, the ruler with the scale will completely cover the ruler-base strip and the pink screws.

With the feed-rollers given a light clean and the ruler-base firmly fixed again, the carriage can be re-assembled. As the Ames-manual states for such cases; reverse above removal steps :-)

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Champion 'in the buff'

The excellent instructions of the Ames section on the Underwood portables at the Classic Typewriter pages helped locate all the screws that needed to be taken out. Even so, a bit of a hassle to get all the panels off without anything being bent out of shape.

With the body-panels off, the basic, bare Underwood 'Typemaster' machine is revealed.

The mechanism looks sturdily built, if perhaps somewhat conservatively (compared to for example a Corona Speedline of similar vintage). Those side-plates of the frame look thick enough for a small truck. Most parts have been copper-plated before blackening, a nice 'quality' thing to do and excellent rust-protection.

Another thing that becomes clear however is that this particular specimen has 'issues'. The 82 year old Champion sustained some injuries, and more serious than mere missing screws. (Although those are also a challenge, finding odd-sized American vintage-type screws - in Europe...)

Of itself this first item is not problematic, the machine works fine this way, but the loose dangling end of the bell-trip (red circle) does suggest there should be something connected there. A spring? A weight?

Looking under the machine, there are already more 'anomalies'. That thin wiggly wire that actuates the line-lock does not look like a regular Underwood part (red rectangle). Also that washer between the frame and the keylever-mounting-bar that prevented the second screw looks like a suspect fix. (left red circle). Amid the rows of small thread-ends for adjusting the keylever pressure (there's a spring on top), there is one hole empty - no thread-end! (right red circle). That is worrying. There is still a spring (fortunately) and the keylever does come up again, but there should not be an empty hole there...

More to discover, but this Champion will already provide several interesting puzzles to solve!  :-)

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The new Underwood built-in typing stand

 That is what Underwood called it, and new is what it is. (Well, it was.)

This case came with an Underwood Champion typewriter that was made in 1939, probably early '39. That makes this tripod typing-stand case probably an early specimen of the type.

The stand mechanism is marked only with 'patents applied for' - and that would match the situation in 1939.

This very clever folding mechanism was incorporated by Underwood in their portable typewriter's carrying case, but it was not their design. It was I think designed by Mr Harold Howe who applied for at least one patent on January 18, 1939 - and got his US patent 2,213,985 granted on September 10th, 1940.

(The patent noted on oztypewriter's post on the Underwood stand was very likely inspired by the Underwood stand, judging by figure 2 in his patent. Mr. William Wade's patent is however over a decade after the Howe patent and after Underwood started advertising and selling their built-in typing stand.)

This carrying case overall is a bit 'tired', and also the lid of the stand mechanism no longer quite closes. It is unknown where this typewriter was stored and for how long, but even through this small slit, the inside of the stand mechanism managed to attract a lot of dirt - and the legs have corroded rather noticeably.

Opening the lid is easy, but then it gets more complicated. As a first step and in the interest of safety, it's probably a good idea to put some oil on all joints and especially on the snap-points of the leg stays. How these stays should be 'snapped' in place is fairly straightforward. The next step however might not be immediately obvious without the manual to explain how to unfold the legs.

To unfold a leg the small brass latch that protrudes from the leg must be slid down (or up, depending on point-of-view). It may be necessary to squeeze the whole leg a bit and wiggle, especially if it has not been unlocked for decades. But then an internal spring starts to help unbending the leg - with a second latch the third section of leg is released.

The clever bit of Mr Howe's design is that the latches also lock the sections in place when folded out. This makes the whole stand quite stable and robust. 

To fold in again, it's the same procedure in reverse, until the folded leg snugly 'clicks' in place in itself.

For example the latch 45 in figure 7 holds the whole leg tight, but it is mounted in the third, end-section and when that is unfolded locks it in place against the second section.

Despite being made from aluminum (American made), it really does fold out into a very sturdy stand. This one will be worthwhile to clean-up and find a fix for one missing rubber-foot. For now however it goes back into storage, the typewriter itself is up next :)

Saturday, March 13, 2021

1939 (Champion)

According to the serial number, it was I think manufactured in 1939; by coincidence the same year as the machine featured last month on The Typewriter Revolution blog. A different colour (black) and place of manufacture (Canada), but likewise a 1939 Underwood Champion.

The case was what caught my attention and made me buy it. To have a 'new' typewriter to tinker with. The Underwood Champion is rare enough over here in Holland, the integrated tripod stand probably even rarer - recognizable by the three-layer case ('hamburger-case').

The machine itself looked rather tired in the seller's images with damaged paint and worn decals, a good thing when looking for a typewriter to repair and perhaps do a re-paint on (that lovely dark red...).

This glossy black Underwood Champion portable typewriter (typemaster series) shows signs of heavy use, several key-tops are worn away and got 'label maker' letters pasted on them. Nevertheless the machine actually looks a lot better than expected from the seller images. (It may even not get a re-paint.)

Apart from being stored and ignored for decades, this machine was very probably also given to children to 'play' with. Inside was stuck a small bit of candy-bar wrapper (paper), the platen shows rows of letters on repeat and they probably misused the keyboard to cause so much misalignment ('cakewalk-keyboard').

Apart from some paint-loss of the panels and worn-away decals, there are no major issues with the machine. There are however lots of small issues. There are parts (screws) missing, broken springs and e.g. the rear-feet must have liquefied and gone off somewhere decades ago (small traces remain in the case).

Ergo it has the makings of a nice restoration project that I am very much looking forward to!

In addition to the machine itself, the case will be a prime candidate for re-covering in new leatherette. That will be a challenge, with new skills to be learned and materials to be sourced.

But first the getting-to-know the machine. (Remington Portables I'm familiar with by now, this will be something new to explore.)

The enjoyable steps of cleaning and slowly getting it to work again :-)