Saturday, May 29, 2021

Case of the Underwood 5 - cosmetic touch-ups

Following the structural repair, the case lid and base of the Underwood 5 typewriter have now also been 'touched-up' cosmetically.

There are still spots and blemishes, but much cleaner and protected with a coat of varnish. Still not sure about that lining, it does look a bit 'wonky'. One side-panel's lining is skewed 'off' by a few degrees. The gold lining was however re-applied with precision, following exactly the visible marks of the original lining.

In touching-up the case lid, the first step was removing all the dried-out spider and fly droppings. With a small, sharp screwdriver these can be 'chiseled' off, most will disintegrate in a puff of dust. Several however had embedded themselves and attacked the underlying paint, leaving a bare metal spot.

All the bare spots and all the scruffs and scratch marks were then filled in with a matte black enamel paint, using a fine 'camel-hair' brush. To check colour-matching, the surface was wetted with a cloth - this evens out the surface finish and allows checking for colour only. When the light catches the surface, the touched-in spots can be clearly seen.

What can also be clearly seen is that the newly applied gold lining is not 'straight'. 

This was a bit of a 'judgment call'; how to re-do the lining (or if to re-do it at all). An option was to create new lining according to the old pattern, but now accurately spaced out and straight. In the end I opted to re-do it by exactly tracing the original lines - these could still be seen as a shiny outline on the dulled paint.

That the original lining was so wobbly and in-accurate was surprising to me - on such an expensive article I would have expected more care and precision to have been applied. Even for hand-lining, this seems a bit 'slap-dash' - the spacing on the front-lower lines is remarkably uneven!

Having decided to do a restoration of the original appearance, a leather strap was positioned right up to an original line and then fixed in place with masking tape. Then the original line was re-traced with a gold pen with a steady, constant stroke-speed for an even thickness and intensity. (First several different gold pens and markers were tested on black card. The house-label of a local department store turned out to be the best. A proper 'brassy' golden colour (many pens are mostly yellow) and proper opaque, visible on black.)

After the lining was re-applied, the whole case was given a spray-coat of protective varnish. For this case, an acrylic artists-vanish was used - a quick-drying and non-yellowing varnish. The old, dull paint of the case seemed to 'suck in' the first coat. It very likely had become completely porous over the past century. With another few coats of the varnish, it now has a reasonably even, satin-gloss finish. Not the high-gloss it originally had, but it looks appropriate for the overall age and condition.

The clasps that hold the lid onto the studs of the base had rusted. Using a card to protect the finish around the clasp, these were cleaned-up and brightened with some steel-wool. A small drop of oil to make the slides go easier again.

The base-plate is assembled from three planks glued together. One side-plank had a small split at the end, so this was glued down again. Clamped with some thin plastic sheet to prevent accidentally gluing the clamping blocks to the base. 

Bare spots on the wooden base were given some acrylic lacquer, rubbed in with a rag. This should fill the 'open' wood and not affect the overall original finish of the remaining lacquer.

The end result is then a stabilised and restored protective transport case for the Underwood 5 typewriter. It's cleaner and looking more like it originally did in 1920, yet it still does look its age.

Including the somewhat 'wonky' gold lining :-)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Case lid of the Underwood 5 - structural repair, closing a broken corner-seam

This case lid of the recently arrived Underwood 5 typewriter is still in reasonably good condition. From browsing several online-ads for machines with a case, it can be seen that these lids often suffer severe blows and often look 'beaten-up'. Several must have had something heavy stacked on top and then succumbed to the weight (the load then probably resting on the typewriter inside...).

On this one there are the normal scuffs and scratches, some minor 'dings' and the lacquer has dulled to a matte finish; but overall it is very good. (The inside still has the original gloss finish.)

Even so, this specimen did get a nasty knock to the side, busting open the rear-right corner-seam. The side-panel was a bit crumpled, but straightened out nicely with some gentle bending. The seam can still be seen to be open, but it should all fit together again.

To allow the case to continue to protect its typewriter, this was fixed-up. (The Underwood Champion is waiting for its new feet to be manufactured, so is temporarily 'paused'.)

The edges of the seam were sanded down to bare metal, to allow re-soldering of the joint. With some wooden blocks, the rear-corner seam was clamped in position. (Found out later that the top-edge was not quite as nicely aligned, but it will have to do.)

First applied some flux into the seam (not very runny, might have been better to apply before clamping everything in place). Then the seam was filled with tin, using an electric soldering iron. The few spots of excess solder were filed away - then the corner was firm again and closed - a bright, shiny corner-line.

As the final step in the case-lid structural repair, the soldered seam was touched up with some matte black enamel paint. As an experiment, also the scuffs and scratches on this side-panel were filled-in with the black enamel.

Not perfect, but it will probably hold for a while and it is not too noticeable - a good fix to do :-)