Friday, May 27, 2022

Bycatch - Ericsson model BHM 1001

An unexpected bycatch when going to pick up a typewriter. (After the debacle of the ludicrous buffering of the Synela, pick-up whenever possible.) The pick-up turned out to be a vintage / thrift-store / antique shop. The youngest had been asking about a rotary-dial phone for a while and just on the off-chance I asked the seller of the typewriter if he had any. He did!

He'd just sold one, but a new shipment had just come in that he thought had a phone. Rummaging about, it was indeed retrieved from one of the boxes - youngest viewed and approved and it was bought for a not unreasonable sum.

From a quick search on the hive-mind that is the internet; this is known as an Ericsson model 1931, type 1949 Dutch telephone. This model was introduced by Ericsson in 1931, with integrated metal dial. The Ericsson type-number is DBH 1001. The metal number-holder on the front is apparently typical for Dutch-manufactured phones, from 1936 or so. After the war, many of these phones were overhauled to comply with new standards (wiring, safety) and then also given a newer, later pattern horn. 

Checking the insides, it indeed has 'modern' wiring with plastic insulation. (The horn wires have been disconnected, rather frayed cable etc.) A label on the bottom states it was assembled in 1954, so this perhaps is one of those overhauled phones - the 1931 housing with a more modern (~'47 pattern) horn and insides.

Good find - very happy youngest :)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Typewriters on display and a very large Mercedes

Seen last weekend; several display cabinets with typewriters in a local combination-museum.

In between the cabinets a table with a group of typewriters (Brother) to experience actual typing. And indeed a boy was wondering what to do when you make a mistake - the backspace does not erase :-)

In a larger display/working area next to the typewriter-corner, was a very large Mercedes. Not a Mercedes typewriter and not from Mercedes Büro-Maschinen Werke, but it is a Mercedes to print on paper. Looking very solidly built and very heavy.

It's part of a larger printing-museum display and working area that has a lot of machines - for example this beautifully turned out Heidelberg. (These are grand machines, but probably not something that could be smuggled into the den...)

The combination-museum hosts different collections in an old industrial-building. Another, very large area is devoted to the war and liberation. The aeroplane guarded by a dog, just like the magazine-cover of the era.

An astonishingly large collection (these things are a lot larger than typewriters to collect). Especially many trucks and support vehicles, such as this primordial-looking Scammel.

And there was of course also the main attraction and reason to visit - a rather good and extensive collection of a 'brick' from its very early beginnings to the present day.

So all that - and some typewriters too :-)

Friday, May 20, 2022

Carriage of the Synela - continuing the S.I.M. typewriter repair

The next step in reviving this machine was tackling the carriage. Having taken it off the machine, it was stripped down to its bare frame with only the feed-rollers left in place.

Noticed when taking it apart; the S.I.M. machine could also have been supplied with a line-release. This one does not have that, but the the rod and knob (left) are hollow so the carriage can take a platen with the extra parts for the form-fill / line-release function.

Another quirk during disassembly is that the platen-rod bearing on the right has an up-down adjustable bearing. The extra 'stop' allows taking off the platen and keep the alignment. In this case, everything was taken off for cleaning and polishing.

Overall, the machine started to feel very much like Royal portable typewriter. E.g. the return-lever and how it actuates the line-feed is the same, as is the basic frame construction of the whole machine. Comparing the two makes, it's probably fair to say that the S.I.M. typewriter is a 'knock-off' Royal. Their design copied from a 'P' in the early 1930s.

One thing they also copied was a very tricky carriage bearing construction. Taking the carriage off is a simple matter of removing the stop at an end of the rail. Then it slides out cleanly and four ball bearings drop out. Plus one little cage for every ball.

Putting it all back is unfortunately not straightforward. At least, it took several tries to get the cage+ball in - and get it in the right spot so that the carriage would do its full travel. Oh, and not lose a left-ball when you try to get in a right-ball. All very fiddly and confusing. It's all back on now, but I do wish I'd seen that straw-trick in this helpful video earlier (thank you!). 

In any case, taking it off helped with cleaning - it did need cleaning...

With the carriage finally back on its rails (and clean), also the body-panels were placed back onto the machine. More fixes and missing parts to be tackled, but it is starting to look like a typewriter again :)

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Monroe L 160-X; a very compact, very quiet calculator

This picture from a 1941 printing of a Monroe brochure shows the L 160-X calculator's small size - it even came with its own carrying case.

This specimen lost its carrying case, but otherwise has survived very well. A Monroe L 160-X (Executive) mechanical calculator. As the advertising text of the brochure notes; it really is amazingly compact, the main body measuring only 15 by 22 cm. (I.e. tiny compared to calculators of the time.)

This type was introduced in 1929, basically a half-sized version of their earlier machines. Around 1936 the pale green keyboard was introduced with the extra shadow-mask plate for better visibility of pressed-down keys. Probably around 1939 the handles were given a more modern, straight shape. This specimen still has the crackle-pattern black on green paint on the main body and the old style Monroe logo - by the late 1940s this was changed to a script logo and a plain finish.

As is noted by others, it's very light-running and quiet compared to other calculators, e.g. pinwheel machines. In some company advertising it was actually referred to as the Monroe Noiseless.

This particular specimen was originally purchased new by a building firm in Munich, where it was used in their office. With the advent of electronic calculators, the machine was put away with others in a storage room - and likely forgotten about. The son of the founder of the firm remembered seeing it being used when he was a child in the 1950s. He was now clearing out the old offices, found it again, and put it up for sale online. And there it was purchased by its second owner (me).

The Typewriterdatabase is also a great resource for calculators!; the serial-number resources of The Database (Nomda) confirmed that this calculator was made in 1946. This matches the start of the firm - who started doing work for the Americans also at that time. Buying an American calculator too - it fits.

It needed cleaning, some minor repairs and only small cosmetic touch-ups - repairs well worthwhile for this very nice and working calculator.

The calculator had evidently been used with care and stored well; a light wipe with a damp cloth was really all that was needed. Even on generally clean machines however, the keys accumulate dirt and 'gunk'. To properly clean that and stabilize any cracks in the plastic, the keytops were taken off. Many keys simply pulled off, the remaining keys were pried off with (curved) pliers resting on a strip of rubber for support to not damage the paint.

The keys can then simply be washed in warm, soapy water. Stubborn 'gunk' is loosened with a wooden toothpick. Where the deforming plastic was cracking, some cyanoacrylate was run into the cracks to hopefully prevent complete disintegration of a key. Then the clean, stabilised keys are ready to be pressed back onto their stems - the lettering on the red control-keys was refreshed with off-white paint.

Before re-fitting the keys however, the machine was taken apart a bit further. The disassembly of a Monroe is fairly widely documented on the web - there are even some original maintenance manuals on the Archive. The keyboard is a sub-assembly that can be lifted out, but in this case only the top-plate was taken off for cleaning it inside (dust and debris does collect over the decades). A bit of a bother to put back perhaps, as all 80 stems need to pass through the slots in the top-plate in one go :)

Underneath the machine, the long bars can be seen that are tilted/deflected by pressing down the key-stems. Their deflection then slides the stepped drums into their positions for the number that is pressed. Two bars per column, as it uses base-5 encoding so two 'digits' per column. The large disk-drum at the back of the machine (it's standing on its front) is the 10-s carry - so there is only 10-carry in the part of the register that is above the main-body. In use that generally isn't an issue, but something to be aware of.

The serial number on these machines is stamped on the inside of a frame side-plate. This can only be seen when the machine is taken apart, but it should also be scratched (by hand) on the inside of the carriage on the left-hand side. The stamping confirms it is an L160X, with serial number 374910 - a 1946 machine.

One broken-off pin in the carriage-mechanism meant the result-register would not clear - a new pin was shaped from a nail and was pressed into place. (It's not hardened steel, but for its future light use it should be fine...)

Another small defect was that the automatic keyboard clearing didn't work in addition, only when subtracting. This turned out to be caused by a stuck sliding cam on the first driving gear. The gear that is driven by the crank has a sliding/rotating cam that depending on the turning direction (addition or subtraction) must slide to the correct timing position. This cam was stuck solid in the subtract-position.

All the gears can be easily taken off by removing the spring-clips of their axles. Very helpfully, all gears are clearly marked for their correct meshing position to maintain correct timing of the mechanism. As is often the case with old mechanical devices, the problem was solved by a good cleaning to remove old grease. Everything then moved freely again and the keyboard cleared as it should for both 'modes'.

The lacquer finish was largely fine with only some minor scuffs and scratches. Using markers of varying shades of green to black and some experimenting, these scuffs were made much less obvious.

The paint-damage also confirmed that this machine originally did have a carrying case. The calculator is held with 'forks' that clamp around two feet and then it's locked with a clamp in this hole in the base-plate - when placing it back into the case it would be easy to scratch the paint around the hole (likely impossible not to do so).

With touched-up paintwork, polished nickel and all-cleaned; a very nice, compact, quiet and quite capable calculator!

Friday, May 6, 2022

A well-oiled segment and keeping track of where all the pull-rods go

The typebars of the Synela portable typewriter were very dirty. The slots in the segment also looked filled with dirt. To thoroughly clean these and make everything move smoothly again, the typebars were taken out of the machine. By pulling out the pivot-rod, the typebars can be slid out of the slots and manoeuvred out of the machine.

The typebars were heavily tarnished (black), but the bearing-surfaces also turned out to be covered in oil. The segment slots were filled with black 'deposits' and equally well oiled. This may have been old oil, but perhaps it was recent oil (or WD40...) - quite plausible that the segment was 'soaked' about 5 months ago to make the typebars move again when putting it on Etsy as 'working'. 

Keeping a segment oiled is generally a bad idea. It can give temporary relief and make everything move freely, but will attract dust and dirt and over years can harden to completely clog a machine (especially WD40 will harden). Creeping oil or WD40 can be excellent for freeing things up, but really has to be washed-out thoroughly afterwards. The oil in the slots confirmed that this machine really needed taking apart for cleaning.

The typebars are numbered, but the pull-rods that connect them to the intermediate bell-cranks are not. These 44 rods are also all differently shaped and need to go back in their correct position. To keep track of these, all were given a numbered tag the moment they were taken out of the machine.

The segment had to be cleaned in-place on the machine, as its screws were impossible to loosen without risking damage. Rinsing with white spirit (i.e. petrol or gasoline, but without all the additives) solved the oil, but did not do anything against the dirt. Thorough scrubbing and rubbing in the slots with wooden skewers and thick card was needed to get rid of (most of) the black 'lining' inside the slots.

Also the tarnishing of the typebars could only be removed by vigorous polishing (Brasso!). After cleaning they still have some black corrosion (?), but at least the bearing surfaces are mostly clean and smooth again. 

The typebars then all lined up and ready to be put back into a clean segment. They are numbered from 1 to 44, but also on this machine there is a small numbering hick-up as is oddly common on typewriters. On this one there is no 35 and there are two 34 typebars. Starting at typebar 1 and pushing in the pivot-rod further as typebars and rods are added, all the typebars are placed back in the machine and hooked-up with the bell-crank.

Placing back the type-guide, the decorative segment-plate and the two side plates, the typebars and basket are assembled clean and everything is moving freely again. There still are some spots of nickel-loss and tarnish/corrosion, but overall it's looking very smart :) 

Another thing was the cracked frame-bar that is the bearing for the key-bars. This was merely patched-up by applying some cyanoacrylate in the crack to stop movement. The bar is held in the outer machine-frame at both ends, and the crack is not really a load-bearing area - so this should be good enough for a while. 

As was done originally, the serial-number was picked-out with paint.

On the carriage-base, the escapement can be seen to be 'a proper escapement' with star-wheel and extra pinion to engage with the carriage-rack. Overall, although it is perhaps a 'budget' machine, the build quality looks rather good. It depends perhaps a bit more on many adjustments than on machined-precision for its function, but the core mechanism convinces as a decent typewriter. The more reason to try to revive it :-)

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Typewriter safari - a manual (was that a Royal?), an electric and an electronic

Spotted on a thrift-store safari this morning - a Roytype typewriter. It is in a display cabinet behind glass in their office, not for sale. One of the items kept in their own collection :)

The Roytype branding was used by Royal for their ribbons, but not for typewriters. The machine was difficult to see, but seemed to be a bit different from the common models of 1930/40s Royal portable. (Royal Roytype typewriters were indeed made, but much later.) What Royal portable machine then is this - with that carriage sloping and an extra panel. Surely it is not a knock-off? It has a qwerty-keyboard and overall fairly Royal-y 'squarish'. Thinking of Rooy and their later run-in with Royal about their name (with swirly R), but the Rooy portables of the 1940s are quite different in style - sharp edges. Hard to credit that this would be a knock-off. More likely a regular Royal portable, one that I failed to identify seeing it only from behind - and from behind glass :-) 

In another store; an electric SCM Coronet in a quite hideous, large, plastic suitcase.

And in yet another store, on a dark bottom-shelf an electronic Philips typewriter from the end of the typewriter-era.

All machines left where they were, a photo-safari only :-)