Thursday, April 27, 2023

April 2023 typewriter safari

Just on the off-chance of finding something interesting (it does happen); on the way home sometimes make a detour for a quick visit to the local thrift store. The two near-identical Olympias seen in January are still there, now surrounded by even more beige machines. Though to be fair, the Brother in the top-right corner does have faux wood-grain on its front-panel :)

The week after, the 'modern'-machines were joined by a wooden, leatherette-covered typewriter case. The case with a very German 1930s style and fittings, but in drab grey.

The case-lock was hard to open, first thought was that it'd been locked. But just stiff - probably dust and congealed old oil, not been opened for decades. Inside; a Remington de Luxe! In a rather drab greenish-grey.

Even though it says Remington de Luxe on the paper-table, this is not a Remington design. As was suggested by the case, this is a German typewriter, a re-branded Torpedo model 18. Dutch keyboard and plastic key-tops, probably a 1950 - 1952 machine. Remington owned Torpedo, and I can imagine that in 1950 the Remington name would sell better in The Netherlands.

In the store next-door, again a light-coloured Olympia.

But this one a very nice, sleek Olympia SF from around 1960, on a shelf without a case-lid. Some discolouration of the top-lid, but it may also just be dirt. The top panel was lying loose, so snapped it back on the machine. The mechanism looked clean and in great condition - this little SF should be snapped-up by someone soon.

May be spring-cleaning will again reveal some older typewriters in the stores, but perhaps the attics are by now really empty of pre-war machines. Mostly the beige-era machines that are still hiding in cupboards and attics :-)

Friday, April 21, 2023

Who patented this spool and what part is missing?

Taken off an Underwood from the 1920s, this 5-spoke ribbon spool is probably an aftermarket replacement spool from a later date.

It was originally lacquered black, but the paint on this spool had reacted badly with the ink of the old ribbon and they jointly turned to 'goo'. With hot soapy water most could be washed off, the last remnants removed with white spirit or gasoline. 

A neat typewriter ribbon spool, at first glance not unlike Underwood spools or the commonly found Grafton ribbon spools.

Stamped on the flanges however is the text: PAT'D - this is a patented spool design. No clues however on who made it or on patent date or a patent number. (Or even a hint in what country it was patented.)

Though it's a 5-spoke ribbon spool of the same pattern as Underwood, the hub is different (and more complex, expensive to make).

This spool has a hub that is turned from solid material with an elaborate profile. The flanges are crimped/riveted onto this hub. One side of the hub is flattened and a small plate with two prongs is held in bearing-holes of the flanges. This little fork-plate can freely swivel around, presumably to lock the ribbon wound either way. It's unclear how this is supposed to work, very likely there should be a spring-clip to hold the swivel-fork in one of its positions.

As it now is, the construction does not hold a ribbon. How a spring-clip could be easily included to make it all work isn't clear (or I'm being dense here, of course a possibility ;-).

A brief browsing of a couple of patent databases didn't find any publication that could refer to this mechanism. Until the patent turns up to describe how it is supposed to work, it likely remains a bit of guesswork on what parts are missing (if any).

Even though the no-doubt clever mechanism now doesn't really work, it is a nice and shiny addition for any little 1920s portable :-)

Friday, April 14, 2023

Making new ribbon shields for the Hammond typewriter

The Hammond typewriter uses two wear-items; the impression strip and the ribbon shield. These two items were originally sold at modest cost by the Hammond Typewriter Company. Today, with the information from the online world, it is possible to make replacements at home with relatively simple means. The most tricky of the two items is probably the ribbon shield. This is a thin metal part that guides the ribbon and prevents adjacent characters on the shuttle from also making a smudgy imprint.

From pictures of surviving originals found online, measuring a Hammond machine and the informative drawings in the Hammond Folding manual on The Classic Typewriter Page, it is possible to reconstruct the dimensions of a ribbon shield for the Hammond Multiplex typewriter, or a Hammond 12.

The making of a new shield as documented on In Mechanica Antiqua inspired to want to make a new shield. The video of Haelschear's Haven on making shields showed the great idea of using thin (~ 0.1 mm) aluminum sheet from a (cheap, disposable) tray that made it much more achievable.

After some experimenting, the following method worked well to create new ribbon shields:

Making the shield-blank

Tracing the user-manual images, combined with dimensions of the machine and knowing that it should guide a 7/16" (~11 mm) ribbon, a cutting outline was drafted. Extra helper-lines were added for lining up the scalpel/chisel/tool when cutting the small angled details.

For the Multiplex shield, simply do not cut-out the lower aperture to create the one-color version.

The above Hammond No. 12 shield pattern is for wire ribbon-clips instead of fold-over sheet. (Note that the printing position of the No. 12 is nicely in the middle of the ribbon. This does however mean that the vibrator must be lifted quite a long way, to still enable visible typing. Strange, that.)

This shield outline is printed (using the reference length bars for size) on a sticker-sheet, for pasting to the aluminum.

In case the outline is printed on regular paper, a glue-stick to paste it to the aluminum sheet also works fine.

To cut the details and especially the rounded shapes, a set of very cheap, small wood-working chisels comes in very handy. These allow cleanly cutting or punching the rounded corners and sharp inner-corners. The aluminum can also be cut with scissors. After the corners and details are punched with the chisels, it is then relatively straightforward to cut out the blank with scissors.

This then results in the flat shield 'blanks', as shown below for the two-color Multiplex version.

Using a hard, smooth tool (e.g. handle of a hobby-scalpel) any burrs or curled edges of the aluminum are flattened and made smooth.

Folding the shield

To consistently and cleanly shape the shield, a guide was designed. The parts for this guide are also printed on the sticker-sheet and glued to thick card, again using the reference dimensions for correct size. The base is glued to 2 mm card and the spacers on 1 mm card. The prongs are lengths of wood coffee-stirrer sticks (~5 mm by 1 mm).

The lines on the shield-blank help in aligning it relative to the prongs of the folding-guide. With a flat helper-tool (i.e. a bit of card) and pressing down on the blank with a finger to keep it in-place, the ends are folded up over the prongs. With fingers then folded over completely and smoothed to the surface of the shield.

Using a bit of scrap card or aluminum, cyanoacrylate glue is applied underneath the flap that now 'floats' over the shield. This flap is then pressed down flat onto the shield, using a length of stick or thick card (best not do this with fingers, glue can be squeezed out - do not get superglue on fingers!).

Making the ribbon clips

The wire clips as used on the Multiplex guides are relatively easy to replicate. These can be made from ~1 mm soft-steel wire as sold in DIY and hardware stores. First straighten a length in the 'standard' way by stretching and twisting using a dril, a straight ~ 50 cm length makes a lot of clips :)

The bending can be done 'free-form' with pliers using the user-manual picture as guide, but it is easier to use a simple jig or mandrel. Making the jig from metal would be best, however here the jig was glued-up from the same coffee-stirrer sticks used on the folding-guide and then strengthened with some cyanoacrylate. A simple flat shape of ~1mm thick and just over ~11 mm high is all that is needed. The extra vertical slat is for conveniently aligning the straight upright length and the line is for consistently replicating width.

The shape of the clips is simpler than it looks at first sight, a basic fold-around of the ribbon-width. Change winding directions for left and right versions. The formed clips can be slid off the jig and then cut off at the short leg. If needed, the bends can be tightened a little with pliers and the ends can be rounded with droplet of glue.

Using this jig, it is fairly easy to quickly make several identical ribbon clips.

Fixing the ribbon clips to the shield

For mounting the ribbon clips, another tool was quickly made. This guide helps positioning the clips in the correct position on the guide and keeps the upright of the clip distanced from the shield.

The guide parts were printed on paper and glued to card (using reference dimensions for size). Again, 2 mm card for the base and 1 mm for the spacer and support. The lines on shield and guide help aligning and positioning the clips. A left and a right ribbon-clip are then placed on the positions indicated on the guide.

The clips are fixed in-place by letting a drop of cyanoacrylate ('runny', low viscosity) run against and under the clip.

Letting them set for half a minute or so, they are then firmly attached to the shield - at any rate, easily strong enough for normal handling and guiding of a ribbon. With the clips added; the new shields are complete and functional.

Finishing the ribbon shield

To finish a new ribbon shield, it is painted. This hides the paper with guidelines and paint also infuses the paper to make it stiffer and more durable.

Choice of color of course - also tried silver, but flat black worked well. To make it look nice (and help visibility), the printing-point position indicator can be picked-out in a contrasting color, e.g. red.

Mounting the ribbon shield on the typewriter, adjusting

The ribbon shield can be pressed down over the prongs of the vibrator fork, all the way down. The prongs of the fork should hold the shield under a light tension, pulling it taut. The ribbon can be passed through the gully at the prongs and through the ribbon-clips.

The vertical position should be so that the typed line is still (just-about) visible in the resting position and the top aperture in the shield aligns with the type in the raised, printing position. The shield can be slid up on the prongs if needed, to make it 'underline' the typed line. To make sure the shield is lifted with its top aperture to the typing position, the pusher-rod that lifts the vibrator fork (at arrow) can be taken out and length-adjusted as needed.

In case the shield and its aperture does not align horizontally with the type, then loosening the two screws that hold the fork (circled) allows a slight tweaking of the horizontal position. Note that when a bi-chrome adapter is fitted to the typewriter, the fork may snag when too much to the right and not drop back reliably.

Result - a glut of ribbon shields

With this method, it turns out to be fairly easy to make reproduction Hammond ribbon shields. Enough to get the Hammond Multiplex a functional shield and spares to last it for decades to come.
(A PDF with the pattern and the guides on an A4 for printing can be downloaded here.)
Made possible by the multiple online resources of the wider Typosphere :-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Trying another source for new 7/16" ribbons

A proper ribbon for the Hammond Multiplex should be 7/16" wide - about 11 mm. Older Oliver typewriters also use this ribbon size. On a Hammond it could be possible to use a standard 1/2" (~13 mm) ribbon with a modified shield, but it's a bad fit on the spools and besides that, it would be 'wrong' :-) An Oliver also could take a 1/2", but likewise a bad fit with crumpling of the ribbon in the ribbon-vibrator.

Inking a satin-weave 10mm ribbon does work, but these modern ribbons are fairly stiff and probably less ideal for use on a Hammond with its complex printing with a ribbon exposed through the small window in the shield.

Another source for non-standard ribbons is then cassettes made for dot-matrix printers. Also cash-registers, time-clocks or adding machines still use ribbons in cassettes. The vast majority of these cassettes contain a standard 1/2" ribbon of varying length (anywhere between 0.8 m and 40 m!), but some cassettes have unusual widths, such as 1/4", 8mm or 16mm. Conveniently, the cassettes for e.g. the Siemens Nixdorf NP06, the IBM 4212 or 4683 and for the Olivetti PR4 actually contain 7/16" typewriter ribbon!

From old stock, a generic cassette for the Olivetti PR4 was obtained online that should contain ~13 m of 7/16" black ribbon.

Opening up the cassette, the ribbon is not wound onto a spool, but crumpled into the cassette-box - it is spliced to form a continuous loop. The green gears grip and drive the ribbon.

The loop was cut - the ribbon taken out and then wound onto the old Hammond spools - a good fit. The ribbon still 'zig-zags' a little on the typewriter, but should straighten out in time.

Trying to type with it - this 7/16" ribbon is unfortunately very dry. It either is dried-out, or it is dry-by-design because it was made for the very firm 'wallop' of the needles of a dot-matrix printer. (The line-feed on this Hammond is by the way still unreliable, the rollers are cracked and glassy-smooth.)

The faint printing does show that it should be possible to get this Hammond to write again - next step perhaps is to try for a more heavily inked, wetter ribbon. (Because the type-shuttle is made of hard rubber, oil-based inks could risk damaging the shuttle. Something to be thought about.)

At any rate, even though not quite ready-to-use in a Hammond, printer-cassettes are definitely a source of finely-woven ribbon of non-standard sizes :)

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Modern machine in the museum

Behind glass in a cabinet in a museum, a modern machine. With plastic housing, ergo modern. This is an IBM Selectric from ~1965 - actually to be fair it is already relatively old and not something commonly seen anymore. Fitting for a museum of the modern era :)

This electric typewriter is an exhibit in the Museum of the 20th Century. This museum has various displays showing how over the 20th century our houses, shops and workplace-technology changed.

E.g. an orange fever-dream of the seventies. (That wallpaper really 'comes at you'.)

Or a more toned-down late thirties interior with some typical Dutch elements of the period.

The Selectric in its showcase is part of their information technology room, showing typewriters, copiers and calculator development from 1900 up to the computers of the 1990s.

It includes several typewriters behind glass.

Behind glass - a realisation that these machines are actually starting to be quite old. Many of these can still be found in thrift-stores or online marketplaces and can be experienced 'hands-on', but they are well on their way to become museum-pieces.

A century-old typewriter can be maintained and kept going indefinitely, however some of the more modern information technology will be a much harder challenge to maintain in working condition.

Walking round the exhibition does really work as intended; a memory-jogging experience with so many items that fit a period of the last century. And they really do have an immense amount of 20th century objects!:

The museum was a joy to visit (and strengthened the allegation that typewriter collecting is a bit like having a little private museum :-)

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Get the great new Underwood Portable typewriter!

 The Underwood Portable or Travel-Typewriter; only 4 kg and Hfl. 175,-.

Another Underwood advertising blotter, probably dating from around 1925, with an image of the machine and case. 

In the copy the dealer states: they know that: the Underwood Portable is the strongest, handiest and most portable machine. They also offer without any obligation to demonstrate it at your premises!

All in the certain knowledge you will be convinced and will decide to buy one of these little marvels.

We did :-)