Sunday, March 31, 2024

Imported from St. Petersburg to Rotterdam, an Original-Odhner arithmometer model Ag

Imported from St. Petersburg, Russia to Rotterdam, Holland around 1908 by the J.A. Ruys trading company,

The Ruys trading company was the continuation of the Voorhoeve trading company, renamed in 1904 when J.A. Ruys bought-in to take over the company. A major line of business at that time was the importing and sale of Hammond typewriters, and Odhner calculators as shown in the 1904 newspaper ad below.

Hammond machines in The Netherlands often have the brass Ruys shield in the same style as the Hammond shield on the wooden base.

Ruys also advertised the Odhner calculator by itself, for example in this newspaper ad from October 1907.

(More advertisements and some background on Odhner at the informative mechanical calculators pages of Jaap Scherphuis.)

The St. Petersburg-made Odhner machines really are the original pinwheel calculator, the start of the 'category'. As such, it is a historical milestone-machine for automated calculation When this one showed up on the local classifieds site, curiosity won-out and I made an 'impulse purchase' - pretty much the item as advertised in that 1907 newspaper ad.

With almost 30,000 made, these calculators should not be rare and be available at relatively modest prices. The very early ones (with short crank) are however eye-wateringly expensive these days and even the later, nice specimens with case are becoming sought-after. This later specimen in the state it was in, was fortunately affordable.

This is a model A with 13 digits capacity in the result register. An extra 'g' indicates a bell, so this is a model Ag. The marking with 'Original-Odhner' instead of 'Odhner-Arithmometer' started in 1907 (to set it apart from the increasingly successful clones). Going by the serial-number of 14618 and the advanced features (comma-sliders, fast-clearing bar) this machine was probably made in 1908 or perhaps late '07.

It had been given as a present (retirement gift?) to the grandparents of the seller. Nothing however was remembered about the background or the occasion, it had just been 'around' for decades. There was no case and it is mounted on a (1950s?) small multiplex board. And now sold.

The calculator was also missing its bell, several screws and generally rusty and dusty. It was also very stiff - so did not try to operate it before cleaning and lubricating. Otherwise there is risk of blocking the machine or even breaking something from excess stress.

Without taking apart any of the more complex sub-assemblies, like the drum or registers, it was laid out in its main components. All mechanisms were oiled (sewing-machine oil) and gently worked free. Some assemblies may have to be taken apart later for more thorough cleaning and removing excess (and old) oil.

Metric M2.5 was a good fit for replacements for the cover-screws. Heads were modified to match the pattern of the remaining original screws ('instrument-head'). 

Unsure what screw-threads were standard in pre-revolution Russia, but when the Odhner production-design was made in 1890 or so it was probably designed around 'Sellers' or American threads. The cover-screws are what today'd be called UNF #3-56 screws - the M2.5 is nearly identical in diameter, pitch and has the same 60 degree thread-angle. (International metric is derived from French standard screws, that are in turn derived from William Sellers' American screws with 60 degreed angle.) 

Assuming old American-size threads, the screws in the register wing-nut flange are probably #5. Anyhow, a decent replacement for a missing screw was scavenged from a 1947 Underwood standard.

Most notable of course was the missing bell - a small bicycle bell! At 32 mm diameter it is slightly too large, but does fit and at overflow makes a wonderfully bright 'Dingg!'. It being black also is in keeping with the machine's overall 'not shiny' appearance :)

On older Odhner machines without bell, the carriage can simply be slid out. On this model however, a locking screw has to be removed first (and the bell taken off too). This screw is accessible by first removing the back-panel - it has a squared-off head that will also prevent it working loose as it strikes the two end-stops.

On the right in the image above the only safety interlock of the machine can also be seen. The steel disk with one cut-out works in tandem with the slotted bar to prevent carriage and drum being operated at the same time.

The machine is now free from the copious dust and dirt. The mechanism is mostly functional, although not yet as it should be in all positions. Some of the register-wheels hardly want to move - more disassembly and cleaning will be needed for that. There is also the chance that it is just worn-out. 

Additionally, some of the gear-train and handle have developed play and cause the timing to go slightly off for the safety interlock - to be looked at later too. The rusty covers could perhaps be re-finished, but it may all be left as it is. The calculator just looks its age :)

It also definitely looks 'old' when compared to a 1930s Odhner, side by side in the above image. The later, Swedish-built machine is smaller than the older Russian-made machine, yet with many more features and safety interlocks. The size of the old machine, its features and also very much the curly script do evoke the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is).

A survivor from the dawn of widespread mechanical calculation :-)

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Gebruiksaanwijzing voor de Mignon-schrijfmachine (Oskar Markx)

User-instructions for the Mignon-typewriter, from the exclusive importer for The Netherlands; 'AEG-Typewriter Importing', Oskar Markx, Amsterdam. A very informative post about him is at the Schrijfmachine blog.

This booklet was folded-up in the cardboard box that'd normally be supplied with the machine. Sourced from the local classifieds-site - now again with a Dutch-language Mignon Model 4, however a machine without the Oskar Markx label. (Many Mignon's of the late 1920s  in The Netherlands have a decal of Oskar Markx, importer. Just not this machine, maybe not imported by his company or the labeling was not always done.)

The content is the Dutch translation of the original, German instructions; everything you need to know to set-up and use the Mignon. It also is very optimistic on typing speed; claiming a speed of 250 to 300 characters per minute is achievable with a bit of practice.

That's 5 characters per second - quite a feat!

But for just getting to typing with the machine, the instructions are now scanned and uploaded to The Archive, for reading and/or downloading a PDF copy :)

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Awkward adding machine repairs, a Dalton that's not a Dalton

As an entertaining puzzle. Originally this blocked-wreck was bought to be a source of American-size screws and some spare parts, but was also tempting to see what can be learned from it and what could perhaps be fixable.

This is a Dalton, but it is also not a Dalton adding machine. It was indeed manufactured in the old Dalton factory in Norwood, but this is not a Dalton design. This really is a Remington-Rand 'Portable' adding-listing machine. The Remington adding machine is actually the Brennan adding machine. This company had a brilliant, compact design by Thomas Mehan, but had the misfortune to launch new (expensive) business machine in 1929 just before the crash. When the Brennan company went under in the early 30-ies, it was bought by Remington-Rand. 

Remington-Rand had itself been formed a few years earlier in '27 from the merger of Remington, Rand-Kardex, Dalton and Baker-Vawter Ledger. The newly acquired Brennan design was superior to the by-then aged original Dalton design and from '33 the Brennan-design was basis for the new Remington-Rand  'Portable' adding-listing machine.

Most of these new 'Portable' adding-listing machines were sold as Monarch, many as Remington and some as Torpedo (Germany) or Dalton. It seems the Dalton brand was used mostly in export machines, e.g. in regions where the Dalton name was still valuable. This particular 9-column specimen with display, serial number M 150,893 is from 1937. Like many late 30ies Dalton's, this one was also originally sold in Belgium.

A lot of tweaking and oil on several cams un-blocked the main movement. The blocking was caused by hardened old oil/grease stopping lever springing back when they were expected to do so. The keyboard was however badly rusted, the key-stems no longer moving freely in the slots in the equally rusty key-plate. This specimen being a wreck anyways, the keyboard was taken off and taken apart.

These 'Portable' machines are not easy to work on, the keyboard-assembly is really hard to get out (as commented on by bss1250 in his video on a Monarch). Some bending of the outer side-frames is needed to get it out. The bottom-plate can be screwed off and then the routing of the keys to the number-positions is visible - the row of 'prods' that enter a number into memory are at arrow A. The protrusions on the line B are what trips the universal bar (itself in top-right of picture). All the stems C have a delicate spring on it that pushes the key back up.

When the keyboard is removed, the 9-column register can be seen on the machine, slidable on its rails. The teethed/castellated rack in the front of the memory-bank (pin-bed) engages with the escapement, to index it one position on every digit entered. The pin that's pushed down in a column enters a number, just like the original Dalton. (That lever in front was a bit worrying, that fell out when holding it upside down! Took a bit of puzzling to find where it should go - it's the lever that prevents keyboard-clearing when the repeat-button is pressed down.)

All the key-stems are uniquely shaped, they were all cleaned with steel-wool. Having gone this far, the key-plate was stripped and re-finished with dark green paint.

Re-assembly of the keyboard-assembly is 'hard'. The 13 delicate springs need to be held in place on 13 keylevers that themselves need three tabs to be in slots of both top and bottom plates. The hole in the 'prod' of the key-levers now makes sense - this allows a wire to be fed through to keep them in-place during the assembly. Only after several attempts and extra spring-clips to hold things together, was the keyboard put together again - this is not meant for maintenance!

Again bending the side-frame and a lot of puzzling on how the various levers have to be positioned, the keyboard could be screwed back onto the machine. Now with clean key-stems that spring-back easily.

Numbers could then be entered into the machine, the adding mechanism however still made mistakes. When adding 15 to 15, the result was 20 - none of the ten-carry's worked. Adding 3 to 7 made zero.

How or where the mechanism does (or ought to do) the tens carry was not obvious from peering at the mechanism. Reading Mehan's original patent for the mechanism and looking at the drawings gave however a great explanation on how the carry's are supposed to work. (This by the way also made understandable why an 'empty-stroke' is always needed before the total can be printed.)

When a number-wheel (71) passes from 9 to zero, a notch on this wheel (103, marked green) pushes the lever 104 down, allowing the pin 56a on the rack to enter the slot in lever 104 (circled red). The lever 105 on axle 108 (marked red) needs to spring forward to hold 105 down for the carry to happen cleanly.

On this machine, all levers 105 were glued solid on their axle 108 (red arrow, below). This prevented any carry from happening.

With fresh oil and by forcing the levers to move to break the hardened grease, the levers 105 again moved freely. This actually fixed the carry's!; adding 15 to 15 again gives 30.

With the keys also cleaned (they were grimy-black all-over), the whole machine might actually be fixable.

Viewing from the front, the indexing mechanism is blocking the view to the pin-bed memory behind it. The universal bar (white arrow) is what trips the escapement, the long horizontal spring at the bottom pulls the 'carriage' of pin-bed memory to the left. One position at every digit entered.

These Remington small adding machines are not rare and not valuable today, so a good candidate for the occasional puzzling to fix all the other things that still don't work (e.g. the printing mechanism insists everything is a sub-total). And in case of failure and breaking it, not a big issue either.

A 3D crossword-puzzle, as it were ;-)

Sunday, March 10, 2024

First words from the Standard Folding Typewriter

 After probably at least half a century, the little Standard Folding Typewriter typed!

Well, sort of; it still needs adjusting and it will not be a truly daily-usable typewriter ever again. But it's complete and basically functional.

To get there, a new ribbon was wound on the tiny spools. Both spools are identical, the left and right wound the same direction. (The machine is capable of bi-chrome 'black-red' typing, but black is fine and makes adjusting the ribbon vibrator much less critical.)

The machine only had one spool left, so first a new spool was manufactured. Taking measurements of the remaining original, a reproduction was made in brass. In the image above, original is on the left and reproduction on the right. (Reproduction was made with metric materials - the tube originally probably would've been 1/4" with 3/16" and a bit internal diameter. The flange is closer to 0.7 mm on the original. But that's all details that won't be noticeable :-)

The machine also had only one spool-nut remaining, so one replacement spool-nut was taken from a wrecked Corona 3. The design of spool-nut and capstan was changed from Standard to the 3 - the spring-force to retain the 'loose' nut was moved from a split capstan-tube to a deliberate steel spring in the nut. Definitely an improvement, as the split capstan-tube is liable to yield and lose its 'spring'. (And will then lose its nut. And lose its spool.) A Corona 3 spool-nut fits fine on a Standard Folding and actually is a great replacement, as it will hold even when the capstan-tube has lost its 'spring'.

Both the original and the salvaged spool-nut were heavily corroded. The tops were sanded-down to smooth metal and then re-nickeled. Some light surface-pitting is still visible, but the overall appearance is again clean and shiny.

Oddly, this typewriter was also missing its entire linefeed lever mechanism. This must have been a deliberate removing - you need to take out the platen-rod to be able to take this off. Weird.

With today's online resources it is possible to get a very good impression of what the missing parts looked like. Especially some entries on The Typewriter Database with many detailed pictures were useful - also the images on the Words Are Winged blog were again helpful. Counting pixels in pictures and combining this with measurements on the machine and of the Corona 3 equivalent part, reproductions were made in brass.

After nickel-plating and adding the little wire-spring to push the ratchet-pawl to the ratchet-wheel, the linefeed again works and also looks credible. A functional reproduction that is in-style with the original machine.

This derelict-as-was Standard Folding Typewriter now has all missing parts replaced. It still needs a lot of adjusting, but already a vast improvement over its previous condition :)