Sunday 31 July 2011


Not nearly as pretty as a Valentine - or a house brick - the new Olivetti I have is, I think, a Linea. That's about all I can guess at, on the assumption that the only other desktop Olivettis I can find reference to are Lineas. The serial number is B03 0537 which, with inference from the Typewriter Database, possibly makes it a 1969/70 Linea 88. Advice to the contrary welcome!

It is actually a pretty good typewriter. The keys and tabs work fine. The left spring-loaded margin setting needs some oil and the paper table needs a good scrub - I'll find out how to re-fit it properly. As well as weighing a ton, you can comfortably 'park' a portable under its extended carriage! There's even a little bounce in the platen rubber. And the plastic shines up OK with lighter fluid and a soft cloth.

Thanks to Robin for the photos

Surprising as it may seem, it doesn't really hold a lot of appeal. OK, it types really well, but it is pretty soulless. The best part is the return lever and the smoothly restrained action of the carriage as it glides under braking all the way to a long-set tab.

Friday 29 July 2011

Olivetti unearthed

Mum's giving me an British-made Olivetti desktop machine. Dusty after years of wardrobe confinement - but it WILL work once it arrives back. Before and after pictures coming soon, It types very nicely, even if the odd key sticks through lack of use!

PS: It isn't one of these!

Thursday 28 July 2011

Five's a handful

Pretty clean. Skinny rubber. Early Model 5: twdb says 5A 756 is 1957-ish.

You might expect a 99p Imperial Good Companion Model 5 to be too good to be true. I can't complain, but the immaculate all-round cleanliness belies a problem or three. Here's the running order:
  1. The platen won't engage the internal clutch so it is just spinning - no line returns. Yes, I undid all the screws but still having trouble removing the platen.
  2. The tabs won't set and the linkage is buried deep!
  3. The space bar linkage was hanging off and was quite inscrutable to reassemble. This connects to the whole escapement so is pretty critical to get right. Working well now though!
  4. There's an annoying snag just as you depress the shift - problem isolated but I need a 3mm right-angle cranked spanner to adjust - or a file.
On lots of machines the cover comes off to reveal the workings - having little practical use except to hang luxuries like feet and paper rests off. This one, though, is an incredibly intricate alloy molding with various bits bolted to it and assembled around it. Maybe because it is a basket shift, but I'm blowed if I can see how to remove the carriage. Could be just a matter of time. I'll leave it a week and have another look then.

The Imperial came from a lady who rescued it from the dump. It belonged to the daughter (who now lives in the States) of a recently late friend. It has suffered some traumas and there are enough gnarled screw-heads to suggest it has been regularly repaired. Out of the case it is a very low-slung machine and the space bar linkage barely clears the desk top. The soft case has no retaining clips and offers very little protection.

Full decals and no skid marks on the lid. Spot the minor crack between the tab keys.

Don't let this put anyone off getting one!

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Sneak peek

It may be some time before I get my hands on the Underwood Noiseless. Meanwhile my Harrovian typewriter mule (nephew Al) made the connection with the Man, and then he sent this photo:

Imperial GC5 update: This was a skip-rescue from a late friend's house clearance by absent family... so the seller was OK with only making 99p on it. Good home and all that. Suffice to say, it is VERY clean, little used and a very early 1957 model 5. Bad-ish news: it needs some work on the space bar and the tabulator and the internal platen clutch is stuck off. Ribbon's good though and it types a treat - just without spaces and with 'freestyle' line returns. 

Can it be fixed? Watch this space...

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Bargain basement

Three upcoming additions to Typewriter Heaven. Proof that classics are out there, just waiting to be re-homed:

Empire Corona (who needs a Hermes?): £5 + £9 postage

Imperial Good Companion 5 - 99p (yes, 99p)

Post-war Underwood Noiseless 77 - £15

Saturday 23 July 2011

Play Time

Pretty unrelated to  typewriters and all, except the young 'un was typing while I was watching it and, if you look closely, you might see some in this still. Play Time is a truly remarkable 60's film in the way it examines how humans manage to live - after a fashion - in 'modern' efficient living systems. It took several years to make and practically ruined Jacques Tati - no expense was spared in the production. The 70mm colour process is unique to his studio and the sound design is an extra comic character. What little dialogue there is, is mostly in English.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Foreign correspondent

Life feels so empty and meaningless now the Remington Rand Model 1 is finished. Whatever will I do with all this spare time? Maybe I should dust it.

Looks a bit wonky because I photographed it that way.  The typewriter's fine.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Happy feet

The cobbler in town wouldn't sell me any rubber soles to whittle new feet for my down at heel Remington Rand Model 1. Said he didn't want people going off mending their own shoes, even though I told him it was for a typewriter. Fair enough. But he did sell me a piece of 8mm flat rubber he uses for stacking soles for £2 - enough for 8 feet. Much better material than the heels would have been. It is dense enough to just be able to deform it a little when you pinch it. I used the metal 'shells' as templates, then cut pieces to size and shape with a Stanley knife, chamfering each of the edges and sandpapering to round the corners. For these to work, close is good enough. Clamping the shell to the new foot, I drilled a 4mm hole through to take the bolt. The photo shows the sequence.

The bolts have a shank which prevents them being screwed in too far and I'd evnvisaged having to cut a recess to accommodate the square washer but tightening the bolt snugged it well into the rubber. By the time I'd installed all four new feet, it was obvious that there was a small chance the bolt heads would scratch whatever surface the typewriter may be used on. There might have been 0.5mm clearance, and these will inevitably compress over time. If you could get this stuff in 10mm, it would be ideal. I just stuck on a handy patch of 3mm neoprene to cover the base of each foot. A bicycle inner tube repair patch would probably have been OK too.

Happy feet

Monday 18 July 2011

For bikethru - RNP vs RR#1

Remington Rand s/n P31552 c.1938

Remington Noiselesss Portable s/n N48665 c.1934

Bikethru queried the 'noiseless' weights on the type bars linkage referring to Richard's Remington round-up.

I'm not sure that the pictures are much help. The Remington Rand Model 1 (s/n P31552) certainly looks to have disk shaped weights on part of the linkage, my Remington Noiseless Portable (s/n N48665) doesn't - yet it has that distinctive 'Remington silent' feel to the action and is, in fact, a little quieter. 

You'll spot the additional felt cushioning at the top of the RNP photo and the elbows which are visible just below that are weighted sections - sort of wedge shaped, as far as I can tell. The only way to be sure would be to strip it down, which I'm not about to do any time soon! The type heads on the RR#1 certainly don't whack the platen like, say, a Corona 4, but they do hit the paper with more energy than the Noiseless.

PS: Bikethru, who are you?

Sunday 17 July 2011

RR#1-ding fix

OK, I had four more jobs to do before considering this typewriter fit for purpose:
  1. Replace the rubber roller that keeps the tabs from falling off the tab bar
  2. Fix the bell
  3. Make new feet and source some replacement rubber bushes for the cover screws
  4. Clean the bodywork.
1] Replace the rubber roller that keeps the tabs from falling off the tab bar (A)
You can see, it doesn't resemble anything especially purposeful, but you can tell what it used to do. Now, I only have one tab (B) in all the world, and I can live without tabs. I got as far as removing the nuts that hold the roller but then decided to service and grease the carriage return linkage instead. You can't see the dead rubber (C) from the front and its condition has no impact on the function of the typewriter.

2] Fixing the bell
The spring had broken so there was nothing pushing on the flat spot on the bell's connector rod (D) - a simple assembly compared to some that works fine with a lightly tensioned spring. I don't have a drawer full of parts, so I generally have to improvise. I thought a neatly trimmed and partly unwound safety pin would work - springy wire with a loop for the bolt. Guess what? Works great. (E)
Yep, I know, it is rusty!

3] Make new feet and source some replacement rubber bushes for the cover screws
Any owner of a 1930s or '40s Remington will know it has hollow hard rubber rectangular feet in truncated pyramid section. They don't have them at the hardware shop. I'd intended using carved pencil erasers but just can't seem to find any. After some head scratching about the source of a likely material, I wondered about rubber heels from the shoe repairers. If they are flat, they should be easy enough to carve and if they are around 8mm thick, they'll be the right height to keep the typewriter snug in its case. Cover screw bushes? I wondered if 'O' ring seals from a car mechanic's workshop would fit the bill, I'll find out and let you know how I get on.

4] Clean the bodywork
There were a lot of subtle but ugly marks and a generally grimy patina about the paintwork. I tried soap and water but this just made the paint go temporarily grey and blotchy. So I tried T-Cut, a very mildly abrasive paint refinisher in a petroleum distillate. You shouldn't apply it too vigourously as it is abrasive. I went lightly around the decals especially, but it shined-up pretty well. I'll wax it too. No T-Cut in the US? Try Turtle Wax T415 Premium Rubbing Compound

Bikethru commented on my previous post about the comparative type bar action of this RR#1 and an RNP. JUST after I'd put the cover back and restrung with part-used red and black I'd been saving. So, next post will be a "spot the difference" contest.

Friday 15 July 2011

Remington Rand Mod. 1 - progress

Nothing much worked at removing the hardened key cushion material, and I had some paint stripper left and... well, you know how it is. The Nitromors softened the brown stuff enough to scrub off, mostly with a toothbrush, but I had to resort to a green pan scrubbing pad to get the more stubborn bits off. The steel's plated with copper and then a black finish. Some of that's intact. Some of the copper is visible (see pic) and some of the bare metal is showing through. Who cares? It works! I lined the (now cleaned) cushion groves with strips I cut from bouyancy block material which is used as a transport block for car-topping a my kayak. Replacing the key comb was pretty straightforward, it being clean. I didn't have to resort to my diagram showing what key goes in which slot - it sort of just fell into place. Shame to waste the effort of my reading it out and Robin writing it down, so I'll share it at the foot of this post. For now, it works a treat - interested to see how long it lasts. Compared with my Remington Noiseless Portable, a harder rubber was used originally - but then the NP's cushions aren't brown...

I'm going to leave the comb as it is for now. If I could find a way of cleaning the keys themselves (they are crud-contaminated but not  in places which prevents them functioning), then I might have repainted it.

One similarity (with the NP) is where the carriage release lever spring goes at the left end of the carriage. To begin, the platen needed to come out so I could clean it and the rusty paper tray. I'd run out of 0000 wire wool, so I used 400 grit emery paper for both.  I thought it would help to remove the left-hand carriage cover plate - it didn't - just two screws, not a big deal. Until you find that the two screws also retain vital bits of the carriage release lever, and a spring, which sprung right off the machine. So, out comes the NP and off comes the end plate. Different set up, but similar enough to find which boss the spring had to sit on and where both ends should be tensioned. So, spring back on, keeping everything lined uptakes two hands but you have to pick up the end plate... and then a screwdriver. My mum would describe it, wrongly, as "frabbing". It was a struggle to the point of exasperation. The air was blue

Of course, in retrospect, I should have let gravity lend a hand by tipping the machine on its side. Then I'd only have been one hand short. Needless to say, there are no photos of this part of the process.

And finally, for now, replacing the platen. If you ask me now, I'd say it was the easiest thing in the world. Thirty minutes ago I would have just snarled. It might have been the beer (London Pride), but I spent nearly an hour trying to get the platen back on. The detent roller (which makes the clicking sound when you wind in a clean sheet of paper) needs to be moved out of the way before the platen will go snugly home. It is so easy, just approach the job from behind the carriage and lever it down against its spring. The platen practically self-installs.

Next time: Feet, bell and tab-securing-rubber-roller-thingy.
Which keys go in which slot in the comb?

Thursday 14 July 2011

Liberté, egalité, fraternité

Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

First Canada Day, then Fourth of July and now...Bastille Day! It is at times like this I wish I had a French typewriter. But I don't. And French typospherians, revolutionary or otherwise, are thin on the ground. Better be quick, only three minutes of Bastille Day left, santé!

PS: Delacroix's Wikipedia holds little of interest for the dactylographologists. Cracking painting though. There's even a poor chap who sacrificed his trousers for the cause.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Remington crud

I thought I should take a few reference pictures to remind me how this thing goes back together. Under a layer of brown crud, I found the final two tiny grub screws fastening the bottom of the key comb to the main part. Easing the clogged comb up over the keys was slow progress, but only after making a note of which key goes through which slot. The two space bar restraints (one of them is blurred in the foreground) needed one of their screws removing so they could swing down to allow the removal of the bottom part of the comb. I also had to lever the bottom edge up to clear the key tops. The metal seems to be coppery under the black paint.

Anyone else ever had to this? If so, this would be an ideal opportunity to share the answer two questions:
  1. How do I remove the solidified crud? (First try will be gentle scraping - after that I'll get more abrasive)
  2. What do I replace it with? (I was thinking 3-4mm soft rubber strip/tube)
Suggestions welcome, otherwise I'll just make it up as I go along. Many thanks.

Monday 11 July 2011

Keycomb + guestblog

Anyone nervous about taking the cover off a Remington Rand Model 1? I was, until I lifted the top plate (the four bushes crumbled to dust at this point) and unscrewed the congealed tarry feet and the four screws at the back holding the pressed steel to the aluminium backbone. The cover slips off very easily so you can get a better look at things. 

A previous owner had used a liberal dose of oil to free the keys in their comb* from the 'fudge' but that's as far as it goes. The action is otherwise pretty clean. Now I have a Chinese puzzle: how on Earth do I get the comb out if the keys go through it, without removing keytops? Maybe it is two pieces. I'll loosen a few likely-looking screws, wiggle it, see what happens and let you know.

I think the guest blog idea got a reasonably warm reception - and it has been done before. How to make it work? I have a couple of people's e-mail address so I'll start there. I don't imagine there's any obligation to post, or to reciprocate. Should be fun to: 
  1. think of what to say 
  2. potentially reach a new readership.
 *Thanks Martin for the disambiguation!

Sunday 10 July 2011


This photo makes it look much better than it is! The paper table is rust-lined, the tab rubber's mush, the feet are semi-liquid and the keys are stuck to the comb (or whatever you call the key lever guide thing) because the original rubber cushioning - I'm guessing that's what it was - is now a hardened brown toffee residue. You can just make it out between the K and L. Beautifully made. That cover is cast aluminium and the engineering beneath it is breathtaking. The paint stays on this one!

I'll shortly post some 'work in progress' photos of the out-of-the-attic, cover-plate-off, assessing the situation, not-as-bad-as-it-looks, but-still-scratching-chin, Remington Rand Model 1.

Suffice to say, it is a rubber fetishist's worst nightmare.

On a completely unrelated tack, I was sat here wondering, as you do, what it would be like to write another's blog? Like a house swap but just for one post. Imagine how cool it would be to post on Joe's blog. Or be Matt for a day. Or make a cowboy preacher's proclamation in homage to Father Ted. Or pioneer some previously unimagined typecast transportation road movie type bike cast as Richard. Or a "this day" cast for Robert. You get the idea.
Walk in another's shoes, just for one post. Maybe share post content by e-mail  and upload as usual. Easy, and potentially a lot more interesting than the way I have made it sound.

I don't know, it was just a thought. Empathy, and all that. I'm up for it. Have an opinion.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Reliant Ribbon

The original list for the quiz was from a very quick trawl through eBay, plus a few from a Google search

 Thanks to everyone for entering the draw for a copy of my photo of the stripped and polished Underwood. If you entered, your print will be in the post next week.

Star prizewinner of the bonus prize of a fresh-typed Declaration of Independence is... (drum roll)... Tori Forte! Only Tori and Paolo Lorenzi (from the Antique Typewriter Collectors* Facebook group) got it right: Parthenon was the only spoof brand ribbon, the rest were genuine. I might even drop in a spare print for Ted (-:

One of the highlights (there were so many) of this minor research was to find a brand called Reliant Ribbon. Not to be confused with Reliant Robin: a popular three-wheeler of the 60s and 70s. The great thing was that you could drive one on a motorcycle licence. Not so good on corners though. Admit it, you want one. I actually once meet the chap who designed its sporty offspring, the ultra-cool Bond Bug. Damn, I  wouldn't mind one of those too.

Next week, we'll be guessing the locations of Malaysian rubber plantations where platen rubber was grown.

Like a badly driven three wheeler, this post has wandered off track.

Seriously, any ideas for another competition? 

*Love the ambiguity - I'm sure some of the members are under 100 years old.

Friday 8 July 2011

Lepus europaeus

I didn't have anything much to say about typewriters. Been thinking about exhuming a Remington Rand Model 1, which is in much worse shape than it looks... 

Anyway, I was archiving some photos and found this. It is a stuffed European hare (Lepus europaeus) which is part of a hands-on exhibit at an Ofxord museum. You can sometimes see live ones in the local fields. Anyone knows a connection between a hare and a typewriter - please let me know!

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Competition - prizes galore!

It has been a while since the Typosphere ran an online competition, so here goes...

I have postcard size photos of the Underwood 4 Silver Surfer to give away to the first ten entries drawn from the hat. The tenth name out of the hat wins the bonus prize of my original typecast of the Declaration of Independence! My generosity knows no bounds.

Competition ends midnight 8-9 July 2011.


Monday 4 July 2011

In Congress...

Newly polished Underwood Portable 4 bank in action declaring independence

July 4's the perfect day to read Jefferson's revolutionary 1776 declaration - which I have done for the first time, and type as much as would fit comfortably in a typecast. Full version with oppressions listed here.

As you type, you can hear Morgan Freeman reading it out loud - I wonder if he ever has? There's a certain poetry behind the gravitas.

Happy 235th Birthday USA, you don't look a day over 234!

Sunday 3 July 2011

Silver surfer

Several pints of elbow grease later, the last of the paint is gone.

If you'd like a print, I have arranged with BWC Photo Imaging, Dallas, Texas to supply them in various finishes and on canvas. Just click the image for the link. 20% of all profit will be donated to charity: Wallingford Rowing Club Weights Shed Appeal .

Friday 1 July 2011

Happy Canada Day

...and thank you, Canadian workers, for my 1939 Remington Portable Model 5 and my 1936 Corona Silent, maple syrup, canoes, Leonard Cohen, Catelyn Bett, etc. etc.

My stats show a small readership in that fair country - enjoy the day.

Meanwhile, Project Underwood continues.