Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Littlest Typewriter

Yet another machine I can take off of my wanted list, the Bennett Typewriter is a small little thing, compact and well designed for what it is. In its case, no one would believe you should you tell them that therein resides a typewriter. After all, the case is only 10.5 x 4 x 2.

But a typewriter it is, nonetheless. This machine in particular is fighting me, and refusing to type properly. I can get it to work decently well,  but it likes to sometimes choose different characters to print, and when shifting it doesn't care to type at all sometimes, the typewheel stopping just short of the paper.

At the same time that it is simplistic, it is also surprisingly thoughtful. A lever on the left side of the carriage can be set to 4 positions, 3 of which change where the left side margin is, and the fourth allows for no margin. It has a bell, of all things. And it has a decently designed line-spacer that has a solid feel to it. And of course, taking but two knobs out will allow the keyboard to be pulled straight off. A neccesity, since you have to do so to change the ribbon, but helpful for cleaning and oiling.

I beleive its often called the "Pocket Model", but I wouldn't imagine anyone has quite so large of pockets. And though my thoughts on its ability to actually type are rather negative, I will say that back in 1913, I suppose I can see certain professions having use of it. The wayward journalist who travels to places that don't permit much baggage; the lawyer who needs to print out some quick notes, quietly, somewhere in a courtroom, and others.

I'll keep tinkering with it, and try to get it to type with a somewhat silky-smoothness that I surmise it once had, over 100 years ago.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Noiseless Portable Typewriter, Back In Action

Continuing where I left off last, I was in the middle of cleaning and repairing the "Lion Without A Roar" as I've dubbed the machine.

With the mainspring easily fixed (I can stop pushing on the carriage now!), I had to tackle a not so easy problem. The escapement rail is held in its proper place by two torsion springs that are engaged slightly when the escapement lever is thrown. Both were somehow broken on this machine. It took a short while and a good bit of cursing, but I was able to fashion a properly working, new torsion spring (just one, I wasn't ready to test my luck) out of a bit of standard spring coil I had on hand. I can use the escapement lever again!

I forgot to take pictures of the old feed rollers, but lets just agree that almost any feed roller that old is going to be petrified. They had turned a yellowish-white, were hard, but definitly not brittle. It took some serious effort to get the old rubber cleaned off so I could make some new ones using my patented heat-shrink tubing method. Two in front, two really big ones in back (I can insert paper now!). I've determined that the quality of a machine is often told by how many feed rollers a machine has, and how big they are. Its the weirdest thing.

Next was the bell ringer. The original spring quite literally disintigrated when I touched it, so I had to try to find a replacement. I stole a keylever spring off a Fox portable parts machine, and it proved so be just barely small enough. The original spring was impossibly thin, and anything bigger creates far too much tension on the carriage as it goes by. And now my bell is considerably louder than it probably should be. But hey! Now I can tell when the end of the line is approaching!

As I started putting it all back together, I found that the A key wasnt printing. It took a solid half hour or hour (I lost track of time), but I tested the following, in this order;

Are the typebar linkages gummed up? No.
Is the keylever being prematurly halted? No.
Is anything bent? No.
Is there damage to the keylever from use? Yes.

As is the case with plenty of sliding-activation designs, constant use had worn a good hole in the typebar. So, I took it out to try and see what I could do. Amazingly enough, you can take each keylever out without any trouble. Just rotate the little rod holding them in, and pull the lever out. That's it. Ridiculously simple.

A rather unique keylever.


It was not the problem. So I continued with the query;

Is the ribbon moving correctly for the A? Yes.
Is the escapement worn where it activates? No.

I noticed that when I tilted the machine a bit, the A printed. This just confused me even more, because it theoretically meant that force wasnt being transferred to the typebar well enough, and a bit of gravity helped.

But, that wasnt it. It couldnt be, after my other efforts.

Turns out, the A typebar, for no apparent reason, was actually just barely striking the edge of the printing guide, losing its momentum and rebounding back. I couldnt see this, of course, until I placed a screwdriver along the edge of the printing guide so that the A typebar, if it truly had its momentum, would slide into the proper place. It worked, and I had to carefully "form" (I had to bend it, ok? OK!?) the arm of the typebar to get it to swing into place properly. Now I can type the full alphabet!

A swath of my tradmark purple ribbon installed, I had a fully functional Noiseless Portable Typewriter. Its in need of some adjustment still, but its working pretty well as is. You would not believe how quiet it is. Shifting is louder than the typebar action. This machine could, quite truly, be taken into a library and possibly not get you kicked out.

Noiseless Portable Status: On Standby

Noiseless Portable Status: Type at the ready

I have to test a thought that came to mind; can my Underwood Noiseless ribbon caps possibly fit on this machine, since its based off of this design anyway?  Place your bets!

And hey, look! Random video about it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Noiseless Portable Typewriter

I've heard other collectors have a sort of "First 30-Cleanup", where they do some standard procedures to spiff up a machine they just got. I have the First 30-Breakdown.

The Noiseless, though in "good" condition, was absolutely filthy (as is expected of a machine this age).

About 3 minutes in, this is what I ended up with.

I love 3 bank machines. And I definitely love 3 bank machines with basket shift. The carriage on this puppy came off after just taking out two anchoring screws. The sides are decorative, so they popped right off without any effort as well.

Which left me with the base mechanics, all exposed.

The escapement is very simple, yet seems to be pretty well developed. It actually wont activate if the keys are hit hard enough to get the typebar all the way to the platen.

The motor is one issue to be dealt with. Outstandingly, these machines have a steel weave drawcord and it has held up very, very well.

The typebars and their unique weights. As can be noted on almost any noiseless design, its a scissor action. Also note that shifting for Cap lower the typebasket, an Fig raises the typebasket.

A ribbon crank is always a nice feature to have. This machine has all the features; margin release, backspacer, shift locks, etc.

Close of up of the dirt. Oh wait, I think there's an escapement under there.

And the underside of the machine. As can be seen, its an incredibly efficient, open design.

On todays agenda was motor repair. As is the case half the time with "broken" mainsprings, the little hooked part of the spring had been overwound or something, causing it to bend off the central catch. A slight bend to said spring got everything working again.

Reinstalled, and tension on the drawband. This machine will, hopefully, be fully cleaned and good to go by the end of next week.

Question for anyone who knows; how do I take the platen out? No screws are in use, and I cant seem to tell if its based on the twist-off knobs. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My First Typewriter for the Year

It arrived in a sea of packing peanuts.

Layered with cardboard and wrapped carefully, it found itself suddenly in the land of pine trees and potatoes.

And now, with much excitement, I can scratch it off my list of "Most Wanted Typewriters".

Behold, the "Tiger Without A Roar"!

The Noiseless Portable, manufactured by the Noiseless Typewriter Company, is a marvel of engineering. I have been wanting one for quite some time, and finally was able to get this one. It has a broken drawband and a few other small issues that I will need to contend with, alongside getting it cleaned up, but once all is said and done. I can already be guaranteed of a good ol' typing time, no matter the time of day or night.

Stay tuned for a post detailing every last little bit of this unique portable.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Letterheads, spinning tops and rubber feet; Oh My.

I'm not usually all that interested in grabbing ephemera, though certain things do nab my attention. One of those things happens to be typewriter letterhead from the old company's. Now, normally even when interested, I wont try all that hard to get a letterhead. There's only one brand I would normally go nuts for, and the rest are sort of a "If I win it, cool. If not, oh well.". 


There is one thing that impacts my interest in such a thing on a level that's not so much about the typewriters or the brands themselves. As the old saying goes... its all about location, location, location.

These letterheads were down in California. And They didn't belong down there. They certainly didn't belong on the East Coast (where I'm sure most ephemera collectors are based on population density). They belonged back in the land where they were intended to be in the first place. The mythical, the magical, the Land O' Potatoes: Idaho.

North Idaho, more specifically. These two letters were sent, long ago, to Lewiston, which is just a short drive south of me, and which happens to be the home of my Collegiate Alma Mater. I clearly had to bring them home. And so I did.

I've now got letterheads for:

Blickerdoodle (As I like to call them)
LC Smith
And Duplex

I have digital, printable blank forms for two of the Fox styles, but sadly no actual letters. Someday, someday.

Speaking of Fox, I finally got one of these normally overpriced spinning tops. I won't lie, I had an odd bit of fun when I spun it as fast as I could. Now, it sits with my other Fox ephemera.

On another front, I finally decided to splurge on the well renowned services of one Mr. Steven Dade, and requisitioned some new rubber feet for my Sterling. Suffice it to say that Mr. Dade does incredible work, incredibly fast, and at an incredibly reasonable rate. These reproductions were a near perfect fit, and my Sterling now sits level and stable on the table.

One of the original feet was still in good shape. The others did their best to imitate pancakes.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What's in a picture? Let me count the (arguably Fox related) things.

It was only taken for the purpose of being used as a joke, but regardless I ended up with this photograph;

In truth, this picture sums me up pretty bloody well. While it might take someone with an eagle eye to truly spot it, it turns out that I like old things.

Typewriters have become my true hobby in regards to that, but I'm always fascinated with other antique devices, and older ways of doing things. My preference generally stays around the early 1900s, however, so while I think quills and crossbows are cool, I don't really have a desire to own or use them. 

But lets take a look at this really Fox based photograph, shall we?

On the right, we have a Kodak Junior. This thing takes a film roll size that no longer exists, so I had to grab some adapters to allow smaller, still produced film rolls to be utilized. I havent really taken too many photos with it, and had fewer of those actually developed. But I can tell you its a great bit of fun to do so, and end up with authentic black and white pictures. A bit pricey, being about 5 bucks for a roll that will fit about 12 pictures, and about 7 bucks to process said roll. I'm a bit interested in learning to develop pictures myself to cut costs. Kodak used to actually offer a personal kit to do so back in the day.

Next up based on random order, the main point of the picture. A Fox Sterling! You may not know this... but I really like Fox machines. And this mint condition Sterling has been a cornerstone of my collection for some time now. I like using it, and it always proves its motto; The Light Running Fox!

And of course, not all ink comes in ribbon form. A bottle of black Parker Quink ensures my pens always have a source of the necessary stuff.

Now what better to go with a Fox typewriter, than a Fox Copyholder, a Fox book, and a Fox portable manual? I have two of the copyholders, one in worse condition which I use everyday, and one in wonderful condition that sits in a display case. They are both the kind meant to be attached to a desktop machine via long extension arm (which I do not possess, and have only seen one of). There is a stand based version that I would be ecstatic to find.

The book is some silly little thing that's filled with utter gibberish. Read at your own risk.

The manual is something interesting. It has a very thick, heavy cover that has helped protect it over the years, and nice glossy pages. The instructions are worded in a very proper and professional way, and despite owning two for the folding machines, I own none for the Sterling. If you have one for said Sterling, you are certainly lucky.

Hidden in the back and definitely not truly a part of the picture, you may notice a pink eraser. Oh, and a box of Palomino Blackwing pencils. Honestly, if you ever have a few bucks you dont mind wasting on a pencil, you should try a Palomino Blackwing (602 for writing, standard for drawing). They're the highest quality pencil I've ever dealt with.

Pencils aside, we have more Fox stuff. And a not Fox thing. The Fox letterhead is thanks to a blog post by Richard Polt at The Typewriter Revolution (and I think originally due to Peter Weil scanning a letter he has). Colorful, it adds a touch of pure awesomeness to my personal letters. Said letters always look amazingly authentic on it, as well, which just makes it all the better.

To the left, you have a small Fox branded mirror. These don't crop up often, and seem to go for around a non-president Founding Father, give or take a few Secretary of the Treasury's. Theyre quite small in reality, especially when compared to some that Remington made.

And what early 1900's picture would be complete without a fountain pen? A college graduation gift, the gold-filled fountain pen will last me a long time, and writes as lightly and smoothly as one can ever dream of.

Worth 15 bonus points, according to one master of the item-points market, the top hat is in neigh perfect condition. I went through two other top hats trying to find one that fit right, getting a bigger size each time. Turns out, people back int he day had smaller heads or something. I love how they look (though theyre out of place unless worn with a vest or suit), but sadly I haven't had the chance to wear this one anywhere. I bought it in the hopes of using it at one of my best friends weddings, but being the best man, I was forbidden from doing so by the friends new missus. Alas.

Then we have the pocket watch and ribbon tin. If not for pocket watches, I wouldn't have stumbled into the typewriter hobby. And without a hatred of the confining feeling of a wristwatch, I never would have stumbled onto pocket watches and their just perfect magnificence. Wristwatches got nothing on the classiness of a gold-filled Elgin.

I havent yet acquired a ribbon tin for a visible machine, but I have somehow ended up with two of these blind ribbon tins. Very artfully done, I wish things still came in well designed small tins like it.

And not present for the picture because it literally just came in the mail today...


Ok. So. Despite ALL my research into this bloody brand. Despite EVERYTHING. I somehow never really realized that Fox had branded oil bottles. I saw Typewriter Oil mentioned in the portables manual, but since it wasnt actually labeled Fox Typewriter Oil (like the Fox Ribbon was just above it), I assumed that they just took some generic third party oil and shipped it.

Nobodys ever mentioned this stuff, and I've certainly never seen it anywhere. Ever. This is my first acquisition of the year, and I am beyond ecstatic. On top of existing, it came with its awesome little box which is just as amazing, and certainly has to be on the rare side since cardboard stuff from that era just wasnt meant to be kept once you opened it up.

AND. I got it for a fraction of what I would have been insane enough to throw at it. Either nobody else is quite as nuts as I am about this brand (thats a given), or everybody who cares about impossible to find ephemera was looking away from the ebay listings when this thing went through. I'm just floored overall that I now have this in my possession. I can also tell you it predates 1917. The price on the bottle is 15 cents, but the portable manual has it listed for 20. A 33% increase in price must have been drastic back then.

That's all for now, folks.