Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sholes Visible: how fast will it go?

Here's the machine with its guide plate back in place. As you'll see, the typebars line up in two neat rows. This video illustrates the motion of the typebars and performs a speed test.

(Sorry about the static near the beginning, I must have been brushing my finger against the mike. I make these videos with my iPad, which is very convenient because it can upload the video to YouTube quickly and easily.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Typogram #1

Here's the first Typogram I've received from the International Correspondence Initiative. Thanks, Ryan! And thanks to A.R.M.S. for organizing this.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sholes Visible: video

I know some readers are eager to see this typewriter in action, so here's a video that may provide some insight. I apologize for the shaky one-handed camera work, but I think it gives you a general idea of the mechanism, which is really pretty simple.

In order to work correctly the typewriter needs the guide plate, which keeps the typebars moving in a precise path -- first slightly toward the center, then up to the platen, and then back to the original position. Of course, it also needs the escapement, the carriage, etc. But in this partially reassembled state, you get the best view of the fundamental mechanism.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Revolution in the mailbox (3)

A new report from the frontlines of the Insurgency has reached my mailbox:

Looks like a man using a digital device on the beach in the center of the photo. The location is ripe for infiltration. Good work, Agent Neckermann Jr.!

More reports from the field are welcome.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sholes Visible: the scary disassembly

OK, I now know my Sholes Visible well enough that I could tell you right away where all (er, almost all) of these parts belong.

But even more disassembly is required! In order to get the machine as clean as possible, there's no way to avoid taking the keyboard apart.

Each key lever needs to be pushed backwards and down, then forwards to disengage it.

Halfway there. Scary, isn't it?

Almost done.

This is what key levers look like when they're out of the typewriter. The L-shaped hooks on the right fit into holes in what I'll call the "pullers," which pull down and activate the typing mechanism. On the left, each lever has an adjustable screw that activates the escapement, and a spring that pulls the lever back into position when you type.

Yes, I'm taking notes!

Here's how the levers look a few hours later, after a bath in Evapo-Rust (which softens the rusty-looking grease and removes any actual rust), wiping dry, and touching up with steel wool.

The keyless typewriter:

The central mechanism can now be lifted out. NO, I'm not going to disassemble it!

Notice the little holes at the bottom of the vertical "pullers," where the L-shaped hooks on the type levers fit in.

Here's what the typewriter looks like now.

This weird set of contraptions can now be removed. From left to right you're looking at the ribbon vibrator, the guide for the "pullers," rectangular wires that activate the ribbon vibrator, and a mechanism that triggers the escapement.

Now, apart from a few pieces of hardware, we are down to the cast iron frame. Once I've cleaned it, it will await the return of all those pieces -- if I can remember where they go! (I told you, this stuff is scary.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sholes Visible: varnish

Previous installments in this restoration saga have shown how I remove rust with Evapo-Rustremove dirt using Soft Scrub and remove hardened old grease from bare metal with steel wool. But a more challenging job faces me, a challenge you'll often have to deal with if you're restoring a typewriter that's over a century old.

Early typewriter factories usually applied varnish over their black paint, to create a deep shine. (I originally used the term "lacquer" here, but consulted Paul Lippman's American Typewriters: A Collector's Encyclopedia, where he writes that the underlying color is lacquer, applied in several layers, but the top surface is varnish.)

The varnish has often yellowed and cracked, creating a very ugly surface.

I haven't found a perfect solution, but Soft Scrub is helpful again. Here's the paper table of the Sholes Visible; I've rubbed the bottom half with Soft Scrub until most of the yellowed old varnish is gone.

Here's a closeup; you can see the cracks in the varnish, and you may also notice that there are still fine cracks in the cleaner, blacker surface below. The Soft Scrub has removed the bumpier, brittler, yellower level of varnish, but you still won't have a perfectly smooth and glossy surface. Applying polish such as Renaissance Wax will improve the appearance.

When removing varnish, you want to avoid removing decals and pinstripes (you can see in the photo above that the pinstripes were applied to the black paint and then the varnish was applied over the pinstripes). This is easier said than done. The best approach is the tedious one—applying the Soft Scrub with something like a Q-Tip, carefully working around the edges of the decorations you want to preserve, and applying Soft Scrub directly to the decorations only if it's really necessary to get the varnish off them.

Working around the edges of that "Sholes" decal (which was applied crooked at the factory) is going to be a job of many hours!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sholes Visible: exploring ancient grease

Professionally cleaning a typewriter usually involves removing the external shell, immersing the mechanism in a vat of specialized chemicals, drying it off, and then carefully lubricating the machine at select points. But sometimes, typewriters seem to have gotten a quickie treatment: the whole thing was dunked in light lubricant and handed back to the customer. I bet this made everything look shiny and run smoothly for a while, but in the long run, you have a typewriter that's covered on every surface with a hardened film of dirty grease.

Terrible? Not necessarily! For the collector, this ancient grease can be a boon -- it can serve as a protective layer that fends off worse damage.

Sometimes what looks like rust on a machine is actually just a layer of grease. I was happy to discover the other day that this is the case on parts of my Sholes Visible. Check out what happens when you rub steel wool on what seems to be a badly rusted part. Under the "rust" (actually grease and dirt), the original nickel is still in pretty good, though not perfect condition.

The same is true of the key levers:

You may find a machine that looks bad when you get it -- such as my Crandall Visible no. 4, which looked like it had dull and damaged paint in this auction photo ...

... but you may discover that the appearance is simply due to a layer of grease. I was thrilled to find that this was the case with my Crandall Visible. I could just wipe off the grease with my fingertip and reveal shiny black paint underneath.

I'm not as lucky with the Sholes Visible, but my discoveries give me hope that eventually it's going to look good (though not new). I'll close this installment with a view of one part that I've restored. This is the slotted comb for the keyboard. I used Soft Scrub on the painted part and steel wool on the greasy metal. The shift lock at right had some real rust and needed to spend the night in Evapo-Rust. In the two special slots for the spacebar, you can see little cushions which consist of tiny pieces of leather, over a century old.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Typing al fresco

My contribution to the typosphere's visions of writing spaces: I hung out on the porch today and answered some letters with my Facit TP1.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sholes Visible: softly scrubbing

I finally had a moment to return to the basement haven and work on my Sholes Visible restoration a bit more. Since 1994 I've followed the advice in Paul Lippman's American Typewriters: A Collector's Encyclopedia: I use Soft Scrub (a gentle liquid abrasive), diluted with water, applying a thin layer of it to the typewriter surface with a fingertip or a damp, clean, cotton rag. On a century-old, neglected typewriter like this, don't be surprised if you have to wipe it with Soft Scrub literally 50 times. Keep going until your rag isn't coming up brown anymore. Then you can polish it with Renaissance Wax and Pledge.

Here's the restored front guide panel. Not like new -- imagine gold and blue pinstripes around the diagonal areas -- but pretty good. An area where paint chipped off on the upper right has been disguised with permanent black marker.

As for the back of the panel, here's what it looked like earlier in the summer, and I assumed it was copper or brass.

Now I see that after a little rubbing with fine steel wool, the coppery color starts to come off. It's just residue from a dirty, greasy century. The plate is actually steel. I also noticed that the letter B has been stamped in the bottom center.

In other news, thanks to Davide in Italy for typing an Italian translation of the Typewriter Insurgency Manifesto. It's now on the Manifesto site along with Fernando Antunes' Portuguese translation. Other translations are welcome ...