Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sholes Visible: With a little help from my friends

Some of the remaining gaps and flaws in my Sholes Visible are getting fixed, with a little help from my friends.

No more missing spacebar! My friend Peter Weil gave me a spacebar from a Remington 7, around the same age as this Sholes. Even the little wood screws in his spacebar worked perfectly to attach it to its new machine. You can see the depression where thumb hit wood a million times; it looks appropriate for this old typewriter with signs of wear and tear.

In the picture below you can see two new additions.

Master restorer Hermann Kerz of Germany sold me two Sholes Visible ribbon covers — one original, one reproduction, and both very nice. I expect Mr. Kerz is the only person in the world who could have supplied them (he's the man who restored Juan Ramón Gracia's Sholes Visible). By the way, by studying photos of other machines I now realize that this typewriter is not supposed to use metal ribbon spools at all, but wooden cores à la Oliver. That's something I can worry about later; for now, what matters is that the ribbon system works and is topped with appropriate  covers.

The other addition is a stopgap measure: I've slipped on a rubber foot to substitute, at least visually, for a missing platen knob.

Who can spot the other rubber substitute in the photo below? Everyone, of course. But it's better than nothing, and not too conspicuous if you're not looking for it (did you notice it in the first photo above?). Sooner or later I'll get a genuine black octagonal composite key, preferably reading "SHIFT KEY."

Finally, here's some help from my friends on eBay. I was missing a flat spring that does an important job: it's one of two springs that hold the feed rollers against the platen. I took a chance on a set of flat springs made for windows. It worked! With a little trimming, bending, and squeezing into place, the spring does its job and the paper feed system is now functional.

My loyal readers have been waiting a long time to see this typewriter actually do some typing. Guess what? It can. The next installment of the Sholes Visible saga will show you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Revolution in the mailbox (4)

Friday was a very good day: three typewritten letters in my mailbox!

Among them was the latest report from agent Neckermann Jr. Correspondence from all agents of the Insurgency is welcome!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Privat showing

The serial number on my Privat is 223959, and the receipt dates it at 1963.

Here is Will Davis' article on the Voss Privat: page 1, page 2.

Here is my overview of the Patria portable family (ETCetera, March 2010):

Now check out all the amazing paper that came with this machine:

The typing test sentence -- "Festgemauert in der Erden steht die Form aus Lehm gebrannt" -- is the first two lines of "Das Lied von der Glocke" or "The Song of the Bell" by Friedrich Schiller. One translation runs, "Firmly bricked in the earth stands the mold fired from clay." Deutschland, Land der Dichter und Denker und Schreibmaschinen!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Typogram #2

Thanks, Robert!

I don't think I've seen the giant Invicta before -- certainly it's much less well-known than the giant Underwood.

And that dingo puppy stamp has got to be the cutest ever.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sholes Visible: details, details

When you're restoring a typewriter it seems that there's always another little detail to be fixed. Every detail is both a frustrating delay in getting the typewriter ready and (potentially) a satisfying little experience in problem solving. Here are five examples.

(1) The Sholes Visible had no ribbon or ribbon spools when I got it, and it won't take any standard typewriter ribbon spool. It needs spools with relatively small diameters but large central holes. I took a ribbon spool cup and shaft from the typewriter down to Spitzfaden's Office Supply on Cincinnati's Typewriter Row with high hopes, but one spool after another failed to fit. Finally, in the last remaining drawer, I found the #64 spools, for Monroe 200 series adding machines. They're funny looking, with the square hole, but they fit!

Here are two spools. They came with red and black ribbons, but since the Sholes Visible doesn't have bicolor ribbon capability, I've put a black ribbon on them. That ribbon was new old stock, but dried out, so I rejuvenated it with WD-40 (almost the only acceptable use of WD-40 on a typewriter ... read on).

(2) Another problem was that the rubber had long ago crumbled off the feed rollers on this typewriter. I thought I found a solution at my local auto parts store:

But no, that hose was too thick, so the feed rollers wouldn't fit properly on the typewriter. Next, I looked around my local Ace Hardware store and found some latex tubing that you can buy by the foot.

This tubing is just barely stretchy enough to fit over the feed rollers. (Lubing up the feed rollers is the second legitimate use for WD-40.)

Note from 2020: I just looked at these feed rollers and see that the latex is coming apart. I can't recommend it as a long-term solution.

(3) I keep a large collection of photos of typewriters that I've seen on the Internet over the years, and sometimes they're helpful references. For instance, in a photo of the underside of another Sholes Visible I noticed a spring that was missing on mine. This spring works very simply, but is essential to the shift lock. For several years I'd had an appropriately strong spring lying around, but it was about twice as long as it should be, so I used my Dremel tool to cut it in half and I put it in place.

(4) I inferred the need for another spring by the presence of two little holes on the platen advance mechanism. (If there's a hole somewhere in a typewriter, there's probably a reason for that hole, and if it's a tiny hole, there's a good chance that a spring belongs there.) Sure enough, in some of my reference photos I could barely see a spring in that position. I turned to an Olympia SM3 parts machine and harvested a spring that fit (the one on the left in the photo below). Now the mechanism works very smoothly with this bit of added assistance.

(5) Finally today I'll mention the most daunting detail I've faced on this typewriter so far. The platen slides up and down in the carriage when you shift: the vertical rectangle you see in the photo above is an end of the frame that holds the platen, and that frame is supposed to slide up and down in two slots such as the one marked with an arrow in the photo below. (You can also easily remove the platen by moving a couple of hooks aside and lifting it out.) But the platen wasn't sliding smoothly, and it was particularly resistant to going all the way down in the slot. This was going to make proper shifting impossible.

I tried every non-invasive measure I could think of, with no result. Then I tried bending the platen frame, using clamps, so that it would take up a little less room. That sounds insane, I know, but you might be surprised at how many typewriter repairs officially involve “forming” some part into the right shape. Well, it didn't work and it clearly wasn't a good idea in this case. I was able to bend the platen frame back into shape by using toothbrushes as levers. (You'll have to make up your own picture for that one!)

I tried to think as logically as I could, and concluded that the remaining possibility was to make more room for the platen frame by grinding away some of the cast iron of the slot.

Why would such a drastic measure be needed? I'm not sure in this case, but metals can sometimes expand over the years, and I'm guessing that's what happened here.

I put the grinder attachment on the Dremel as shown above, and as carefully as possible, ground away at the left and right slots. Through trial and error, I finally found exactly where the platen frame was sticking. And when I finished grinding, the platen slid up and down in those slots as smoothly as you could wish. What a relief!

These little Mr. Fix-It moments give me pleasure. As you can see, I am making up lots of this stuff as I go along. I hope my experiences will help me, and maybe you, solve similar problems in the future. I'll also add that I was not born with mechanical aptitude. But I've learned that many mechanical problems, at least on typewriters, can be solved with a little courage, close observation, patience, reasoning, and yes, a touch of luck.