Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mateo Marín Burgos, La reparación de máquinas de escribir (Typewriter Repair), 1936

I've found the perfect go-with for my Hispano-Olivetti M40.

The second edition of La reparación de máquinas de escribir, by Mateo Marín Burgos, was published in Madrid in 1936, just at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. 

The subtitle promises that the book contains "all the secrets and resources of the profession."
This second edition has a special section on the Hispano-Olivetti M40, with the help and blessing of Olivetti — a wise addition to keep the book up to date, since in the 1930s this excellent model had become the Spanish typewriter of choice.

In the introduction, Marín comes across as a literate expert with a certain amount of justified pride.

"We want to block certain professional criticisms, more or less malevolent, directed against the supposed inefficacy of our work—a simple glance at which, of course, does not permit one to go shooting out with a tool case to repair in a trice the first machine that gets thrown in one's face.
"No, dear friends, no. A technical book to be studied is not a novel. We have never yet known a case of someone who, upon closing a book on astronomy, physics, or mathematics, has been turned into an astronomer, a physicist, or a mathematician."

The book begins with history—the story of the Sholes & Glidden, for those who want to know who "the" inventor of "the" typewriter was, followed by a more thorough history going back to Henry Mill (1714) and mentioning several 19th-century highlights. There is nothing original here, there are many omissions, and there are some misspellings and errors—but on the whole, Marín does a very good job, considering that this is not a history book and that it wasn't so easy to find sources on typewriter history at the time.

Lots of text and illustrations follow, especially on the Underwood — a wise choice, considering the dominance of the Underwood before the Hispano-Olivetti M40 conquered Spain. But quite a few other brands, including Remington and Woodstock, are discussed. There is even some discussion of Hammonds. Many procedures have to be described in verbal generalities instead of being illustrated in detail, since it would be impossible for a single book to cover every repair on every typewriter.

Here, oddly, Marín illustrates both a "bad" and an "appropriate" way of tightening a type guide.

In the illustration below, Marín recommends making a segment-cleaning tool by cutting an Underwood typebar along the line e------e. Of course, a typebar will fit into a segment slot. Clever!

Later in the book, he recommends making what he describes as a very useful and efficient tool for removing key rings by cutting off the protrusion on the left side of the typebar as illustrated below, but leaving a curved hook (d). Then this tool has two hooks that will easily pry off a key ring. I'll have to try this sometime.

This same page recommends gasoline and potassium cyanide as cleaning agents, with a warning that the latter is "very poisonous." I've seen cyanide recommended in an American book on typewriter repair, too.

These illustrations show you how to solder type and perform an alignment.

Finally we reach the new section all about the M40, with illustrated instructions on how to disassemble and reassemble the machine. We learn that the model "has 3,061 parts, 945 of which are different. 21,427 operations are required for its manufacture. ... The greatest tolerances admitted in its moving parts are of two hundredths of a millimeter." This should be enough to make anyone considering building a new typewriter today take the challenge seriously.

A final section includes various "interesting facts," such as diagrams of a variety of typebar mechanisms. Here we see the frontstroke Yost, the Williams, the Bar-Lock, the Typo, the Noiseless, and the Empire. Some of these were considered obsolete by 1936, but the memory of them evidently had not faded completely, and it was still possible that someone would bring in something like a Williams for repair.

As if this weren't enough, Marín provides very helpful lists of platen dimensions, ribbon widths, and weights for a wide variety of typewriters, including some very obscure ones that are new to me (Naco? Atlantia? Miniature? Menier?). He provides addresses for "the principal typewriter manufacturers," including some old and not-so-principal ones (the Belka and Saturn were made by Bruno Lange in Karlsruhe, he says).

The book ends with a wonderful collection of advertisements.

Are you eager to get your hands on this book? I can find just one other copy for sale at the moment.

Although my H-O M40 is working perfectly at the moment, I will keep Marín's book by its side as a trusty companion.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

A date with my first love


New rubber on the back feed rollers:

The front feed rollers were recovered  with several layers of shrink tubing:

The felt pads on the feet make the typewriter grip the rough surface of my typing pad very firmly.

1: escapement trip adjustment screw and  nut
2: motion adjustment (vertical alignment)
3. lever leading to the margin stop — when it's too bent, the stop won't protrude enough and the carriage may not stop at the left margin

Polishing the paper table. 
(In the background is my new typewriter screwdriver set from Chapman Mfg.)

The paper guide was sliding around too much, so I just stuck a strip of felt under it to create more friction. You can also see a replacement for the fragile spring that connects to the bell trip.

I feel I have finally worked on this typewriter enough that I deserve to put my own repair shop sticker on it, across from the Berkeley Typewriter Co. ticker from April 1958. (Berkeley Typewriter, founded in 1936, is one year older than this typewriter.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A highly unusual Noiseless

Can you find something very unusual about this “1941 Line” Deluxe Noiseless Portable?
This typewriter belongs to a customer of Urban Legend Typewriters. 

#N1118385 was made in August, 1940.

The backspace and margin release are up above the rest of the keyboard, 
allowing for two more keys (four more characters) on the keyboard ...
... but that’s not really unusual. 
It’s a common arrangement on European versions of the noiseless portables.

“Look closely at that keyboard” ...

Here’s the answer:

As a matter of fact, I have never seen curly quotes on any typebar typewriter, even sophisticated electric machines with proportional typefaces such as the IBM Executive. The even more sophisticated Varityper DSJ offered curly quotes on some of its type shuttles. Nearly all typewriters, of course, use "straight quotes" rather than “curly ones.” Even your word processor uses straight quotes! The application changes them to curly depending on the context. (At least in Microsoft Word, after you type a quotation mark and the application “curls” it, the Undo command will straighten it out again.)

Once you get used to it, this system is easier than the traditional typewriter keyboard, where you have to shift to get straight quotes or an apostrophe. On this machine, you shift only to get the opening curly quotes “ and single quotes ‘ . When you close a quote ” or insert an apostrophe ’ no shifting is required.

The accents are also interesting. These are “dead keys,” which don’t advance the carriage. 

You can see the difference between the three typebars on the right end of the typebasket and the other typebars: the dead typebars are cut short so they don't push down the universal bar when you type.

On most typewriters, you type the accent first and then the letter it modifies. Pre-war Remingtons do it more like handwriting: first you type a, for instance, and then ` on top of it. 

How do they manage this? With weird type slugs that reach over to the left.

I’m very charmed by this machine, and frankly, I wish I could keep it. 
I won’t be surprised if I never find another one like it.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Breker catalogue giveaway

Update: Both catalogues have found new homes.

As I have in the past, I'd like to give away the latest catalogue from Auction Team Breker, the world's leading dealer in technical antiques. This time I have two copies to send out. This catalogue is beautiful (and smells good, too). There's a selection of typewriters, but most of them aren't rarities. The most unusual one is the Sterling swinging-sector machine you can see on the cover. You can also check out the whole upcoming auction online at Invaluable.

Update: Both catalogues have found new homes.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Rex (G&O) portable typewriter

I was evidently the only person on the Internet who wanted this homely but unusual typewriter offered by the great Greg Fudacz of The Antikey Chop.

It's a Rex—not the Rex that succeeded the Harris, but a name variant of the G&O portable, manufactured in Groitzsch, near Leipzig, in eastern Germany. The G&O was made by Groitzscher Werkzeugfabrik (Tool Factory) Graf & Oertel.

This machine has a Bulgarian keyboard, including the old letters yat (Ѣ) and big yus (Ѫ). (The Bulgarian alphabet is one of many that use variants of the Cyrillic script.)

The G&O was sold under an extraordinary variety of names, mostly in central Europe. Name variants collected by Thomas Fürtig include Adria, Bajnok, Basnom, BEC, Cawena, Continent, Elite, Excelsior Completa, Impo, Mercurius, Mirina, Rex, Saxonia, Sonja, Standard, Torpedo, and Winkel. The name Strangfeld on the paper table of some examples refers to a Berlin office machine dealer (which also sold a typewriter to Martin Heidegger). Sometimes the machine is found without any name on it at all.
It's fun to discover how this typewriter gets the job done. I've never had my hands on a G&O before, so this is all new to me. 

Although it looks so minimal, it has some good features, such as carriage release levers on both sides and  a lever that disengages the platen ratchet.
Most of its functions still work. I am pretty optimistic that it will be possible to type with this machine.

Although the mechanism is dirty and rusty, it appears to be solid and professionally made.

Note the spring attached to the right end of the carriage. This typewriter does not have the typical coiled mainspring, but a long spiral spring instead. The Monica, another obscure German portable, uses a similar system.

Check out this unusual carriage lock. The peg in the lock fits into a hole in the carriage and stops it very effectively.

Here's the ribbon mechanism. There is no automatic ribbon reverse.

Loosening a few screws lets you remove the sheet metal top plate...

... which turns out to have a thick layer of felt on the inside.
Serial number 8983. 

It's very hard to find information about this typewriter. Graf & Oertel isn't included in the very thorough Burghagen serial number catalogue (Liste der Herstellungsdaten deutscher und ausländischer Schreibmaschinen). It isn't mentioned in Leonhard Dingwerth's two-volume history of larger and smaller German typewriter manufacturers. Ernst Martin's encyclopedic Die Schreibmaschine und ihre Entwicklungsgeschichte, in its most complete edition (1949, p. 459), merely states: "Four-bank keyboard portable that appeared in 1939 selling for about 100 Reichmarks, from Groitzscher Werkzeugfabrik Graf & Örtel. Details were unavailable."

The best information I have found is on this German website devoted to typewriters in Saxony, created by Reinhold Schubert. Schubert credits Erich Kersting with the design of this typewriter. 

Citing an article in the Leipziger Volkszeitung from Sept. 28, 1998, Schubert writes: "It all began when craftsmen Eugen Graf and Georg Oertel started to deal in leather and tools. A factory was constructed in 1908, where tools for the mechanical production of shoes were manufactured and exported to 26 countries. [Here's a catalogue of the company's shoe manufacturing equipment.] The company was awarded gold medals at international fairs. When the world economic crisis did not leave the company unscathed, 'the Groitzschers hit upon the typewriter.' They were already producing pieces for the Carissima typewriter made by the Knaur, Hübel & Denk company in Leipzig. From 1936 to 1956, about 18,000 G&O portables were built; about 6,000 of them were exported. Starting in 1956, the factory again limited itself to replacement parts and tools for shoe manufacturing machines." The factory continued into the 1990s.

According to Thomas Fürtig, serial numbers supposedly run from 100 to 18000—but so far, all the machines known to him have serials under 12000.

I was surprised to learn that this machine, which looks so pre-war, was made into the mid-'50s. If the information is correct, a production of 18,000 typewriters over 20 years comes out to only 900 machines per year.

[PS: According to a correspondent, "in 1945 there was a reform aiming to simplify Bulgarian alphabet and the 2 letters yat and big yus were removed thus I guess this one was made in between 1936-1945."]

"The small typewriter for travel, office and home": 
Note that there is no name on the machine! 

 Coming up: more adventures with the Rex.