Monday, September 18, 2023

More telegrapher's portable typewriters

Bob Freshwater has sent me these interesting photos of a Royal P (ca. 1930) adapted to handle telegraph forms and a ca. 1952 instruction session on the use of the Smith-Corona Typewriter Telegraph 8B. He says that these machines were used by the UK General Post Office.

For more information and examples of telegrapher's portable typewriters, click here.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

One weird trick for fixing your sluggish electric

The Royal Saturn is a nifty-looking lightweight electric, actually made by Silver-Seiko.

The problem on this one: some typebars weren't reaching the platen. They just weren't being activated with enough force. 

I concluded that the belt had lost some elasticity over the years, leading to a weak rotation of the fluted shaft that drives the typebars.

Replacement belt? I didn't have any handy.

It dawned on me that instead of replacing this still intact belt, I could increase the diameter of the rotating shaft on the left that is directly driven by the electric motor. This would stretch out the belt a little, making it tauter, and turn the shaft faster.

At first I put a short length of automotive tubing over the shaft. This increased its diameter too much: the typebars smacked against the paper so hard that they were cutting it.

It turned out that an inconspicuous little piece of shrink tubing was just enough to solve the problem.

So there you go: in this situation, try this trick. You may bring your electric back to life by taking a few seconds to add some material that costs a fraction of a cent.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Let the sales begin

I intend to make some serious progress on slimming down my typewriter collection this fall. 

My first listing on eBay is a Pluma 22. — A what? — That's the Spanish counterpart to the Lettera 22, minus tabulator. And this one is pink.

You can find the listing on eBay here.

You'll find all my typewriters for sale, when I list them, here. You can also save a search for Polt typewriter, and eBay will email you whenever I put one up.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Staplers I have known

If you work on paper, you need to keep papers together. This is why a number of typewriter enthusiasts have also acquired a variety of staplers. I'm not a stapler collector, but I've been cleaning my study and I ran across a few that may be of interest.

This very pretty and excellent Aceliner turned up in the local St. Vincent DePaul store. I also have a staple remover that matches its marbled plastic.
I'd forgotten that I own these midgets. I should bring them to class when papers are due and students inevitably ask if I have a stapler.
Another midget is this Swingline Tot 50 which has been with me since I was under ten years old. A box of staples for it has also survived, somehow, all these years!
Still older is my father's stapler. It looks like it's from the 1940s. The base is Bakelite. He scratched his initials on the bottom. I can't see a maker's name on this stapler; does anyone know what it is?

Finally, this is not really a stapler but a Bump Paper Fastener, patented in 1914. It cuts a tab out of the paper and folds it into the cut.
Here's a video that shows how it works.

I believe devices like this are still made in Japan and are popular there.

I know Sean up in YYC has some interesting staplers too. Who else?

Monday, September 11, 2023

A green machine

 Here's the typewriter that goes in the case whose handle I replaced with "one weird trick."

This is a 1935 Royal A portable with a deep green finish—still lovely despite the wear and chips.

This typewriter was quite grimy, so I removed the shell (fairly challenging) and gave it a bath in an ultrasonic cleaning tank. Mitch Hamm alerted me that such tanks, big enough to dip a portable while keeping its keys out of the water, are now available for a mere $150 or so. Here's the Royal undergoing what sounds like electroshock therapy, but is really just a micro-agitated bath. Concentrated Simple Green Industrial Cleaner & Degreaser was added to hot water in a 1:20 ratio.

I also replaced the paper bail rollers, feed rollers, and platen. The feed rollers were recovered with automotive tubing; the paper bail rollers and platen came from a ca. 1960 Futura 800 parts machine. (The 1935 platen was pockmarked and rock hard.)

Now this good ol' Royal is ready to write!

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Bespoke poetry in Westwood

Follow Peripatetic Poets on Instagram or Facebook.

While most topics were simple and upbeat—unexpected happiness, confidence, grandparents—Rose also wrote a poem on the topic "You are near" for a woman whose daughter had recently died.

The word bowl was helpful to those who didn't have a theme for a poem on the tip of their tongues.

Rose says she may need a typewriter of her own.

The little model typewriter with a few lines from Poe was raffled off. (Interesting three-bank WERTY keyboard, like on a Chicago ....) I brought the little memo dispenser that looks like a Royal portable.

Here are some of my efforts.

Using the words "scrawny" and "purple":

I decided to underline the required words in this poem for a girl:

Jackie was inspired by the sound of our typewriters:

This is a poem for a first-year high-school student who is dealing with anxiety:


Friday, September 8, 2023

Single-element typewriters on display

In 2013 and 2014, I had opportunities to show some of my collection at the Xavier University Library and a public library. That brought good conversations (and an offer of a teletype). Now I've mounted another little show at the XU Library, focused on some machines in my collection that use interchangeable type elements. There are some bits of original and reproduction ephemera on display with the typewriters—including some material kindly given to me by Peter Weil back in the '90s. 

Here's the general introduction that I wrote up for the exhibit:

This selection from Dr. Polt’s extensive collection features writing machines with interchangeable type elements. By swapping one element for another, the typist could write in a different type style (font) or even a different alphabet. Type elements were available in a wide variety. They were typically made of vulcanite (hardened rubber) or aluminum. While most of these elements took the form of wheels, others were elongated cylinders, arcs, or other shapes. By around 1915, almost all type-element typewriters had been pushed out of the market by faster typewriters that used a separate typebar (or “hammer”) for each character, but could type in only one style. The IBM Selectric (1961) revived the concept of an interchangeable type element, using a golf-ball-like unit that traveled across the page. Electronic typewriters (introduced in the late 1970s and still manufactured today) generally use interchangeable daisywheels. The early typewriters you see here were mostly manufactured in the United States. They testify to the mechanical ingenuity of their creators, the interests and needs of their users, and the beauty that is possible in industrial design.

And now for the dozen typewriters:

Crandall New Model (ca. 1889)


The Crandall uses a vertical type cylinder whose motion is controlled by an ingeniously formed vulcanite “twirler” at the back of the machine. The curved two-row keyboard activates levers that run in grooves in the twirler to turn the type cylinder to the appropriate position. When new, this machine was a dazzling object, painted with gold pinstripes and adorned with inlaid mother-of-pearl. Inventor: Lucien S. Crandall.



Hammond no. 1 (ca. 1890)


The mechanism of this early typewriter is encased in wood. A two-row curved keyboard activates two wedge-shaped type elements that swing to the right or left. A hammer in the back of the machine hits the paper against the ribbon and the element. The Hammond is one of the longest-lasting typewriter designs. It was renamed Varityper in 1927. With many improvements, including electrification, proportional type (where, for instance, a W is wider than an i), and a mechanical method of justifying right margins, Varitypers were used to create camera-ready layout until the 1970s. Inventor: James B. Hammond.



Blickensderfer no. 5 (1902)


The most successful typewheel machine and the first truly portable typewriter, the “Blick” was invented in the mid-1890s and made until 1915. A three-bank keyboard with double shift controls an interchangeable vulcanite typewheel that is inked by a roller. Blickensderfer promoted “Scientific” alternatives to QWERTY, such as this keyboard designed to type Polish. The most common letters are at the center of the bottom row and require the least motion of the hands and the typewheel. Inventor: George C. Blickensderfer.



Lambert (ca. 1900)


A unique design, the Lambert arranges its keys in a circle. When the user depresses a key, the entire keyboard and the apparatus below it tilt and descend to print a character. The type is located on an interchangeable convex disc. Inventor: Frank Lambert.



Commercial Visible no. 6 (ca. 1900)


Made from 1898 to 1907, the Commercial Visible is an uncommonly elegant typewheel machine. Like the Hammond, it uses a hammer to hit the paper from behind against the ribbon and the type. The name “Visible” alludes to the fact that at the turn of the century, most large typewriters were “blind”: they typed on the bottom of the carriage, which had to be lifted up to see one’s work. With the Commercial Visible, the typing is immediately in sight. Inventor: Richard W. Uhlig. 


Postal no. 5 (1904)


A rival to the Blickensderfer, the Postal is a similar invention that uses a different system to translate key motion into the rotation of a typewheel. Inking is by ribbon. Inventor: William P. Quentell.



Blickensderfer no. 6 (1912)


Although Blickensderfer promoted its Scientific layout, it also offered typewriters with a QWERTY keyboard, such as this no. 6 made of lightweight aluminum. Also on display are two Blick typewheels that were 3D printed in 2022. Digital technology makes it possible to create new type elements for antique typewriters, with fonts that were never originally available for these machines.



Helios-Klimax (ca. 1919)


The Helios, later known as Helios-Klimax, is one of the few twentieth-century typewriters with a two-row keyboard. With a triple shift and a four-row aluminum typewheel, it can write as many characters as a machine with a normal keyboard, and its action is fast. The machine was manufactured in Berlin. This specimen has a Spanish keyboard. Inventor: Justin W. Bamberger.



Chicago (ca. 1915)


Originally known as the Munson, the Chicago was made from the 1890s to the 1910s. Its three-bank keyboard controls a horizontal type cylinder that is enveloped in a wide ribbon. Like the Hammond and the Commercial Visible, it hammers the paper from behind. Note the unusual position of the Q key. Inventor: Samuel J. Seifried.



Bennett (ca. 1910)


The Bennett is the smallest keyboard typewriter ever made. A cam system translates the downward movement of a key into the rotation and forward movement of a typewheel. This device was widely advertised as a pocket typewriter, and it does fit in a large coat pocket. Its original price was $18.00. Inventor: Charles A. Bennett.



Hammond Folding Multiplex (1923)


This descendant of the Hammond no. 1 is a portable typewriter with a keyboard that folds upwards. It can hold two arc-shaped type shuttles; the typist can switch from one style to another in seconds. The character spacing can be changed with a lever on the right side of the machine.



Tip Tip (1936)


Index typewriters are a low-cost category of writing machines that have no keyboard, and require two steps for printing: the user must indicate the desired character on an index, then perform a separate action to type it. The Tip Tip, made in Czechoslovakia, arranges its type on a cylinder. The user points at the character on the chart at right, and depresses the two keys at left for printing and spacing. A similar invention, the Mignon, sold well in Germany between the wars. Inventor: Franz Hübl.

Other single-element typewriters in my collection include a Moya 1 and 2, a Crandall 4, a Chicago 3, and of course, the IBM Selectric I. The antique single-element machines hold great charm for me as a collector, even though they're not the most practical typewriters to use.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

One weird trick for fixing your typewriter case handle

It's time for another installment in my once-a-decade "one weird trick" series!

I've seen many a dilapidated typewriter case handle, but this one for a 1935 Royal A was so far gone that it revealed the secrets of how at least some of these handles were constructed. The leather (leatheroid?) exterior is nailed on. The bulk of the handle consists of nothing more than coarse paper wrapped around a metal core.

This is the core—just a flat metal strip that's been bent, twisted, and crimped.

To the rescue: some automotive tubing that's been lying around. (I periodically go to the auto parts store and stock up on lengths of tubing in various sizes—so useful for recovering feed rollers.) The metal handle needs to be opened up and detached on one end. The tubing should be just long enough to cover most of the handle, while leaving room for the end to be reattached, crimped shut, and tucked into the tubing.

Voilà! A very comfortable, good-looking, and durable handle befits the cleaned-up typewriter case.

Wait till you see the beautiful typewriter itself ... and watch for another weird trick, coming soon.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Tim Youd: World's most dedicated typist?

Artist Tim Youd's 100 Novels project is not for the faint-hearted: retyping a hundred 20th-century novels, in places appropriate to the author or story, on typewriters of the same model used by the author. As I explained in The Typewriter Revolution, Tim puts two sheets of paper into the machine and keeps typing over and over on them until they are blotted, illegible rags. They survive the performance as testimony to his work.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tim a few years ago in California.

Yesterday, I received a postcard which shows that the novels aren't enough typing for Tim. I believe he creates 500 of these for each performance! To quote him, "Holy mother, that was a lot of work."

Portraits from Tim's Instagram.