Friday, 26 July 2013

Sun, surf and Kolibri.

Ms Jane's nieces and nephew are here, along with her sisters and her mother. We're about to wander over to her cousin's place for a barbecue. Such a hard life this!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The box.

About a month ago Ms Jane and I popped by her mother's house after we both finished work. Joy (her mother's name) had called and said that her partner, Andrew, had something that he wanted to give me that would need a bit of explaining.

Andrew had previously worked for a little company called 'IBM'. You may have heard of it. He was a call-out serviceman. 

It was during this period of Andrew's working life that he and Joy first met and forged a friendship that has lasted several decades. In the most recent couple of years they have grown quite close to each other, and now have a strong relationship. 

We arrived a Joy's place at about the time that most civil people would have been doing the dishes after dinner. My work clothes smelled of hospital, and I'm sure my face looked like it had been sprayed with Domestos. I was tired.

Joy was just settling in for the evening in her slippers and comfortable clothes, but Andrew had only recently gotten home from work himself and was quite bright and chirpy. Actually, he seemed quite excited.

We talked a little about the kind of day we'd all had, and then Andrew disappeard out the back door of the house, and downstairs to a cupboard under the house. He returned with a dusty old box that had originally carried canned fruit sometime in the 80's, but now hosted a collection of much more interest.

When Andrew began working at IBM, their biggest product was the Selectric II/III typewriters. They also were in the process of rolling out their wheelwriters, and variable type wheelwriters. While I sat there, both Andrew and Joy fondly spoke about these variable type machines, and the typewriters of their era. Andrew himself had a few interesting stories to tell  of his days of servicing these machines. 

Andrew settled into a glass of red wine, and started to tell me about what all of the parts inside the box where. As we talked, he would often excitedly go off on another tangent with stories of his work life with IBM, and it was a fascinating and interesting conversation.

Inside of the box were parts and tools from when IBM's typewriters were king. There were ribbons (likely dried out now) tools, cleaning swabs, parts and even a parts guide. And to my amazement, these weren't just parts stripped from a broken down machine. These were new and unused parts.

IBM selectric III 'Golf ball', still in original retail plastic.

Not 'just' any parts. But this collection of components covered some quite crucial pieces - including complete shaft assemblies for several different types of machines, and more importantly - a complete IBM  'Through-kit'; a kit that contained commonly replaced parts, that you would just automatically use to refurbish a machine.

 A complete and unused shaft, still in its plastic.

Part of the 'through-kit', with a few extras thrown in. 

Andrew suggested that I could use these parts to trade and swap for parts with other typewriter enthusiasts. He knew that I had a couple of Selectrics, and knew that the variable type wheelwriters are rather hard to find in Australia.

But I had other ideas. The implications of such a collective of parts to me were huge. Sure, I could just swap these and have a couple of machines going. But then again, these were unused and unground parts. In the hands of someone with enough engineering knowledge and CADD skill, along with the right tools, this was a nearly priceless collection of reference parts. Parts that could be reversed engineered, modeled digitally, and potentially used to produce many more parts via the more modern 3D printing and prototyping technology that is available today.

Because these parts are unworn, they present the possibility of being able to take far more accurate measurements that could produce better end products. It will take a lot of hard work though. 

Ms Jane replaced the old box with a new one the moment we got home, as the old box barely survived the trip in the car without spilling its contents everywhere.

While we were at Joy's house, Joy decided to bring out hew own typewriter to show me. It was a marvelous Imperial Model 6, which has sat in her cupboard for several decades quite neglected. 

The metallic blue/green of the machine was actually quite eye-catching, and in person quite attractive. The machine has quite a collective of daily use muck in it, and a bit of plasticizer seepage on two keys. 

With a bit of work, I think this Imperial beauty has real potential to come up looking near new, and I look forward to taking the time to service and clean up a machine that means something to a family member.

There is also something of a family story attached to this machine. Joy has owned this typewriter since it was bought new for her by her Aunty, and has probably typed all kinds of wonderful things over the years. 

I think it is a thing of beauty, and it's great that she's kept it. 

I'm really excited about the box of parts, and it was great to talk to Joy and Andrew about their stories of using and fixing these typewriters. 

Thanks guys! 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A big week for the typosphere, and no one knew anything about it!

I'm quite a fan of the scientific inquiry, and all the more if you can add artistry to it.

Earlier today I was sifting through my usual pile of emails. Ms Jane, who is a voracious reader had sent me a handful of typewriter related articles that she had stumbled across while surfing the world's news sites. She'd been pouring over the goings-on in the world while I was attempting a much more mundane task - the repair of a lawn mower.

With the lawn mower steadfast refusing to be revived with my half educated tinkering, I gave up and sat down to have a cold drink. I flipped open my iPad, and just browsed through the most recent of 1357 unread emails that Google keeps telling me that I have to pay attention to at - some point.

I clicked a link, and there before my eyes was a familiar name and a somewhat familiar face. It was journalist and writer - Robert Neuwirth. A man that is even sexier than me in a lab-coat, and gives me hope that I may still have a chance to look good when all my head hair eventually decides to completely abandon ship. 

Even though Robert doesn't have a typewriter specific blog, deep down he's one of us typospherians. If you have any doubt about this, you'll know otherwise by about 3/4ths of the way through the article.

The article can be found here.

The name should sound familiar to you too. Robert helped me find an Apothecary typewriter a little while ago, and quite often posts on the Portable typewriter forum. He also occasionally posts on a few of our blogs, but you may have missed it as he doesn't draw a lot of attention to himself by pasting his name all over the place.

I'm yet to finish reading Robert's first book, and I have it set aside at work for times when I need something to read while I'm waiting outside Labs and clinics, or stuck 'specialing' a patient.

Oh yeah, Google Robert's TED talks. They're worth a look at. Or at least I thought so. I just need to finish his first book, before I work on his second book that is full of material related to his TED discussion.

Robert, the 'Filthy Labs' team (which incidentally is just a team of one - me) dips our hat to you.

*   *   *

Speaking of good-guys, here's an article about how a patent lawyer saved the original paper patent work for a 'Type-writing machine' - a piece of history that was scanned into a computer, and then came within a whisker of being shredded and lost forever.

It appears that the US patent office is more than happy to simply destroy the mountain of industrial artwork that they currently find extremely expensive to keep. So, they have computerized their entire catalog and then set about recycling the originals. Many of which are historically significant documents. It appears that no one ever thought to offer any of them to Libraries, Museums or even collectors first.

Here's the article.  CAUTION: Contains historical bastardy.

Some of these pieces of art are potentially 'da Vinci-esque' works with their value to history potentially as yet to be realized. 

*  *  *

The end of Project FP. 

Project FP was my first big overhaul of a typewriter. I had huge plans for this magnificent beast, much of which will now go unrealized. 

When I received this heavy-weight from an eccentric seller over at Deception bay, it was a dreary battleship grey. Or as far as I could tell with the paint that wasn't scratched off, or heavily stained. Every key was frozen solid, and the carriage was glued in place - literally. The platen had glue that had been trickled all over it that had made its way into the machine.

Once I had the mechanical side of it moving again, I painted part of it a royal purple - and shifted the grey of the body up a shade to give it a brighter outlook. I also fed a purple ribbon into it. 

But then it simply ended up on the shelf. The great plans I had for this machine included copper plating key components, and then using the copper motif to decorate other embellishments. But it simply was too heavy to keep working on - especially when a particularly challenging repair, in the form of an Olympia SG1, was starting to take up any time that I had devoted to working on a heavy desktop machine. 

I was running out of room and interest when Rino of  'the Long slow {typecast} blog' mentioned that he would love to get his hands on a big desktop Royal. At the time Rino was bidding on a beautiful KMM that had appeared on ebay, which eventually went for a price that neither of us would have ever rationally justified. So after that loss I offered him the typewriter that I had personally named 'The Purple Smartie'. 

Rino came and grabbed it last Sunday, and I believe has been ironing out of few of the minor mechanical flaws that I had overlooked since then. It actually is a brilliant machine and I really did love typing on it. It was like firing a machine-gun that had been bolted to a block of concrete. Every letter was slammed onto the page with absolute certainty and speed, and the machine held its footing with steadfast determination that I had never seen before. 

Ryan Adney of 'Magic Margin' fame may be pleased to know that this isn't going to be my last attempt at repairing a Royal desktop machine. I have a Royal HH that is sitting in my shed that is in an even more pitiful state than the Royal FP originally was. I can barely even tell what its original colour was - as most of it has blistered off. Stay tuned for more. 

*   *   *

I also have another 'goings' to announce. Last Saturday I spread a bit of typer love to another aspiring artist. 

This Empire Aristocrat is now in the hands of a guitarist by the name of Troy. I originally bought this machine as a birthday present for him last year. I serviced it and did some repairs, but held of doing any painting as I felt the worn state of the machine held some beautiful charm. Indeed, I just made sure the ribbon covers closed up properly - instead of bending them into perfect alignment, as I felt that Troy would love the 'grungy lived-in' feel of the machine's looks. 

I gave it a new ribbon, but I have a feeling that it had dried out a little in the time it had been sitting on the shelf. I'll just pick up a replacement for him when I next put in a big order overseas.  Troy however seems quite wrapped in this typer, and I believe he's been giving it a good beating at home. I think I really have chosen the perfect machine for him, but if he finds he wants something that types better than this Empire, as we all do was we mature in our typing skill, I'll see if I can dig him up something with a better typing action.

But right now, the 'beat-poet-cum-grunge' style of this machine seems to have found a perfect home. It is a tool for an artist - and I'm eager to see what comes of it.

That's the 4th typewriter to make its way out of my doors now! I really need to start moving a few more before I get buried in projects. 

*   *   *

And one final 'coming' - just a bit of a teaser really. 

What's in this box is typewriter related. It may not be of much interest to the typosphere immediately, but I'm excited - as it offers me, and my engineering and CADD skills, an interesting and rare opportunity for the future of many of the machines that some of us have hiding in our cupboards.

more soon.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A clean typewriter is a happy typewriter.

Cameron Kopf, are you reading? 

Last week I received from Germany this gorgeous Gossen Tippa (B).

It is a beautiful machine with a very responsive action. However, it had one quite serious flaw. It skipped and skidded about the place like a bar stool seems to under you, after you've sunk a few too many beers - or if you're inclined as I am, red wines or vodkas.

Cameron Kopf's Gossen Tippa B was also suffering from the skiddies as well, so he may be interested to read this.

I was able to type on on the Tippa, but every so often it would just fly off a few spaces. I popped off the base and a bit of a look underneath, but I couldn't seem to really diagnose exactly what the problem was. Despite that, I still tapped out the typecast for my last blog entry quite happily - even with the skipping skidding problem occurring

I figured out the operation of the space bar escapement dog, but I couldn't quite see why it kept happening. A few days later while I was riding to work, a thought occurred to me... This may not actually be a parts failure.

A few people had suggested that they needed to bend back parts with some needle nosed pliers, but all the parts in my escapement looked perfect. Not only that, they had been serviced at some point by someone who had used loctite to hold the tiny nuts in place - which implied it was in the last decade or so.

So.... with a few cotton-buds, I ventured into the inner sanctum of the Tippa; the escapement. 

The space escapement dog is the piece to the right. You can JUST make out the star gear. 

The star gear locks between two escapement parts. One of these is rigidly bolted to the escapement dog, the other part is a moving, spring loaded wedge that catches the star gear and does the bulk of the work. The star was skidding past both of these when the problem was occurring.

The outside, machine seemed incredibly clean - which I think led me to a false sense of security about it's mechanical cleanliness. I learned otherwise when I managed to filthy up 8 tips of the cotton buds just inside the escapement dog  and along the star gear.

 The one on the far left was dipped in de-greaser.

Cleaning the prongs and the dog arms seemed to yield almost instant results. I flipped the machine over and gave it a whirl, and it seemed to have become dramatically more reliable and responsive. 

The lower wedge of the dog that moves needed a little bit of coaxing to hold into place. I jammed an on-hand set of pliers onto it to stop it moving, however the same result could have been achieved with a small screwdriver. 

I sprayed the escapement dog with a little de-greaser, and then wiped it away. I then dipped the cotton bud into a little cup of de-greaser and then proceeded to clean all the parts to make sure I had cleaned everything off. I gave the escapement a bit of a blast of air to try and clear any other muck that was left in place.

I then pushed a brush across the teeth of the escapement rack to move out some muck that I had observed had wedged into place.

After I fastened the bottom of the machine back into lace, I fed some paper in and gave the machine a good run. There was no observed skipping that occurred when I used the space bar,  and you could feel that it was catching with much more certainty.

The thing about machines like these, is that the parts are very small and fine. The escapement sits under the ribbon vibrator, and any particles of dust or ink that wishes to fall down from here during operation of the machine will lodge right into the escapement. And if you oil these parts, you will no doubt have problems too. Essentially the star gear had become so slipper that with the build up on it - it was just forcing itself to skid past the escapement parts. 

So there it is. It seemed incredibly simple - just 'clean' the parts, but really that's all it is. I'm pretty confident that the skidding is sorted. Go me! I've got a couple of other little things to sort out on this Gossen Tippa as yet, but it is shaping up to be a very nice little machine.

Now.... for a little bit more Massive Attack....