Thursday, January 19, 2017

What's in a picture? Let me count the (arguably Fox related) things.

It was only taken for the purpose of being used as a joke, but regardless I ended up with this photograph;

In truth, this picture sums me up pretty bloody well. While it might take someone with an eagle eye to truly spot it, it turns out that I like old things.

Typewriters have become my true hobby in regards to that, but I'm always fascinated with other antique devices, and older ways of doing things. My preference generally stays around the early 1900s, however, so while I think quills and crossbows are cool, I don't really have a desire to own or use them. 

But lets take a look at this really Fox based photograph, shall we?

On the right, we have a Kodak Junior. This thing takes a film roll size that no longer exists, so I had to grab some adapters to allow smaller, still produced film rolls to be utilized. I havent really taken too many photos with it, and had fewer of those actually developed. But I can tell you its a great bit of fun to do so, and end up with authentic black and white pictures. A bit pricey, being about 5 bucks for a roll that will fit about 12 pictures, and about 7 bucks to process said roll. I'm a bit interested in learning to develop pictures myself to cut costs. Kodak used to actually offer a personal kit to do so back in the day.

Next up based on random order, the main point of the picture. A Fox Sterling! You may not know this... but I really like Fox machines. And this mint condition Sterling has been a cornerstone of my collection for some time now. I like using it, and it always proves its motto; The Light Running Fox!

And of course, not all ink comes in ribbon form. A bottle of black Parker Quink ensures my pens always have a source of the necessary stuff.

Now what better to go with a Fox typewriter, than a Fox Copyholder, a Fox book, and a Fox portable manual? I have two of the copyholders, one in worse condition which I use everyday, and one in wonderful condition that sits in a display case. They are both the kind meant to be attached to a desktop machine via long extension arm (which I do not possess, and have only seen one of). There is a stand based version that I would be ecstatic to find.

The book is some silly little thing that's filled with utter gibberish. Read at your own risk.

The manual is something interesting. It has a very thick, heavy cover that has helped protect it over the years, and nice glossy pages. The instructions are worded in a very proper and professional way, and despite owning two for the folding machines, I own none for the Sterling. If you have one for said Sterling, you are certainly lucky.

Hidden in the back and definitely not truly a part of the picture, you may notice a pink eraser. Oh, and a box of Palomino Blackwing pencils. Honestly, if you ever have a few bucks you dont mind wasting on a pencil, you should try a Palomino Blackwing (602 for writing, standard for drawing). They're the highest quality pencil I've ever dealt with.

Pencils aside, we have more Fox stuff. And a not Fox thing. The Fox letterhead is thanks to a blog post by Richard Polt at The Typewriter Revolution (and I think originally due to Peter Weil scanning a letter he has). Colorful, it adds a touch of pure awesomeness to my personal letters. Said letters always look amazingly authentic on it, as well, which just makes it all the better.

To the left, you have a small Fox branded mirror. These don't crop up often, and seem to go for around a non-president Founding Father, give or take a few Secretary of the Treasury's. Theyre quite small in reality, especially when compared to some that Remington made.

And what early 1900's picture would be complete without a fountain pen? A college graduation gift, the gold-filled fountain pen will last me a long time, and writes as lightly and smoothly as one can ever dream of.

Worth 15 bonus points, according to one master of the item-points market, the top hat is in neigh perfect condition. I went through two other top hats trying to find one that fit right, getting a bigger size each time. Turns out, people back int he day had smaller heads or something. I love how they look (though theyre out of place unless worn with a vest or suit), but sadly I haven't had the chance to wear this one anywhere. I bought it in the hopes of using it at one of my best friends weddings, but being the best man, I was forbidden from doing so by the friends new missus. Alas.

Then we have the pocket watch and ribbon tin. If not for pocket watches, I wouldn't have stumbled into the typewriter hobby. And without a hatred of the confining feeling of a wristwatch, I never would have stumbled onto pocket watches and their just perfect magnificence. Wristwatches got nothing on the classiness of a gold-filled Elgin.

I havent yet acquired a ribbon tin for a visible machine, but I have somehow ended up with two of these blind ribbon tins. Very artfully done, I wish things still came in well designed small tins like it.

And not present for the picture because it literally just came in the mail today...


Ok. So. Despite ALL my research into this bloody brand. Despite EVERYTHING. I somehow never really realized that Fox had branded oil bottles. I saw Typewriter Oil mentioned in the portables manual, but since it wasnt actually labeled Fox Typewriter Oil (like the Fox Ribbon was just above it), I assumed that they just took some generic third party oil and shipped it.

Nobodys ever mentioned this stuff, and I've certainly never seen it anywhere. Ever. This is my first acquisition of the year, and I am beyond ecstatic. On top of existing, it came with its awesome little box which is just as amazing, and certainly has to be on the rare side since cardboard stuff from that era just wasnt meant to be kept once you opened it up.

AND. I got it for a fraction of what I would have been insane enough to throw at it. Either nobody else is quite as nuts as I am about this brand (thats a given), or everybody who cares about impossible to find ephemera was looking away from the ebay listings when this thing went through. I'm just floored overall that I now have this in my possession. I can also tell you it predates 1917. The price on the bottle is 15 cents, but the portable manual has it listed for 20. A 33% increase in price must have been drastic back then.

That's all for now, folks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Short Economic Mumblings

The Masspro's feed roller has a small flat in it, which started causing some spacing issues. Someday I'll get it and the platen restored.

I could have (and probably should have) gone into a heck of a lot of detail about the idea of economics (to get my college degree I ended up having to take 4 godawful years of the stuff), but I'll leave that for future times when my fingers aren't frozen from the cold.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's Alive! The 1932 Masspro Typewriter, Back From The Grave

The Masspro lives once more, after sitting for decades in its case in some attic on the east coast. It took the carriage being rebuilt twice to get it right and figure out the reason for the sluggish carriage, but all's well now.

First and foremost, I typed a page on the little machine and would like to say that it is in my most not-humble opinion that these machines are very fine little typers. I don't truly see why there is so much hate out there for the feel or action, or for the overall build quality. Sure, thinner metal was used when able. But it all still works very well, and the parts that needed to be of good quality are. 

It honestly feels just like a Corona 3 to me (which makes sense, since the principle behind the typebars and the escapement is quite literally 99% the same as a Corona 3). I would suggest that, if it had simply come out during a time when 3-bank machines were still all the rage, the Mass Production Company would have done a good job at mass producing its Masspros.

With the machine cleaned, lets take a small tour of this rather hard to find machine.

The keyboard has all the usual symbols, but ensures that there is a key for the right hands pinky (yay for those of us that touch type). Interestingly enough, it also gives the user a few other symbols that arent often found on other 3-banks; a plus sign, a few fractions, and a degree symbol. A very well thought out keyboard.

The machine allows for either 1 or 2 line spacing, by pushing in and turning the knob just below the return lever. You can disengage the ratchet wheel via the small lever in the back, and you will find the small button at the bottom of the side of the carriage is the escapement release, which exactly the same concept as is found on Olivers.

The typebasket. Rather than a solid segment as is found on most machines, this design utilizes folded metal to do so. Very effecient and sturdy in my opinion, it helps make cleaning it out even easier. The machine takes standard size spools. The spool nuts are just to keep the spools in place (unlike on a Corona 3, where they are critical in the function of the ribbon advancement). Though it doesnt have automatic ribbon reversal, it does have conveniently placed levers on each side of the machine that allow you to toggle the ribbon direction. Also of note, this machine only uses the top half of the ribbon. You have to manually flip the ribbon/spools to use the bottom half.

One of the coolest features on this machine, the backspacer is a large lever that you just quickly click in to take the carriage back a space. It works very well, and is incredibly simple in design to the point that nothing could probably stop it from working properly ( unlike some other machines). The platen knob actually also counts as the right side bearing for the platen; there is no rod.

Underneath the machine, we see the spring plate, spacebar connector, and mechanics. The machine cannot function without its feet, as alot of the mechanics need that little bit of clearance to work right.

The escapement is incredibly simple, and works efficiently. I only wish you could adjust the main tension spring.

The margins are very easy to use, and seem sturdy. The bell side marginstop has a problem that causes the bell to ring twice, and causes a bit of drag on the carriage when doing so; I'll need to remedy that someday. These earlier machine have a square logo sticker on the back. Later machines seem to have an oval.

Another cool feature is the automatic carriage lock. It took me a few minutes to figure out what the hell it was, but when I realized that it was independent of any other system, and could only be pushed in by something right up next to it, the notion of it and a case working in conjunction became clear. When you close the case lid, it pushes the lock into the rack, and at the same time throws the escapement away from the undersides rail. A very practical and, honestly, ingenious way to protect the escapement during transit that takes no effort on the users part, and automatically functions no matter what.

That has been your short tour of the Masspro typewriter, a machine that I feel has a bad rap. This machine doesnt even have the ball bearing carriage of later machines, and it works quite smoothly. 

Viva La Masspro.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Throw the switch, Igor!

The Masspro lives, after all these years of sitting broken in its case. My first impressions? Far more positive than the general opinion is on these guys. The action feels solid, and is very much like a Corona 3.

My only real problem that will, likely, take quite some time to deal with is the primitive carriage. This machine is one of the first produced, (you see, its a 1932 machine rather than a 1932 machine) and rather than ball bearings to support the carriage, it has a rod on the front of the carriage that rides through 4 small hooks (like a reverse Underwood 5), and a teensy weeny wheel in the back that glides along. Somethings causing it all to slow down, and I'm afraid of putting anymore tension on the motor lest I break it. I can repair a broken mainspring, but I would love to avoid that little problem. 

And I need to raise the front feet a bit more. The spacebar is hitting the table. But! Outside of those issues, I am actually very impressed with this little machine; I think all y'all who dis on it are just spoiled with newer, higher end machines. I love the look of it, too. It's actually quite graceful despite being a super cheap machine.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Masspro Typewriter

It's happened again. A machine that I originally held little love for gradually gained my interest, to the point where I truly desired it. I had only ever really heard of the Masspro typewriter a few times, once noted in one of the typewriter collecting books by Russo (where it was stated that it was a machine not worth any time, money, or consideration), and again on Mr. Messenger's blog, OzTypewriter. It was his posts on the little machine that got my interest up a bit, and increased my desire to own one.

After failing to win a Standard Folding 2 that happened to be on auction the same week as the Masspro, I decided that hell or high water, I was going to win the Masspro. And I did.

It arrived the other day, and I couldn't be more delighted. It's like a Corona 4 in a very broad sense, but it has the most simple design I've seen from a 30's machine (outside the Corona 3 of course). I am most eager to get it back into working order, and try it out. I hear terrible things about it, but I am loathe to accept such until I have the personal experience of typing on it after I've cleaned and repaired it. Age, often, is a detractor in the typing capability of any machine and can make an otherwise good machine feel like a toy.

Anyway, once it arrived, I planned the operation. No machine, no matter how rare (save perhaps for a Sholes and Glidden) is safe from me and my dastardly ways.

First, as I prepared the operation table, I figured I would take a shot of my growing pile of spools. This is nothing compared to some other collectors/repairmen, but still. I've got a bit of everything at this point.

The Masspro awaits its checkup.

The front plate comes off easily, after taking out just 4 screws.

The back plate comes off with just two screws, and on it you will find the serial number. When I looked lastnight int he dark, I got 1945 as the number, but with the plate off and easier to see, it turns out that it is 1045. Pretty early, if they started at the 1000 mark.

And here I messed up the next picture

The next picture. The ribbon cups and mechanisms have been taken off.

It's a very simple machine, truly, and honestly must have been incredibly easy to build.

It turns out that there are only two screws between the carriage and the body. Slides right out, as long as you also pop a hook out of a certain spot.

The carriage is pretty dang simple too. Once I get the body cleaned up, I'll be focusing on it.

Thats it for todays look at a Masspro typewriter. Stay tuned for results, and subsequent typing!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Fox Typerwiter Company: The Book, and a little video on the Daugherty Visible

My book on the Fox Typewriter Company is now open for sale. Paperbacks are $10, and Hardcover is $20. If you perhaps want to learn a bit more about Fox, I'm hoping this is the book for you.
Please note: This book is trade sized (9x6), is on cream colored paper, and is in black and white. Colorized images would have bloody well tripled the cost to print the book, so I didn't even want to bother with that option.

I created this book due to my fanaticism regarding the Fox typewriter company, and a desire to ensure that a well documented sort of historical compilation exists rather than just scattered blog posts or website blurbs. I have done my best to leave out anything truly opinionated (Such things will be saved for periodic entry's to ETCetera) so that this book can be used as a sort of base upon which to build further information and knowledge.

At the same time, I admit that this is the first time I have ever done something like this. I've never been very creative per say, and that shows in the amazingly bland cover, and lack of any true creative editing as is found in more polished books. I am also fallible, and there may indeed be some errors or false information in the book; To that end, I highly desire critique from those who read this book, and if you believe something within its covers is incorrect, do not hesitate to bring it up. An open debate about such things is the best way to determine the most likely and truthful answer.

It was a wonderful learning experience to create this book, and I hope perhaps that it inspires some of you to produce a book on your own favorite brand. As can be seen at the Typewriter Database, in the many collectors books such as those by Russo, by the recently released "Typewriter: A Celebration..." by Robert and Weil, and just from perusing the web and this site, there are a great multitude of typewriters and brands numbers in the hundreds. To my knowledge, there has been a book on the Oliver typewriter company. Now, there is one on Fox. That leaves everything else open. I say go for it.

And finally, I hope you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed creating it. Save for the stressful moments where everything starts falling apart before randomly coming back together again. Hopefully you don't experience that while reading it.



Also, I went ahead and made a video on the Daugherty Visible! If you wanted to see one in action for a few seconds, the quick demo is about halfway through.