Thursday, April 20, 2017

It Came From The Netherlands

Well now, what have we here? A rather large parcel, it would seem.

Portable inner assembly for scale, of course.

After a bit of digging, the treasure peeked out at me... As a side note, I now have more packing peanuts that I can probably use for the rest of the year.

Well, you can probably tell what it is by this point. I mean, what would it be save for an...

Amazingly beautiful, magnificent, and awesome Fox?

This machine comes to me from fellow Typospherian Nick M. off in the Netherlands. Its one of those nice times when you know exactly what you'll be getting. And boy oh boy, did I know what I was getting. One of the last machines to ever be produced in the Fox factory, with its celluloid keytops and improvised decals. I couldn't find one here in the states for years, so I knew I had to jump on the opportunity to grab one from across the big pond. 

Its dirty, but all my machines come to me dirty. After an initial inspection, I already know that mechanically its sound. And honestly, it will clean up nicely. 

This little card came with it, and I must admit that I laughed. Robocop and Fox typewriters will forever go together now.

As a side note, a serious mystery has finally been solved for me. I purchased a Fox 28 carriage awhile back and was perplexed at the fact it lacked a gear on it, since it made it inoperable on all my Fox desktops. I couldn't get a straight answer about if later machines were different from the people I ended up asking, but now I know; Fox transferred the gear to the frame of the machine way late in its life. My Model 28 carriage can be used, should I so choose, on this machine and for that I'm even more thrilled. Not that I know what I would even type on such a bloody large carriage.

See that little Corona special on the workbench? Yeah, it's been pushed back time and time again. And alas, it is now pushed back again. Its time for this workbench to go into Fox Overdrive mode.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Vulpes Mechanica

Oh, hey Winged. What's up? 

What is that you're doing.... 

Oh no.... OH NO!!!


Ok wait no. It's not what it looks like. Ok, its partially what it looks like. But it's not. I swear.

You see, I've made a hard, but worthwhile, choice. With the restoration of the Californian Model 24 on the backburner (I plan to really get going with it this summer, once I get some other machines finished up. Forgive me, Mary.), its special keys and characters were just sitting there in a drawer. And being an accountant, and loving business and law, I decided to finally just go ahead and get some of those special characters onto a machine I actually can and do use. The three I picked off of the 24?

The Degree and slightly skewed line (I forget what its purpose is), the Hands of Doooooooooom!, and most importantly, the Subsection and Pilcrow. I really, really wanted a subsection machine. So I'm making it.

The donee to this madness?

My Fox Model 25.

Now on most machines, type replacement can get a pick hard and scary. Not on Fox's! You see, both the keylever caps and the type's themselves just pop right out. Ok, for the type you'll need a pair of pliers to gently wiggle them first, and they'll help give you leverage under the caps to pop them out. Anyway. Lets get the surgery underway!

This is my Fox after about 30 seconds. You can get all the stuff out of the way incredibly quickly. Really helps when cleaning.

The current keyboard. I have used the fraction keys for a legitimate purpose 0 times, and don't think I ever will. So they're the ones to get taken off. 

The type comes out, and the bar is ready to accept a replacement.

The new key caps pop right back on, though they're a bit less glossy than my normal ones. Funny story; the Hands of Dooooooom! wont actually work on this machine. The type is too wide to fit through the typeguide (which I assume is trimmed a bit on the M24). So back in went the 1/2 and 1/4 key. The only fractions I would probably ever use.

Getting the type's in is easy. Just push them in place, pull it up to the typeguide to align it vertically, and use the pliers to push the type in with a bit of pressure.

Brought all back together in about 30 seconds again, the Fox 25 can now do some business legal work!

I have a bit of adjustment to do. The slanted line isn't properly slanted, and the subsection key doesn't print the top half quite well enough. Easy enough for me to do, it will just take a bit of care and time. I could use a new ribbon, as well. This ones pretty old.

So, I know some people will say I've just desecrated this machine. Yes, yes, I've already been told I'm going to hell anyway, so there's nothing left for me to fear.

 But here I ask you, and I would like to know, what your thoughts are on something like this? I see it as something that, 100 years ago, the Fox factory would have gladly done for a paying customer. It's a machine with interchangeable parts, why not customize it in a way that it was intended to, at times, be customized? 

In the end, I'm thrilled I can use these characters. And I figure that my restorative efforts in relation to the dozens of machines I've brought back to life have earned me this tiny blemish on historical accuracy. On top of it all, should it ever need to be done, I still have the original type and keytops. I can just as easily put them back in place.

This has been your look into minor cosmetic surgery on a Vulpes Mechanica.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Littlest Typewriter

Yet another machine I can take off of my wanted list, the Bennett Typewriter is a small little thing, compact and well designed for what it is. In its case, no one would believe you should you tell them that therein resides a typewriter. After all, the case is only 10.5 x 4 x 2.

But a typewriter it is, nonetheless. This machine in particular is fighting me, and refusing to type properly. I can get it to work decently well,  but it likes to sometimes choose different characters to print, and when shifting it doesn't care to type at all sometimes, the typewheel stopping just short of the paper.

At the same time that it is simplistic, it is also surprisingly thoughtful. A lever on the left side of the carriage can be set to 4 positions, 3 of which change where the left side margin is, and the fourth allows for no margin. It has a bell, of all things. And it has a decently designed line-spacer that has a solid feel to it. And of course, taking but two knobs out will allow the keyboard to be pulled straight off. A neccesity, since you have to do so to change the ribbon, but helpful for cleaning and oiling.

I beleive its often called the "Pocket Model", but I wouldn't imagine anyone has quite so large of pockets. And though my thoughts on its ability to actually type are rather negative, I will say that back in 1913, I suppose I can see certain professions having use of it. The wayward journalist who travels to places that don't permit much baggage; the lawyer who needs to print out some quick notes, quietly, somewhere in a courtroom, and others.

I'll keep tinkering with it, and try to get it to type with a somewhat silky-smoothness that I surmise it once had, over 100 years ago.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Noiseless Portable Typewriter, Back In Action

Continuing where I left off last, I was in the middle of cleaning and repairing the "Lion Without A Roar" as I've dubbed the machine.

With the mainspring easily fixed (I can stop pushing on the carriage now!), I had to tackle a not so easy problem. The escapement rail is held in its proper place by two torsion springs that are engaged slightly when the escapement lever is thrown. Both were somehow broken on this machine. It took a short while and a good bit of cursing, but I was able to fashion a properly working, new torsion spring (just one, I wasn't ready to test my luck) out of a bit of standard spring coil I had on hand. I can use the escapement lever again!

I forgot to take pictures of the old feed rollers, but lets just agree that almost any feed roller that old is going to be petrified. They had turned a yellowish-white, were hard, but definitly not brittle. It took some serious effort to get the old rubber cleaned off so I could make some new ones using my patented heat-shrink tubing method. Two in front, two really big ones in back (I can insert paper now!). I've determined that the quality of a machine is often told by how many feed rollers a machine has, and how big they are. Its the weirdest thing.

Next was the bell ringer. The original spring quite literally disintigrated when I touched it, so I had to try to find a replacement. I stole a keylever spring off a Fox portable parts machine, and it proved so be just barely small enough. The original spring was impossibly thin, and anything bigger creates far too much tension on the carriage as it goes by. And now my bell is considerably louder than it probably should be. But hey! Now I can tell when the end of the line is approaching!

As I started putting it all back together, I found that the A key wasnt printing. It took a solid half hour or hour (I lost track of time), but I tested the following, in this order;

Are the typebar linkages gummed up? No.
Is the keylever being prematurly halted? No.
Is anything bent? No.
Is there damage to the keylever from use? Yes.

As is the case with plenty of sliding-activation designs, constant use had worn a good hole in the typebar. So, I took it out to try and see what I could do. Amazingly enough, you can take each keylever out without any trouble. Just rotate the little rod holding them in, and pull the lever out. That's it. Ridiculously simple.

A rather unique keylever.


It was not the problem. So I continued with the query;

Is the ribbon moving correctly for the A? Yes.
Is the escapement worn where it activates? No.

I noticed that when I tilted the machine a bit, the A printed. This just confused me even more, because it theoretically meant that force wasnt being transferred to the typebar well enough, and a bit of gravity helped.

But, that wasnt it. It couldnt be, after my other efforts.

Turns out, the A typebar, for no apparent reason, was actually just barely striking the edge of the printing guide, losing its momentum and rebounding back. I couldnt see this, of course, until I placed a screwdriver along the edge of the printing guide so that the A typebar, if it truly had its momentum, would slide into the proper place. It worked, and I had to carefully "form" (I had to bend it, ok? OK!?) the arm of the typebar to get it to swing into place properly. Now I can type the full alphabet!

A swath of my tradmark purple ribbon installed, I had a fully functional Noiseless Portable Typewriter. Its in need of some adjustment still, but its working pretty well as is. You would not believe how quiet it is. Shifting is louder than the typebar action. This machine could, quite truly, be taken into a library and possibly not get you kicked out.

Noiseless Portable Status: On Standby

Noiseless Portable Status: Type at the ready

I have to test a thought that came to mind; can my Underwood Noiseless ribbon caps possibly fit on this machine, since its based off of this design anyway?  Place your bets!

And hey, look! Random video about it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Noiseless Portable Typewriter

I've heard other collectors have a sort of "First 30-Cleanup", where they do some standard procedures to spiff up a machine they just got. I have the First 30-Breakdown.

The Noiseless, though in "good" condition, was absolutely filthy (as is expected of a machine this age).

About 3 minutes in, this is what I ended up with.

I love 3 bank machines. And I definitely love 3 bank machines with basket shift. The carriage on this puppy came off after just taking out two anchoring screws. The sides are decorative, so they popped right off without any effort as well.

Which left me with the base mechanics, all exposed.

The escapement is very simple, yet seems to be pretty well developed. It actually wont activate if the keys are hit hard enough to get the typebar all the way to the platen.

The motor is one issue to be dealt with. Outstandingly, these machines have a steel weave drawcord and it has held up very, very well.

The typebars and their unique weights. As can be noted on almost any noiseless design, its a scissor action. Also note that shifting for Cap lower the typebasket, an Fig raises the typebasket.

A ribbon crank is always a nice feature to have. This machine has all the features; margin release, backspacer, shift locks, etc.

Close of up of the dirt. Oh wait, I think there's an escapement under there.

And the underside of the machine. As can be seen, its an incredibly efficient, open design.

On todays agenda was motor repair. As is the case half the time with "broken" mainsprings, the little hooked part of the spring had been overwound or something, causing it to bend off the central catch. A slight bend to said spring got everything working again.

Reinstalled, and tension on the drawband. This machine will, hopefully, be fully cleaned and good to go by the end of next week.

Question for anyone who knows; how do I take the platen out? No screws are in use, and I cant seem to tell if its based on the twist-off knobs.