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  • 07/16/17--05:33: Typewriter Desk-Case
  • Browsing an old Popular Science magazine, spotted this typewriter desk-case.


    The typewriter case that folds open to form a proper table was patented, published as US patent 1,661,015 filed in 1926 and published in February 1928.

    The case folded open as a table.


    And closed for keeping the typewriter in it (and all the legs as well...).


    Somehow it didn't catch on. Wonder if the design actually made it beyond one prototype. Compared to the later travel tripod cases from e.g. Underwood, the design perhaps has drawbacks:
    - Even though it's a complete desk, the typewriter needs to be taken out of the case completely and then placed loose on the table-top (the outside of the case).
    -The case cannot be used in the normal portable manner, cannot just open the lid to have the machine available for use.
    - The complete desk and folding wooden legs likely are somewhat heavier and bulkier than a metal tripod in a regular case.
    - The narrow wooden 4-legged table needs a decent surface to stand on, a three-legged stand is likely more forgiving and stable for typing use. An adjustable leg's a hassle (and cost).
      Nevertheless; an ingenious case it is.

      This type of folding case seems to have been 'in the air', looking at this folding lunch table/box from the same year...



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      It's been said before; these are amazing times. With the global flea-market and antique-shop that is the internet, it was possible to find and purchase for a very reasonable sum the correct pattern screwdriver for the re-boxed nickel-set.

      To be fair, for a mid-twenties set it would more likely be the longer, closed nickel item. This type is more common in 1915 sets than '25 sets. But this is the exact pattern as shown in the parts-list in the 1920 booklet.


      It is again confirmed. There is not a niche-interest so tiny that it is not served somewhere on the internet.

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    • 07/27/17--12:12: Night Alarm machine spotting
    • Old movies are a place to see vintage mechanical writing machines in use - in their time. This is especially so when the story revolves around a newspaper - and many films do.

      The 1934 crime drama'Night Alarm' is all about the intrepid newspaper reporter uncovering the 'fire-bug' (and getting the girl). Overall it is a bit dated. The acting is quite decent, but there are some unexpected jumps and shortcuts in the story as well as an eyebrow-raising musical number halfway. It does have some lively action scenes with firetrucks and cars screeching round the corner. (Regarding the odd jumps in storyline; this surviving copy may well have been heavily cut down for broadcasting on television. It could well be that a half-hour's worth of acting was cut out. For many films, the television edit is the only copy that remains.)

      To properly set the newspaper scene at the beginning of the film, it shows the typesetting room with several linotype (I think) machines.


      And in more detail.


      From there on, the action moves to the newsroom to introduce the players.


      An array of desks with standards.

      Although a bit dated, the film still is quite watchable and is readily available even; 'Night Alarm' can be seen or downloaded over at The Internet Archive.



      Machine spotting!

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    • 07/30/17--03:18: Junk Shop machine spotting
    • Found another new thrift store in town, well perhaps more a junk shop. This one has a very wide variety of items from fairly credible old furniture to broken electronics and assorted 'junk'.

      Also several typewriters.

      First spotted is this remnant of a typewriter. Somehow somebody removed and then lost the body-panels. (Why?)


      Even the back panel is gone! (Having gone that far. why stop and not take off the carriage cowling.) Makes the typewriter a bit harder to identify...


      Next up was a (to me) uninspiring modern machine, a Royal Apollo 10 that will originally have landed in Germany with its QWERTZ keyboard.


      On the shelf above it sat an adding machine. Jammed solid with unfortunately a cracked housing. (Not a typewriter, but we'll class it as related machinery.)


      The next and last machine was a solid looking Remington standard looking somewhat unhappy. This is probably the maximum number of typebars that can be jammed in a machine. Unsure what caused the damage to the paint and wordmark on the top cover; it almost looks as if it's been too hot. Was it baked? Blowtorch? (That would explain the tabulator-bar being all bent.)


      Not sure how wel that white label will come off (but not much lacquer left anyways), it advertises that the asking price is a full 15 Euro for the machine.

      No prizes for guessing what machine was purchased - no typewriters were acquired that day. (Nor any adding machines, for that matter ;-)

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      It must have been always kept in its box, a fine Meccano number 2 clockwork motor. This was for the Dutch market, a 'Veermotor No.2'.


      Where the label has worn away on the box lid, it could be seen that the Dutch label is a paper pasted over an English printed box. The motor inside is in a surprisingly good condition. With the paint good still and really no rust, this motor is altogether too nice to play and build with today.


      Even the spring is clean and free from corrosion - like new.


      The included instruction sheet is multilingual and also a bit strange. The Meccano company made the effort to print and paste a Dutch label on the box and then included instructions in English, German, French and Spanish. No instructions in Dutch.


      Another strange thing is that the Dutch warranty slip is pasted over the remnants of a torn-out slip. From the remaining printing codes, both seem from the same era (printer code suggests 1931). An original 'U' (United Kingdom?) slip was replaced with an 'H' slip (Holland, likely). Seems very sloppy for such an expensive item. Perhaps needed to quickly fill an unexpected export order, but still.


      Had bought this item to get a dark red motor to go with the period set for building. On the pictures of the listing it looked decent enough and was stated to be in working condition. When I got it, it turned out to be that this particular motor is too well preserved to mar with screws. It'll mostly continue being kept in its box. A very nice time capsule nevertheless :)

      Below a larger resolution image of the instruction sheet, should you have one of these and be curious on its use :-)





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    • 10/01/17--04:45: About succulents and Royal
    • Recently picked up an album - a so-called 'Verkade album'. Between '03 and '40 the cake-manufacturer Verkade published these illustrated albums, with the illustrations enclosed with the company's product. (Collect them all...)


      This is a 1932 album; 'Vetplanten' ('Succulents'). The undoubtedly knowledgeable Mr van Laren gives much and varied information on the care of succulent plants and the various species thereof.


      Notable on the title-page of the album is the mention that it was printed and bound by Blikman and Sartorius, Amsterdam.


      In the field of typewriters in The Netherlands that is a familiar name; they were the importers/distributors for Royal typewriters. They are notable for having pasted their company name on each and every typewriter they supplied. So much so that often on the local online-ads site there is listed a 'Blikman & Sartorius' typewriter for sale, model 'Royal'. (They were however by no means the only importer to do so. James Plant prominently labeled every Underwood that passed his warehouse and Ruys tagged all Olivetti machines with their own brand. Blikman & Sartorius were the most consistent and 'visible' in doing this, though.)


      As example of their eagerness to place their name, they went to the trouble of taking this Royal De Luxe portable machine out of the case and rub off the 'touch-control' label. They then put their company name prominently on the centre front of the machine.

      It was perhaps a company policy; everything that leaves the door gets labeled :)







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    • 10/22/17--12:20: It is our earnest desire
    • ...it is our earnest desire that [it] shall give the greatest satisfaction.

      Those sentiments came with an online purchase that arrived last week. This is clearly a phrase that is not from a recent warranty statement. In fact it was included with a nearly a century old toy. Much worn and the box has lost its lid and some of its shape, but the instruction leaflet was still included.


      The clockwork motor itself has some spots of rust on the outside, but otherwise is still in fine working order. They were right in their claim that the Meccano Clockwork motor will do excellent service for many years.

      The printing code on the leaflet dates this to February 1920. A next known printing run of this leaflet is September 1921, so the motor likely dates from some time between the two dates. The text and layout of this leaflet likely date to 1916, when Meccano started making their own motors. They had been buying these from Märklin originally, but the Great War (World War I) halted that supply of course.

      This clockwork motor would have been very much a luxury item in 1920, affordable only by the well-off. (As was Meccano, to be honest.) These motors were then still supplied in 'austerity' plain strawboard boxes and only by the mid twenties were the boxes upgraded to a blue fully labeled version. Today these motors are still (or again) not all that cheap, but thankfully well within reach of many now.

      Also today there is the wonder of digital image editing. With a scanned image of the old leaflet, a cleaned version was created and printed to go with the motor in a newly made box.


      On the other hand it turned out that today it is not so easy to find matching brown paperboard made from straw. A century ago this would have been the raw material for nearly all paperboard, but today it nearly all is grey paper-pulp board. The local crafts-store here sell a large sheet of this 2mm thick board for a very modest sum.

      Some yellow watercolour ink can create a more yellow/brown colour of the board to match the original box. What proved more difficult is that the modern board is very dense in comparison to the old strawboard and near impossible to crease and bend cleanly. It will break at the edges. Nevertheless a new lid and also a new box base were made from the grey board. More of an impression than an exact replica, but it does look the part and serves its purpose of storing the motor safely. A reproduction label then added to complete the impression of the article when new.


      From references on the net (no interest so niche...), this particular motor can be identified as a nickel motor of the 'Meccanoland designation' type 6. It has the letter stamping not on the reversing lever, but on the motor side-plate. These motors are known with F, J or K, this one has a 'K'. Am curious, but have no idea on the meaning of the letter (could be initial of the person that assembled it? the subcontractor that supplied it?).


      Should you have one of these early Meccano Clockwork motors that inadvertently lost its paperwork some time during the last century; an image of the instruction leaflet below - measures about 200 by 255mm:


      And a newly created small reproduction box lid label:


      The whole point of this new box and leaflet were to add it to the newly boxed set of nickel Meccano. Now also the motorised models in the 1920 book of models can be made. Such as this Mechanical Hammer (model 147). (There's a subject you're unlikely to find in today's construction toys! - can't see a mechanical hammer appealing much today - unsure what appeal it had back then. Perhaps it was still modern and a marvel of progress...)


      In a quickly assembled model, the motor does its work fine.


      Very noisy. Surprisingly noisy. This model must've annoyed the rest of the family and possibly the neighbours, also in 1920 :-)

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      The January 1928 issue of the Meccano Magazine with an image on the cover for the article on the building of the Panama Canal. Many more articles inside on various feats of engineering, science and of course Meccano.


      Also in this issue is the first instalment in a series about famous inventions. The header of the series contains a list of notable inventions. There are the expected items such as the steam engine, the sewing machine, the motorcar and the typewriter. Oddly missing (for '28) is radio. On the other hand it does mention noctovision. But to get back to this first article - the story of the invention of the typewriter.


      The article gives a quick historical long view and then goes into more detail on how the 'startup' of Glidden happened, including the 'pivot' from a numbering machine to the general purpose writing machine. (To put it in today's terms.)

      All back issues of the Meccano Magazine can all be read online at the Internet Archive. This link opens the January 1928 issue, browse to page 10 for the article.

      For reading convenience, the pages also included below.



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    • 12/15/17--00:56: Marked down
    • As the price for typewriters on online classifieds and auctions seems to escalate, the amount of machines in local thrift shops seems down. This may be related, or pure chance of course.

      In a round of a few local second-hand shops including a very large one, only one typewriter was spotted. This one had been in the store for a while and was now marked down from 15 to an 8 Euro asking price.


      By now it was tucked away in a dark corner, jammed and looking rather forlorn. The top-cover is badly mauled and the Remington emblem is broken. A spare top cover from a portable is included with an intact emblem, should the buyer want to fix it up. Apart from the cosmetic state and a tabulator-bar that has warped out of shape it seems to be in good shape and fully working condition. Even a dust-cover is thrown into the package.

      Alas, no sale even for 8 Euro. Would be fun to tinker with, but wrong period for the collection and rather too large to insert unobtrusively into the house.

      On that, the amounts being offered for nice, clean pre-war portables looks to be going through a bit of a spike here. On the one hand there are a few traders that buy and then re-sell the machines via more international outlets for a several hundred (and they apparently do sell, looking at the shop-sites data). On the other hand the value attributed by many to these obsolete machines may well have gone up over the past few years. Even when not 'collecting', then as an item to have one of. Some as a static and transient 'interior decoration' for sure, but also some to have and keep one working machine.

      In its distressed state, the Remington would fit the bill as a 'vintage' looking prop. A steal at the price. It may sell yet :-)

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    • 01/12/18--02:34: Polyphase duplex
    • Recently arrived a small, elongated package.


      The leather is a bit worn and the embossing faded, but the marking 4088-3S can be read on the flap, with 'K&E polyphase duplex slide rule' on the end.


      And inside this 4088-3S leather sleeve is indeed a Keuffel & Esser Polyphase Duplex slide rule, model number 4088 version 3. Quite common in North America, but much less so  in continental Europe.


      Had not seen or used a duplex before, so took a chance when spotting this basic model. Duplex meaning the slide is usable at both sides, the stock being held together by the metal clamps at the ends.

      It was somewhat dirty and 'stuck solid', but cleaned up very nicely. Everything can be screwed apart and cleaned carefully. A basic polish and removing of dirt, using an eraser / rubber to remove stains and even out / lighten the yellowed celluloid. Carefully clean the glass to not accidentally remove the hairline. Putting it all back together again with some care to get the alignments right (well, good enough). On one edge the celluloid has lifted and warped, so re-mounted the cursor 'flipped over' to run on the smoothest side. After the cleaning and some adjustment it slides very smoothly.

      The 4088 is a fairly basic duplex rule, many later duplex rules go rather overboard with log-log scales. The front of this rule has, to continental eyes, odd scales; no AB, but folded CD scales (by pi) with an inverted CF. This deviation from the Mannheim is actually very neat and handy for the basic operations - clever.

      The rule being duplex, the AB scales have been moved to the back of the rule, with an inverted C and regular D. The reverse also has the K, L and the sine and tangent scales, making it look quite crowded.


      The serial number 378790 puts this as an early 'thirties rule - the K&E serials are a bit of an approximation, reading the graphs would make it around 1931-ish. The cursor however has the flanges at the corners to protect the glass from chipping. From the online sources on slide rules (yes, there is definitely a slide-rule-O-sphere on the internet), this type of cursor was made between '33 and '35. Assuming this is not a replacement runner, this rule was likely manufactured in 1933.


      After 85 years, still giving results to three digits :-)

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    • 01/21/18--13:18: 11C
    • Odd one out.


      This one is very much electronic, not mechanical.


      Also it is a departure, not an arrival.


      Similar to many slide rules, it has some useful information on the back. Not conversion tables, but instructions on the more advanced use of the calculator. (As had the more simple Lawrence slide rules.)


      This is an 11C (obviously...), of the 'Voyager' line of scientific calculators introduced by HP in '81. By then, the electronic calculator had well and truly rendered the slide-rule obsolete. Even though it's already 30+ years old, this specimen still works fine. Come to that, it has no dependancies on external 'networks', replaceable batteries, is low power and has no moving parts - it should remain functional for a while still.

      There are collectors of early electronic calculators, and especially of the early HP scientific calculators.

      Last week I got asked via-via by a collector of early calculators if perhaps knew of or had one of these that I'd be willing to let go of. I had and I was. So this particular specimen has now been passed on to a collector who was looking for one of these :-)

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    • 01/28/18--04:35: Colored streamlined five
    • Typewriters are shown in many films, being the 'every-day' objects that they were. Most are fairly standard and recognisable machines. In the '37 film 'Rhytm in the Clouds', it looks that a less common machine is shown.

      The film itself is a low-budget, fairly simple comedy with music and some romance. Typical of its genre/time; unpretentious, light entertainment. (If curious, the film can be found on the net - a.o. on the Archive.)

      Around 8 minutes into the story, the songwriter (Warren Hull) is sitting at his typewriter in his swanky apartment. It looks quite clearly a Remington portable #5.


      When the story again is at his apartment around the 40 minute mark, the machine is shown more clearly and it definitely is a Remington streamlined #5 portable typewriter. (Swanky, spacious apartment - with a white phone too.)


      What is notable and unusual is that the machine shows quite light in the film. The regular black #5 typewriter would show very dark in the picture, but this machine definitely is not black.

      Remington made #2 and especially the #3 portables in many colors, but the #5 came in black. Only by the late 'forties was the #5 made in crinkle grey, but this scene was filmed in '37. Did it also come in colors? It did come as a Smith Premier machine with a red top-cover. The machine shown is however not red, as reds would have shown darker with the film used at the time - as well as the whole machine being light.

      A brief search on the hive-mind that is the internet turned up the Remington teaching typewriter:


      This is a streamlined #5, but finished in a greyish shade of tan. That would be about right for the light shade in the film. (For larger images; there is currently one on offer at Etsy.)

      Did the prop department of Republic give the songwriter a beginners, teaching machine? In the last scene with the machine, the camera briefly shows the keyboard - no visible signs of colored columns of keys. Maybe they went to the trouble of painting a machine to match the general luxury of his apartment - for a low-budget Republic production, that however seems a bit too much.

      So maybe the wealthy songwriter did get a colored keys teaching machine :-)


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    • 02/04/18--00:31: From Quill to Typewriter
    • The piece from the editor so titled is actually not about the typewriter.


      Naturally writing technology progressed also prior to the writing machine, hadn't considered the milestones of progress of the pen itself this early. (More recent and better known of course the fountain pen and the ubiquitous Biro.)

      The article does make me see the simple metal nib pen in a slightly different light - an artefact of technological progress and product of the industrial revolution.



      Incidentally, the closest item to a typewriter in this October '30 issue of the Meccano Magazine is this Braille typing machine.



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    • 02/16/18--05:04: Damaged label!
    • Hadn't had it happen to me yet - but last week the needle jumped the groove and pirouetted onto the label.


      This type of damage to the label is sometimes seen on shellac records. It's mostly on older records, early 'twenties or before. The heavy reproducer with its needle is knocked out of the groove and slides over the record onto the label, scratching a groove where it goes.

      Having seen it happen now, it makes a bit more sense that it's seen mainly on older records that would've been played on gramophones without an automatic brake. When the spiral of a record hurries to the central run-out (fast - to trigger the automatic brake mechanisms), the heavy reproducer of the older gramophone is thrown out of the groove.

      This record already had one such damage, so could have known it was sensitive to this with probably a very shallow groove - letting the HMV101 gramophone run out only seconds too long gave an awkward scratching sound. And another spiral on the label.

      Play only on auto-brake instruments - or listen to a digital version of the same recording :)





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    • 02/25/18--04:36: Colored in black and white
    • By chance spotted another colored machine in a black and white movie. Any typewriter that isn't black does of course stand out, even in a monochrome film.

      This fairly clearly is a two-tone Remington Portable number 3.


      Near impossible to determine the color-scheme, but the character closely examining the typeface in the scene is (clearly) Charlie Chan. The typeface does play a role in the story, identifying the machine where an important note was written.

      This scene is from the '35 movie 'Charlie Chan in Egypt'. Whilst most of the Charlie Chan movies are fairly decent, simple whodunnits that are still quite watchable, this instalment in the series is a bit more dated than most. Despite its generous rating on IMDb, I would say this one hasn't aged well. The far-fetched story, the acting and the cringeworthy performance of 'Snowshoes' likely make the film unpalatable to modern audiences. It all does make it a product of its era.

      Let's just say that there are better Charlie Chan movies to watch today.
      (Even if they're without any sightings :)

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      Another scene from an older black & white movie. This is from a bigger-budget feature film of 1939, she is using an early 'twenties Remington Portable.


      As she inspects the machine and then goes on to type a note on it, she still is not really smiling.


      How can you be using a clean and crisp little Remington Portable and not have a smile on your face. She definitely is acting, must be.

      As proof that she can smile, even laugh - later in this film she does actually laugh. (At the time that was noted as quite an event of itself.)

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      The instruction manuals of the '20-ies and '30-ies contain a lot of mechanical machinery. Next to the trucks, cranes and large excavators, they have a range of workshop machinery and engines. These models do look their age, they are very 'period'.

      A neat example is this oscillating steam engine.


      This is from the 1923 (Dutch) printing of the Meccano Instructions booklet for sets 1 to 3. It is built here with early '20-ies parts. For this model the book actually added some explanatory text to the single picture, but to be frank it confused me more than it clarified.


      Despite its simplicity, it does nicely catch the essence of the oscillating engine. A short, stocky engine like this would have been used as a stationary engine or more likely fitted as a ship's engine (e.g. driving paddle wheels.)

      As usual, the model needed some tweaking and small modifications to get enough clearance for the cylinders and to get it to work smoothly. But then it shows the two cylinders' oscillating motion on the crankshaft very well.


      This drawing from the 1922 printing of the Lichtenbelt textbook on the marine steam engine shows the general arrangement of a single cylinder of such an engine.


      Very simplified - an enjoyable little 3D puzzle :)

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      To convince you it is a wise decision to purchase a typewriter, several manufacturers advertised not so much the machine itself, but rather the benefits you will experience.

      Royal's effort here starts somewhat negative - this is not an appealing advertisement. Sitting down browsing a Popular Science magazine, this is not a headline that will instil much positive feelings when looking at the admittedly attractive machine.


      A few months later, the headline is much more upbeat. Instead of noting a negative, it touts the possibilities. Much more likely to make you view the advertised machine and its make in a positive light.


      A bit later still, with this advertisement they really manage to argue for the purchase of such an expensive machine for the family. Especially when the argument is that will help school results of offspring, there will be a willingness to spend the money.


      Well, that does convince, doesn't it.


      Well, maybe not. Today however similar arguments are used to advertise the modern-day equivalent products, such as the laptop or the tablet computer. Perhaps not quite as crass as in the old Royal magazine advertisements, but usually it is shown that the product can be used for homework.


      As could this portable typewriter, it still can. The modern-day tools can however do so much better in many ways. How would the equivalent product of 80 years hence have improved further in helping the family 'get ahead' and to help make homework faster, I wonder...

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    • 05/18/18--05:39: Rubber, still rubber
    • This is amazing.

      This is a little motor tyre, in the Meccano system this is part number 142c. This particular specimen can be dated to around 1930. Made by Dunlop (in England, hence it's a tyre).


      The amazing thing about this particular tyre is that it is still rubber. At a guess, let's say Shore 70. Even the 1950s tyres have all gone to stone, rock-hard. The two other part 142c that were in this job-lot had turned to unrecognisable lumps of donut-shaped tarmac. This particular tyre would have experienced the same storage conditions over the past 90 years or so as the others, yet this one is pristine.

      Natural rubber is a strange material...

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    • 05/20/18--01:30: Sightings (and a purchase)
    • We went to a local thrift shop yesterday. It's a fairly large store that raises funds for the shelter next-door to it, and attracts quite a lot of visitors from the area. The place is neatly organised in sections with the different halls categorised, an area full of books, another large hall filled with furniture etc.

      There generally aren't a lot of typewriters in local junkshops, but here next to the general tools section was a shelf with typewriters. A good selection, but of course all fairly modern and (to me) not appealing machines. (With the possible exception of the little Brother near the back.)


      At the head of the aisle a very solid looking Olivetti 82. Can imagine that was deemed a bit too heavy for the shelf. It still is a very striking styling, almost as if a regular Lexikon 80 was given the 'low-poly' treatment. You can see some 70-ies design language already emerging, I think.


      Further on in a furniture section surprisingly was a lone Erika from the late thirties'. This looked a bit forlorn, missing one spool, but otherwise it seemed in fine shape. The touch was still very light and free.


      A very nice Model M - so with all the luxury features of keyboard tab setting and clearing.

      This trip I actually bought something. Looked at that nice Erika M, but left the machine sitting on its table in the furniture section. ("Enough typewriters!")

      For 1.50 did pick up the little banjo-style oilcan lying next to the Diaspron - should come in useful :)

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      The large thrift shop (with that Erika M) also had a vast store of records. Bins and bins filled with vinyl. Bins with large, once expensive box sets (now for 1,-)

      Just as we were going to leave, spotted a small carton on the floor labeled '78'. And indeed the box contained a small set of around 15 shellacs. All were in similar sleeves, clearly came as a set from one source. Had a quick browse and selected three of them. At 1,- per record the shellacs are expensive compared to the large vinyl box-sets, but still very affordable :-)

      It's a nice cross-section of the collection in the box, a set that probably grew slowly over decades. Records were expensive. (And this was not a wealthy area...)

      When getting new shellacs, part of the fun is discovering the music and finding out a bit about the discs and their context:


      This is the most recent disk of the three, one by Joseph Schmidt. Already had a nice recording of him, so felt sure I'd like this one too. This looks like a forties' issue, and that could be. The actual recordings or matrices could be older, as there's a 'Broadcast 12' issue from '32 with exactly these two songs. Not mentioned on the label, but he actually sings the song in German. (A buyer 'd want to know that, I would think.) The disk was manufactured in Holland for the Swiss "Turicaphon" company, so it could perhaps be a post-war pressing. Joseph Schmidt died at the Swiss border in '42.


      The next record is easy to date, as it contains the mechanical copyright notice 1927. Got this one, if only for the label design - the Polydor figure (alien?) is grandiose. And of course 'Alte Kameraden' is a classic - also back then an echo of a previous era I think. Polydor was the name used by the Deutsche Grammophon outside of Germany. The Gramophone Company's German assets were expropriated in the 1st World War, but this now-German company could of course not use the Gramophone Company name or trademarks (Nipper) in the rest of the world - hence Polydor. And the little alien.


      This last record was not in its sleeve, but had spotted a sleeve with the title written on it so shuffled them about to get this one back in its sleeve. This disc looks quite old and it also sounds old - from digging around various corners of the internet it can be dated to about 1912. It has the typical acoustic recording sound of that era, the singers giving it a good effort (gusto!). When bought new this was a high-end, luxury item, a record for the new talking machine. Judging from the mostly late 30-ies and later discs in the box, the family perhaps got this as a hand-me-down or purchased it second-hand.

      Listening to this record gives the atmosphere of a very different era - the time just before 'the lamps went out'. The title and message of this song: "Lasset uns das Leben geniessen"; let's enjoy life.


      Three records - now with a bit of context :-)

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      When first introduced, the strips and plates of Meccano were nickel plated. This gives the small mechanical models a fairly neutral and technical appearance - albeit a bit boring perhaps.


      Starting first with a bright pea-green lacquer on some parts in '26, from 1927 on then all strips and plates are a technical dark green and red. This coloured 'New Meccano' fits well with machinery colours of the time and gives the small models nonetheless a livelier appearance. These are toys after all. (Freelance monoplane in period parts by 8yr old.)


      Then without any advance warning a new colour scheme is announced in a black and white advert in the Meccano magazine of November 1934. This proudly announces new blue and gold parts! To illustrate what the monochrome print cannot convey, some newly re-painted example parts alongside the magazine.


      In the following December 1934 issue an article then shows some of the newly introduced parts and how these can be used.


      The plates do overcome an issue with the Meccano system by then that all models are 'wireframe' and are becoming a bit antiquated. Also a completely new range of lettered sets is introduced that is different from the previous numbered range. A whole slew of complex upgrade sets is carried to bridge every possible gap between the old and new ranges.

      They were indeed right - the models really are in eye-popping colour. Comparing the old dark green and red with the new colour, the system made a clear step towards being the toy that it really was and moving on from the origins of also being a system of mechanical demonstration. (Both are examples of 'most useless machines' created by the children.)


      Having re-painted a small batch of parts in the blue and gold colour-scheme, these proved the most popular with the intended age-group today. At least a first seeing them, the parts 'wow' with their colour. There was a bit of a mixed reception at the time as I've read, with comments that it was not quite 'boys stuff'. Even so, am suspecting it could have been similar back then - if they ever did do some 'consumer testing' with the intended age group, the colours probably 'wow'-ed them too back then :-)

      Brilliant technical colour!

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    • 06/08/18--00:50: Then two come at once
    • Like the proverbial buses. A few weeks after buying a Joseph Schmidt record, I got a small rack of records via/from a colleague and that contained the same record.


      Listed on the index booklet for the Plattofix record rack, at the bottom of the page the record by Joseph Schmidt: O Sole Mio and La Paloma.


      This Plattofix rack probably dates from the forties', but most of the records are older. The index seems to have been filled out over a short period, the records loosely ordered by genre. Later some records were probably broken, their entry replaced with a stuck-on label written in another hand.

      Again the same record, but surprisingly now on the fairly uncommon Esta label, made in Czechoslovakia with all label text in German (export). 


      This seems exactly the same recording as the Elite Special record (Swiss) from a few weeks ago. The same artist and same orchestra and sung in German. Strangely though, the matrix is different - they did do a transfer.

      Similar to The Typewriterdatabase, there is an online collaborative database for shellacs. (And a few other, more private sites.) On this community database site (www.45worlds.com/78rpm) these two recordings can be found first on a 1932 release on the Broadcast label. Either the recording was sold to others after Broadcast was shut down in '34, or it was a recording (Ultraphone?) widely sold for some time to any and all.

      Anyways it is neat to see how a collaborative database can add information on niche subjects, this would not have been so easy to see before 'the information age'.

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    • 06/10/18--10:55: Felt for Four rubber
    • A simple tweak that can usually be done with an old typewriter is to replace the felt of the typebar rest. It often is compacted and may be moldy, a source of the 'old typewriter smell'. Replacing with new felt will improve the sound dampening and for some machines improves the line-up of the typebars at rest too.

      This Corona Four portable typewriter types quite nicely, but is horrendously noisy. Of course the platen is the main source, but the typebars return-drop was also very noisy and all little bits help.

      On these Corona machines however the typebar-rest was not of felt, but consists of a rubber tube held in a channel-strip. This tube will surely have been soft and dampening when new; today it is rock solid. The net effect is a nice, loud 'clack' as the typebar drops back - makes sense as a hard hollow tube being struck on the side is pretty much the design of a tam-tam / jungle-drum.


      To replace the typebar-rest, the first step is to remove the front panel. The four small screws were corroded fast on this machine, but leaving a small (small!) drop of oil on each screw for a few months solved that completely. Now also easier to clean and polish the bit behind the top bank of keys.


      A small rubber-band will keep the typebars out of the way and allow the typebar-rest to be taken off easily, by removing the two small screws at either end.


      The old, hard rubber can then be pried out of the channel-segment. (Taking care not to bend the fairly flimsy metal part.) Before you do this, you may want to measure the height of the rubber in the channel.


      Not having soft rubber tube at hand in the right diameter, decided to replace with felt. To make a strip of the right thickness and height, had to fold-over a thick felt with a third layer inside - spots of glue to keep it all in place. It needed clamping tight to let the glue dry and keep it in shape - does look a bit like an exotic caterpillar...


      Not to worry about the length, to be cut to size after fitting, but do fuss about the correct height. The height needs to be large enough to provide enough damping, but if it's a bit too high then the typebars are too close together at rest. Then the type-slugs will foul each other and/or make extra noise as they drop back. (As I found out... : )


      With the channel-segment fitted with a new felt strip that is tucked in nicely (sharp screwdriver to push it to the bottom at all sides), it can be fitted back onto the machine. All the typebars should now again line up nicely - and make just a little less noise as they drop back.


      And then of course mount the front panel again (the typebars just peeking over the rim). A slightly less noisy, but still very loud little typewriter.


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      Usually typewriters in (American) films of the thirties and forties are readily recognised as common (American) machines.

      In this scene from the (German) movie 'Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt', a slightly less common (German) typewriter can be seen. It is used by the secretary at the theatrical agent's office, sitting on her table.


      It's fairly small in the image, but it is clearly the distinctive profile of an Adler thrust-typewriter. Still gleaming and shiny, it may be an Adler 7.

      The pair walking away from the camera are the main characters of the film - two friends, a clown and a singer. The tall one is the clown, the diminutive figure is the singer.


      The actor playing the singer in this film is the tenor (and cantor) Joseph Schmidt. The film premiered in Germany in May 1933...

      Despite his small stature, Joseph Schmidt had quite a voice!  As witnessed from the record(s) found over the past couple of weeks.

      :-)