Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Workshop Ramps Up To Tackle Projects Galore

Relatively warm weather has arrived (between the bursts of rain and heavy wind, at the least), and with it my "workshop" begins to ramp up operations after a rather uneventful winter.

First we have the lovely Fox 24, with 90 some years of dirt and grime. I'm curious where this stuff actually comes from at a point; does dust congeal over time, especially in humid environments? Just one of those things I guess.

Dirty typebars.

Dirty keys.

Dirty everything.

After a short while on the workbench, a bit of steel wool, dremeling, and some glass cleaner, the keys look quite a bit more presentable. They'll never be perfect, as the celluloid has at a core level become faded, and some are cracked, but the nickel is shining and all legends are easily readable.

A bit of work has started to make the longer typebars more presentable as well, though they still have a ways to go.

Though on the operation table, the Fox from the Netherlands met the Fox from Ohio. This little Sterling arrived safely and soundly from the collection of Mr. Richard Polt, and will be getting the full restoration treatment. I suppose I've specialized in Fox portables, honestly.

The main reason I wanted this machine; it's Spanish keyboard.

It's a bit worn, but impressively enough it seems to currently be operational for the most part (Fox portables rarely seem to be). It wont clean up perfectly, as I assume a good bit of the nickeling is beyond saving, but it will gleam again.

One of the best things with Fox's: They're just so dang easy to take apart for cleaning. To this point. Any further and you'll need an expert mechanic to help figure out what the heck to do.

A bit of organization led to this picture of my Shelf of Projects and Parts;

Represented here, we have a Fox Sterling, Fox Portable 1, Fox 24, two Philco radios, a Hammond Multiplex, an Emerson,  an Underwood 3-bank in green, a Royal P, a Royal Deluxe, a Royal O, an Olympia Simplex, an Underwood Noiseless, and an SMC grey machien from the 60s that I cant remember the name of. Sterling, probably.

But though typewriters are my main interest, I grab other objects of interest at times. I picked this particular thing off Craigslist just the other day;

An NCR 313 cash register, meant for smaller shops back in the day. It was at one point nickel plated; I have determined that the nickel plating must have gone to hell, because what you see on it now is actually a layer of faux-silver paint, which I may or may not take off. This machine is near solid brass underneath the paint, so that would look nice as well.

Mechanically, far simpler than any typewriter (though considerably bigger and heavier).

A cool registration sheet of sorts was on the bottom of the drawer; this sucker was made in June of 1916.

I've only cracked one cash register open before, but it made sure to let me know what to expect when you pull the bottom and sides off; more dead bugs and dirt than you can shake a stick at. And, oddly enough, a bunch of pennies from the 70s.

Just like typewriters, these things have nickeled keys which clean up beautifully. Heres the 5 cent key after just a few minutes.

Moving between the Fox and the cash register lets me avoid getting tired of a single task, so there's that. Here's the base cash register.

So many projects. But it's always nice to clean and preserve things like this, and it will make a fine addition to my collection of antiquities.

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.