Monday, 30 September 2013



A great name for a typewriter? I think not. It does not quite fly off the tongue, does it? as in, "I will just go and get myself a Kmart to-day".
Still, the underlying understanding is as I see it, that if you order sufficient numbers, Brother/Nakajima will put any name you like on them, as the saying goes, "you pays your money and you gets your pick".
What started all these ruminations was when I reached up to one of my many shelves of typewriters, thinking that I will do an easy job today, I took down this pale blue case knowing what sort of typewriter was inside. 
What a little pearler I picked, a battered case concealing a battered machine and I knew that, just by looking at it, I was in for a fight.

So off came the covers, stripped screws, odd screws, the lot. A  dirtier machine you would find hard to imagine. Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say,and out came the platen, but first I removed the plexiglass line scales as it makes it easier to remove the platen and I do not have any spares if I crack or break them. Now there is a little trick when it comes to removing the Left hand platen Knob, and if you were thinking  "Righty tighty, lefty loosey", you have just made your first mistake. It is a reverse thread arrangement, an idea borrowed from the Empire/Hermes portables. So, turn hard to the right and it starts to loosen, unscrew the line-spacing pawl and the platen will lift out and do not forget the line spacing ratchet, as it sits on the innermost part of the platen knob. The Paper Pan stays in but the feed rollers lift out for cleaning. You are now ready to start cleaning the machine. Give it a good blow-out with the air compressor to get rid of as much dust as you can. Now I know that there is a following for the "dish washing liquid plus water" school of typewriter cleaners but it seems counter intuitive to me after all water plus metal equals rust, no?  I understand that if you really dry your machine after this you should have nothing to worry about. My way, using in this instance, Kerosine followed by a cocktail of white spirit and a little oil, achieves the same end with out the worry of rust. But, hey, what do I know after fifty odds years of workshop practice? I use two small paint brushes, one cut short so that it is really bristly and I work the Kerosine in to the machine paying attention to the typefaces and the typebar segments. When you are fairly happy with your efforts a quick burst with the white spirit and oil mixture will give nice finish to the job. A quick burst with the compressed air will help to get rid of any excess fluid and you are ready to move on to the next stage.
Now turn your attention to the platen and feed rollers. I use a very fine emery paper and metholated spirits.  Tear a strip about two inches wide and wrap it around the platen, holding the platen in your left hand, pour on some metho and start turning with your right.Gradually working your way down to the bottom of the platen, repeat if necessary. This is very dirty work and your hands will be black and your wrists and thumbs will ache but you have to suffer for your typewriter and they say suffering is good for your soul.
I actually forget who said that, was it Dostoievsky? I am sure he said something like that. But look on the bright side, your hands will become clean again, you will acquire wrists of steel and your platen will look like new. The paper feed will be just like the day the typewriter was made so what is there not to like about all of this?

Back to the machine on your bench. No matter how well you clean it you will always have to go over will a soft cloth wiping and cleaning. Any rust, and there was lots in this case, can be tackled with that fine emery, steel wool if you prefer, although I find it a bit messy, and a wire brush for the big stubborn bits. Talking about rust, I discovered a liquid much beloved by panel beaters in the car trade. which if applied judiciously will cover up the rust never to be seen again. After you have finished cleaning and polishing and generally falling in love with your machine you can start oiling and greasing. I use a very light grease and very light oil. In fact, the oil that I am using at the moment is suitable for musical instruments. Golden rule here, oil little things, grease big things.
Re-fit the feed rollers making sure that the rear feed roller have the small ferrules fitted on their ends. Fit the line-space ratchet onto the end of the platen, making sure the teeth face in the correct direction and drop the platen into the paper tray. Do not worry about the line-spacing assembly just now. You will find it easier to fit the platen in working from the right side. Again check that the teeth of the ratchet are facing the right way, you will only get wrong once, working from the back of the machine fit the left hand platen knob. This takes a little care as you are turning the Knob as if to loosen and as well you have to ensure that the ratchet sits nicely on the shaft of the knob. It may take a few goes to get this right but you will get there eventually. I noticed that the line-spacing detent roller was really worn but I was able to make a small adjustment to present a fresh position of the roller.
Anyway, I did not have a replacement so some times you just have to go with what you have got. Re-fitting the line-spacing assembly is no big deal, those guys in West Bromwich really knew what they were doing.  Clean the plexiglass scales with Brasso or some rubbing car polish, never never use metholated spirits, that is death to plastic and could possibly lead to self harm when you realise you have just destroyed the only scales that you have got. When you fit the scales note there is a left and a right one, they look the same but the screw holes will not line up, as I found out.
Insert some paper and fit your ribbons , print a line of xixixixi
and this will help you line up your scales up and down and sideways. It is important to take some care when you re-fit the scales as the typist relies heavily on them being accurate when they re-insert paper work for correction. Incidentely, that funny little platen knob on the left comes into play on these occasions,because when you loosen the platen knob  the platen can free wheel just like having a variable clutch, ingenious eh?