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Thursday, May 3, 2012

I have made the decision to move this blog to FaceBook and close it here.  I will leave it up for a month while I transfer the content I want to keep to FB.  After that I will delete the blog.

Find the my FaceBook RetroTech Office link at the left sidebar.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Replacing the Chassis/Body Shell Bushings on an Olympia SM.

A few days ago I stumbled across a very nice Olympia SM-3 in grey crinkle finish.  I was thrilled to bring it home, but my excitement evaporated quickly as tried to type out my first line.  The carriage would advance to the 20th space on the platen, but no further without grinding.  My first thought was carriage issues or even worse, escapement. But the problem disappeared when I hit the shift lock.  So I checked the body alignment and sure enough the tab stops were hitting the top edge of the body shell. 

Time to replace the chassis to body bushings.  As common as this problem is, it should have been this first thing I checked on this machine. 

As you can see, the original bushings are slowly turning to goo and will need to be replaced.  These actually are not too badly degenerated.  At this point I can just remove the screws one at a time and pop out or scrape out the old bushings, slide new ones in  and replace the screws.  You may need to gently pry the body shell away from the chassis to break the old bushing away from the metal. 

This picture shows the proper size bushing you will need to provide proper spacing.  

This is a simple operation, but you will have to turn the machine upside down and place it one a well padded surface to keep from damaging it.  Try not to let any of the old rubber fall into the machine as it be like a bit of Oobleck in the machinery, only black instead of green an no apologies, sincere or otherwise, will dissolve it.  

If you've done it right, it will restore body shell alignment so your carriage and body shell are properly spaced like the machine to the right.  


Later we will look at what you have to do if your bushings look more like this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the Workbench

Nothing special on my workbench right now.  Just clearing up a few minor repairs before I start a couple of major projects.  Finished an Underwood Five desktop that was a complete wreck.  Missing a right hand platen knob, replaced several keys from a parts machine.  The previous owner somehow managed to get the platen installed backwards.  Should not have been possible but it was.  The front cover was gone and the side plates damaged.  Looked like they were forced into place with a ball peen hammer.  Wish I had pictures, but I somehow managed to delete them from my camera before I could load them.  It was only a dollar at the estate sale, but I would not have bought it even for that small a price had I not had an identical parts machine at home with a missing segment assembly.  It looks pretty good now.  It will be up on EBay next week if I can get moving.  

I currently have a grey Olympia SM-3 sitting on my bench with the usual rotted body to chassis bushings. Since this is a common repair I will post pictures of the process for any that are interested.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Argyle P201 is Here!!!

A few days ago I was trawling Ebay, looking for bargains when I came across a Nippo Argyle P-201 listed. I have wanted one ever since I read about them on Will Davis' Portable Typewriter Reference Site, but I never really expected to find one. It took Will a few years to find his. 
So when I found this one sitting with less than three hours left and no bids, I could not pass it up. It was only after I had put my bid on it, that I recognized the picture used as being the same on on Will's web page.

This is a mirror of Will's site.
I e-mailed the seller but he was not very helpful or willing to send me a picture of the actual item. I resigned myself to having thrown away my $35. But this afternoon the package arrived and I was astonished to find that I had received exactly what I had bid on. 
It needs some work. Two screws are missing in the carriage shift framework, so the carriage wobbles a bit when in use. I am hoping to get this fixed tomorrow if I can find screws the right size and then I can write a review of the machine. 


I was finally able to get a pair of tiny bolts to fit this machine.  They are not perfect, but they allow the machine to function without the carriage rattling like a Ford Model T driving over a freshly plowed field.  

First some basics.  The Nippo Argyle is derived from the old Halberg design.  This machine was not a commercial success, but the basic design was reused by Nippo and Royal (with Royal having mush more success than Nippo.)  

This is a carriage shifted machine with 42 keys, and no tabulator.  Being a small flat portable it has the expected dowel plate design.  The body is metal and it comes in a zippered vinyl carry case.  This serial number of this machine is 2013988.

Not to upset any fans of this machine, but I would not want to write a 300 page novel on this machine.  Even with the repairs made it has a loose and imprecise feel to it.  Not as bad as an SCM Corsair or the like, but not as good as a Brother Webster.  To be fair I do not get the impression that this poor machine was valued as a prize possession.  Many of the typebars were slightly bent, the segment plate was badly gummed up and there is a dent in the ribbon cover.

It has parallel action on the carriage lift and shifts smoothly.  Most small flat portables with carriage shift simply tilt the carriage back, a much simpler and probably cheaper to produce design.  Due to a slightly imperfect fit of the bolts I put in, the carriage does not drop on its own and has to be pushed down.  I will be correcting this at the earliest opportunity.   The alignment does not seem consistent, some of the letters do not strike the same point twice in a row.  It is not obvious, but I tend to be a perfectionist.  I though that the problem might be the bolts I replaced, but the fit more snug that the originals so if anything it is more stable than it was straight from the factory.  

My verdict is, while this is a worthy addition to any collection it is best suited for casual correspondence or notes.  Not really suitable for serious writing.  

No, it is not for sale!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hot Rod Typewriter

About a year ago I stumbled upon a rather plain looking Olympia SM5 typewriter. I love the Olympia SM machines. The early models epitomize the style of the 50s with smooth lines and plenty of chrome. This one was a 1964 model. The chrome was all there, but years of neglect had dulled its shine. The paint, originally a glossy cream color but had become yellowed with several decades worth of nicotine. I cleaned it up as best as I could, but even so, it would never a prizewinner.

So, once again I found myself stripping a machine down and sending parts off to Troy for painting.  I wondered when I would see the parts again.  Troy does great work, but I never know how long it's going to take.  It's not that he is really slow, he runs a professional shop he can't afford to be slow.  But he has to wait until he gets enough left over paint of a color and shade that will look good and sometimes that can take a while. 

In the mean time I am left with this:
And a few odd parts that would have to be bagged up till it was time to put the whole thing together.  The chrome trim was particularly nerve wracking to remove.  It was made from thin chromed steel strips.  There are several metal tabs that are folded over to hold it in place.  Chrome plating can often make steel brittle so I had to be very careful to bend these bits carefully otherwise there might be very little to hold them in place once I put it all together again.  And I would have to be very careful storing them.  Two gremlins I have referred to in my other blog ( would be very much attracted to the bright shiney objects.  I used a magnet to keep all the loose screws and other bits in the bag. 

Fast forward to three weeks ago.  I walk into my wife's office to see that the parts had finally arrived.  Eight months later. 

For those of you familiar with this machine you might already have noticed that there is a part missing.  The paper feed tray and paper table.  This part was left in Troy's truck for about three weeks.  As you might imagine my patience was by this time wearing pretty thin.  This is really a bit of an understatement, but I will refrain from further comment as I really don't want to risk losing his painting services.  I will say that it was worth the wait. 

Yesterday I got the last peice I spent the evening carefully putting the Olympia together.  The chrome trim went on easier than I expected and I am proud to say that I did not scratch or chip the paint at all in the process.  

It still needs a final cleaning, but it looks fantastic. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review - Underwood Noiseless Desktop 1930

Friday I picked up an Underwood Noiseless desktop typewriter for the astounding low price of $2 at an estate sale. It was dirty and not stored in the best of conditions, but it seemed fully functional and completely intact. There are only two things wrong with it that I could spot at the time. The platen was rather hard and the paper bail rollers are beginning to deteriorate.

I gleefully took the machine home and cleaned it up. This is my first noiseless so I took a little extra time to explore.

First impression. This is an imposing looking machine. It stands quite tall on my desk and the wide carriage lends to it an almost intimidating air. It has celluloid topped, ringed keys which I like. You always know when your fingers are centered on those. It has a standard QWERTY keyboard layout and like many older machines it uses the lower case "L" for the numeral one. It has manual set tab stops on the carriage. But they are readily accessible on a rail at the top of the carriage. Some machines I have seen make you turn the machine around or flip up a panel to get to the tab stops. This is a heavy machine so I'm glad that spinning it around everytime I want to change the tab stops is not necessary.

Actual typing. I like using desktop machines, they can take a pounding when writing angry letters, but usually have a light enough touch for casual use. There is no touch control on this machine, but there is an adjustment dial that moves the carriage slightly front to back to allow a darker impression through carbons. This is a necessity on the thrust action machines like the Noiseless. The typeslug just does not strike the platen as hard as a standard machine. The hard platen does not seem to be as much of an issue on the Noiseless for that very reason. I think it could go another twenty or so years as it is. This is a carriage shifted machine and the wide carriage does make for a heavy shift key, but it does have a shift lock on either side.

Noiseless is a relative term. The typeslug striking the platen does not make as much noise as a standard machine, but the machine is by no means silent.

I love watching the action of this machine while typing. Due to the shorter throw of the Noiseless typebars and the tighter arc of the arrangement the typebars each serve double duty. There are a total for four characters on each type bar. Two slugs with two characters each. Except the "Q" and the "@" key which are selfish bastards and insist on having their own typebars on opposite ends. The arrangement of the keys means that all the upper and lower typeslugs will almost always be typed by the same fingers so this will eliminate possible clashes, say if you were to strike both keys on that typebar at the same time. For example the "X" and the "E" share a typebar so when typeing "text" first the upper half hits the platen, then the lower half.
As far as ease of use it is about on par with other Underwood desktops of the time.

I have shot a 29 second video of the noiseless action with the top cover off.