Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A very short blog about a girl and her typewriter/s

Well, to be honest, 'saving' is a bit of an exaggeration, but 'cleaning' just didn't sound as good. 

Introducing Virginia Woolf...

I wish I had an exciting story of my serendipitous discovery of the old girl in a distant corner of some far flung flea market at a cost of 55c, but I'm afraid she was bought from Ebay, for US $94.99 (plus about the same in postage again). For the moment, until I know better, I am describing her as a 3 Bank Underwood Portable (circa 1920s). I'll do her serial number search another day. 

I call her Virgina Woolf because that is the name of an author of the era who I greatly admire and some of my googling suggests that Ms Woolf may have typed on an underwood herself. Also, she seems to me to be a lovely old girl who is a little bit broken, a bit like the lady herself. (If anyone out there is an admirer of Virginia Woolf please know that I make that comment with the greatest of respect and sympathy intended.)

As far as overall condition goes, she seems pretty good to me, especially since she has journeyed all the way from Canada (and particularly because I don't know anything about typewriters yet). 

The keys move fairly freely and all the right parts seem to be where they are needed.

The first lesson I learned about whether or not the typewriter is working is to check the action on the spacebar. Sadly, the space bar was the first thing I broke on my own Remington 5. But don't fret, dear readers. I have a cunning plan... 

More about that later. Back to Virginia.

So I press down on the spacebar, and instantly...

nothing happens. Oh dear. 

Then I notice that with a little gentle pressure on the right side platen knob the spacebar is willing to do its job, with some encouragement. 

What I really want to do is take the old girl off her mounting board. This seems to me to be the easiest way to get a good look at her inner workings as well as to keep the base of the case free of excess cleaning liquid drips. So I turn her over and remove the four screws that attach the feet to the base from the other side, only to discover it has no effect at all on releasing the machine from the base. 

So, briefly defeated, I concentrate at first on cleaning the keys and the workings I can reach through the basket (?) Admittedly, the 'before' and 'after' shots do not show a startling obvious difference in comparison, but I can see the difference in any case.


and after

(Oooh! Shiny! (er?))

In my (sometimes) logical mind it seems to me that I should be able to remove the typewriter from its base, which means, removing screws. But from where, is the question. 

This is the part that both excites and unnerves me. I have to make observations and then, I have to make a decision! But this is what I wanted to do this for, right? To feed my love of figuring out how things work?

Blundering along the path I like to think of as 'logical assumptions', it seems obvious to me that the typewriter should be removable from its case for cleaning purposes. I know this is a fairly early commercial model but I have quickly learned not to underestimate the ingenuity and foresight of typewriter designers in general.  Carefully lifting the machine from various points on the frame should show me the balance points where the screws secure the machine to the base. Shouldn't it??

It also seems logical to me that the screws that were intended to be accessed and removed more often are going to be bigger than the ones that are rarely needed. Through the obstructions of the keys and frame I can see a screw tucked in towards the back of the footing point that seems pretty big in comparison to the others and looks like it can be accessed through the open key structure on the face. 

By now, dear reader, you may have noticed that I have no idea if the terminology I'm using to describe my adventures in typewriter world is even slightly correct. I'm just going with what makes sense to me, but I am very keen to learn the correct terminology as I go. So, correct away, my friends. I want to know when I get it wrong. 

The hidden screw.  Is it the right one? Only one way to find out. Screwdriver please nurse...

Success. As I lift up the typewriter from the front of the base, the deep screw detaches gradually from its rubber housing. But lifting gently from the front seems to produce a hinge-like opening action towards the back and the whole thing lifts away. The only problem is, I'm not sure if it was supposed to. The rubber housing for the feet at the rear seems to be quite disintigrated and a little bit 'liquidy' (and not in a good way). It's possible that the short poles at the back are designed to slip in and out of the rubber housing, but I really have no idea. 

In any case, the base is off. Time for more cleaning. 

As I suspected, a 'light' brushing off with a dry brush was more than the rubber footing housings could handle. They are crumbling away like yesterday's scones that were accidentally left on the bench overnight. 

And yes, I believe I have inadvertently displaced my first tiny spring. [bowing to audience applause]

Sigh. I may need to redefine my understanding of the word, 'light' when it comes to brushing. 

So, in conclusion, today I learned how to:
- detach the typewriter safely (and reversibly - I hope) from its base
- use a dry brush 'lightly'
- accidentally detach (and re-attach, whew!) small but vital mystery springs. 

Once again demonstrating that the slotted spoon doesn't hold much soup...
But can catch the potato. 

It's been a pretty good day.

No comments:

Post a Comment