2020/12/13

Successful Restoration of a 1930s Continental Typewriter.


I have had this Continental typewriter (serial No: 461018)  for at least 17 years, but it never occurred to me that I'd have it restored one day until quite recently.  One reason is English keyboard seems to be  uncommon for Continental typewriters and mine has a standard UK English keyboard.  Also, this Continental Standard comes with the TS symbol, the erstwhile Chinese currency Tael.  Tael was used in China until the Republic of China, the one before the communists took over, was founded in 1911.  So it is safe to say this Continental typewriter was built for the Chinese market, and very likely, spent its entire life in Shanghai when the city was jointly ruled by the British, the French and US in mid 19th century till 1949.  Unlike most old typewriters, this one is complete with "1" and "0" keys. 

It would be unfair to say that I "restored"this machine--It is just old and rusty, but nothing is wrong with it except the platen had hardened and the drawband was too loose. Instead, I think "beautify" is a better word choice because all that I did is 1) repainting some rusty parts,  2) replacing the yellowed keyboard stickers with new ones and 3) remaking the decals, not without help from a friend.  To replace the keyboard with new stickers is the most time-consuming part of the whole restoration process. I carefully prized up all the metal ring keys with pliers, replaced them with new keyboard stickers that I had already photoshoped, printed and cut out, cleaned the glass part before putting them back.  It took me at least five hours to complete the whole procedure.  It's a real pain-in-the-ass thing and I hope I don't have to do it ever again. ---But I have to do it to get this baby nice and shiny again.  

As for the platen restoration, I found a factory specializing in print roller restoration not far from Shanghai where I live. I did contact JJ shorts in US several months ago, I struggled, but eventually I decided not to take the risk by sending this only platen I have to US. The reason is simple, I couldn't afford if the platen was lost during transit. It's even riskier to do so now as the Covid-19 crisis has tremendously slowed down international deliveries. The Chinese factory did it for me for 300 RMB ( $40+)I am lucky because the factory is not capable of restoring platens for all makes but only a few lucky ones. The criteria is that there are no metal parts attached, just the rubber part itself. The platen must have a metal core instead of a wooden one, or just wait to see it crushed to pieces. 

However, I did learn useful information regarding rubber used for typewriter platen  I'd like to share with my fellow typospherians .  The rubber used in making typewriter platen isn't just any rubber, it is called NBR ( nitrile-butadiene rubber ) or,  Buna-N rubber. It is said that NBR is oil resistant therefore easy to clean, making it the best candidate for the job. The hardness level is preferrably around 80.  

Some pics I've taken for your appreciation.  Yes I know, due to my limited skills, that's the best I can do for this unique typewriter. 


This is the BEFORE picture 



These are the AFTER pictures













2020/12/08

Typewriter Repair Bible--in Chinese, and from 1980s. Anyone want to read?

I have had this book for at least 20 years. This is a service manual of Chinese typewriters, namely, Hero, Flying Fish portable, Chang Kong and Flying Fish desktop. 

As you can see, it is in Chinese, but some of the drawings are amazing.  Any fellow typospherian interested in reading it? I can send it/share the pdf file of this book.  In China, IP for books is around 20 years. This book was printed in early 1980s. So IP protection has long expired for this book.  










2020/10/31

The Very Famous Hermes Ambassador Has Just Arrived!

I've long heard about how good the Hermes Ambassador is. I do have one already, but it is an International Edition from the 1970s, the white plastic boxier design. I love it too. However, it doesn't seem to be enough to quench my desire for an older edition. So I recently bought this one from eBay UK at the price of 80 pounds.  Its original owner Alex is from Lanchshire, England. Alex is already 95 years old . This typewriter was bought for his wife Joan. Among other domestic communication and letter-writing, Joan mainly used this typewriter to type up dissertations for their eldest son who is a teacher.  The seller, Mark, who communicated with me back and forth, is his son-in-law.  This shopping experience changed my impression of English people, from being courteous, dignified but sometimes a bit too cold and distancing, to warm, being patient and with good humor.











According to TWDB, this machine, serial No.926548, was manufactured between 1962-1963. So half a century has already passed!  That's why I'm stunned by how clean and new this machine is.  

Upon arrival, there were some  issues very likely  due to transit-related damages as a result of improper packaging. I'm not blaming the seller, it is not his fault either. I think he just didn't know how to pack securely. To be more precise, the TAB was messed up, causing a major gumming of the carriage every time I accidentally touched the TAB button ( but who can resist that temptation not to touch that huge butter-like button! ) Part of the reason is that the machine was positioned upside down inside the box. That position is very likely to cause internal damages because, when turned upside down, gears, levers, nuts and screws would likely be either displaced or dislocated.  At first I thought I could live with these little imperfections, then I reneged.  I couldn't sleep  that night.  There was a sort of strange sense of obligation that drove me to fix it.  So early next morning, I opened the backwall of the machine. I also opened up my 1970s  Ambassador for referencing.  To my disappointment, Hermes redesigned the later model.  That means I was pretty much on my own. Luckily, after some careful analysis, I discovered a bent and dislocated lever linking the TAB key and escapement. I fixed it and now it's operating smooth as butter again. 




As you can see, this machine came with standard 10 pitch PICA typeface. The platen is not hardened yet, it doesn't leave any prints on the back of the typing paper after being typed on, another testament to its high quality of Swiss engineering. Very impressive! Although I'm not a huge fan of PICA typeface, considering its age and high quality, I'm still very pleased with this purchase. 




BTW, guess what does this Hermes Ambassador remind me of? The earliest design of the Flying Fish PS model made in China! I don't have one though. Pictrured here is in the collection of Smithsonian Museum.  ( I spent entire four days in Smithsonian Museums during my visit to Washington D.C. in 2008. ) To my best knowledge, these earliest models are mainly for EXPORT ONLY.  That explains why they are not common in local second-hand markets. At least to me, Flying Fish's  greenish-gray look, knobs, carriage return levers and press-button margin settings all exuberating Hermes Ambassador, and its body, turquoise finger-shaped keytops, ribbon vibrator, color selection and touch control clearly an Underwood Golden Touch, also the whole machine finishes off with a final touch reminiscing of a Remington standard overall.  

According to the museum's website, the Simithsonia's Flying Fish was exported to U.S. via Shanghai Light Industrial Products Import and Export Corporation in1975 and probably sold to US in the same year.  To give fellow typospherians a bit perspective,  China and US restored diplomatic relationship in 1979. It was during the Carter adminstration. Therefore it is safe to conclude that US started to draw up plans on rebuilding economic ties with China before 1979.   Mike Pence isn't all wrong by saying that the West, in particular, US, helped China enormously in her economic rise by offering technology, funding and the much-coveted market share. But what the Trump-Pence administration isn't right is that Pence says China forgets. That's ridiculous.  At least, as a full-blooded Chinese, born and raised in Shanghai, China, I remember!   I, and many of my folks remember even older history. We remember that US soldiers (the famous Flying Tigers ) helped us to fight against the Japanese during the WWII. We, as a nation,  are forever grateful and feel indebted to America and her great people. An entire generation of Chinese grew up, watching American cartoons, TVs, movies, listening to American music. We remember that we used to hold it so dearly that US shines as a beacon of democracy, of equality and of freedom. But the Trump-Pence administration is destroying all that good faith, plunging the China-US relationship to all time low, posing even potential risks of military confrontation between the world's biggest powers.  That is more absurd as Trump's Covid-19 policies.  

Don't get me wrong. I have the least intention to "intervene US presidential election". And as a typospherian,  I'm not supposed to talk about US politics, but I simply cannot help it.  FOX News is blasting election news right now (Yes, we too can have unlimited access to foreign TV  in China. It's just some of us don't know to bypass the nominal techical restrictions imposed by the communist government.) and Trump is once again pointing finger at China. Come on, Mr President, this is a Why-You-Should-Reelect-Me campaign, not Why-You-Should-Hate-China! How possibly China is responsible for YOUR failure? How possibly China can steal everything from US?   Remember, what is morally wrong can never be politically right! 










2020/10/26

An Immaculate Remington Portable 5 with maths symbols !

 I got this typewriter earlier today!   


Please take a look at this wonderful machine made in USA in the 40s. (Serial Nr: V693214).  

Despite its compact look, it's sturdy and well-engineered just like a full-sized standard machine.  I like the strong spring-y feels of Remington portables. The platen is still OK and so are the feed rollers.  One biggest concern of Pre-50 machines is the degradation of rubber and thank god, this machine doesn't seem to have that problem. Enamal and paint remain intact. (There are some chip-offs though)  

What makes this machine so special is the maths symbols. I'd imagine that its first owner is a science professor coz he/she takes good care of this writing tools. 













2020/10/18

Can Royal portable P platen be used on Royal Touch Control O?

 Can I ask a question? Is Royal portable P platen exactly the same as Royal Touch Control O? 




Anyone can answer? Thanks a lot!

2020/10/14

Epic FAIL! Anyone could sell me a Royal Touch Control O platen?

 As I tried to recover the platen, by using the shrink tube method, it ended up like this .....


Anyone could help?  This is not only to save a broken typewriter, but also a broken heart. :-(






I also need a platen for Remington Portable 


Please leave a message if you could help. Thanks. 


2020/09/26

Hermes 2000 Restored!

Hey fellow typospherians, look what I've done-- I managed to fix this broken typewriter on my own. 



To make story short, I bought this typewriter on ebay US in 2016. But it arrived broken. Some moron packed this typewriter simply using Walmart plastic bags despite my repeated request on sufficient packaging. Ever since then, I just left it on my little balcony. I didn't even have the courage to take a  look at it.  




However, recently my passion for typewriter stepped up as a result of binge watching typewriter repair videos on youtube ( Phoenix Typewriter channel is definitely my favorite).  I decided to fix/restore old typewriters on my own.  I assume that it is also a natural "growth path" for typewriter collectors-- first you get hooked up by these charming machines, then you want more in your collection and gradually you want to take care of them by yourself.   Moreover, as someone who is heavily influenced by the "handyman culture" of US,  I think it is important for people nowadays to engage themselves in "active entertainment" , as opposed to, let's say, spending whole day playing with smartphone.Just move out your comfort zone and do something active and be creative. In other words, rebel against paradigms after paradigms that have been set out for you in the modern world . It might take patience and expect  frustrations, but hey, isn't that what's life is all about?!

So I paid/downloaded at least three issues of Typewriter Repair Bible from TWDB and bought and self-made  tools used by Duane ( host of Phoenix Typewriter), I'm all set.  I start from this broken Hermes 2000 that I haven't had the courage to even take a look at it over the past four years.  Oh man...it is such a beauty. It has a beautiful slightly shaded typeface too. My favorite 












After three hours' of work, it came back to life again! I don't want to bore you guys with technical details because there wasn't much trouble, only several dislocated levers.  Something was bent here and there etc etc. Apparently all damage was a direct result of impact the machine had received during transit. Luckily all these problems were pretty much on superficial level.  No serious internal damage and nothing is broken. It should have been fixed four years ago. Back at then however, I had expected it would be a hassle to fix broken typewriters as I had assumed something was broken , but it turned out I can handle them all and on my own and this is only my first attempt!  What a useful life lesson I've got ---things are not necessarily that daunting as they seem to be, therefore there's no need to be enfeebled by problems. Some problems are "paper tigers" as Chairman Mao once famously said.  It also reminds me of a famous Chinese fable  "Xiao Ma Guo He" (Little Pony Crossing the River) : You can never fathom the depth of a river is until you wade through it. 





There's only one problem though.  A golden nail cap fell off the machine and I have no idea where it belongs to.  Any help?  Thanks. 



I will be restoring more typewriters as it is an empowering life experience.