Monday, October 22, 2012

The Black Gunge of DEWM

While I still have serious doubts about my ability to compete in this year's NaNoWriMos, I am doing my best to prepare. I'll probably do most of my writing long hand, since I do not have a good computer set up for long writing sessions (goal #1: obtain a desk), and none of my typewriters are especially functional--or if they are, portable.

To that end, I have decided to bite the bullet and attempt a full cleaning of the Remington Portable #3, since it is my only semi-working portable.

I got this typer in spring of last year. According to the serial number, it is from late 1930. My great aunt and uncle had it collecting dust in their garage, and handed it off to me. It still has the original decals poorly attached, but in one piece.

I have a few complaints about this machine which have kept me from using it on a regular basis:

1. There's debris in the carriage, under the platen. I've used it anyway, just for short typecasts, but I don't want to use it for long periods for fear of damaging it.

2. It doesn't have a bar that comes down to hold the paper in place. From the pictures I've seen, that seems to be a characteristics of the #3s, but it means that the slugs are really loud when they hit the paper, because the page bounces with ever strike. It's a minor thing, but while I like the sound of the slugs hitting the page, I don't like the sound the paper itself makes when it shifts.

3. When I reach the end of a line, I have to hit the carriage return bar, then very carefully turn the platen knob to go to the next line. The uneven line spacing that results drives me batty, and I'm not sure if this is once again a characteristic of the machine or if something is actually broken.

4. The ribbon spools are smaller than average.

5. The ribbon doesn't always advance on it's own.

6. There doesn't appear to be a way to set the margins, and this one will happily type both before the page begins and after it ends.

I've learned to deal with numbers 2, 3, and 6 for the most part. My solution for #4 (which I will tackle later this morning) is to cut the ribbon I'm using in half so that I'll have 2 lengths of 1/2" ribbon, and to store the second half in a ziplock bag for later use. I might also trim 1/8" or so off the width of the ribbon, because it is just slightly too thick, or it appears to be. Trimming the length might help just by allowing it to sit more evenly on the spool. Since it peeps over the edge of one or the other of the spools, this might be causing problem #5, and if I can kill two birds with one stone, all the better.

#1 is the real problem, obviously. I haven't a clue how to remove the carriage, and generally speaking, I'm hesitant to remove anything if I can't see exactly how to put it back before doing so.

While I can't move forward with that aspect, I've begun doing as thorough a cleaning as I can manage on the rest of it. The outside I cleaned upon receipt, but there were a few areas on the interior that were still quite grungy.  The worst offenders, however, were the type bars, which were covered in an oily black gunge of unknown origin. Soap, hot water, and a toothbrush won't touch it. If I were a more daring or knowledgeable person (or perhaps just much dumber) I would take apart the type basket and try cleaning each piece with a mild poultice of vinegar and baking soda, since the slightly pitted metal will likely never be entirely clean by mechanical methods. Instead, however, I am doing the only thing that seems to work, which is carefully scraping each slug with dental picks. It makes me nostalgic for my archaeological conservation work in Italy, when we spent hours scraping dirt and mystery substances from 2,000 year old ceramics and 300 year old paintings. Is it weird that I find this sort of thing enjoyable?
Cleaned up

Still very dirty. I'm about 1/3 of the way through.
Once I get 1-5 sorted out, there are a couple of other things I would like to do--there's some old adhesive residue on one side that I can't get off. I'm not sure what solvent to try without damaging the paint. I'd also like to reattach the decals, but again, I'm not quite sure what to use. And I want to replace the felt under the type bars, because it's absolutely disgusting. Those are all rather minor things, however, and I can live with those a little longer than I can the others.

Are your machines in ship shape yet, or are you as behind as I am?

P.S. The witching Hour comes out on Wednesday!

P.P.S. Were you paying attention, or did you miss it like I did? Saturday was my 5 year blogiversary. Kudos to anyone who as put up with my nonsense for that long. And for the rest of you, I hope you stick around for another five!


  1. Yikes -- this machine has some issues. And it might be a challenge to type on even if it were like new, in some regards. One tip: the carriage return lever should also advance the paper, but you have to pull it towards you to do that.

    Congrats on 5 years.

  2. I have a 29 number 3 that is my main machine! As of yet, I have found no way to remove the carriage or platen... Have you tried compressed air?
    Margins--look on the back, there should be a notched bar with two things on it, below the feed rollers. They set margins, at lease on mine--the metal bar on the base is hat catches them.
    And paper feeding--I wrapped my platen in a few layers of Saran Wrap, and that has helped feeing a ton!
    Type bars--rubbing alcohol?
    Feel free to nano mail me if you have any other questions--I,m theanab!


  3. I should leave it to someone like Richard to explain how to remove the platen, but it's really quite easy. The big, flat screw in the center of the knob retains the steel shaft that the platen turns on. Remove that, and the shaft will slide out to the left. You will also have to loosen -- but do not remove -- those flat screws on either side of the ribbon vibrator. Pay attention as you slide the paper-hold-down thingy up and out, as you'll need to reinstall it the way it came out. At this point, the right side of the platen should lift out. Again, pay attention to how the pieces interact at the platen advance so you can put 'em back the way you found them. Reassembly is pretty much all the above, in reverse sequence.

    I hope that helps until someone more experienced offers batter advice or an instructional video.

  4. Congratulations on 5 years! I am sorry I missed it. You get to wallop me with 50 lashes from a willow tree switch.

    ooooooh, you should be closer to Dr. Polt and perhaps he could perform some of his wonderful work on your machine or at least provide some good advice on your Remington. Grundgy stuff under the carriage can be a problem. If it were just under the platen that may only require removing the platen which I am guessing on that machine is not very difficult.

    I have run into similar situations with cleaning type bars and slugs. I say you are on the right course. There are harsher things to use, but I would not even try them without removing the housing from the machine.

    If the type bar rest foam is only about 3/8 of an inch thick and attached by an adhesive I have a sheet that I was making type bar rests for my Skyriters. You are welcome to what you need.

    I wish I had time to get my extra Noiseless No. 7 completed. That may become available around the end of November.

    I guess I am not much help:(

    Best of luck on you Remington. I know you will get it all cleaned and ready to use.

  5. Hi, I'm Scott, and I'm here to help...

    I love, love, love these machines. They have a really characteristic look when working!

    Now.... 1..
    When you say... under the platen, do you mean wedged between the platen and the curved paper tray? Or just sort of under the carriage.

    Give it a blast of compressed air if you can, but I'd just pop the platen out (Usually done by removing right knob and it screw, and the two screws on the right of the plate, and one screw holding the ratchet mechanism on the left, and pull the shaft out). You may find that this debris is either under the platen and not in a critical area, or perhaps a piece of flaked chrome from the paper table that you can just brush away. I don't have one of these machines myself, so I can't tell you an exact routine for removing the platen. But at the age of this machine, they were all the same, and pretty simple.

    2..No, it doesn't have a bar. These never really did, which is a bit of a design deficiency. Get a heavy enough paper clip, and clip it at the top so that gravity pulls it down, if it is too problematic. There's two metal slips that are against the platen that are supposed to do this job, but they are really bad at it.

    3: This could be as a result of the Debris mentioned in 1. BUT... when and if your pull your platen out, you may find your paper rollers have a flat spot. This was happening in my Bijou, and the rollers often gripped the paper - thus putting it on a tilt. I have managed a successful temporary fix in the past. (on my blog - Look up Bijou and Politics entry).

    4: The spools may be smaller, but I'm pretty confident you can re-spool almost any half inch ribbon onto them.

    5: Give the mechanics a good scrub and blast it with air. This is likely to be happening because the gear that engages with the spindle is not making full contact. There's probably some muck in the system. I had a machine that had a lightly rusted component that was jammed, and I cleaned it out and stuck some oil (sewing machine oil) into the joints, and it the spindle turns just fine.

    6: At the back of the machine, have the margin tabs fallen off, or broken off somehow? These machines have a really basic margin system. There's a bar the tabs slide on, the tabs themselves that lock with a basic spring, and a bar in the middle that is vertical, and swings out of the way when you hit the margin release. If the tabs are gone, you can put some small bull-clips on the bar in their place.

    Probably not the best machine to write on. I'd loan you one... but I'm half a world a way.

    Happy writing!

  6. Oh, and 5 years! Well written... Keep hitting those keys, as I enjoy reading the results.

  7. Thank you guys for answering the platen question!! I,ve been wondering how to do it for a long time now--three years this month--which is why mine is just wrapped in Saran Wrap that I slid around it, instead of a rubber tire!

  8. Never mind, I couldn't get the screw on the right platen knob to come out...