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Friday, 18 March 2016

Brother Portable Typewriter Manual (JP-1 2nd Variant) and Basic Repairs

I had the chance to scan in this Brother portable typewriter manual yesterday when I was doing a quick, 24-hour turnaround repair job, for a client with a Brother Deluxe 220. The typewriter had been given to the client by her partner a few weeks ago and as much as she loves it, she found the fact that she had to pull back the "e" typebar from the printing point frustrating (quite understandably).
A giveaway clue was that the "e" typeslug sat up slightly from its resting position in the typebasket. It's a sure sign of a very common problem, most often seen in Smith-Corona portables (at least in my experience). It is caused, of course, by a linkage rod being somehow bent. While the typebar could rise, sluggishly, to the printing point, it did not descend of its own accord (that is, by gravitational pull). That was because the bent rod was pushing against other rods on its intended descent and blocked by them from falling back down. Associated with this is that the ribbon vibrator lifted into position, but stayed "up" until the typebar was pulled down by hand.
All that was fairly quickly fixed, but in testing the machine I found the carriage and carriage lever also sluggish. In particular, the carriage stopped moving at a particular mid-point, skipped a space or double typed. The paper support wasn't as easy to lift as it should have been, and with it raised the carriage movement was especially bad. As I inspected the lever, I noted that the plastic surrounds were ever so slightly raised.  These are part of what Ted Munk, on the Typewriter Serial Number Database, describes as the "black plastic carriage shell piece". It turned out that the shell had been pushed out of shape at the centre back (something exacerbated by lifting the paper support), possibly by some impact (the machine dropped on its bottom?), forcing the surrounds up slightly and the carriage to stop moving mid-platen. Again, a few minor adjustments to get the shell straight again fixed all this.
It got me thinking about a Nakajima portable I saw a few weeks ago at a recycling centre. Actually, I didn't see it, because I couldn't get it out of its case cover. It's not unusual to see one of these machines incorrectly packed into the cover, when the back end isn't sitting properly inside the cover as it is pulled down and clasped at the front. Once the clasps attach to the machine, with the back end out of position, the typewriter is completely jammed in and often almost impossible to dislodge from the cover. I wondered about what damage this might do to the back end of the typewriter, and perhaps the Brother 220 was an example of this, with the carriage shell being forced out of shape, impeding the movement of the carriage.
How a linkage rod gets bent I cannot begin to guess. Nor how three green peas happened to get lodged inside this particular typewriter, along with some foliage, hair and tons of lint. But the discovery did lead the owner to ask, "What's the weirdest thing you've ever found inside a typewriter?" A wasp's nest, I suppose, or a red-back spider.
By far the worse thing to find when one takes a typewriter apart are the ubiquitous traces of heavy Liquid Paper use. That stuff gets everywhere, most annoyingly on the hard-to-get-at spots on the escapement rack, the feed rollers and the paper shields - in this case even under the paper bail. I curse the fact that it was ever invented.
I hadn't taken one of these Brothers apart for some years, and the upshot of this experience was to realise just how closely Nakajima and Silver-Seiko copied the original Brother mechanical and mask designs with the portables they began to make in the mid-60s. I wonder if any sort of licence agreement was in place? In many aspects the Nakajima is a virtual clone - except, of course, the Brothers were much more substantially built.
Brother JP-1 2nd Variant


Richard P said...

That's a handsome black Brother.

As for Liquid Paper, Wite-Out, and their ilk: ugh!

Luddite Shaw said...

This seems to be very similar to a Lettera 32. Is this a rebrand?

Robert Messenger said...

The JP-1 came out a year before the Lettera 32. A Brother rebrand of an Olivetti would be quite a story!