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Saturday 6 April 2013

Happy Ending to the Ray Nickson Underwood Noiseless Saga

By an eerie coincidence, Michael Clemens at clickthing and I have been working on Underwood Noiseless portable typewriters this weekend, each of us close to the most distant reaches of the Pacific Ocean. As Michael in the United States ponders the problem of a missing carriage lever from his 1934 model, he has found assistance from fellow Typospherians, including one in Australia - the ever helpful Scott Kernaghan in Brisbane. As Michael so aptly commented, "This is where the Typosphere is a Huge Win, people - collectors helping collectors, worldwide."
Meanwhile, here in Canberra, a very happy conclusion has been achieved in the saga of Ray Nickson's early 1936 Underwood Noiseless 77. As in the case of Michael's Noiseless, Typospherians in Australia and overseas have been enormously cooperative in encouraging and assisting Ray and I in finally coming to a most satisfactory outcome, one which goes a long way toward erasing the trauma of the butchering done to Ray's beautiful typewriter.
Just before last Christmas, I posted on Ray's Noiseless, calling for "a little help from our friends" in the Typosphere. Ray had taken his Noiseless, a wedding gift from his American father-in-law, to a repairman to get the drawband and mainspring fixed. Before the drawband snapped, the machine had been working perfectly, and I remarked to Ray that the platen looked almost new. There was certainly no need for any work on it that I could see.
Given all this, Typospherians may well have imagined Ray's shock when he made a 570-kilometre round trip to collect his typewriter, only to have it returned to him with the platen and left carriage knob completely mangled - along with a bill for $150 for work done! Comments on my post said it all.
Since that time, Ray has worked feverishly to get his Noiseless back to the state in which he received it when he married his charming wife Alice in the US. On a quick trip back to Canberra from Adelaide this weekend, Ray and Alice called over with the seriously scarred Noiseless and another model (also early 1936) Ray had gone to the expense of shipping in from the US. The second Noiseless was in good, complete shape, except the carriage was skipping.
Between us, Ray and I were soon able to switch platens and with the final touch, Ray himself replaced a tiny spring essential to properly operating the carriage lever. Ray's Noiseless was back operating as well as it did the day he was given it. Once more it looked and typed magnificently.
I took the platen from one of my matte-finish 1938 Underwood Noiseless portables and put that in the second 1936 Noiseless 77. The skipping problem was quickly overcome and we then had two Underwood Noiseless 77s in excellent condition, both working extremely well. I put the mangled platen and platen knob on the 1938 Noiseless, since it was a "show only" machine, anyway.
Utterly relieved to have his father-in-law's wedding gift fully restored to him, Ray gave me his second Noiseless 77 and Alice took home with her a lovely turquoise Underwood Leader from my collection.
Thus, after a couple of hours, Ray, Alice and I parted company, all three of us delighted with the results of our efforts and our swaps. Michael Clemens would doubtless have agreed: Huge Win-Win Situation - collectors helping collectors ...
PS: Michael - I have a spare carriage lever, if you want it!


Scott K said...

Great to see some real Noiseless love going on! Great to see these machines still being able to be brought back to life.

Jasper Lindell said...

I'm glad to see that Ray once again has his wonderful Underwood back the way it was. Another day, another typewriter saved - thankfully.

mpclemens said...

I appreciate the offer! I've gone ahead and put Scott's replacement part on order with Shapeways, and according to their email, I should expect to see it around the end of the month. I'm intrigued by the idea of bespoke typewriter part manufacture, and Scott's design is different enough from the actual part that my machine should look like none other. (Actually, it will look like *one* other, but that Other is half a globe away.) I'll keep your offer in reserve, though, just in case my attempt at customization doesn't end as expected. I've got two other machines of similar style and presumably with the same fragile levers -- on an actual Noiseless, the other the "noisy noiseless." I don't know that I'll ever attain your level of repair expertise, but I have to admit to being excited about the chance to marry two century's worth of manufacturing technology together.

Bill M said...

Great work on the Noiseless. Those 2 are mighty fine looking typewriters.

I also have one on the workbench this weekend, but it is a Remington from '41 which will most likely not be finished for quite some time. I plan to put it away for awhile (again) and get back to some radio work.

Rob Bowker said...

Mix and match. Mike's custom solution almost sounds like a trip back before stanardisation of mass manufacture. The great part of the whole story is that someone got a typewriter as a wedding present. What a tale of trimph by teamwork over adversity.