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Thursday 15 August 2013

One-Day Typewriter Transformation

I didn’t get around to posting on this restored Imperial Good Companion Model 4 last night because I was too tired after a very long day – one in which I felt I had accomplished plenty. I mainly worked on two typewriters – the other I will get to posting on later. But I am really proud of the job I did on the IGC 4 – especially since I set out to fully restore it in one day and achieved that objective within eight hours.
I seem to get a tiny bit better at doing this each time I tackle such an undertaking. But, then, some typewriters are far easier to work with than others. An Imperial Good Companion is one of the most difficult. I could have been a lot more patient with this one, but wanted to see if I could manage a complete makeover in just the one day.
Vital to achieving this goal was help from my son Danny, who is now “full bottle” on how to reassemble the platen-turning and line-spacing mechanism on IGCs.  Knowing Danny could get that critical part of the machine back together and working encouraged me to take on this quick turn-around project – which, of course, involved taking out the platen and paper plate, always the most time-consuming part of such a job (most especially with the IGC, or a Hermes Baby).
John Lavery called from Beaudesert just as I was starting this project. Although John worked with Imperials in his younger days, he more or less warned against the undertaking, in particular pointing to the tricky line-spacing mechanism. When I told him Danny was on top of this task, and he was clearly impressed. “Tell him there’s plenty of work for him up here,” John joked.
I have restored a lot of typewriters over the years and have invariably wished I had taken the time to snap some “before” photographs ahead of jumping into the task. But I am always in too much of a hurry to get started to think about doing that. This IGC 4 is one classic example. The reason being that the state this typewriter was in when I received it was beyond words – only images would have sufficed to do some justice to the mess.
Outwardly rust was the most obvious thing – there were splashes of it all over the paintwork, across the paper bail, on the paper support and paper guide, richly on the segment and at least one spring on the carriage release mechanism was a deep red-brown with rust. But as I moved the carriage I could see massive lumps of blackened lint and other bits and pieces of gunk inside the machine.
As with all Good Companions of this vintage, the brand and model labels were made from a thin metal strip and inevitably these peel and snap off at the ends. In this case the figure “4” on the model label and the right side of the “Imperial” brand label were gone. I probably wouldn’t have bothered too much about that this if I hadn't felt the need to completely repaint the typewriter. I liked the original pale green shade, but since it had to be repainted, I settled on a rich cream colour.
At 11am a guy called to say he was bringing over an Imperial Good Companion to give to me, and I never look a gift horse in the mouth, regardless. An hour later he turned up. Although the handle was snapped off, the case gave no hint of the mess I was to find inside.
These are the scans of the labels - you can see where I have "restored" them on the right side of the brand and model labels.
Step-by-step, this was the process I undertook, starting at noon and finishing on the dot of 8pm:

  1. Took off all six parts of the mask, including the paper plate (which requires taking out the platen).
  2. Degreased the workings and used a parts cleaner spray to wash out the mechanics and ease off the “glued on” gunk. Once this was done, I used an air compressor to blow said gunk out from all parts, notably under the carriage and the segment. Left the mechanics then to "dry out" again.
  3. Treated all the rusted parts, mostly with light sanding.
  4. Scanned in the broken labels on to my computer before stripping them off the metal. I carefully measured and recorded the width of same with my Baco ruler, to ensure I printed them out to the correct size.
  5. Cleaned, hung out and primed the six parts of the mask.
  6. Repainted the metal. On a quick-drying day such as yesterday, three light coats and a top layer of gloss over a period of about five hours can be managed.
  7. While waiting for the paint to dry, placed the scanned broken labels on a Word Document and restored them. Then I printed them out as stickers (the latter method is quicker and suitable for IGCs, as the originals were thin metal strips).
  8. Restored the mask, working in the reverse order to when I took the parts off – that is, starting with the paper plate (including the paper support and the paper guide), paper bail, and working through to the side and front frame then the ribbon spool cover.
  9. Helped Danny reassemble the carriage, including the platen, platen-turning and line-spacing mechanism.
  10. Put new ribbon on the IGC spools, and away I went!


Bill M said...

Congratulations on your successful day! That is a nice looking typewriter and a nice type face. You and Danny were really busy.

Can an IGC be any worse than an Olympia SM4? I have reached the breaking point with mine and then relaxed a bit and have it back together only to find it is almost impossible to take the platen and paper tray apart. Almost to the point of smashing it again. (no I did not smash it, but I am not far from it)

My Hermes Baby was quite easy.

Bryan said...

Wow, what a nice job. So, how much disassembly did you have to do to get it to a place to repaint it?

John said...

Rob, I am very impressed with the end results. I will have to get advice on how to paint and reprint those name-plates..Gosh, I might even get advice on how to get the platen and line spacing mechanism in and out. To be honest, I felt like I needed a third hand sometimes.

Miguel Chávez said...

That is a very beautiful machine, and the color looks perfect! Congratulations!

Richard P said...

Very impressive indeed. It looks fresh and gorgeous. Thanks for explaining your techniques.

I have sometimes kicked myself for not taking a "before" picture of a filthy machine, so the after picture can look all the more impressive.

Good to know that the Baco ruler is useful! :)

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Bill, Bryan, John, Miguel and Richard for your kind comments.
Bill, I don't know why, but I've always have difficulty getting the paper plates out of Hermes Babys, so now I don't even try. Other models are the same.
Bryan, total disassembly, including taking the platen out. When that happens, the mechanism on the left side, for turning the platen and line-spacing, comes loose and must be put back together in the correct order, with the big spring correctly positioned and held in place between the two metal pieces. All the mask must come off, including the platen plate and paper bail. These are always the most tricky. You will note that when the Olivetti company offered re-paint jobs during servicing, they left the original platen plates in place, so you got a pistachio mask with a fawn paper plate.
John, the printing of the brand and model labels is the easy bit, I'll show you how.
Yes, Miguel, I love the colour, which is one the IGC came in for export sales (New Zealand, for example).
Richard, thank you again for that Baco ruler, it is SO handy at that size!

Robert Messenger said...

Other small bits, like the plate behind the ribbon vibrator, were also a mess, so I that them off, used paint remover in some cases, and polished them up. That's a very quick and easy job compared to others.

TonysVision said...

While it would have been nice to have before and after, as well as several during, photos, I know fully well that sometime you just have to put your head down and get the job done.

Someday though (or perhaps some two days), it would be wonderful if you would do a little tutorial on the general dis-assembly, de-greasing, de=rusting, metal polishing, metal re-forming, label replacement, feed roller restoration, painting prep, painting, reassembly, dis-assembly to put that in that screw or spring that got left out, reassembly, and even a how-to on photography.

OK, so it'll take a week.

Robert Messenger said...

Tony, I'd have to do it on something a lot simpler, like a Nakajima, that would take less than a day!

Scott K said...

Just looking now at this on a proper monitor, and it is looking pretty damn stunning. Excellent work.

Unknown said...

I just got a IGC 5 for my partner but unfortunately it was in a lot worse condition than we were made to believe. It needs a thorough clean but the main issue is the line space lever isn't working - there is no tension on it. Can you suggest a fix for this?

Robert Messenger said...

Sorry to say Amber, but it sounds to me like the lever is broken, which is not unusual with IGCs, because extra care needs to be taken to make sure they are folded down when lowering the case lid. The only solution may be to use the mechanism from a spare parts machine, but replacing an ICG lever is extremely difficult, as you will gather from other posts on the subject on this blog.

Unknown said...

The typewriter looks beautiful now again. Well done!

I'd be really interested in seeing the repainting process. Exactly what you did and with what tools and types of paint. Thanks!