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Thursday 29 November 2018

Seeing Stars with a British-Assembled Remington Compact (Model 2) Portable

Royal Society fellow, astronomer Jack Arthur Brecknock Palmer, could see through the mists of distant time to when the planets of our Solar System were formed, 4.6 billion years ago. But he couldn't see back six years or so to remember who it was who regularly used to write about typewriters in The Canberra Times. So he emailed my former editor, Jack Waterford, and Jack II forwarded Jack I's kind offer of two typewriters on to me. That was on Monday afternoon. By this morning both machines were in my loving care, sitting on my new, you-beaut typewriter workbenches.
The first one I tackled (the Olivetti Lexikon 80 is going to be an absolute nightmare!) was a 1929 Remington Compact portable (No 2), assembled in Britain from US-made parts. When I first contacted Jack Palmer about picking up his typewriters, he simply said it was a "Remington portable". I allowed myself to think this would one of the Glasgow-made early 1950s machines, and started thinking about what colour I would paint it. What a pleasant surprise to find it was one of the shiny black pop-up typebasket models.
This little treasure sat inside a very badly battered case - Jack had the bits of it strapped together with a three-inch wide white belt. So, at least outwardly, the signs weren't great. I have seen some of this wonderful typewriters so badly treated they have been left in a truly dreadful state. But once Jack took this portable out of its case, I could instantly see it was in pretty decent shape for its age.
Jack, a one-time lecturer in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Manchester in England, explained that he had bought the typewriter in Scotland in the 1950s to write his university thesis, titled "The Origin of the Planets" (for which he got top marks). The Remington was obviously at least second-hand, if not third- or fourth-hand, when he acquired it, given it was assembled in 1929. I was anxious to find out exactly when it was first sold. The serial number was difficult to decipher under some corrosion, and at first I thought it read "6V287273". This confused me to the point that I hurriedly contacted Richard Polt in Cincinnati for guidance. We soon worked out it was actually CV287273. The Typewriter Age Guide listed the CV line - C for Compact and V for the No 2 Model.
After getting it home, and giving the Remington a closer look, I realised it needed some quick TLC. The insides and back mechanism were coated with cobwebs and very thick balls of lint and dust, signs of at least 60 years of neglect. The typebasket couldn't pop up because of the left side guard was twisted out of shape and was sitting under the top of the ribbon spool. In situations such as this, the arm which holds the ribbon in place more often than not damages the paintwork on the top of the spool, but this can be easily repaired with the right paint.
The carriage lever was loose, having sprung a screw.  In a typewriter workshop, where there are many hundreds of spare parts, typewriter screws abound, so I guess it wasn't a 1000-1 shot that I found the right-sized screw at first pick. And that got the Remington fully functional.
The two things that I can't fix are the paper bail rollers, which have flattened out from sitting on the platen all these years. But that's really a minor thing and I'm thoroughly delighted with the way this typewriter now looks and works. I have to say that for a machine nearing 90 years of age, and obviously much neglected over the past six decades (since banging out a major thesis), this Remington is in remarkably good order. That says a lot about the design, engineering and manufacture of the time.


Bill M said...

Very nice looking typewriter. Although I have none in my collection they are one of the ones I find most attractive when they are set and ready for typing.

David Lawrence said...

If you want to fix the pinch rollers, take them out, and head down to the Auto Parts Store, give 'em to a friendly clerk, and ask for some 'Fuel line' or similar hose to fit. It usually has white specs printed on it, but a quick buff with sandpaper gets rid of that. If the piece is under a foot long, sometimes they even give you an off-cut free! You can also use clear plastic hose [Aquarium air-pumps?] if you don't mind the look.

Alternatively JJ Short, but expect to pay $3-400 for a platen, and $40-85 for each little roller... [plus postage, plus waiting on us post, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting...]

Mike A. said...

That’s a slim beauty. Would be a perfect companion for the odd trip out for a little on the fly inspired writing.

As for your rollers, check out Paul Lundy. He takes care of my machines and makes is how rollers to replace the squashed ones.


Mike A. said...

I suppose he'd be easier to contact if you had some information...

Bremerton Office Machine Company
245 4th Street
Suite 503
Bremerton, WA 98337
(360) 373-6330

RobertG said...

These are fantastic little typers. Typewriters in general are durable, but this design somehow is very resilient - despite its tricky lifting mechanism even.
Rickety cases can respond well to (lots of) PVA glue while vise-held in the correct shape. Like other posters already wrote, rollers will be repairable in the end. Myself use built-up heat-shrink tubing on the original core.
Oh, and for the missing rubber feet - for a cpl of dollar it should be possible to get replacements 3D printed in PU rubber. I put the STL model file on Thingiverse a while back.

But even without all that - these little Portables make very pleasant machines to type on. Great stuff :-)

Richard P said...

Bits of automotive tubing should work for recovering the bail rollers.