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For the Furtherance of Typewriting

Facit – Carriage Removal, and Revival of a Seized Escapement Bearing

Here’s how I like to fix the seized bearing problem:

Place the typewriter on its back on a soft work surface (I use a piece of “BORRIS” or “KRISTRUP” door mat from Ikea) and you will see that there is an access hole on the base of the typewriter. Remove the spring shown with a spring hook and some needle-nose pliers.

 

Re-position the typewriter so that it is facing you as if for typing. Remove the ribbon cover and the ribbon.

 

Set the left and right margins to their extremes, and use the carriage-release lever to the move the carriage all the way to the left. You will see that the carriage is held in place on the right by two screws, with an adjusting cam and screw in between them. I would recommend that the adjusting cam and screw remain untouched at this time.  Remove the two outer screws. Again using the the carriage-release lever, (because the escapement is seized) move the carriage all the way to the right to expose the screws that hold the carriage on the left side. Remove the two outer screws and then carefully lift the carriage away.

NOTE: There is no need to be concerned at this stage about any other springs, linkages, the mainspring, draw-string etc. It seems that the carriage was designed to be very easily removable. Some people may prefer to then remove the entire escapement unit for very thorough cleaning, but in my experience (with more than a dozen seized Facit typewriters) it is rarely necessary and brings risks of its own.

Gently place the carriage on your work mat as shown, and set aside the rest of the typewriter for now:

 

Here is a closer picture of the escapement – the victim of the slow-acting cement used by Facit in the escapement bearing:

Below is a view from the “top” (seen here with the carriage resting on its back) with the carriage moved all the way to the left:

To free the seized bearing, a solvent and/or lubricant must be introduced. I use a syringe with a blunt needle for this purpose. It allows precise location and dose, and minimises the risk of solvent/lubricant causing problems elsewhere.

So, what solvent/lubricant to use? There is quite some discussion about this, so I looked at three criteria:

  1. What is reasonably available.
  2. What is reasonably safe for humans to handle.
  3. What is reasonably safe for the typewriter.

Of course, definitions of “available” and “reasonable” will vary, but here is what I have used with apparent success:

As a penetrating lubricant I use CRC 5-56. I apply this at the top and bottom of the escapement bearing, using a long, fine, blunt syringe needle to reach underneath the escapement wheel and also underneath the pinion (the gear-wheel that engages with the carriage rack) on top. A few drops will do. I leave this overnight. The aim is to dissolve the old “lubricant”, and here is a very useful post about another solvent product that has been used successfully:

x over it: Mystery Solved! The Frozen Facit (Starring Facit 1620)

The following day, you can use (GENTLY!) a pair of needle-nosed pliers to test the performance of the solvent, by GENTLY (you’ll be sad if you break an escapement tooth), attempting to rock the escapement wheel back and forth. If it is still unyielding, re-apply your penetrating solvent and wait another day.

In my experience, the escapement bearing may free completely and suddenly, or it may remain quite resistant for a while. Be patient. Re-apply and wait another day if necessary. Once the escapement has freed a little, you can move the escapement pawl out of the way with a thumb while you gently experiment with increasing the range of escapement wheel movement. As it becomes adequately free, you will then be able to move the carriage from left to right while watching the escapement wheel moving. If you feel resistance and hear a grinding sound, it is the spring-loaded rack being forced off the escapement pinion. This indicates that the escapement bearing is not yet free enough and the force you are using is too high. Again, be patient.

After reaching the point where the carriage is moving smoothly again, I use another solvent in an attempt to flush out – or at least to dilute – the residue left by the process above. This is because I also have some concerns about the possibility of the CRC 5-56 (perhaps like I have read about WD-40) leaving a problematic residue of its own, or in combination with the old “lubricant”. For this I use “Medicinsk Bensin” , which we can buy in the supermarket here in Sweden. It has a CAS Registry Number of 64742-49-0, and I think it may be called Naphtha in English. If you plan to use this solvent, please familiarise yourself with the Safety Information Sheet (here is an example in English) in your own native language. This solvent is also likely to damage paint; yet another reason to be very careful with it.

I apply the cleaning solvent in the same manner as the CRC 5-56 (using a different, dedicated and labeled syringe), and then moving the carriage back and forth to allow the solvent to move through the bearing. I do this multiple times, cleaning the residue between cycles with a cotton swab. The difference this process makes to the smoothness in the bearing action is quite noticeable to me. I then allow a few hours and a few further cycles to allow the remainder of the solvent to evaporate.

Finally, I apply a few drops of lubricant applied to the top and the bottom of the bearing (not the pinion or the escapement wheel themselves). I use TF2 Plus Dry Lubricant with PTFE, which is a product I learned about here: The Filthy Platen: Oils ‘aint oils . I apply this with a third dedicated and labeled syringe, and it seems to work very well indeed.

A further advantage of removing the carriage is that it allows much better access for cleaning. If you wish, you can also remove the perforated base-board (four screws) for greater access.

 

When you are finished cleaning, replace the carriage and fasten with the four screws you removed earlier. Remember to re-fit the spring removed in the first step.

I hope some people find this information a useful supplement to the great information that has already been published. In a later post I will show how to remove and replace the platen on these Facit portables.

Brother AX-10 (and my Respect for Ishiguro)

Some months ago I learned that Kazuo Ishiguro had written The Remains of the Day using a Brother AX-10 electronic daisy-wheel typewriter, thanks to Robert Messenger at ozTypewriter.

I already had great respect for Ishiguro, and thought I would like to find an AX-10 so that my kids (OK, me too) could experience the same model typewriter that he had used so brilliantly. We had already owned and sold a later model Brother AX-100 that was friendly to toddler fingers, but it wasn’t a great typer at all. The plastic casing tended to creak in use, and it suffered from what I call “WDS” (Wheel Delay Syndrome). WDS distracts and annoys me.

What is WDS? In my experience, it affects most daisy-wheel typewriters to a greater or lesser extent. It is the tendency for there to be an inconsistent delay between key-stoke and paper-strike. The more inconsistent the delay, the more annoying it can be, particularly if one is accustomed to the connected and mechanical immediacy of a good manual typewriter (like the manual Brother machines, to be fair). WDS occurs because the wheel must rotate to put the requested character in place before firing the solenoid to impact the ribbon. The inconsistency should be easy to tune out of the system by programming (these are simple computers, really). An inconsistent delay denies a typist the rhythm that many of us love. I was hopeful that the AX-10 was better than most other daisy-wheel typewriters.

I found one and bought it, but there would be a further and different kind of delay before I would be able to present it to my kids. Our AX-10 arrived from the UK rattling around in a too-large box with no padding. At all. As I opened the box, lots of little pieces of plastic and some tiny springs fell out, and a closer look revealed the awful damage only hinted at in the pictures above. It seems that it must have received a powerful impact on the left platen knob from being dropped on its side. This had bent the metal platen support, shattered much of the advance mechanism, and many other necessary plastic bits.

Not looking good…

…oh dear.

The advance mechanism is, frankly, ridiculous. Instead of a simple stepper motor and a gear or two, it uses a motor and an overly-complicated, brittle-plastic, spring-loaded facsimile of the type of advance mechanism used by manual typewriters. I could hardly believe it. I suppose it was kind of clever in a Rube Goldberg-ish sort of way, but WHY?

I got to work with various adhesives, epoxys, fillers and a Dremel. This was an important typewriter! Hours later, with my wife’s legitimate complaints about the noise, the fumes and the mess, I had it repaired well enough. So I loaded some paper and called my teenage daughter to be the first of us to write with it, having earlier briefed her on its historical significance. She started typing and a few seconds later recoiled in horror. “Ishiguro used THIS?” she gasped. “I am never touching this again, it’s horrible! It feels like it’s second-guessing every letter!” She rushed back to her room, and through the closed door a few moments later I heard the sound of her IBM Selectric II being driven hard. Her reaction was akin to an unfortunate child scoffing candy, desperately trying to replace the taste of the cod-liver oil she had just been force-fed.

Quite taken aback, I looked at the paper in the AX-10. It read:

“Ishiguro used one of these to write The RemWTFWTFhnyrjymthjtdghmyjkmry”.

I thought “OK, each to their own. Joe Haldeman didn’t like your Selectric much, either. This can’t be that bad…” and I tried it myself. It was that bad, and that’s why I have not used it to typecast this post.

The AX-10 has the worst WDS I have experienced. It is also flimsy, cheaply made of poor materials, of curious design, and difficult to repair. Yet, it didn’t stop Ishiguro from using it to write an outstanding novel. My admiration for him has only increased.

Although the AX-10 has been consigned to the basement, it is pulled out from time to time so that I can set it up for another typewriter enthusiast, or writer, and say “Hey, you have GOT to try this, you won’t believe it!”, to be followed by us nodding together that there are no excuses for not writing.

Edward Steichen once said “No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.”. Perhaps we might say… well who knows; clearly I am no Ishiguro or Steichen. Suffice to say that the AX-10 is not really deficient at all – if one measures the right things.

I will be posting a review of my (adored) Brother 660TR and some other daisy-wheel typewriters soon.

Brother AX-10 Score: -1/10. Highly recommended (if only to remind us that there are no excuses).

Welcome to The Dingasty

With these virtual pages, we aim to contribute to the ‘typosphere’ – the community of people that embrace the simple and mechanical joy of using typewriters for writing.

Before anything else, we must firstly thank (in alphabetical order): Adney, Beland, Bowker, Davis, Kernaghan, Messenger, Munk, Polt, Sommeregger and so many others that have given us all so much.

Posts here will include typewriter reviews, repair and maintenance tips, opinion and other musings.

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