Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Kissing Cousins or Typer Twins?

Royal Mercury Kissing Cousins
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1971 versus 1973 Royal Mercury
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Post-Script: I started this twin typer video on Sunday but was interrupted by Labor Day festivities; then had to do some maintenance on my main evaporative cooler unit (replacing the fan bushings and motor). It started out with me breaking out the 1973 Mercury that's been in my collection since the mid-aughts - my "alpha" machine, the first one I can with certainty claim to have acquired because I was getting the typewriter bug and wanted a small portable; which I haven't used very much in the last few years and it needed more attention than I'd realized. I ended up doing a thorough cleaning and degreasing on it, in the process of making the video.

Naturally, a comparison between both machines was in order. The 1971 model, new to me, had a bit easier touch; but now the other one feels better after the attention it's received.

These machines were designed the way they were designed. You shouldn't expect them to have the touch of a different, lighter, machine. But the trick I did to the touch adjustment, disconnecting the spring that attaches to the universal bar, did affect a noticeable change. Which reminds me that my Brother Charger 11, lacking a touch adjustment, always felt a bit lighter in touch than the Brother-made Webster XL747 that has a touch adjustment; perhaps it's due to this same issue, that at the lightest setting the touch system always gives more tension to the universal bar than without. I'll use both of these Mercs for a time and see if I'm happy with them this way.

Since I now have these two nearly identical machines, I figured some experimentation was in order. The natural thing would be to compare sound-deadening methods. There has been some recent talk on the Facebook Antique Typewriter Group about using various materials in the bottom of the machine to absorb sound and prevent it from reverberating upward. With the 1973 model I used a terrycloth shop rag, cut to size and taped along its edges to the inside of the bottom panel using gaffers tape. Compared to the unaltered 1971 model I could notice a real difference, more in the muting of the bright metallic sounds, rather than an overall lowering of the volume. Then I used a sheet of craft felt in the bottom of the 1971 model and it seems to have about the same degree of sound deadening. Nothing dramatic, but a real improvement. Since this is an ongoing experiment and easily reversible, I can always take these out and try different materials in the future.

This is the essential tradeoff when you like ultra-portable machines: you have to be willing to accept less than ideal mechanics for lightweight and small. Hence the tinkering with trying to gain back something in the way of better touch and sound. But there's always the fact that these small machines are easy to grab and bang out a quick note on, like the other night when I typed this on the back of an Albertsons grocery store receipt:

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This is getting to be a habit, saving up 3-1/8" wide thermal-printed store receipts that are blank on the reverse side. Free typing paper, for short ditties or poems. Nothing profound or earth shattering, but highly convenient, promoting that stream-of-consciousness creativity that can, on occasion, produce surprising results.

Here's episode 130 of the Typewriter Video Series, on these two siblings.

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