22 Jan 2017

Hermes 1971 Cleaning

It was time to clean the 1971 Hermes Baby, and proceed with my plans to put an inner tube over the platen in order to improve grip. Elijah and I tried removing the platen, and failed because we unscrewed the right platen knob, and after removing the screws on the left nothing moved.

Finally I stumbled upon a message in the Facebook Antique Typewriter Collectors group, where someone explained that the left knob must be turned to the right in order to loosen it. Oh my gosh! That worked!

So, on the third attempt to remove the platen I finally did it.

I took a picture of the parts, but failed to pay attention to the direction of the teeth on the platen ratchet.

The platen removed

I proceeded immediately to get the bike inner tube onto the platen. This was hilarious…so exhausting, so difficult! Somehow, there were tricks. I used an x-acto knife to trim the edges. Then I tried to put it back into the machine. No go! The Hermes Baby is a very tight machine, and in retrospect it was probably silly to expect that the extra millimeter or three would fit in. So, I applied some sandpaper to the platen, then put brake fluid on it. The next morning, a little more sandpaper and I hoped that would do the job.

Ill-fated attempt

Now though, I’d noticed the inside of the machine - what a mess! The ribbon was a correcting ribbon with flaky, silvery tape. This was everywhere in the machine! Off to the hardwear store for brushes, Mineral Spirits (“Terpentinersatz” in Germany), cotton cloths and cans of compressed air. An old toothbrush rounded out the mix, and soon I was blasting music and cleaning the type segment. Great fun, really.

With the plastic off

Cleaning the segment

Terrible ribbon

I was supposed to meet my girlfriend for a movie, and thought I could get the platen back on easily. Wow, here my problems began.

First off, a small metal tine on the carriage release lever had come loose, which meant poor tension in the lever. This took a lot of staring and licking of lips to figure out.

Metal tine on carriage release

Then the carriage release had bent a little bit, and was interfering with the paper holder…knocking it up at times. I had to gently bend it back.

Finally, the platen ratchet knob just wouldn’t go on in the right place. I was so perplexed…taking it apart again and again. You’ll know you are doing it wrong if you are unable to get the screws on the left platen knob, because this knob has to thread inside the platen case, and interface with the inner hole of the ratchet. Since I didn’t understand this, I kept putting things together and experiencing uneven platen ratcheting. Of course you need machine-gun ratchet precision!

The answer, for me, was to put the typewriter on it’s side, and stare down the barrel of the left platen face…make sure the ratchet was in the right spot, and screw on the left knob, being sensitive to the moment when it should interface with the ratchet hole. Getting this right means the platen ratchet is in the right place.

The left platen knob

One last problem however (by now the movie with my girlfriend is over, it was great, I was late though…and a snowy hike and a day of work also occurred): the line-spacer was sometimes unable to move the carriage forward. It would move it two ratchets, sometimes one, and sometimes not at all. I discovered it was because the ratchet teeth were facing the wrong way. The sharp side of the teeth should face the person at the typewriter. Then the line-spacer teeth grip better.

Oh man. Okay, now time to put it back in the case. I’d cleaned the case thoroughly, it was hella gross!

But getting it in was scary…plastic was bending all over the place…I was using gravity to assist me, pushing things this way and that with my belly, with a screwdriver held in my mouth, so insane! Finally I got it in. I think this is rather terrible though. I hope the metal case around my 1954 Hermes Baby is easier to deal with, man.

My tools so far…

I must say, this was a very enjoyable experience. My first visit into the case didn’t teach me everything, but I like what I saw there. Typewriters make sense.


Back in one piece…