This is a parable for our times.
We live next door to Brian and his family. They have been our neighbors for almost 13 years. Brian is an incredibly decent man and good neighbor. We love Brian.
Brian is also a hobbyist knife maker. As an aspiring typewriter fixer, I know this is a good person to know as I frequently find myself in metal-related dilemmas.
For his own pleasure, Brian makes beautiful knives that look like this:
So when I purchased a Skyriter with a bent type slug, I knew just who to see.
I had tested the typewriter in the junk store before I bought it and noted that the letter B/b was not printing. When I popped the hood, I saw the problem: the B/b type slug was tilted forward.
When compared to its neighbor slug, it was very noticeably out of alignment:
I took the Skyriter home after negotiating a lower price. I carefully tried to bend the slug back into position using needle nose pliers, but it wasn’t budging for me.
So I went over to Brian’s. He has the best workshop with lots of fun equipment.
Please note: this is a human interest post – not an instructional post. I am only documenting what happened. What follows is an intense scene of type slug peril, so if you don’t have the stomach for that, stop reading right now.
We supported the typebar right under the slug so that the typebar didn’t get bent. We used a Kant Twist mini clamp to support the typebar.
The Kant Twist is pretty cool. It has flat and grooved faces.
Much to my alarm, Brian placed a block behind the clamp and pulled out a punch and mallet.
Using the punch positioned between the B and the b on the slug, he tapped gently and precisely with the mallet and the slug moved into proper position.
Kids, do not try this at home unless you live next door to Brian.
Brian was prepared to pull out a mini blow torch to soften the solder that holds the slug onto the typebar, but there was no need.
After the initial straightening, the slug was listing a little to the side. Brian pulled out an small 4″ wrench with flat, parallel gripping surfaces. It’s an antique he picked up at a garage sale. I covet it.
He put the typebar and slug into the wrench, tightened it and the slug pulled up straight.
Brian has a large collection of clamps and vises:
He offered me a teeny Kant Twist and a vise grip clamp that he cleaned up for me. They will be great for straightening bent pieces of typewriters.
I came away with a straightened B/b type slug and two new tools for fixing typewriters. Thanks, Brian!
The B/b is still slightly misaligned, but the screwiness gives the typed page some character and is a reminder of the machine’s history. In the future, I will call any type slug with an eccentric alignment a “Brian B” in honor of my good neighbor, Brian.
UPDATE: Brian stopped by the next morning. Our dining room table looked like Machine General Hospital that day.
Brian had a great time helping me straighten out the type slug yesterday and felt I needed some modified pliers for use while working on typewriters. Using a pair of calipers, he determined that all my Coronas and Smith Coronas have the same size slugs.
He wanted to modify some pliers so that they will grip the slugs perfectly when making alignment adjustments.
Below are the modified pliers Brian made me. They have parallel flat surfaces that are just wider than a Corona or Smith-Corona type slug so that I can insert leather padding to protect the slug when I use the pliers:
The lesson of the parable of the Wayward Type Slug and the Good Neighbor is: live next door to Brian.