Monday, September 14, 2009


Not this Zephyr, this one:
All photos, click for bigger.
The mechanism is John A. LaHiff's clever redesign of the Original Vibroplex, in which he replaced all the castings with standard rod and flat elements. First seen as the No. 6, his first version is better known as the Lightning Bug. The Zephyr bears the same relationship to the Lightning Bug as the Blue Racer does to the Original: it has a smaller, sleeker footprint, though it is a little bigger than a Blue Racer. Produced from 1940 through 1958, it is relatively uncommon, though not actually rare.

I don't own an actual Lightning Bug* but I do have a very nice clone made by Lionel (yes, the model train company) as the military "J-36" during the Second World War, and so, for scale purposes, here they are lined up with my Begali Intrepid:The Lionel was my first commercially-made semiautomatic key and has a little lump of bar solder added to the weight to slow it down.

The Zephyr arrived partially disassembled, lever freed from the pivots and fingerpieces removed, with each subassembly carefully bubblewrapped. This is an excellent way to ship a key, if the person taking it apart knows what he is doing. The guy I bought it from did, and the fragile fingerpieces and the easy-to-deform steel reed that is the heart of the key all arrived intact, Reassembly took a few minutes and I was once again glad to own an inexpensive multi-tip gunsmith's screwdriver set. I have roughly adjusted it and it runs nicely, though fairly fast.

UPDATE: If you look at the large version of the photo above, you may notice something that sent me scurrying to my basement hamshack this morning: I had not installed the "paddle" portion of the fingerpiece properly! It and the lever are tapped and there's a trick to snug assembly. I had not used it and as a result, the paddle was under some stress. All better now. Whew!

A bug key that shows up a bit more frequently than the Zephr is Vibroplex's Champion, with the same parts but on a full-sized base. (Or it's a Lightning Bug with a Zephyr-style damper, if you'd rather). The Champion generally sells for less than the other LaHiff-type bugs but it's a perfectly good key._____________________
*I was a little surprised to realize that.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Sure, the size of this Cooper Bessemer engine is impressive, but once it is up to speed, it has another and very pleasant quality. Can you spot it?
All kinds of cool. And probably an interesting afternoon trimming the exhausts to accomplish it!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Remie Scout, that is. I had pretty well made up my mind to not acquire any more typewriters; I have a small collection now, plenty of fun stuff, and there's a time to stop.

I had my fingers crossed on three items. This is one of them: When it showed up on eBay, I put in a bid and hey, nobody else wanted it more.

It's a fascinating and uncommon machine, Remington's "Scout" model, and that's scout as in fast and light, not as in the organizations for young men and women. It was an inexpensive machine, intended for students and other highly-mobile types.

You'll notice some missing bits -- yes, there is no front frame and yes, there are no shift keys and darn-all special characters. In this, it is very similar to a radio operator's "mill," an all upper-case typewriter used to copy radiotelegraph messages.

It's a folding Remington, similar to their early portables. There's a little lever on the right side to raise the typebars. Here it is, ready for action.

It still need more cleaning, lubrication and degreasing, not to mention a new ribbon. The side plates were originally a darker blue and are now nearly innocent of paint. But it does type, in a surprisingly modern-looking font:I'm looking forward to using this one with my radio gear. I have been looking for a "mill" for years; passed up some nice ones (nice, big and heavy) in the flea market at the Dayton Hamvention this Spring, wondering if I'd see another. Answered that! Or close enough.

You're probably wondering about the identity of the other two machines I'd consider buying if I happened on them. ...I'll tell you if ever I find them!