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10-9-2018 06:55:28  #1


Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

I recently bought a second hand AX160 for £35. I wasn't expecting to like it much - I just wanted to see what you get in one of the more recent mass-produced electronic typewriters.

After playing with it for about half an hour, I grew to like it quite a lot. It's painfully slow at returning the carriage, it is rather slow, though tolerable, to type and correct on, it's loud, it is light and mainly plastic, and of course its colour scheme is "office bland".

But the fact is it works well, it gets great print quality, correction works well and looks pretty good, the clear open view of the printing line is refreshing and better than most typewriters I have used (electronic or otherwise), and although I expected to find the small LCD display and its memory features a gimmick, I started to value them quickly. For example, on my IBM Personal Wheelwriter, the right-justify feature is nice for putting your address at the top of a letter, but you can't be sure you haven't made a typo until you press return and see your text printed. The LCD display on the AX160 solves that problem. Once that had made me "buy into" the idea, I started to appreciate it for other purposes as well.

So once I had discovered that it was a nice, useful, well thought out tool, and looked at the shape of it again, I thought it actually was rather aesthetically pleasing. The curved body vaguely reminds me of the pictures of the curved Hermes 3000 I see online. It was just a bland colour. So I've taken it apart and intend to paint the plastic body.

These are the internals once dismantled:

https://thumb.ibb.co/eVdCAU/internals.jpg


Some things I noticed while dismantling:

* It had a "Leader MDII" sticker over the AX160 text on the case. The sticker peeled off neatly.

* Quite a lot of it is held together by plastic lugs rather than screws. The plastic doesn't seem great quality - there are now 3 lugs which have snapped, even though I applied just enough bending force to them to release whatever they were holding. There are *just* enough lugs remaining around the keyboard and screen to hold them in place when I put it back together!

* The springs for the paper bail similarly are cheap - they are permanently elongated / bent now that I have removed them. All in all the thing seems engineered to do a perfectly good job so long as nothing gets dismantled or wiggled with!

* The backup battery for the memory is a CR2032. It is very hard to get to, and attached directly to the motherboard with two flimsy connectors, not a quality battery holder. Nakajima say it will last for about 5 years; no way can they expect people to replace the battery themselves, so they seem to think of their typewriter as disposable, or expect battery replacement to be a service issue. A pity.

* The platen appears to be one massive cylinder of rubber with a thin spindle in the middle. Presumably it was cheaper for them to use a lot of rubber, than to make a cylinder faced with rubber.

* The keyboard unit is on a heavy(ish) metal plinth, giving it a feel of quality. Each key has two springs under it. The rows of keys are tilted differently the further back they go. Not as dramatic as on a Model M keyboard, but they were thinking of ergonomics. They keys do not have good tactile feedback - there is no two-stage mechanism where you know when a contact has been made. When typing, it is possible to get typos by brushing lightly against a key accidentally.

* The motors that drive the platen and the cassette assembly are much smaller than I expected - you can see them at either end of the metal assembly in the photo.

* There are not a lot of components to disassemble, and considering they are connected by wires, it leads to interesting possibilities for making your own case and putting the parts in different places relative to each other. E.g. you could make a steampunk-looking case, with the platen raised high over the keyboard more like an old-fashioned "standard".

So much for the observations.

I've got some Brillo vinyl spray paint on order. I went for 'avocado' colour after a lot of deliberation. I really liked the burgundy one they had, but I don't think it will work with this machine. It has green highlights on the screen panel and on the keys, so avocado will be a reasonable match, and also be a nod to designs like the Hermes 3000. It may also work on my Actionwriter if I later decide to paint that, as that also has green highlights on the keys.

Vinyl spray should bond with the plastic. I've used it in white colour in the past and the results were interesting. I am hoping that the AX160 logo will still be visible after I've applied it. I may even risk applying it to the non-character keys, hoping that the text on the keys will still be readable. I'll try the 'code' key first - if that has it's text obscured it's no great problem.                    

 

10-9-2018 07:11:51  #2


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

I should add that the keys (key caps) lift off and go back on again easily. They were the only part of the machine which gave the impression they were designed to be serviced / cleaned rather than be disposable!

Still, I'd say all this typewriter is missing is a nice clicky two-stage keyboard in order to make it excellent - provided you don't drop it, and only want to use it for 5 years, and aren't entering a speed-typing competition. Much nicer than I expected.

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10-9-2018 16:16:15  #3


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

The 'Leader MD' sticker means that the machine was originally sold as an 'own brand' through the 'Chums' mail order catalogue in the UK.  This is the same firm who have been selling that awful Chinese-made Nakajima/Olympia Carina clone.

 

11-9-2018 06:37:59  #4


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

thetypewriterman wrote:

The 'Leader MD' sticker means that the machine was originally sold as an 'own brand' through the 'Chums' mail order catalogue in the UK.  This is the same firm who have been selling that awful Chinese-made Nakajima/Olympia Carina clone.

Do you know what involvement Silver Reed has in these machines? In the instruction booklet that came with mine, the was an order form for supplies (printwheels, ribbons, correction tape) from Silver Reed, dated 2010.

Some Googling shows images of a "Leader MD" (presumably the 'prior model') which, which I can't see the Silver Reed logo on, most people are describing it as the "Silver Reed Leader MD".

Also I've just realised who you are, and that you are selling the AX160. I'm glad I have it a fair "review"; they are definitely respectable machines.

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11-9-2018 06:40:35  #5


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

I've just found a picture of a "Silver Reed AX133 MD" which is another thing again. The "MD" looks quite blocky, the AX133 looks more curved and visually it's hard to distinguish the AX133 from the AX160.

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11-9-2018 07:19:41  #6


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

The paint (dye, rather) arrived today and I've just finished the last coat. I'd like to have given it a couple more coats, but I ran out of paint. I realised that was going to happen, halfway through so things like the underside I ended up giving just one coat and it looks awful!

As usual whenever I try anything artistic, I lose patience and the result isn't great! Anyway this was a learning exercise to see if I want to do it to my lovely IBM Actionwriter. I think the answer is yes: I think it would look great - the green reminds me of some of the Selectrics. But I need to buy two cans of dye, which would cost £22 including postage. So is it worth £22? Yes I think it will be. And with any dye leftover, I may come back to this AX160 and finish the job to make it look really good.

As it is, I think it is going to look "pretty good at a glance". I'll post pictures when it has dried and I've reassembled it.

 

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11-9-2018 09:00:23  #7


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

Here it is. Not exactly "finished" but anyway:

https://thumb.ibb.co/bvt5FU/body_closed.jpg
 

https://thumb.ibb.co/nJ4qh9/typing_view.jpg


On balance I wish there was a much, much lighter green available in this vinyl dye. Something almost an off-white green; maybe Hermes Baby green, that way the keyboard and screen wouldn't stand out so much vs the case. Then again if you imagine it didn't have a screen, just the keyboard, I think it would look okay. Having the screen area just adds a bit too much contrasting light colour I think. 

One thing that may help overcome this is if I did paint the function keys the same colour as the case - it might make the colour scheme seem more integrated, I don't know. Anyway now that I've typed on it I've got used to it as it is and I think it's "okay".

Here is a  "type cast" from it after re-assembly, to check it is alive and working well:

https://thumb.ibb.co/jgrxUp/document.jpg
 

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11-9-2018 10:09:14  #8


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

Here's a close-up shot which shows how nicely the vinyl dye works with the textured plastic and some embossed lettering:

https://thumb.ibb.co/hXbHC9/texture_and_embossing.jpg

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11-9-2018 13:50:48  #9


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

Firstly, although I admit the colour isn't to my personal liking, I do think that you have made an impressive and professional job of the repainting (re-dye-ing?)  I would certainly like to know where the paint/dye came from and what colours are available.  The relationship between Silver-Reed, Nakajima and 'Leader' is an interesting one.  In the UK, a firm was set up in the 1970's to import and distribute Silver-Reed typewriters of all kinds (and other office products).  The Silver-Reed knitting machines were handled by a different firm.  Although called Silver-Reed (UK) Ltd., it was not owned or controlled by the Silver-Reed factory in Japan.  Some years ago, Silver-Reed in Japan stopped making typewriters.  This left Silver-Reed UK without a product to sell.  Because they had the right to use the Silver-Reed name here, they were able to go to Nakajima and get Nakajima models made with 'Silver-Reed' labels.  In more recent times, they have dropped the Silver-Reed name on the typewriters that they sell and they are simply branded 'Nakajima' now.   Confusingly, the company is still called 'Silver-Reed'.  The 'Chums' mail order catalogue either went to Silver-Reed UK or direct to the Nakajima factory and bought a batch of machines which they had branded as 'Leader' - presumably to have some sort of 'own brand' exclusivity.  The typewriter trade is interesting, don't you think ?

 

11-9-2018 15:02:07  #10


Re: Nakajima AX160 tear-down and paint job

thetypewriterman wrote:

Firstly, although I admit the colour isn't to my personal liking, I do think that you have made an impressive and professional job of the repainting (re-dye-ing?)  I would certainly like to know where the paint/dye came from and what colours are available.  The relationship between Silver-Reed, Nakajima and 'Leader' is an interesting one.  In the UK, a firm was set up in the 1970's to import and distribute Silver-Reed typewriters of all kinds (and other office products).  The Silver-Reed knitting machines were handled by a different firm.  Although called Silver-Reed (UK) Ltd., it was not owned or controlled by the Silver-Reed factory in Japan.  Some years ago, Silver-Reed in Japan stopped making typewriters.  This left Silver-Reed UK without a product to sell.  Because they had the right to use the Silver-Reed name here, they were able to go to Nakajima and get Nakajima models made with 'Silver-Reed' labels.  In more recent times, they have dropped the Silver-Reed name on the typewriters that they sell and they are simply branded 'Nakajima' now.   Confusingly, the company is still called 'Silver-Reed'.  The 'Chums' mail order catalogue either went to Silver-Reed UK or direct to the Nakajima factory and bought a batch of machines which they had branded as 'Leader' - presumably to have some sort of 'own brand' exclusivity.  The typewriter trade is interesting, don't you think ?

Great insight into the history there, thanks. Yes I do find that sort of thing interesting. It seems from reading around that that sort of thing has been going on for many decades, including for many old manuals.

Re the colour of my Nakajima paint job, I'm not happy with it. I like the green, but it doesn't "work" for this machine with the keyboard and screen as is. I am tempted to use the same colour on the top half of the Actionwriter, as I think it will work much better there. Or I might go with burgundy in the end. The dye spray came from https://www.vinyldye.co.uk/.

I've just got back from the shops actually, and bought a can of a very different type of spray paint. It's a bit like the keys on the Hermes Baby. I am thinking I will paint this thing again. If I'm honest I don't particularly find it an appealing colour and have never been too excited by it when I look at pictures of the Hermes Baby / 3000 online, but I do think it will work better with the keyboard and screen panel.

I am beginning to see why "office beige" is so popular: it may not be exciting, but at least it doesn't look "wrong"! I have a feeling this green is also going to look "wrong" but I want to try it out.

 

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