All typewriter hunters well recognize it; the little brown plastic case with a plastic handle. Inside is a JP-1 Brother, with or without some features like a tab key or a paper rest. This one was sitting on the floor in the back corner of the Salarmi. The cover even had the familiar Brother logo. I lifted the cover. Webster XL-200. OK, that was a Brother brand, but wait a second – it has tilt-shift! Never saw a Brother with that feature. I bought it and took it home to have a better look.
Clearly it was not a JP-1, or a JP anything. For one thing it wasn’t even Japanese. It was made in Portugal. That gave the game away of course, since I have a very similar machine already, a Sears Chevron. Sharing the same mechanics this one has a different casing and cover, however.
It needed a lot of cleaning up and minor adjustments, so I removed the bottom cover. As much as I removed piles of dust and rubber shavings the escapement still hung up around the centre position. To access the escapement the platen had to be removed. Thus I discovered how well made this machine is, from the point of view of servicing. I removed the platen wheels with two set screws, then a third screw on a collar on the right side, pulled out the axle and simply lifted the platen out. Removing the pinch rollers and tray I could see one problem right away, more crud on the pair of dual tooth dogs that engage the linear gear bar. This pair has an adjustment screw, and there was the main problem – the lower dog was hanging up on the linear gear train. A simple twist of the adjusting screw and all was well again. The tab key train also needed a slight tweaking by way of bending the end that pushes the carriage release mechanism. The rear panel of the case has a neat feature – the centre section snaps on and off providing access to some inner parts for quick adjustments.
After working on this I have to admire it’s construction. The frame is a very solid and light aluminum casting. It has tilt shifting – far easier than carriage shifting. Access to mechanism is excellent, and all parts are solidly made and fitted. Even the rubber feet are soft and pliable like new. The platen is not as soft as a typical Japanese made Brother however, although by no means rock hard. Nevertheless I applied several coatings of silicone lube to it, which rapidly disappeared – I assume it was absorbed into the rubber.
Although this was made in Portugal I noted some plastic parts with German labellings. Other information about this model deems it a Messa, which I understand had some connection to Germany. Was this a German design? It is puzzling that Brother, a tremendously successful manufacturer of ultra portables, would put their brand on a foreign product, and one they didn’t even design! Topsy turvy.
2 responses to “The Brother That Wasn’t”
ahh, by the time this machine came out, everyone was outsourcing to the cheapest manufacturer. I had a Messa Royal Safari not long ago, which struck me as a completely serviceable, admirably disposable machine. Nice to know they’re easy to work on too. (:
It has a decent “feel” too, but not the best.