Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Swiss Ambassador

Ted said that he didn't like his new Ambassador. I had seen the very machine to which he was referring. It had been sitting in the Mesa Typewriter exchange for months gathering dust and looking generally sad. After a little negotiation, Ted was willing to give me the Ambassador to see if I could make a go of it. After a few hours of working I have resurrected this great green giant to an acceptable state.

I'll start with the paint. I had thought it was really dusty, but on closer inspection I could see that the paint was terribly oxidized. Every surface was dusty with powdery-white oxidation. I know that heat can do that to paint, but I had never seen it so evenly cast over the body. It must have, at some point in its life spent a lot of time in a hot room. Not being prepared to strip everything, I decided to try some cleaning wax. The thought was to give it a sheen similar to a regular Hermes while stopping the paint from dusting off. It seems to work. Obviously, the paint is nowhere near as durable as it once was, but it looks good and will be good enough until I make a final decision about the paint.

The whole machine was filled with grit so a lot of my time was spent just getting the Arizona dust of the carriage guide rails. A couple drops of oil really freed every thing up.

As Ted reported, the platen is in a sad state, but I have never seen an original Hermes platen that wasn't rock-hard. Fortunately the feed rollers are still really soft and grip the paper well. If you use two sheets of paper it works great. I tend to use two sheets of paper regardless. If time and money is freed up I might send the platen to Ames for recovering.

This model has a twin ribbons system. It can use standard fabric ribbons or the lovely high-definition film ribbon. This particular machine came with a completely full film spool so I didn't have to install a ribbon.

As desktop typewriters go, the Ambassador is really ridiculously large. It dwarfs pretty much any desktop typewriter. My HH looks like a portable next to this thing. I have no idea why the size. Maybe it's the one typewriter to rule them all.

No students have used it yet, but I will make it available tomorrow for part two of a two-day project. I am sure there will be some interested takers. It types like a dream and is filled with every bell and whistle. I love the paper injector. It makes you feel like you are shifting a really fast car into first.

The decision that I am facing is whether I should make this into a Silver Surfer. Shining it to a mirror finish might make this the most formidable typewriter ever.


  1. It looks in perfect condition to me. I recently got an Ambassador, and would rate it amongst the finest office machines ever. Big, but not too big, it's still elegant in its way.

  2. Definitely make this one a Silver Surfer. That would look like either a tank or a chromed Humvee.
    Either way, very formidable. :)

  3. I'm sorry to say, but Ames no longer does Ambassador and SG-1 platens. But, either way, you definitely need to make this one a Silver Surfer! The Ambassador is one of my favorite typewriters, and it truly is a masterpiece of Swiss engineering.

  4. can I try it out when I visit next week? Probably not, it will be locked in the school. Awesome battletyper though. "Dreadnought" class.

  5. I have a parts Ambassador that you're welcome to raid if you need any parts. It became a parts machine because I screwed up the platen shafts wrestling the platen in and out -- just don't do that unless you have to!

  6. You had a problem getting an Ambassador platen in and out? That's weird, the Ambassador has the easiest-to-remove and replace platen I've ever encountered! Even simpler than pulling a Smith-Corona platen :D

    In fact, removing the platen is how I discovered the disintegrating front feed rollers that discouraged me from keeping it. I dunno how it still feeds paper so nicely - those rollers are actually split apart, with bits crumbling off of them.

    It's definitely an amazingly put-together machine which will shine under Ryan's expert care. I'm glad that he wanted it after I decided that I didn't. It's always a pleasure to foist a machine off on him and watch the magic of the Magic Margin treatment happen. (:

  7. Ted, I did even notice the split feed rollers. Ooooh mama they are gone. I think that I might be able to keep them together with some heat-shrink tubing. They are split, but still soft and pretty grippy. I am amazed at how long this thing must have sat in an un-cooled storage unit or garage. It's reall dusty, but there is no hint of mildew or mold. This typewriter suffers from a series of small problems that make it-- overall-- less than stellar. I think the heft and quality is what's keepting it together.

  8. Yep, it was filthy and weather-beaten, but everything did seem to work, if stiffly. I suffered from a brief fatuation with the idea of restoring it, but my head cooled pretty quickly once I saw them feed rolls. That made the "time to cull all my standards" reflex happen.

    BTW, I have a manual for the Ambassador that's for an earlier model. I can pass that on to you next time we meet or do a typewriter ephemera drop. I'll also post the scans tonight.

  9. Matt, thanks for the heads-up, but I just called Ames and they said that they could cover an Ambassador platen. I've heard what you said or something similar on the PTF and Typewriters. I might give AMES another call and make sure.