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Where will we get our Typewriter Platens re-covered now?

Several people who have recently sent their typewriter platens for re-covering by Ames Supply have received this letter, along with the platens and feed rollers they’ve sent in (sometimes, luckily, already re-done!)

Ames Supply Company
Since 1902

May 1st, 2012

To our Valued Customer:

We regret to inform you that after 110 years in business, Ames Supply Company is closing its door.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, we are returning your platens undone.

Once again we thank you for you being a valuable customer for all these years.

Ames Supply Company

The buzz is that this is for real, and the place where everyone (including most typewriter repair guys) sent platens to be redone is now gone. The question is, where will we get it done now?

One resource has been mentioned in the Portable Typewriter Yahoo group: Robert E. De Barth, in Pennsylvania, offers platen recovering for $95 + $13 shipping, quite a bit steeper than Ames did it for, but at least he still does it. He may be the last guy in the US to offer this service.

Some questions to ponder:

1) If Ames shut its doors, what did they do with the platen and feed roller recovering equipment and supplies? Are they for sale anywhere?

2) What skillset does it take to re-cover a typewriter platen? Also, what knowledge does it require, IE: is there still documentation that specifies what sizes and compositions of rubber stock are required for given typewriter platens?

3) is there anyone who has the skillset and the investment capital to set up shop recovering platens and feed rollers, just so there isn’t just a single source for this badly needed service?

Heck, I’d learn to do it myself, if I had the capital, the access to raw stock and some decent instructions. It could be a pretty decent daily wage for a one-man operation in a garage. :D

Updated: June 14, 2012 — 9:14 am

19 Comments

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  1. If I were still in VA or PA where I had the room and resources I would have been on my way to AMES to find out if and what they may be selling with the closure of the platen business. I think even if I landed in Montana where I intended I’d go for it, but in FL no way.

    I too have pondered the same 3 questions.

    About 5 years all of us in the electronics business (mainly broadcasters and hams) lost a fine partner in supplying our transformers when Peter Dahl closed his factory due mainly to health reasons and last year he passed away.

    Fortunately the company was bought and is now part of Harbach. Same quality and service? I’ve not used them since the changes.

    Hopefully someone will pick up where Ames left off. Mr. DeBarth may be just the person even if we need to pay many times more for a platen than many of us paid for our typewriters.

    1. Try Stolp gore Co , we manufacture fold rollers and offers feed rollers recovering. 877-904-5180. We are located in Illinois. We been supplying rollers for over 90 years

  2. I think the biggest problem has been that Ames had been successful at doing this so efficiently and subsequently cheaply. They had effectively cornered the market, and hadn’t take advantage of this… But rather used it to continue to facilitate doing this service cheaply.

    It will take quite a while for someone else to take up the mantle. I sat down and tried to think out what was involved with re-plating these platens, particularly asi Watson the verge of sending some in myself…. From Australia. But if someone is willing to give it a try, as a side line to their business, they potentially have a ready and captive audience.

    The manual maching skills involved with this are getting rarer and rarer these days, as programmable machines are becoming de-riguer.

  3. These questions have certainly been on my mind this week. I am most concerned about typewriter repair shops; they have routinely been sending boxfuls of platens to Ames for recovering. Even if Mr. DeBarth could do them all, the cost increase could be a possibly insurmountable blow to the repair shops and their customers. There are some second-best workarounds (sandpaper and brake fluid…) but nothing beats a fresh platen. Let’s see what happens.

    1. yeah, I expect it’ll be a problem for Bill at MTE if his platen recovering price will have to essentially double due to his base costs plus what he has to charge for disassembly and reassembly. The cost of lavishing care on our typewriters will undoubtedly price some people out of the luxury of typing on a brand-new, fresh platen. ):

  4. Think one word: CHINA

  5. We have been contacted by some people since Ames’ shutterred and we are more than willing to take on the prospect of recoating platen rollers. Our comapny is a small family business in business since 1977. We specialize in customer rubber products many of which are the stripping and recoating of various types of rubber rollers. We were never able to compete with Ames’ pricing which seemed unbelievably low but not knowing their volume it was difficult to say. In the past we had only been approached about one and two platens at a time which with setups can get expensive–I can see geting to the $ 95 noted above. However, this sort of market seems to fit our niche and we are more then willing to work with folks needing service to balance getting a good quality product here in America at a price the works for both parties. Visit our website at http://www.jjshort.com and send us what your needs are and we will do our best to help!

  6. We would be more than willing to try—check us out at http://www.jjshort.com and contact us! These would seem to be right up our alley and we will try to work with you on a fair price!

  7. I received an email today from a company that is looking to pick up the platen and feed roll recovery business that Ames has shut it’s doors on. I have not contacted them or used them yet as this email just came today but thought I would pass along this information.

    J.J. Short Associates, Inc
    315-986-3511

    They have a web site at http://www.jjshort.com

    They are located just outside of Rochester NY

    I hope that may help a few of you out there

    Craig Burnham
    Your Typewriter & Computer

  8. As Ames Supply Company notified me – May 1, 2012 was a sad day.

    West Coast Platen in Los Angeles, and Seattle Platen Company have been agents (and old term meaning that we handled all their products) of Ames since 1924. We purchased rubber from Ames Rubber Company and recovered platens in both locations.

    In 1998 we moved the Los Angeles location to the “suburbs” and decided to shut down the platen recovering operation because it had become unprofitable due to the decrease in typewriters and the increased expense to do the re-manufacturing. We continued selling the Ames products and platens but decided it only made sense for one place to do the re-manufacturing and that was Ames in the Chicago area.

    About five years ago Ames Rubber discontinued platen rubber and concentrate on other products. The lack of this rubber is the main factor in why we can no longer provide recovered platens.

    We still have a grinder and we still have the manuals with all the rubber specs for the different typewriters and we still have the people who know how the do it – but NO rubber.

    There is no one to my knowledge that makes extruded rubber capable of producing the correct specs for our platens.

    We are still here because we not only continue to supply Ames products for one stop shopping for the industry but, we have also expanded into laser printer parts and supplies.

    We still have recovered platens (but the makes and models are getting smaller) and many other products for the typewriter dealers.

    We also have a very large collection of truly antique typewriters and we are trying to get them cataloged and up on our web site. You can see a few of them here.

    http://www.shopplaten.com/index.php?cPath=10002&osCsid=a85ad13de23c3289cd315f5fcb982540

    I would be more than happy to answer any questions I can.

  9. I have been restoring typewriters for the last few years, working with Brian at Hoyts Office Supply in Portsmouth, N.H. and I think it likely that many machines that we sell will become priced out of our market if they need platen and feed roller replacement at the DeBarth price level. While some of our sales are to collectors, most are to indiduals who want a good working machine, which is why we always clean them up and make any necessary repairs or adjustments before they go in Hoyts’ window.It never made sense to us to redo a platen without also redoing the feed rollers which as I understood Debarth’s price structure means an addtional $95 set up charge (or perhaps 2 additional set up charges if the primary and secondary rollers are different). Hoyts is a small family owned business which is more than 100 years old. If someone does begin redoing platens and feed rollers at a price structure which is less than DeBarth’s, please let me know.
    Murray Segal

    1. You can see all updates on this topic by clicking this link. Currently JJ Short and West Coast Platen are exploring the idea of starting up platen recovering operations. Pricing is still up in the air, but we’re hearing hopeful signs.

  10. Formula One Platens

    Since 1945 and with over 100 years of combined technical experience, Robert E. De Barth has been offering high quality restoration and repairs for the typewriter industry for equipment as far back as the 1890’s.

    A lot of recent talk about how to revitalize old typewriter platens have fallen short of the correct remedy. A lot of non-technical and laymen advice seems to think that regrinding the surface of a platen does the job but it does not. Many years of the typeface pounding and the ultraviolet sun and florescent light and the ozone in the air destroys the surface of the platen to such an extent that too much of the compound must be removed to be effective which decreases the platen diameter to such extent that the printing is no longer acceptable. The typeface is curved to meet the platen radius as a flat surface entity making an almost perfect impression if the typewriter platen is maintained at the correct factory dimensions.

    After some 15 years of R&D, Robert E. De Barth has formulated the best compounds from the rubber services industry to develop a platen that meets or exceeds factory specifications. In house we call it the Satin Platen. It is always best to replace the platen with a properly ground on center and compounded formulated sleeve to enhance your typewriters typing and paper feeding abilities.

    Feed Rolls, Bail Rolls, and Finger Rolls must also be of adequate compounds to do the best feeding of the paper and securing it in the carriage while typing.

  11. Glad I found you. I never used Ames for platen service, but I have known them since 1963 for the number 1 source for Tools and supplies used in Duplicator repair. Do you know where Ames speciality tools have gone? They had clip setters, spring pullers, oilers etc. My industry, small offset duplicators, went the way of the Typwriter, buggy whips and the catapult. Rr

    1. Yep, I’m somewhat into small offset presses myself, see this post. I would assume that the Tools side of Ames also went kaput, and maybe their remaining stock has been sold off. I don’t know for sure, since I haven’t gotten an Ames small press catalog in over a decade.

  12. We carry all the same tools for your industry that Ames used to carry and are very easy to work with. We would welcome your calls.

    Sales Manager,

    Phil Jessen

    1. I am interested in some tools of the trade repairing typewriters. Hope you can help me. Do you make a typewriter cleaning solution?
      Please let me hear from you!

      Thank you,
      Walter

  13. Rich Wiley Wholesale Business Machines Co.

    I toured the Ames plant in 1970. The platen process was not high tech. The old platen was heated, as I recall, and then slit from end to end. The old rubber sheath was pulled off. A new one was pressed on. The rubber itself, I believe, came in long poles, and was cut to desired lengths. I do not believe that Ames molded their own rubber, I think it was outsourced.

    1. J.J. Short has turned out to be a great low-cost source for platen recovering, I’ve had 3 platens done by them and they produce a high-quality product at a price roughly equivalent to what Ames used to charge, now that they have perfected their method. I highly recommend them. I haven’t used Mr. DeBarth’s services, but I understand his services are top-notch as well, although priced higher.

      Over the past year I’ve heard reports that one of the reasons that Ames stopped recovering platens is that they simply ran out of rubber stock and were unable to source another supplier that was cost-effective. Thus you’re certainly right about them not making their own rubber stock.

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