a bit of character

Hammond shuttles are small works of art. Intricately cut and cast in pressurized molten rubber to harden, or vulcanize, into a precise chape with precise lettering, all neatly arranged on its face. An awesome achievement for 1890s technology.

I was contacted by someone who thought they might have a unique shuttle, a 91st character perhaps. Across the face of most romantic language shuttles there are 90 characters. A 91st character would be interesting because that would mean that there is a specific key or mechanism that corresponds to that character, but also a different type of engineering.

As such it would likely be a custom ordered shuttle. The company certainly produced shuttles exclusively for companies in limited numbers, but no evidence has been found of a 91st character, but it’s possible.

It’s also possible there are shuttles out there that were never documented beyond the 350+ recorded; seriously if you find a braille shuttle, call me.

Video courtesy of David Herrera, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j9xHY0RTA8

As the operator types on a Hammond, the fragile type-select arm rotates to align the proper character with the incoming hammer. It knows this because of the type select pins that raise with the depression of the key, to tell the selector where to stop.

Video courtesy of David Herrera, https://www.youtube.com/c/TypewriterCollector

Consequently, if there were a 91st character then it would require some way of telling the type select arm where to stop. Thanks to the open design of the Hammond’s type select pins and positioning, it would be possible to precisely add an additional pin, however to engage it would be another matter, namely a lot of reengineering.

After careful evaluation of the shuttle we realized that it wasn’t a 91st character after all, but merely a faded number 5 and the symbol for
degrees ° .