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Kirja

Now this machine was an interesting restoration. It came to me in a bit of a state.

Kirja picture 1

The metal cover on the front was missing, and as it had been sold second-hand, the dealer who sold it ground out the "Kirja" name on the top cover. The machines were built in Karelia, which used to be part Finnish. There seems to be a quite a bit of confusion about where exactly they were built, and by whom. Serguei Frolov shows a steel cover of a machine like this, which is labeled "Petroskoi - Leningrad". Petroskoi, or Petrozavodsk as it is called in Russian, is currently the capital of the autonomous Russian republic of Karelia. Back when this calculator was made in the 1920s, Finnish was one of the official languages of Soviet Karelia - being tolerated in the assumption that the rest of Finland would soon join the USSR. That would explain why its name means "book" in Finnish, and there is normally a decal with a picture of a book on the top plate. It was also produced for the Latvian market, under the "Prometei Portable" name. Latvia was also independent at the time, and not part of the USSR. What the economic link was between the company making these (Valtion kustannusliike Kirja, or translated from Finnish "state publishing company Book") and Leningrad is sort of clear - Petroskoi was a small city back in the 1920s with only about 30.000 inhabitants - but built around the metalworks/engineering company which morphed into the Onezhkiy Traktornyy Zavod in 1956. I suspect they may have had something to do with building this calculator. Manufacture of certain parts and/or final assembly may have taken place in Leningrad (within the same company, which , which probably also had a slightly more familiar ring to Soviet ears than Petroskoi. Whether you can really speak of "marketing" remains to be seen. What the story is behind the sales to Latvia, well, your guess is as good as mine.

I made up a template in cardboard, and went off to see a metalworker I know, who has been meticulously building his own aluminium car body for the past five years. If you can do that, you can make a measly cover from a bit of steel too! He saw no issue to beat a steel plate into the required shape, without any apparent effort. For a laugh, try it yourself, and see what happens next ...

When he was finished, all that was left to do for me was solder up the corners and trim the edges so it would fit the calculator, and then drill the holes in it at the proper location for the screws.

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1

This immediately points to the main problem with the machine - it is Russian, and I have no idea what crazy kind of screw threads they were using, but it is nothing in any case that I would have any screws for. In addition, some of the holes have been enlarged and threaded M3. For fixing the metal cover, I've ended up using M2.5 screws.

The other issue was the ground out "Kirja" text. I decided to replicate it based on pictures, because like the bright steel cover, it is quite characteristic for the machine. I filled up the shallow cavity in the top plate that was left by grinding the text out with car body putty (you have to do that a few times to build it up).

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1

I then sanded it smooth, and drew on the KIRJA script and line.

Kirja picture 1

I then use a small round-nose milling cutter in a rotary tool to engrave the text deeply into the hardened putty.

Kirja picture 1

Once this was done, I painted the cover.

Kirja picture 1

Rinse and repeat to take out any blemishes ...

Kirja picture 1

and finally fill in the lettering with white latex paint.

Kirja picture 1

Job done!

With the bright metal cover in place and the engraving present, the machine now looks like a Kirja again. The machine works surprisingly well for being a small production run from post-revolutionary Russia. It has a quite sophisticated feel to it, and it is definitely a kind of machine that you don't see every day.

Some pictures:

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1

Kirja picture 1