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Short crank Brunsviga machines

A short crank Brunsviga is just about the holy grail of the Brunsviga collector - it is not necessarily the most rare (about 450 machines have been built) but it certainly is the most basic machine they ever made, and in addition it is the oldest.

This is a link to a list of known short-crank Brunsviga machines.

I found mine by accident. When travelling to Vancouver, I walked past a small antique shop just around the corner of a house we rented. The shop was specialized in 1950's plastic toys and robots. On that day, it was closed, but I could make out a calculator in the unlit shop display. Excitedly, I returned the next day to find the shop open, and a large sign outside that said "sale, 50% off everything". I went in, and had the shop keeper take the machine out of the shop window to have a look at it. There was good news and bad news - the machine was very very sticky and dusty, and could hardly be worked at all. The carriage was stuck completely. The number on the top cover however (N 110) was extremely intriguing, and I bought the machine then and there. The shopkeeper told me it had come together with another machine (which was since sold - I have no idea what treasure I have missed there ...) from the attic of a bank. In an internet caf, two days later, I really discovered what I had bought, and it turned out to be a truly excellent buy. Back in Belgium a few weeks later, I disassembled and cleaned the machine, which was in remarkably perfect condition, up to the gold lettering with the patent information.

Brunsviga n 110 picture 1

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The machine had one of the ten's carry levers broken, which was probably the reason why it had been "parked" in almost new condition after being brought all the way across the Atlantic from London where it was sold. This was quickly re-brazed and filed into shape.

Brunsviga n 110 picture 5

Sadly, because I wanted to buy a house and needed the money, I reluctantly advertised the machine for sale, and ended up selling it to the regretted dr. Thorsten Hampel. Shortly before his death, he told me about considering to switch to collecting scientific instruments instead of calculators, and I told him I would be happy to buy the machine back from him on the spot. Unfortunately, this was never to be...

I found another short crank Brunsviga for sale in the neighborhood of Lincoln, UK, somewhere in late spring. The seller had listed the machine on ebay, and got flooded with emails of interested people who all wanted him to stop the auction and sell the machine directly to them. One of those emails was mine. He emailed me back saying that they had been in contact with Breker, who had told them that they could easily get 4000 EUR for the machine at auction. I sent another email back explaining them that he would only see about 60% of the price the buyer was going to pay for the machine, and also that they would have to wait until the end of November for it to be sold, that the price Breker quoted was a fair one, but that now the cat was out of the bag, they could probably do better by simply selling it on ebay and let the auction run its course. To my substantial surprise, I received an email back thanking me for my explanation, and that they would be happy to sell the machine to me for my initial offer, which was, frankly, on the low side. When I showed up on their doorstep a few weeks later, they were a perfectly nice couple, who explained that they couldn't wait until November because they wanted the money in August to help pay for their marriage, and that they were happy to see the machine go to a good home. The calculator itself was narrowly saved from the scrap heap - it was given to them in compensation for a job he did at a friend's house, who himself had found it in a box headed for the recycling container. If is by far not as nice as N 110., but it still cleaned up to be quite presentable, and I am very happy with it.

Brunsviga n 342 picture 1

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The gold leaf text on the side and the back of the machine are identical to the ones on N 110. The back reads:

British Patent N 13700 (1890)

Sole wholesale Agent

Chas. Bradbury

249. High. Holborn.

London. W.C.

On the side it reads:

Grimme, Natalis & Co.

Braunschweig - Brunswick

Patente:

D.R.P. No. 69925

Belgien No. 91812

Schweiz (prov.) No. 4587

+

Below, you can find a video where we multiply 0.318311 with pi, in order to verify that this is the diameter of the circle with surface 1. Compare this video with the demonstration of the same multiplication with the Millionaire, and decide for yourself which of the two machines you would rather buy ... theoretically, the Millionaire should be a lot faster!