Portable Typewriter Teardown    defining why typewriters are often referred to as machines.
In order to more fully explain some of the terms I frequently use on my websites, in print and on internet forums, I've decided to create this new feature; a page which shows a teardown of an actual portable typewriter.  This will also allow new collectors to really see some of the internals of a common, modern-design portable.

The machine seen here was a gift from friends, and was already in slightly less than perfect condition when received.  At that moment, I thought that I might use it for parts; it now has a greater purpose. 

It is a common (or, common enough) early 1960's CONSUL 232 portable, which falls neatly into the category of 'travelling typewriters.'  In this shot, the body framing, or outer shell, is already loose.
Here, the cosmetic body shell has been removed, and reassembled beside the machine.  The machine itself is sitting on its bottom cover plate, on which are mounted four rubber grommets on the upper surface, with four rubber feet below.  Screws running through these attach the bottom plate to the machine.  Note that the body shell itself consists of two pieces; the wrap-around body casing, and the separable ribbon cover (reinstalled here.)  Also removed, and not shown, is a matching-color trim piece from the rear of the carriage.  The bottom cover plate on this style of machine is fully separable; some small machines, such as the Antares, do not have a separable bottom as the actual bottom is used for mounting of parts and linkages.
At left is a further detail view of the Consul 232 with all cover and plate sections removed.  It can be seen that the machine is actually very flat.  Notable in this picture is the dowel plate method of mounting for key levers, which part is seen behind the key levers.  A following illustration will depict this feature in more detail.  The key lever ends run across the front of the machine, and are the pieces which appear to vary in height across the front, with the tallest being outboard.  In front of these is the ribbon bail, a horizontal bar which, when moved forward by action of any key lever, advances the ribbon. 
At right is a closeup of the right end of the keyboard, showing the mounting of the key levers.  The dowel plate, which holds four horizontally mounted metal dowel rods, can be seen, as can the ends of the dowels themselves.  The four dowels are used to mount the four rows of key levers, which are simple cranks, to one end of each of which is attached a keytop, and to the other end is attached a link which connects to the corresponding type bar.  The function, or outer keys also use the dowels; here can be seen the backspace key and the margin release key, as well as the right hand shift key.  These key levers pull links which attach to cranks mounted on a pin extending into the machine; it can be seen near the upper right hand corner of this picture.  The ribbon bail, previously mentioned, also connects (at each end) to one of the dowels; its right end can be seen here, and is the fourth crank in from the right. 

In the earliest form of dowel plate design, which must by definition incorporate four dowels, one for each key row, the dowel plate itself was actually a solid casting, rectangular in cross section, and into which were machined slots to receive the dowels (horizontally) and key levers (vertically.)  Next in concept was a design which was cast with flutes already in place to receive the dowels, but which had to be machined to allow key levers to be mounted and to move.
The next design included a simpler metal stamping, in which were stamped the slots for the dowels.  Finally, late designs did away with a solid plate or casting for mounting the dowels and simply suspended them in space; a slotted plate, or comb, was used to keep the key levers in alignment.  Numerous examples of each exist, but all are features of the truly modern travelling portable typewriter.
By definition, dowel plate machines are also front-mounted type bar mechanism machines.  This latter term refers to the design group in which the key levers do not run below the type basket, to some hinge point below or behind it.  Here, the side view of the Consul 232 clearly shows the upper ends of the key levers (on the left, just below and to the right of the rest for the type bars) which have simple metal links running to the type bars.  This is vital for a truly flat machine, in order to reduce overall maximum height.  Note the end of the dowel plate visible at the center of the picture, and the ends of the four dowel rods mounted therein.
Here, the exposed end of the dowel plate casting has been highlighted in green, and the dowel rod ends are seen in it, in black.
An elevated side view allows us to see just what the entire machine looks like without its external casing.  Note that the bulk of the machine appears visually to be centered around the dowel plate mounting.  The ribbon bail is clearly visible.  The links to the type bars can be seen running under the type basket, to connect to the lower ends of the type bars.  Note the extreme thinness of the frame side members in the carriage region.
This view shows some of the carrige details typical in a machine this size.  Note the rail on which the carriage runs; in this machine, the shift mechanism causes the carriage to both move up and back.  The carriage is actually raised in this view, and is not in the view above. 

Machines in this size range usually have carriage shift, unless they are Olivetti products.  This can be a carriage shift style as seen here, which I refer to as planar shift (the carriage moves up and back in a plane,) or can be rocking carriage shift, in which the carriage rail simply is pivoted at the rear, and in which the carriage moves in a simple arc when shifted.  Both are relatively inexpensive to manufacture, but rocking shift was the least expensive.
There!  Relatively painless, eh?  Readers can now understand just what the "machine" angle is all about, and why many collectors use this term deliberately.  When the outer cosmetic casing is removed, the typewriter appears not as a styled, decorative display item, or an attractive writing implement, but rather appears as what it really is -- a machine.  I hope you've enjoyed this feature, and more will follow if needs indicate.
Above, a different Consul 232.  Left, early Consul 31 model.