John Wolff's Web Museum
Marchant Figurematic - Technical Description
These pages give an illustrated technical description of the internal
mechanism and the principles of operation of the Marchant "Figurematic"
The machines built by the Marchant Calculator Company during its
sixty-year history can be divided into three broad families, according
to the design of their internal mechanism:
- The first, dating from the Company's formation in 1911, was a
lever-set pin-wheel design
similar to the European Odhner and Brunsviga machines.
- The second, introduced in the early 1920s, was a
machine with a keyboard setting mechanism. This design was
further developed during the 1920s and 30s, leading eventually to
electrically-operated machines with semi-automatic multiplication
- A radically different mechanism based on proportional and
differential gearing was introduced with the "Silent Speed" machines
in 1933. The name was appropriate, as these machines were
significantly quieter and more than twice as fast as most of their
competitors. Ongoing refinements to the Silent Speed family led
eventually to the Figuremaster and Figurematic machines from the
late 1940s, and the Transflo and Deci-Magic from the 1950s. The
Marchant family established a solid reputation for speed and
reliability, and continued in production in various forms until
the business closed in the early 1970s.
The notes and photographs in these pages are based on a Marchant
"Figurematic" Model 10DRX from the 1950s. They were prepared
during the overhaul of machine number 412562 during 2004.
The descriptions are based primarily on my own observations and
interpretations, supplemented by reference to reprints of Marchant
drawings and training materials. A subsequent review of Marchant
patent information has clarified some of the subtleties of the
mechanism, but has not required any major alterations to the text.
These notes are intended as a general guide to the construction
and the principles of operation of the Figurematic mechanism. They
do not attempt to explain all of the internal details, nor do they
provide detailed instructions for disassembly or repair. While I
believe my descriptions to be substantially correct, I do not
guarantee that they are accurate, complete, or applicable to any
other machine. Please do not dismantle a Marchant in the
expectation that these notes alone will get it back together!
I would welcome advice of any corrections, or suggestions for
- Introduction (this page)
- The keyboard
- The actuator unit
- The selector unit
- The control unit
- The drive train
- The multiplier
- The carriage
- The counter register
- The main register and carry mechanism
- The carriage shift mechanism
- The clearing mechanism
- The division control mechanism
- Description of operation
- Marchant patents
Resources for Further Information
- Reprints of various Marchant instruction and technical manuals
are available from Ernie Jorgensen's
"Office Machine Americana" in Idaho, USA.
The manual entitled "SCM Marchant Technical Training Centers -
Supplemental Training Materials" is recommended as an adjunct to
these notes. It contains very little text, but has detailed technical
drawings of all of the major components and sub-assemblies of the
late-model Figuremaster mechanism.
- Readers requiring greater detail than is presented here may wish
to study the extensive list of patents that were issued for the
Silent Speed and Figuremaster mechanisms. These provide a wealth of
extremely detailed drawings and descriptions of operation of
individual sections of the mechanism.
The Figurematic Patents page gives further
information, and highlights some of the more interesting documents.
Original text and images Copyright © John Wolff 2005-07.
Use at own risk; beware of errors; suggestions for improvement welcome.
Last Updated: 6 June 2007
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