Thursday, August 17, 2017

Typing Scrolls Revisited



I'm certain I've blogged about this before. Using rolls of paper for typing, like the way that Jack Kerouac did with an early draft of On the Road, where he used a roll of teletype paper. Why a person would want to do so today has nothing to do with wanting to mimic the Beats. The Beat Movement is pretty much dead, last time I checked. And so are typewriters, except actually they're not; there's a revival in progress. Which is all the more reason to resurrect the idea of typing on a seemingly endless roll of paper - no more stopping in mid-thought to change paper. Just keep banging the keys and slinging the carriage back after the bell dings, and watch the paper pile up behind the machine on the floor; a more certain measure of one's writerly output.

Years ago, after this idea struck me (and inspired by a visit to the Palace of the Governors Museum in Santa Fe, which was hosting the On the Road manuscript scroll in its long glass-topped display case), I went in search of rolls of paper. Adding machine paper was too narrow, unless all you were interested in writing was short haiku poems. There were brown masking paper rolls, 6 inches wide, available at hardware stores; but I didn't want to type on brown paper. And there was white paper rolls in craft and art stores, but in widths much wider than the standard 8-1/2 inches.

After a bit of Internet searching I found a 6 inch wide roll of white paper, in 700 foot lengths, used for masking in the automotive painting industry. A local search found some at the Napa Auto Parts painting supply store. I ended up buying a damaged roll (the inner cardboard core was deformed) for less than half the price of new.

This paper I used for a time for typecast blogging. With the margins set to ~1/4 inch in from either edge, I could get long enough lines of text sufficient for this blog's template. But the paper was thin and crinkly, and didn't take ink all that well. I think, being engineered for painting, its surface was hydrophobic and hence repelled the ink, which would also easily smear. So after some time, I set that roll aside and looked for another solution.

A search on Amazon revealed rolls 8-1/2 inches wide of what was described as "teletype paper," but after receiving an order I found the quality of the paper was about the worse I'd ever seen. I should have known; I think Western Union quit the teletype business some years ago. Essentially like the very cheapest newsprint art paper, off-white and very fibrous, it doesn't take correction tape, and is mostly useful only for rough-draft writing where no one else will see the finished results. You wouldn't want to type that letter to dear old Aunt Mary with this stuff, or she'd take you out of her will.

This last week I once again found myself in the local big-box office supply retailer, when I happened across a roll of white "banner" paper 17 inches wide by 50 feet in length, for $5. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that 17 inches is twice 8-1/2, and I at once began thinking that perhaps my miter saw could cut it in half sufficiently neat to make the effort and cost worthwhile.

And yes, it was worth the cost, even the effort required afterward of cleaning up the garage because of the surprisingly messy cloud of shredded paper dust kicked up by the saw. But the cut was very smooth, and the resulting roll of 8-1/2 inch by 50 foot-long, white bond paper is nicely threaded up in the old Underwood Portable on the tray table, with the roll snuggled nicely between the scissor legs of the folding table using a piece of wooden broom handle. And a backup roll, from the other half, waits in the wings. $2.50 per roll is not a bad price. Maybe next time I'll do the cutting out of doors. Live and learn.

The paper takes typewriter ink very nicely, and has a very nice feel to it. I threaded up the paper in the machine so as to oppose the natural curl of the roll, hoping it helps in flattening it out. We'll see. Some of this paper, made from recycled pulp, can achieve a semi-permanent curl if left threaded around the platen too long.

So now I can say that my long search is over for an inexpensive source of good quality, white, typewriter-compatible paper rolls. I just need to set my butt down in front of that typewriter and start banging out some words. Which only I can do.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Bill M said...

Good idea Joe. The miter saw worked fine. Maybe a finer blade would be less dust. When I was in school the shop teacher used the band saw to cut tablets in half to make notebooks.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Richard P said...

Another BAROP user was eccentric mystery writer Harry Stephen Keeler, my other hobby. https://www.instagram.com/p/BPkn0S0juiY/?taken-by=typewriterrevolution

5:50 PM  
Blogger Joe V said...

Very interesting, Richard.

5:58 PM  
Blogger andrew nicholls said...

My local stationery shop had a dusty old roll of paper about 8 inches in width. We negotiated a really good price (about a fiver) and I have it set up on my Olympia Travel De Luxe for those inspirational immediate thoughts. I did this after watching your first Youtube vid on the subject and it is a great idea. Thanks Joe!

11:09 AM  

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~Joe

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