Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Fine-Tuning the SM9 With Keycap Toppers

Key Toppers on SM9
The blinged-out, tarted-up SM9

Fine-Tuning the SM9

Here's my original idea, prototyped in cardstock:
Shift lock guard on SM9
Yes, it worked, sort of. No, it doesn't look good, and making a more permanent version in 3D-printed PLA filament would be complicated, and attaching it to the machine permanently would be problematic, involving potentially drilling a mounting hole in the bottom frame of the machine.

Here are the undersides of the version 1.7 keycap toppers; they are snug enough to just press-fit onto the existing keycaps:
3D-printed key toppers for SM9
Achieving a precise snug fit is a challenge, even the color of PLA filament affects the thermal properties of the print, and hence the fit. It's probably best to make them slightly oversized, then use some double-sided tape on the inside to keep them from falling off when carrying the machine around; but so far I haven't had any issues and these caps are just press-fit on.

I need to specifically state: No, I'm not going to be printing people keycap toppers, so please don't ask. I WILL provide a link to the files, here.

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, I'm not in the 3D printing BUSINESS, nor do I want to be. Secondly, unless you have this era of Olympia SM9, these keycap toppers probably won't fit your machine. Thirdly, you'll want to choose the color yourself, and I don't want to stock dozens and dozens of colors. Even though the gold bling is the shizz. Also, I can't find an orange color exactly like the Olympia logo. Bummer. Fourthly, there's some trimming of extraneous filament when the parts come off the printer, and you'll need to test-fit them to your own machine. This means you'll either need to be a 3D printing hobbyist yourself, or know someone in your area with a machine to help you. For reference, I'm using an Ender 3 Pro. Also, you'll need to take the files and run them through a slicing program set to your printer's specifications. It's the output file from the slicer that runs on the 3D printer. The slicing program has lots of settings involving layer thickness and bed & nozzle temperatures, so you'll want to fiddle with those to get the part quality just right for your needs.

So, if I'm not going to print you a set of keycap toppers, than what the heck am I doing posting this here blog article? Well, I'm mainly wanting to inspire other hobbyists to pursue ideas like this. I challenge and welcome any and all to take this idea and run with it. We all will benefit greatly.

Some keycap examples at WASD

What I was hoping for in this project was to expand the idea and make keycap toppers for ALL the keys, especially the alphabetic keys, so a person could personalize their typewriter, like the way computer keyboards are customized with crazy key color schemes. But alas, at least on this SM9, the clearances between neighboring keys is so tight that I don't think toppers of reasonable thickness (and hence durability) would fit without interfering with neighboring key operation. But it would be great to be able to print crazy bright toppers to liven up that otherwise drap gray or brown machine. Maybe on others brands or models there's enough room for toppers to work. Stay tuned for more updates to this idea.

Ideally, you'd want letter legends in the keytops, but you can only 3D print those with a dual-filament machine, which I don't have. Alternatively, you can design the letters as recesses into the keytops, then after printing you'd have to carefully inject colored epoxy resin into the recesses of each cap with a syringe. This sounds like very detailed work that'd be slow and fiddly. Not the sort of thing you'd want to do commercially without the right equipment. But as a hobbyist, I think it's doable, given enough patience and time.

Again, the link to the files specifically for this 1978 Olympia SM9 are: here.

Monday, May 01, 2023

I'm in the Newspaper!

I'm in the newspaper! A few months ago I was interviewed by Cameron Knight, reporter for the Cincinnati Inquirer, about my fascination for typewriters and how I got started into this strange obsession, that now seems not so strange after all. I'd forgotten about that interview until I saw Dr. Polt's blog article this weekend.

The article is a good read, there are a number of typospherians interviewed, including Dr. Polt and Sarah Everett. See this link to read a PDF of the article.

I am mentioned in the article on the third page, including a large photo of me with my typewriter collection. Yes, they misspelled my name, but I've gotten used to that. (And, no, I'm not related to actor Lee Van Cleef -- I get asked that all the time!)

Cameron Knight did a good job with the article, and is himself a typewriter enthusiast. Thank you Cameron!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Imagining My Next Journal Book

A collection of past journal books

Imagining My Next Journal Book

My journals are a hodgepodge of both handwritten material, sketches and collage, often intermixed. Sketching is my preferred method for designing things, even for projects as simple as a holder for a paper journal. Here are some sketches representing how my idea for this project is evolving.

The lefthand drawing comes close to my final design, but with a magnetically closable flap to secure the paper inside. The righthand drawing is like a very shallow cigar box for holding the paper inside. Both designs have a smooth, hard outer surface for writing upon.

I like this design best, it would be simple to build and looks minimalist. I need to find the right material and thickness for the top writing surface, perhaps white acrylic plastic, or even sheet aluminum.

In practice, this paper-holder journal system only needs to hold enough pages for one day's outing, assuming I'm journaling away from home. I also use a variety of pens and pencils, as you can see from the above sketches; too many to fit inside the holder itself. I typically carry my frequently used writing instruments in an eyeglass case adapted for that purpose. There's also a glue stick, scissors and razor knife if I'm collaging.

I've enjoyed using these half-letter-sized sheets as a journal format, they're bigger than pocket sized, generous enough for documenting ideas, yet don't seem as gargantuan as full letter-sized pages.

I've been using 32lb. laser paper in this last handmade journal book, but despite its weight I find it bleeds a bit too much when using the Pentel brush pens, so I'm also on the lookout for a different paper, one compatible for both technical drawing as well as fountain pen and brush pen. The good thing about unbound pages is I'm not committed to using an entire book of them, should I find one kind of paper to be less than satisfactory.

Typecast via 1978 Olympia SM9.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Olympia SM9

Olympia SM9

Frontal view:

Rear view, note the dealer sticker from Olympia Typewriter Service Co. in ABQ.

This machine was made in 1978, the second to the last year the SM9 were made. This was nearly the end of the manual typewriter era, at least for the German-made Olympias.

So, how does it type you might wonder? Well, currently I only have an SM3 to compare it with, and there were many years between these two machines. I've also had two other SM9s and this machine feels very much like what I remember of those: not as tight and crisp as the early SMs, but a solid, competent typing machine.

And along with what I remember of those other SM9s, this one also exhibits intermittent spacing issues on the first letter of a word after a space. Not very often, but enough to be bothersome. I believe it's a combination of something intrinsic to the design or setup of these machines (given that all three had the same problem), and my typing style (though I've also used two-finger instead of touch-typing and have gotten the same intermittent issues). See the word "not" in the first line of the last paragraph, above; these machines just don't like a staccato typing style, but work better with a rhythmic cadence, like what a typist is ideally supposed to do, but in the real world hardly ever does to perfection. It's problems like these that make the later SM9s less than the One Perfect Machine, for me that is. They aren't very tolerant of a sloppy typing style. As to the earlier SMs, the SM3-8 generations were probably the finest of the Olympia SM series in terms of build quality and the "feel" of the machine, at least in my experience and that of others I've talked to.

These later SM9s have a very utilitarian, modern look to them. Stern-faced, corporate, button-down shirts, no laughing matter, just get the work done; and they were built to do just that. No nostalgic style cues from some earlier era, these were built for the sober post-war business machine age.

The best I can tell, it has a Modern Pica type face. Very pleasing in appearance.

There's a good chance this machine spent its entire life here in ABQ, since being sold at that Olympia dealer. It looked like it never even sat in a dusty garage, instead most likely some bedroom closet. Even the internals of the machine showed little dust, a minor miracle here in the dry, windy American southwest. Also no signs of eraser crumbs, White Out grunge on the plastic card guides or white cover-up correction flakes in the machine, just pristine cleanliness. Amazing.

Friday, April 21, 2023

In Which Joe Gets an Underwood 5

Underwood 5
Underwood 5 Blog Article

Underwood 5
Missing decals and discolored keys, her beauty's more than skin-deep -- not bad for 103 years old!

Underwood 5
I love the mechanical details of the manual ribbon wind sprocket!

Underwood 5
A few hours of work and she's starting to shine. Even the bell rings!

Underwood 5
I love how easy it is to access and adjust the spring motor tension.

Underwood 5
The front margin rack with its "backwards" margin scale is distinctive to these Underwoods

Disassembly for cleaning involved removing the paper guide rod, paper pan, paper finger rod and front margin scale bar. Then the right platen knob was removed. Next I removed the left carriage cover which gained me access to the line spacing mechanism. The entire spacing mechanism needed to be removed, to be able to remove the platen rod, then the platen. This then gained me access to the feed rollers underneath; they are hardened and should be replaced, but I cleaned them as best I could with alcohol. I used degreaser, alcohol and careful application of a Scotch-brite pad to remove a century of greasy discoloration. For the plated metal parts I used Never-Dull metal polish (which I first discovered in the US Navy). Type bar linkages and joints were cleaned with alcohol and cotton buds.The surfaces of the keypads were cleaned with buds and a bit of alcohol; they should eventually be removed using a keyring pulling tool (that I currently lack) and new key legends printed and installed.

There's a bit of ribbon lift adjustment needing to be made, and the shifting is a bit wonky at times, something intermittently hangs up when returning to lower case. But all told, it's a fine machine considering the age. I'm amazed at the quality of materials and workmanship that went into these instruments; one reason why they are so highly desired by serious collectors and users of classic typewriters.

Underwood made many refinements in the years since this machine was built, including segment shift by the time the "SS" model had arrived in the 1940s. But this early version is the progenitor. She's not one of those pristine, perfectly-restored "cabinet queens" too precious to use. This one's a typer, a writer's instrument. Written all over her exterior are the signs of years of use. I intend on continuing in that tradition.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Evading the AI

Photograph as physical object in hand

Evading the AI

Here are some sample Harman Direct Positive Prints, digitized via Lumix camera but only vaguely representative of holding the actual print in-hand:

Abo Ruins, Salinas National Monument, Harman Direct Positive Print, Fujinon 135 lens on Speed Graphic

Harman Direct Positive Print, Fujinon 135 lens on Speed Graphic

Perea Nature Trail, San Ysidro NM, Harman Direct Positive Print, Fujinon 135 lens on Speed Graphic

Harman Direct Positive Print, meniscus lens, 8x10 box camera

Harman Direct Positive Print, Fujinon 135 lens on Speed Graphic

Olympia SM9, Harman Direct Positive Print, Fujinon 135 lens on Speed Graphic

As you can see from the previous image, Harman Direct Positive prints, like paper negatives and also wet plate media from the 19th century, are formed on the front surface of the substrate, hence the image is reversed left-to-right. Of course I could have reversed them in post, but that'd be cheating and would also further remove them from any resemblence of their physical origin.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Finding a Place for The Petite Toy Typewriter

A few weeks ago, we had a small birthday party for our grand-daughter, at a local ice cream shoppe called I Scream Ice Cream. Bill runs the place, and he's decorated the interior chock-full of memorabilia and other artifacts from the 1950s-'70s. I don't think there's an empty place on the walls or shelves for any more artifacts.

The front seating area

Seated in Bill's ice cream shoppe, enjoying a cup of yummy goodness and eyeing all the paraphernalia of mid-20th century culture on display, it suddenly hit me that this would be a good home for that Petite Toy Typewriter, a gift from a YouTube viewer of mine, that hadn't found its way into the rest of my typewriter collection -- mainly because I don't collect artifacts to be put on display, but rather I collect functional writing tools, and the Petite, though it technically has an inked cloth ribbon, can hardly be called a serious writing tool. The Petite was basically in storage, for no one to enjoy, least of all me.

It would be safe to call I Scream Ice Cream ecclectic!

And so the week after the birthday party my wife and I headed down to I Scream Ice Cream for a snack and also an opportunity to give the typewriter to Bill. As it turns out, he already knows John Lewis, as John frequents his shop, both of them being located in the same part of town. Bill was overjoyed to receive the typewriter. I had included a sheet of paper along with carbon paper, in case someone wanted to type on it and the old ribbon was too dry. This was Bill's first toy typewriter, a fact that I found amazing, since he's managed to collect lots of other things, including one of the largest collections of transistor radios I've ever seen.

What an amazing radio collection!

This Sony, from 1953, is the oldest in Bill's collection

I've yet to revisit Bill's shop to see where he's decided to put the Petite, but will do so soon, as I have a hankering for more delicious ice cream!

Here's a video I made about the Petite Typewriter:

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Write Fully So

brother SX-4000
There's something slightly furtive about the idea of sitting in bed with an electronic typewriter

This is also a typewriter

Here's the letter stamping kit. I made the shallow cardboard boxes as a way to contain the blocks in alphabetic order while also being easy to remove individual blocks. I secure them together with a rubber band prior to storing in their original clear plastic containers. After stamping I rubber band them into a bundle and clean the ink off their rubbery letters with a paper towel and bit of degreaser, before putting away, ready for their next stamping session.

Even though these stamp die are rubber, I've seen other sets online with wooden and metal die. I might try one of those also.

Here are several more examples of stamped letterwork I've made with this letter kit:

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Creepy Barber Head, or Another Handmade Camera Project!

Creepy Barber Head
"Creepy Barber Head" paper negative image

Shoe Box Camera
The Camera Itself

Enjoy this video about making and testing the camera:

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Experiment Continues

Guild Entrance
The Guild's iconic marquee

Experiment 1
Keif Henley
Guild Cinema head-honcho Keif Henley


Experiment 7
Basement Film's next show is Experiments in Cinema

Board Game Store
Nob Hill on ABQ's former Route 66 is a high-rent district, and so it amazes me that stores like a board gaming gallery can stay in business. Here we see gamers having fun on a Friday night

Experiment 2
Experiment 3
Experiment 5
Experiment 4
Experiment 6