Monday, June 01, 2020

Sunday Morning Typing

Adobe Rose

I spent several hours cleaning and adjusting Adobe Rose. I removed the side panels of the carriage to do some cleaning, then removed the platen and feed rollers, scrubbing them with alcohol so as to get a bit better grip on the paper. She'll be needing to get the rollers and platen covered in new rubber at some future date.

I also spent some time doing subtle adjustments to some of the type bars, to help correct some misalignment issues. It's not perfect, but better than before.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stories Moths Tell

Of Moths and Other Stories

Just to illustrate the ubiquity of stories waiting to be told, just this evening I made note of the overhead kitchen light casting a star-like pattern of lights into the sink, from the holes in the nearby pasta strainer. Which then led us to discussing my wife's grandmother's old pasta colander, which she'd used for years until one of the legs broke off, after which I repurposed it into an overhead light fixture in my Man Cave shed. Which then led me to think, "That's another story needing to be told."


Here's a few thoughts I put together in video format, based on this piece, about the ubiquity of stories and the necessity to be a listener before we can be a teller.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Bike Tinkering

Bike Tinkering

No, the top photo isn't of my bike's gear train. But both of them were certainly in need of some service. Fortunately, most of the work required of bikes can be done by their owners, depending on how many specialty tools you're willing to acquire.

I've never been an athletic bike rider, but did spend many years as a kid riding on two wheels around town. I first had an "English Racer" Rayleigh 3-speed with hub shifter and a black lacquered paint finish with gold trim. At the time it looked old and stodgy, but today would exude much positive hipster vibes. My older brother got a yellow Schwinn Varsity 10-speed from our Dad, which we thought was as cool as a Chevy Corvette, and together we'd do a lot of urban riding.

I had a 10-speed bike while in the Navy, but got rid of it because it was difficult to store on the ship, and I didn't like riding the steep hills of San Diego; also, the bus system wasn't conducive to bikes back then. I don't remember the brand, but I think it was fairly nice. Later, in the 1980s, I thought about getting a bike once again and got an urban commuter bike, kind of like a mountain bike in layout but not as aggressive, more suited to city riding, and did some commuting on that. Later I got another Schwinn road bike, a 12-speed, which I had up until the late 1990s and had it converted to flat handlebars.

Then I got interested in recumbents, and got a Bike E, upon which I did more riding than any other bike in my adult life. I remember making a 50-mile ride through the White Sands Missile Range on a cloudy April Saturday morning, during their twice-per-year public opening, where they make available the Trinity Site and McDonald ranch house (where the core of The Gadget was assembled prior to being loaded into the device and hoisted atop the 100-foot tower). The ride started at the Stallion Gate on the north end of the Missile Range, and takes a 50-mile circuit, including the Trinity Site itself. I was totally unprepared for that ride in the sense that I didn't do any special training, but did fine.

I think it was me getting into motor scooters, then motorcycles, in the early 2000s that tore me away from bikes. The recumbent sat dormant, then I had my brother store it in his garage. A few years later we got these Townie cruiser bikes. They're 21-speed, not a true single-speed cruiser. My wife's has wider tires, fenders and a front shock, so it's heavy; while mine has no suspension, thinner 700cc tires and is lighter and faster. They're both comfortable to ride, but not as comfortable as the recumbent.

Several years ago a pile of clutter in my brother's garage fell over onto the Bike E and broke the seat bracket. The bike is no longer being manufactured, but I need to see if I can find a replacement after-market (or used on eBay) seat bracket and see if I can fix it up. I'd love to go recumbent riding again.

I've been enjoying writing on this French-made Hermes 3000.

Hermes 3000 at Sandia Foothills

Here's what a black Bike E AT looks like (below). It's not a true recumbent, the riding position is more semi-recumbent (the pedals being lower than the seat), but I found it ideal for city riding, as it was easy to set a foot down at a traffic stop, even with clip-on pedals; and it's not as low to the ground as a recumbent trike; although I'd love to have one of those. At that time in the late 1990s the Bike E was the best-selling recumbent brand.

The valid criticism of recumbents is they're harder to climb hills than conventional diamond-frame bikes. You can't stand up on the pedals. The trick with the recumbent riding position is to gear down and spin faster. Hill climbing on a recumbent is more of a cardio workout than a leg muscle thing. But they do have an advantage when going downhill in terms of aerodynamics. I've ridden the Bike E at frightfully fast downhill speeds, even with its tires being wider than those of an ultra-thin wedgie racing bike. The thing about recumbents is that they make the journey as important as the destination, especially important if you have degenerative arthritis and don't want to put a lot of force and vibration on your hands and wrists.

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Monday, May 11, 2020

The Thing Transformed

The Thing — Paper roll note-taking holder, latest version.
The Thing Transformed

No, the thermal Sharp PA-1050 typewriter prints lines just fine. I'm using the iPhone's panorama mode to scan this over-24-inch-long piece, and handholding it as I move it causes these wonky artifacts. I need to make a dolly that moves the iPhone smoothly across the tabletop. Also, maybe less coffee?

The Thing — Paper roll note-taking holder, latest version.

Side view (above). Note the narrow gap between the main plate and bottom, where the paper feeds under the unit from the supply spool in back to the writing surface and take-up spool up front. The supply spool free-wheels on the aluminum rod, whereas the take-up spool is driven by turning the wing nut. Note the half-round dowels at the front and rear edges for the paper to make a smoother bend around.

The Thing — Paper roll note-taking holder, latest version.

Underside (above). Note the access holes for feeding a fresh roll of paper. And the non-slip rubber pads.

Kitchen Paper Roll Note-Taker

For reference (above) is the note-taking roll holder I made for my wife. Simple design, the roll free-wheels on the aluminum tube. The thin brass rod is for the paper to roll underneath. Note the brass plate that serves to keep the paper flat while providing for a tear-edge. The version I made for my sister-in-law is very much the same. To replace the paper, the aluminum tube is pressed out with a pen cap, and fits snuggly into the holes drilled in the side brackets.

Let's get back my comment above, about using the iPhone's panorama mode for "scanning" this long piece, thermally-typed on a roll of fax paper. Panorama mode is intended for the user to hold the phone vertically in portrait orientation and slowly rotate around a scene; the phone's software stitches together a mega-sized image, much larger in pixel size than the native camera could achieve on its own. In fact, a standard flatbed scanner would also be of little use for these long sheets of paper.

In use as a makeshift scanner, I'm instead moving the phone in a line along the length of the scroll of paper. In order to have a distortion-free image I need to move the phone at a constant speed, without it tilting up, down or sideways. And, in order to achieve even exposure along the length of the paper, I need to lay it on my video table with lights ablaze. For this shot I clipped the paper sideways to a board and tilted it at an angle toward the phone; the phone in portrait orientation needed to be pointing down at an angle perpendicular to the paper, then be moved smoothly along its length at a constant speed without changing the angle. Not easy to do. In the future I need a fixture to help me do this better.

I'm one for the "elegant solution". Yes, I could cobble together a stepper-motor-and-Arduino system for moving a motorized dolly across the tabletop, or buy a video slider system, but I'm thinking of an elegantly simpler solution. First is a smooth surface that runs the width of the table, say made from spare hardwood flooring panels that happen to be in my storage shed. Next is a wheeled dolly to mount the phone onto via an adjustable ball-head mount. Then a thin wire (or string) that runs from the front of the dolly to a pulley at the side of the table, attached to the end of the string being a heavy weight, that pulls the dolly forward as the weight falls. To achieve constant speed another string is attached to the back of the dolly, around another pulley and onto a weathervane-style rotor. As the weight pulls the dolly, the weathervane rotor spins fast. Because of air resistance, the rotor can only spin at a constant speed, which helps to regulate the speed of the dolly's movement.

I first saw this method used in a Panasonic (Technics) cassette deck, back in the 1980s. Most cassette decks that had a slow-opening lid used a plastic dashpot (a cylinder and piston arrangement with a calibrated air hole) lubricated by synthetic grease, that made the lid, operated by a spring, open slowly - until the grease hardened or the rubber o-ring wore out, which was frequent. In the Technics deck, they use a draw spring attached to the door that wound around a shaft, like a windlass, that turned a 4-vane brass whirligig. The speed of the door was regulated automatically by the air friction of the whirligig spinning. I thought it was an elegant solution that proved to be much more reliable than the plastic cylinder and grease method used by other brands.

Or, another strategy might be to put a few extra lines every 11 or so inches, and photograph the scroll in sections; but that would involve preplanning, and I'm much better with spontaneity.

PS: What's all them numbers written on the paper roll? That's the subject of another blog article!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2020


Silent-Super on Holiday (Case)

With the Silent-Super attached to the lower half of the holiday case but the top half removed using its quick-disconnect feature, it sat comfortably in my lap for some relaxing springtime afternoon meditative typing onto Southworth linen paper. Normally this would be a task ideally suited for an ultra-portable, but I like the elite typeface of this machine, and its richly dark imprint.

It was recently pointed out to me that the backspace key, although being virtually the same color, isn't the same shape as the others. It must have been replaced at some time in the past, probably by a typewriter shop. Which implies that it's gone through two rough periods during its existence, followed by some restoration. A broken or missing key cap is a sign of some rough use, and I'm certain the shop, whomever it was, wouldn't have returned it to its owner without being fully serviced.

When I acquired it just a few years ago it was again in poor shape, extremely dirty and exuding a foul odor. It took me months to clean, degrease and adjust to good working order, during which time I spent countless hours typing stream-of-consciousness drivel, in an attempt to suss out an intermittent skipping problem. Not only did that process result in the problem being resolved, but it taught me the power of the typewriter to draw out from me inner thoughts that would otherwise remain hidden.

I learned to love the elite typeface with its efficient use of space on a half-sized sheet of paper.

Subsequent to the work I put into it, I sent off the platen, feed rollers and paper bale rollers to JJ Short & Sons, to be covered in fresh rubber. The result is like a virtual time machine, like I've travelled back to 1957, the year of my birth -- and this machine's, too.

These semi-portables sport sufficient features to function as an office machine, yet are small and light enough to lug around, should the need arise. No, they're not as nimble as an ultra-portable, but they perform better in most respects. Were I to downsize further my collection this, and an ultra-portable like the Hermes Rocket or Royal Mercury, could serve admirably as a collection of two.

Every time I sit down and rest my fingers on its keys I'm reminded of the power of rehabilitation, of second (and sometimes third) chances. Don't ever think for a minute that there's no hope. Just plug away and keep doing the work.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Notes From Safari

Smith-Corona Silent
Notes From Safari

TJ is a school teacher in Los Alamos, and I have his typewriter, an early-1950's Smith-Corona Silent. It used to be mine, until I sold it to him (or, more precisely, his school system) for use in his classroom. Sometime last year he told me some of the key levers had been bent, by overly-eager (I'm assuming) students. TJ was able to drop the machine off to me for repairs later in the year, during one of our Sunday ABQwerty Type Writer Society meetings. I easily managed to put the key levers back into good order, but since then it's been difficult arranging for TJ to pick up the machine. And now, with everyone (supposedly) in lock-down it'll have to remain with me for a while longer.

But today I decided to set the machine on my workbench and test it out, to make sure there were no other nagging issues. It does type very well, no mechanical issues of note, even the ribbon is sufficiently fresh. And I'd forgotten how much I like the typeface. But I needed a piece of paper to test-type with, so I grabbed an instruction sheet from a pile of clutter on the bench, for a safari rack that me and my grandson had installed earlier this week on his truck, and I was sufficiently inspired by the word "safari" in the instructions to hurriedly compose this vignette on the reverse side. Afterward, I read it to my wife, and she was sufficiently impressed that she's now encouraging me to continue this story in installments.

No, I don't really know if you can weld broken steel in the bush with a makeshift thermite furnace, but hey, a little exaggeration never hurts! And don't go four-wheeling with that Smith guy, he'll get you in more trouble than you can shake a stick at.

The other day I'd felt sufficiently cinematic (is that a real feeling?) that I wanted to record some B-roll black & white video on my Lumix G7 with one of my Minolta MD lenses. It was snowing lightly, a rather rare occurrence in April (though our mile-high altitude doesn't preclude such an event) and the inclement weather was rather inspiring, since sunny days are rather commonplace. For adapting manual focus lenses to my digital camera I'd already been using the 7Artisans 25mm F/1.9 lens and the Minolta MD 50 F/1.7 at various times, but had never given the 58mm Rokkor lens a real test. After some test shots around my office and outdoors, I decided that the 58mm was at least as sharp as the 50. Naturally I'd need to reduce the light incoming to the sensor if I hoped to use the lens wide open at F/1.2, so I put on a variable ND filter, after futzing around with finding the proper adapter rings.

LUMIX G7 with Minolta Rokkor MD-X 58mm F/1.2 lens

By itself the Panasonic G7 isn't that big of a camera, but with that big 58mm lens and even wider ND filter hanging off the front it's rather sizable. But it has a reassuring heft, and the haptics are about perfect for manual focusing, since the G7 has focus peaking and the G-series cameras pioneered the "tilty-flippy" screens (that other manufacturers pretend these days they invented), that makes these cameras so convenient to use.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was creating a motivational video on creativity and writing during this unsettled period. I thought the B-roll intervals between shots worked pretty well for the video.

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Friday, April 10, 2020

Mini Zines & Portraits

Three Mini Zines
“Mini Zines & Portraits”

Here's one of the zines for your entertainment (I hope):

Tips mini zine
Front Cover

Tips mini zine
Pages 1 & 2

Tips mini zine
Pages 3 & 4

Tips mini zine
Pages 5 & 6

Tips mini zine
Back cover

Here's Kleon's blog article of those 30 zines he's made. Click on each link in his article to view each zine in its entirety. They're seriously inspiring if you have any creative urge and time on your hands (I suspect you have both!)

And here's an hour-long Creative Live session where Austin makes a zine from scratch.

And the contact print I made of Andrea:

Andrea in sun hat.

This portrait/printing session was taken after I'd finished the latest changes to the Dark Box Camera, described in this video:

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Monday, April 06, 2020

Pens, Inks & Box Cameras


Here's the new handmade notebook, waiting in the wings to be used.


I typed this piece on Southworth Ivory Linen business paper, and do like the texture. The elite-sized typeface of this Silent-Super comes through nicely, it's sporting a Speedy Inks ribbon and all new rubber.

Here's the video about the Pilot pen and ink:

Here's the video about the Dark Box Camera project:

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Thermal Correcting Chads?

Concept Sketch for thermal typewriter correction chads.
(Click to embiggen)

After using a number of thermal typewriters, even the ones with convenient editing features and an LCD, eventually I make typographical errors. The first few times this happened I by habit reached for the correction tape dispenser, rolled over the error and discovered that correction tape isn't thermally sensitive. Duh!

Since then, whenever I find a typo with a thermal machine I'll cover it with correction tape and hand-write the correct character in its place at a later time. It helps to use a black pen of the appropriate line weight, so as to match closely the original thermal printing. This method has stood me in good stead, but the thought still nagged at the back of my mind, wouldn't it be nice if someone made thermally-sensitive correction tape?

Recently I watch a video by Gregory of The Poor Typist YouTube channel, where he reviewed a Brother EP-5 thermal machine. This looks like one of the later thermal machines Brother made, and lacks an LCD entirely. It also functions more like a standard typewriter, in the sense that it has a correction feature, along with the now out-of-date ribbon cartridges that print thermally onto regular paper. It got me thinking that with this machine Brother was trying hard to entirely conceal the thermal nature of the machine. Of course, all thermal typewriters originally used cartridges for transferring the printing onto regular paper, but some of them did mention in the owners manual that thermal paper could be used as an option.

Since I've lately been embracing a sketch book for documenting ideas, even before I'd finished watching Gregory's video I already had ideas in mind for how one might make thermal correction tape. The latest idea is documented in the wild sketch seen at the top. I tried it out today and it does work, though the method is more fiddly than the convenience of roll-on correction cartridges.

First, cut a piece of wax paper, the kind you may find in your kitchen drawer, several inches long. Then you'll need a roll of Scotch-brand double-sided adhesive tape. Mine comes in a yellow-colored dispenser. Tear off a few inches and tape it down to the middle of the wax paper.

Next, cut a piece of thermal printing paper the same size as the double-sided tape, and fix it to the tape, thermal printing side up. Neatness counts. You can tell which side is thermally sensitive by applying pressure from a sharp object, the thermal side will make a faint gray mark.

Now trim the wax paper down so it's the same length as the thermal strip, but twice or more as wide. You'll have a rectangle of wax paper where one half is covered by the thermal paper and the other bare wax paper.

You can either use it like this, or go ahead and cut the paper into letter-width pieces and store them in a handy container, like a 35mm film canister. Each piece (or chad) will be a little rectangle of wax paper, with roughly half of it covered in thermal paper.

To use these thermal correction chads you first need to figure out how to advance the paper in your thermal typewriter by even amounts so you can raise the errant typing up to the paper table on your machine, to gain easy access for applying the correction chad. Most thermal machines have paper up/down buttons that move the paper in 1/2 line increments. Other machines may have a ratcheting platen knob that also moves the paper 1/2 line at a time. Make sure you count how many vertical steps you've made, so you can return the line to the printing position.

Then use a thin, sharp tool like a small knife blade and carefully peel the chad off the wax paper backing and apply it over the errant character, then press into place. It'll look like the makings of a ransom note!

Then return the paper to its previous line position via the paper down buttons or ratcheting platen knob. Make sure you remembered how many half-line increments to move it. On the two machines I tested (the Canon Typestar 4 and the Brother EP-43) I had to move the paper about 7 half-lines to get the error to a convenient position.

If you've been typing in auto-carriage return or line-by-line mode, you'll want to switch the mode to the character-by-character mode, so you can move the print position back to the chad and make your correction. You may have to refer to the owners manual (if you have one) on how to do this, as it varies with models and brands.

Thermal typewriter correction chad

In the above example, I've covered a letter and overtyped it thermally. You can see I didn't place the chad exactly square, so I had to retype its neighboring letter again.

If you keep the entire strip of correction paper intact, you can cut out larger sizes to cover up entire words, but you'll need to remember to bring scissors with you. This indeed begins to look like a ransom note after all!

If you have any other ideas to improve this method, I'd love to hear them. Just leave a comment below - if Blogger permits it, that is!

Happy thermal correcting!

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

How is Everyone?


Using your time well implies always having something to do -- or does it? Perhaps in order to maintain a healthy mindset we must also schedule time to do nothing -- or nothing specific. Goofing off is a form of adult play, and play is absolutely essential.

This implies a schedule -- of activities and also free time, undefined.

I have some things to do this weekend. There's my Afghan Box Camera project, it needs a new paper safe and an internal battery-powered light source for contact printing. Then it needs to be put to practice, to see if these "up-" grades do indeed go the right direction.

I also have an urge to create at least several videos. I want to do a typewriter-themed video, and also something more like a video poem or essay, something less categorical.

Just in the time it's taken me to craft this article, I've been helping my grandson set up his new GoPro kit for vlogging, showing him the best settings for his camera, tips on battery usage, etc. I've also been giving him tips about framing his shots in terms of both composition and timing; giving enough space on both ends of the clip for editing, while ensuring he has just the right amount of headroom in his selfie-shots. But the real learning curve for him will in be the editing, it's an entirely other kind of skillset from videography. But I think he'll have fun with it, and perhaps all those films he's seen will inform his movie-making.

The notebook shot above was after I'd visited Ethan Moses last week and we put his new paper trimmer to work. It will cut a phonebook's worth of paper in one swipe, so will be great for making professionally finished notebooks like this one, my first hand-stitched book, that now is almost too precious to use -- but use it I will, as soon as I finish my little stapled version, that is.

I try to start these articles with an opening image that somehow relates to the subject matter. I'm not sure this one does, unless you dive deep enough into your inner psychology. I'll leave it up to you to figure out. In the meanwhile, stay well and take care.

Typecast via Brother EP-43 thermal typewriter.