Sunday, September 17, 2023

Looking a Gift Typewriter in the Mouth

I now have a handful of 5-series Smith-Coronae, they're solid, reliable machines that're straight forward to work on and also work well as threshing machines for the uninitiated public to use during Type-Ins. I'd say they're my favorite brand for just that use. I also like how if you have one with a JJ Short-resurfaced platen you can easily swap it to another 5-series machine, which I've done here, including swapping the righthand platen knobs, just to keep the colors consistent; I anticipate using this machine more in the near future than the Silent-Super ex-hippie typer that I otherwise love (just because of the letter-writing potential of vertical script).

This month I've added five (!) machines to my collection. Surprisingly, my ever-patient wife isn't even upset, as she's taken more of an active interest in our fledgling typewriter group and sees these extra machines as ones that can be used for public Type-In events, saving the wear and tear on my more rare or fragile pieces. Having an understanding partner makes being a typewriter nerd so much better. In fact, it's worth swapping one, maybe two, Hermes 3000s for a good spouse, you won't regret it! (JK). I'll be making blog articles about the other machines soon (I've already covered the Singer Graduate here).

One final thought about this vertical script Silent is I don't think it got much use during its life, considering a script machine might only get used for personal letters, it's not the kind of type face you'd use to turn in an essay, for example.

Also, here's much more detailed info about the backstory to this type face, thanks to our friend Ted Munk.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Here's to You Mrs. Robinson

Here's the Samsonite suitcase, retrieved from my storage shed and once again repurposed as a typewriter case. I like this better than what would have been its original case, I have plenty of foam rubber inside to keep the machine from knocking about, and there's plenty of room for paper and accessories.

You might notice the "M" and "R" monograms, I don't know what these were originally for (perhaps the original owners?) but they appear very permanently attached.

Here's the unboxing video:

And here's the full review video:

Friday, September 01, 2023

Consul 232

There were more problems not mentioned above, like the margin rack and adjustment sliders were so corroded that they'd hardly move. I had to remove the rack and sliders, then cleaned and polished some pieces with metal polish to get them to move smoothly. It went on and on like this. I'd think it was fixed, then something else would crop up.

I remember times like these when, years ago, I repaired consumer electronics for a living. Some problems were dealt with easily, while others were a real struggle; but in the process of doing so it was also a learning period, gaining new skills and technical insights, or merely how to deal patiently with stressful situations.

As I alluded to in the typewritten piece, if a person had to do this for a living, today, in 2023 and going forward, the challenge would be these small portables that were never intended to work as well as a better-built, larger machine, yet are the kinds of machines that attract newcomers to the hobby. They want their small portable to be like their iPad or laptop computer: go anywhere and expect it to perform flawlessly. These machines often take more time to service properly than a bigger, better-built design.

Still, it was a fun experience, and the little typer works. It's been restored to service. One more obsolete typewriter is now back in business. Type on!

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

ABQ Box Camera Testing in the Park

I've been interested in the "Afghan Box Camera," also known as the "Cuban Polaroid," the "Kamra-e-Faoree" (Instant camera in the Farsi dielect of Dari), and just "Box Camera Photography" by Lukas Birk (a notable proponent of this form of picture-making), that uses light-sensitive photo print paper exposed and developed in a large box-like camera.

I built my first version almost a decade ago, and dabbled with it intermittently. The traditional version uses trays of conventional paper developer & fixer in the box, after the exposure, to produce a paper negative; then the negative is placed on an easel in front of the camera and rephotographed, the result being a positive print. In my first version, I was using grade 2 RC paper for the negative and multigrade paper for the print, aided by darkroom contrast filters over the lens to fine tune the finished print's contrast. Having only one paper safe box, it was a trick to manage selecting the correct paper just by feel, while not fogging the paper with light or ruining it with wet fingers.

Always a sketcher and tinkerer, I eventually rethought the layout of the device and envisioned a more vertical configuration, more like a PC tower computer box in shape, with the lens, focus screen and rails in the top third, arm sleeve in the middle, and vertical slot tanks and paper safe in the bottom. After I met Ethan Moses, who runs Cameradactyl Cameras, I eventually introduced him to this idea and he got interested enough to design his own laser-cut plywood kit version. Last year he cut me a kit and I constructed it into a finished prototype. I made a four-part series of camera build videos, here, here, here and here.

Here's one of the lenses I used with this camera, harvested from a Speed Graphic and rejuvenated with lighter fluid and alcohol:

The view through the rear door used for setting focus on the subject:

The focus screen and paper holder slide fore- and -aft on ballbearing rods, with the exact position of focus set with a metal clip on one of the rods. After focus, the lens is closed, all the doors closed and the holder pushed to the front so it can be loaded with paper from the paper safe. After loading, the holder is pulled back to the focus position, found by means of the metal clip on the focus rod, and the exposure is ready to be made.

Last week, Ethan and I met at Laurel Circle Park in the Ridgecrest Neighborhood in ABQ, along with members of the NM Film Photographers, to try out our ABQ Box Cameras (our nifty name for this novel design) on club members and the general public.

While the traditional version is a "positive/negative" process, requiring the making of a negative first, then rephotographing via an easel in front of the lens to make a positive print, Ethan and I wanted to try this new camera with the more recent citric acid/peroxide reversal process. As such, Ethan didn't design his kit camera with a front easel for making positive prints from negatives; instead, it was designed from the beginning to use either a reversal process or Harman Direct Positive paper.

Since I hadn't used the camera since last year, some testing and refamiliarization was needed, and so I conducted a test run the week prior to our event. Shooting in harsh, direct sun, my first results were soot-and-chalk with few middle gray tones. This one was about the best I could manage that day, that also missed the sodium sulfite step, hence the brown stains:

This reversal process starts by exposing the photo paper at an amount greater than if you were making a paper negative; while with Arista Grade 2 paper I'd use ISO 12 for creating paper negatives, for this process the speed is much slower; I ended up using 1/2 second at F/5.6 in shaded summer daylight. The paper is developed in standard paper developer (Dektol) for a minute or so; then I used a quick water rinse (to preserve the life of the next solution), followed by 3 minutes in a citric acid solution.

Here's a view inside the box, with the paper safe to the front, followed by developer, rinse and citric acid slot tanks:

The slot tanks are laser cut from acrylic plastic and solvent welded.

These steps (developer and citric acid) must be done under safe light or dark conditions, inside the box. The rest of the process can be done in normal light. The 1st developer creates a metallic silver negative image, while the citric acid acts as both a stop bath (due to its acidic pH) and also prepares the developed silver image to be dissolved by the peroxide.

For the remainder of the process I used my three-drawer cube stack, set up on a folding table in the comfortable shade of the park. The top drawer was 12% H2O2 (acquired at beauty supply shops), the middle drawer is a sodium sulfite solution (to prevent stains on the print) and the bottom tray is the 2nd developer (also Dektol):

Once removed from the camera, the image is very dark, appearing as if over-exposed. The print will begin to fizz in the peroxide, after a minute or so of agitation, as the etching starts, with bubbles beginning to evolve off the surface of the paper. Under indoor room lighting the print will eventually clear to nearly paper white, but under the strong UV of daylight, even under shade trees, the remaining undeveloped silver halides in the paper (which have a "virtual image contour" that's a negative of the original negative image) will begin to autodevelop simultaneously as the negative image is being dissolved off, creating a faint blue/gray positive image. Once the original negative image is fully etched away, the paper is briefly rinsed in water (we brought a large quantity of water for rinsing), then placed in a clearing solution of sodium sulfite, to prevent brown stains. After three minutes, another quick rinse and then the print is placed in the second developer, where it rapidly creates the finished positive image. This last step happens very quickly, and is the "magic" that is fun for the portrait subject to watch unfold.

After a few false starts in the park, struggling to find the correct exposure times under direct sun, I made this still too-bright print of Mike C.:

Then I moved the camera under the shade of the park's mature trees, and the results began to improve dramatically, with the image seen at the top of this article, the exposure being 1/2 second at F/5.6. Then I made several more, as the exposures remained consistent:



Like the traditional Box Camera Photographers of old, I'd like to continue to create these portraits in a public setting. Using the convenience of shaded daylight, at least in the warmer months, and exposure times less than a second long, it promises to be a novel way to create these one-of-a-kind portraits.

Ethan will soon begin to offer DIY kits, so you too can make your own version. I look forward to seeing what other people will do with this process.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

From When I Used to Be a Not Half-Bad Writer

6.23.2009 316a
A photo from our 2009 vacation to Southern California

I was perusing my old Flickr photos when I came across this typecast, made with my older Royal Mercury, while sitting on the beach in Oceanside, California. I was struck by my writing - I don't think I can write like this today, at least not without some effort. Being on vacation at the time, this did not require much effort. Not that this is world-shatteringly great prose, but there's something caught within these typewritten lines that speaks to the moment of what it was like in 2009 during our vacation.


Here's the machine I used, a 1972 Royal Mercury:
Photo taken at Stag Tobacconist when I used to frequently type in their cigar lounge

This machine is still in ABQ, now being cared for by a member of our fledgling ABQwerty Type Writer Society; I just received a letter from her this week, typed on this machine, and it looks like it's still going strong, though it needs a new ribbon, which I've promised to install.

Back to the typecast, I don't know what's happened, but writing like that doesn't come easily to me these days. Maybe it's because I'm involved now in much non-writing creativity, or maybe I simply don't write enough, like I once did, other than personal letters. Or maybe, back then, I was relatively new to this kind of writing and I didn't know any better, my mind wasn't clogged with conventions and presumptions and expectations or any other "ions." Maybe I should just sit down at the keys, and bleed.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Cherry Hills Library Type-In Review

(Poem by Monique Olivia, written during the recent Cherry Hills Type-In)

This poem's been sitting on my studio table for a few weeks. It was given to me by its author, Monique Olivia, who wrote it during the recent Type-In we had, here in ABQ, at a local library. I've been known to collect the so-called detritus of Type-Ins, missives or seemingly random words typed on scraps of paper, then left behind like dried leaves in the autumn. Some of it rings with a faint flicker of recognition, others are so juvenile or prurient as to be immediately cast off into the recycle bin. But gems like Monique's are special, hence the reason why I wanted to post it here.

(I can recognize this clever quip from a previous Type-In; yes, we have repeat attendees!)

I was trying to recognize the typeface of the machine Monique used to type her poem, I think it's the Corona Standard, but am not entirely certain.

(All the machines visible on these tables are from my collection. I made certain to include my two standards, the KMM and Underwood 5, both of which proved popular)

(This Olympia and custom painted dark blue Smith-Corona behind it are lovely to look at and type on)

(Here I'm showing a lady how to use her Royal Futura, with some fun stickers)

(This gal was very enthusiastic and was actively looking to see which kind of machine she'd like to get for herself)

(I was surprised at the enthusiasm of the young people. This young lady was very intent on mastering the art of typing, using a variety of machines)

(More enthusiastic typists)

(Even more enthusiasm)

(Old and young working together)

(I'm amazed at this young man's color coordination!)

(This was left for me as a gift by an unknown donor. This typing instruction manual is from 1952. I've been wanting one of these; thank you, whomever you are!)

I appreciate all the folks who attended, and am looking forward to our next event.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Rocker Tray Film Developing Tank Concept

(Rocker tray animated via bent map pin)

I'm constantly brainstorming ideas for camera and darkroom devices. Here's a recent example.

This page is from my Handi Desk journal: an animated concept for a tabletop sheet film/paper developing tank. The device sits on a table. Pour the chemicals (developer followed by stop bath followed by fixer) one-at-a-time into the top. The liquids flow through the light trap into the tray.

An axle connected to the tray protrudes through light seals in the sides of the device to a pair of knobs (not shown in the sketch), used to manually control the tray. Gently rock the tray via the knobs for the duration of the step.

Place the chemical bottle in the bottom, under the dump port, and then rotate the tray 90 degrees to empty its contents back into the bottle. Upright the tray to level. Repeat with the rest of the processing chemicals.

The top half of the device removes, to gain access for loading and unloading the film or paper.

The sheets of paper or film are loaded into the device while it's inside a large light-tight changing bag or tent; or alternatively, loaded in the darkroom, then brought out into the light for processing. This sketch is conceptual in nature, not representing a finished design. The main hinderance to functionality is the loading and unloading. To be used out in the field, such as on a folding table or from the back of a vehicle, a changing tent, at minimum, is required, to transfer the film or paper from sheet film holder to the tray.

I've found often that these kinds of conceptual sketches, rather than revealing new and innovative designs, instead prove why tried-and-true ideas are so worthwhile. In this case, a simple developing tank made for 4x5 film would work just as well, and be smaller in size and simpler in complexity. However, as a habitual sketcher, I find some solace in the notion that even dead-end designs deserve to be documented, if for no other reason than explaining why they shouldn't be pursued.

This concept may prove useful if included as part of an Afghan Box Camera, where the processing section is separated from the camera itself. Simply design this device inside a larger enclosure that has a pair of arm sleeves. Once the film or paper is loaded, processing can proceed in daylight.

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.