Wednesday, April 27, 2016

TWVS Episode 10 & Taking a Spill

This week's episode of the Typewriter Video Series covers the subject of fitting typewriters into a larger writing lifestyle, and especially with handwritten notes and rough drafts.

Meanwhile, the following blog article was inspired by a little incident last night involving my Webster XL-747 portable typewriter.


Post-Script: Certainly those Hermes and Olympias are more refined writing tools than the diminutive ultra-portables like the Webster. What matters most importantly to me are typing action and quality of imprint. While the Webster has a nice, dark imprint, its typing action was much stiffer than the bigger machines, yet I kept wanting to make it a favorite among my collection because of its small size, bright color and that it has the repeat spacer feature. Now, after last night's episode, I really do have a newfound respect for it. While those European models mentioned previously might be more refined, they would not have survived a drop to the floor without suffering extensive damage, I'm almost certain, if for no other reason than their heavier weight and, in the case of the newer body style of Hermes 3000, the extensive use of plastics in the body panels.

My enthused typing that followed was a watershed moment for me in my relationship with typewriters as writing tools. Never before had I experienced an excited, emotional period that also had with it an exuberant physical response. It was that more energetic typing action on my part that fueled my mind to break free from convention and write more spontaneously, almost conversationally. Since the letter was private, and has already been posted, I can't share it with you; but perhaps at some point in the future I'll get in the same frame of mind and post a typecast in the same vein.

While recording practice scenes in my Man Cave shed for this latest video, I happened upon the idea of writing sheds and their relationship with typewriters. This I think will be excellent subject matter for a future video in the series.

Typecast via Webster XL-747.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Jitters the Coronet, or Calligraphy with a Jackhammer


Post-Script: These hybrid typewriters are very interesting, for they serve to remind us of the best and worst things about manual typewriters. I have a Galaxy 12 very much like this electrified Coronet and of the same era, and while I'd consider the Galaxy as a medium sized typer, it still has all the attributes of what I like about manual machines, which is their relative quietness, and the subtle, personal, direct nature of their operation.

The electric Coronet and manual Galaxy 12, side-by-side

I can carry the Galaxy 12 virtually anywhere (its weight is not that bad, even in its case), set it up and be typing away, no electricity needed. In comparison, not only is the Coronet needing a power source, but it gets rather warm with just its motor idling. Then there's the BAM-BAM-BAM of each letter, and the KERTHWACK of the power return, reminding you - and anyone else in the vicinity - that this isn't some subtle, private writing going on. This is like calligraphy with a jackhammer. And did I mention its weight?

With a manual typewriter, one gets that analog experience, like how the quality of experience in driving a stick shift is dependent on one's feel for the clutch. With a manual typewriter, there's an infinite range of intermediate levels of force and speed one can apply to the keys. It's subtle and very personal, even with the largest machine. You feel as if your fingers are directly connected to the type slugs, which they literally are, mechanically speaking.

You don't begin to appreciate this until you try on one of these hybrid electrified manuals, like this here Coronet. The keys are Boolean: OFF/ON - BAM! No intermediate analog grayness here. Even when idle, the thing sits there and hums - HUMS! As if to remind you that every second counts, every second you spend not typing is wasted electricity and wear on the internal parts; that if you have something to say, just say it, don't beat around the bush. Shyte or get off the pot. You can't easily do first-draft writing on these machines, I feel. They're too impatient, like how dare I wake them up, just for me to sit here and think. Thinking should be done elsewhere. We have no time for thinking. This here's a tool for Captains of Industry, not beret-clad writers, smoking their Gallouis.


Yes, I'll admit that this Coronet makes a nice, dark impression on paper every time. And I'm a sucker for machines that make dark imprints. And it's fast. It'll go as fast as I can accurately touch-type, with hardly a glitch. But what's most awesome about this machine and others like it is that it really represents the first step away from manual typewriters and toward the computer; you can sense it. It's a genetic hybrid, like the very first proto-land animal that crawled out of the ocean onto some ancient beach, with its subtly enhanced fins. It's not there yet, but you can see where it's going. The Boolean nature of the keys is already present at the outset; it's power-hungry and demands to be tethered to some infrastructure; and it's already become a bit impersonal, just like the damned computer.

If you want to regain your lost love for even the lowliest manual typewriter in your collection, get one of these hybrid electrics and keep it around, just to remind yourself how nice a manual writing machine can be.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Nekkid-Riter Storage Box + More


Post-Script: Typecast via Hermes 3000 Nekkid-Riter. I wrote that last paragraph partly in jest, earlier today after having completed the storage box for the Nekkid-Riter. But later on, I decided to take a look at the electric Coronet Automatic 12. I used an old extension cord to replace its original power cord (that was spliced in two places, badly frayed and with an intermittent open near the plug). Upon powering it on, lo and behold it works! I spent the next hour or two cleaning, degreasing and lubricating. The insides are still not entirely clean, since I only hit the critical areas where debris and residue might affect the machine's operation, rather than spotlessly cleaning every surface.

The carriage rails were grinding, so a thorough cleaning, degreasing and re-oiling has smoothed it out nicely. I spent a lot of time cleaning the type slugs with alcohol, swabs and toothpicks, the result being that, with its new ribbon, it types very nicely. The body and storage case were filthy, so plenty of window cleaner, swabs and paper towels were consumed, but the results are enticing.

I'm not certain I like the chocolate-brown color, but I suppose it's less drab than that of my older Smith-Corona Silent. I was originally thinking about calling it the "Brown Streak," from its speedy operation and color, but my wife, in her wisdom, convinced me that this term might be misconstrued as being somewhat scatological. Yes, it's a fast typer; darned if I can't throw words on paper at a speedy clip. This is certainly an office workhorse machine, but it's rather loud; I can only imagine what an office of these machines sounded like, back in the mid-20th century. I suppose if the room were clouded in cigarette smoke (which they often were), it might dampen the racket. Actually, it's not quite as loud as my brother's Hermes 10 electric (that, you might recall, is on permanent loan to the Guild Cinema).

The rear, hinge-side of the case is badly rusted. It looks like it sat up on end in a wet environment. This is one of the few circumstances where I had no qualms about applying some WD-40, followed by a wire brush and plenty of paper towels. It's better than it was, certainly.

So, am I going to keep it? I suppose ... if someone were to twist my arm ... perhaps. I can imagine if, needing to put some high volume of words down on paper at a speedy clip, and the noise were no objection, having one electric typewriter wouldn't be so bad, especially one having the wide carriage and ergonomics of this series of SCM, and with a standard cloth ribbon. But that's it! No electric collection for me, no sir!

Here's a glamor shot of the new clan member. I still need a name for it, something combining its chocolate appearance with speedy operation. It does have that two-tone espresso/coffee look, so perhaps some caffeine-themed name would be appropriate. Jitters? Hmm ... I'll think more about it.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Typing Paper Musings


Post-Script: I'm certain that most every contemporary user of manual typewriters has some favored kind of paper, and can brag about its specific qualities. But until you've found, as I have, a pack of legacy-era "genuine" typing paper, in some thrift store perhaps, you don't know that most other kinds of paper pale in comparison. Know too that I'm not referring to "erasable bond" typing paper.

The typing papers I've found receive ribbon ink remarkably well; so well that they can transform an otherwise faint-printing machine into a bold typer - which thus serves to further reinforce my contention that the quality of paper is important to the typing experience.

These papers, while receiving ink so well, do so without being excessively thick or ragged. They appear thin and crisp, and thus roll through a typewriter's platen and rollers with ease.

I'm really surprised that quality typing paper has not received more attention from manufacturers looking for new niche markets to exploit. Imagine if film photographers enjoyed fondling their mechanical cameras but could care less what kind of film they used (read some posting on Rangefinder Forum, for example, and you'll see that photographers are a picky bunch). Most typists seem a bit more laid back, as if "whatever paper I find is okay with me" were the mantra.

Perhaps this serves as proof that typewriters are not as much a hipster affectation as we might expect, for if they were, we'd see a plethora of artisan-crafted typing papers to choose from. And that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

In the second photo, I've scanned the new Mead multipurpose paper, while below it is the lower half of the legacy Mead typing paper. Note the UPC code for both products differ only by one digit. If you search online for the new paper, most websites list results whose photos are actually of the older paper's label, which indicates to me that the product has only recently been re-branded.

The first page of the piece was typed using the newer Mead paper, while the second page was typed using the Strathmore Newsprint art paper. It's a bit more gray than the scan might indicate, but seems to take ribbon ink rather well; and its toothiness seems to actually keep the type slugs clean, so it has that going for it. The downsides are the cost, the gray color which makes it difficult to hide any corrections, and the size.

Typecast via Hermes 3000 Nekkid-Riter. The storage box is essentially complete, so I'll post an article next week about it.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

TWVS Episode 9 & More


Post-Script: I think the audio quality is the best part of my video productions thus far. But my video style is much too static. I keep seeing other You Tube channels with much more dynamic and spontaneous footage. For example, there's "Big Head Taco," a photographer from Vancouver, BC by the name of Take Kayo, who this week posted a nice video of himself walking around the streets of his city, recorded using a small mirrorless camera with wide-angle lens, held in one hand via a tripod ball-head mount, that lends a kind of spontaneity that my productions lack. Of course, it's hard to carry a video camera in one hand if you intend on discussing typewriters while also carrying a typewriter. But still, I do need to improve these videos and make them a bit more visually interesting. This latest video of mine did have some visual appeal only because of the wonderful setting, with birds flitting round about me while I talked.

I recently "upgraded" my home Internet with a faster DSL plan and also ordered a new router; but the new router had poorer range and coverage than the older router; the new one lacks external dipole antennas, which I think is part of the problem (the main problem being that the phone company is obviously trying to save money). I thought about returning it, but then did some Internet research and figured out how to use the old router, daisy-chained to the new one via a network cable, as a secondary hot spot, and now I have good coverage and speed at home, including in the Man Cave shed out back. Last night's video rendered and uploaded, via WiFi from the iPad, in only 45 minutes, which was much faster than before.

The storage box for the Nekkid-Riter is constructed in a similar fashion to many of my earlier pinhole camera designs, which is a space-frame made from 5/8" finish-grade poplar sticks, sheathed in thin luan plywood, with a base of heavier finish-grade oak plywood. It's a lightweight but strong design that's easy to execute. For the edges, where the plywood tended to flake and chip when cross-cut, I intend on installing 1/2" brass angle brackets, to cover the gaps and chips, while also giving it a bit more durability. I had to modify the space-frame design a bit, to permit the typewriter's platen knobs to clear the left and right side frame members when being slid in and out of the box; my intention was to make the box as small as possible while still being practical. I'm using folding metal equipment handles on both sides, that will also be convenient attachment points upon which to clip a carrying strap, should I decide to go mobile with the Nekkid-Riter. The typewriter's thick wooden base now has two 1/4-20 threaded inserts mounted underneath, which secures the typewriter in the case via a set of thumbscrews from the bottom side of the box. I'll post photos in a subsequent blog article after the project is complete.

Typecast via the Nekkid-Riter's more conservative sibling (who prefers to keep her clothes on, thank you very much), the blue Hermes 3000.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Behind the Curve


Post-Script: Bonus image of me wearing my sun hat:


The story of "Creepy Albertsons" is not about me necessarily disliking that particular chain of American grocery store. It's that this particular store has consistently lacked the upgrades necessary to keep it modern in appearance, while the staff who work the store are an interesting assortment of personalities, as are many of the patrons (like me, for example). The clerks who man the checkout lanes are especially unique and a story unto themselves. For example, there's the guy we call Blind Malcolm, who doesn't appear to wear glasses or contact lenses but has to hold any printed material to within inches of his face to see. He's also one of the slower clerks on staff, along with a short Asian lady, both of whose lanes we try to avoid if possible. This morning, my wife informed me that she finally found someone whose lane was slower than Blind Malcolm's! A new record in customer inattentiveness was set!

I recall late at night on a weekend, some years ago, the only customers in the store besides me were all dressed as goths. So anytime I'm bored and want some cheap entertainment, a short trip to Creepy Albertsons is in order.

This sounds like a first world problem; I should be grateful there are stores aplenty with shelves full of foodstuffs.

Photo via Fujifilm X10, typecast via Hermes 3000.

Errata: Fifth paragraph, "...that conduct..." should read "...than conduct..."

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Behold the Nekkid-Riter!


Post-Script: This project came out pretty well. The machine types great, and I love the style of type face. The storage/carrying box project will have to wait for next week at the earliest - unless I get ambitious.

I'm willing to accept differences in spelling the word "nekkid"; I've also seen "nekked." I like the first version because it renders the pronunciation more, um, "red of the neck."

We returned Friday evening from our pleasant Tucson vacation, and I have enough "film in the can" for two more episodes of the Typewriter Video Series. The latest is episode 8, embedded below. I was able to edit and upload episode 7 while we stayed at the Big Blue House B & B; their Internet connection is fast, enough such that it only took about 35 minutes to render and upload an 8-minute video, from the iPad.

I really do wish I could attend the upcoming Tucson Type-In, this summer; perhaps I can makes plans far enough in advance. Living here in New Mexico feels at times like being on the edge of nowhere; unless I get off my butt and do some planning, there'll probably never be an Albuquerque Type-In. Speaking of which, someone who's better-experienced at these should publish an online "How to Conduct Your Very Own Type-In" document, for us newcomers to the genre.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

TWVS Episode 7: Typing on the Road

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fixin' It Again


Post-Script: One of the things I mentioned several weeks or so ago, after servicing the blue Hermes 3000, was the possibility of leaving it as a "naked" or "chopped" typewriter. I've since reconsidered that idea, at least for the blue one, because I really do like the color of its body. However, consider this:


Ya' see that? Hold onto your hats! The fully-clothed blue Hermes is on the left; my small Corona 4 is on the right; while dead-center in the middle is this more recently acquired Hermes 3000, same body style and era as the blue one, but sans clothing. Now don'tcha go drooling all crazy-like over her pretty frame and intimate parts, because that would be unseemly, and this here's a family-oriented blog. But do notice this: how much more diminutive she looks when, er, less fully clad, dressed only in her birthday suit, so-to-speak like. Now imagine she was mounted (easy there, pardner...) to a nicely finished piece of fine hardwood as a base, not too big of a base, just enough to offer proper support ('cause a gal's gotta have support, you do understand?), but not so big as to make her appear more bulky than she really is, underneath all that fine 1970's-era plastic paneling.

Since I intend on keeping her chassis (and what a fine chassis it is...) exposed for at least a week, so as to verify all the bugs are ironed out before reinstalling the body panels (which doing so is tricky, and involves bending pieces that could easily, if done one too many times, break), this will give me some time to consider the "chopped" typewriter look as an alternative. If I do opt for this form of presentation, it would seem necessary to fashion some sort of custom plywood box to fit her in, when not in use, to keep her clean and also to provide for more convenient transport. Keep in mind that, other than the Corona 4, I don't normally display my typewriters; rather, I keep one or two out for actual use.

I'm thinking of a thin-walled plywood box that opens on the front end, permitting the chassis, still mounted to the base, to be slid inside and the base secured inside the box, with the front lid then latched close, with a carrying handle (or strong leather strap?) provided. Nothing too fancy, just basic, simple woodworking to give it a utilitarian appearance to go with the industrial look of the bare mechanical chassis.

You might have noticed that the quality of imprint, as seen in this typecast, has indeed improved since the last article; I now cannot find one fault with its operation, which is as it should be, given the fine engineering of these machines.

For those of you with queasy stomachs, I'd purposefully not mentioned in the previous article that some of the many "particulates" clogging the insides of this machine involved the residue of insects, and insect parts. Yes, I know, it sounds disgusting, which it is. But consider this: back in the 1980s, when I was a consumer electronics technician, I recall one time opening a VCR on my bench (I can still remember the brand and model number: a Mitsubishi HS-330R; that's how vivid it still is), and I immediately notice, along with the - ahem - "aroma," were "things" moving around inside the circuit boards and mechanical transport. Yes, it didn't take me too many microseconds to slap the cover back on and high-tail it out to the back porch of the shop, where we had an air compressor, and I commenced blowing out the little creepy-crawly insects. I can only imagine what the apartment looked like where this machine resided. But that was one of the more fun aspects of servicing consumer electronics; so in retrospect, this typewriter was rather tame by comparison.

Barring any unforeseen Internet connectivity issues, I should at the very least be able to blog from Tucson, but hope to also upload to YouTube another installment of the Typewriter Video Series.

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Friday, April 01, 2016

Brother From Another Mother?


Post-Script: Now that I'm on my work shift, I've let this newcomer to my collection sit out in my Man Cave shed for a few days, so the PB Blaster odor can dissipate a bit. I do like the way it cleaned up, considering how filthy it was on its insides. I suspect there's still just a bit of gunk still in the carriage rails, as there's just a bit of non-smooth, subtle grinding happening.

The type slugs cleaned up fine, but being as the typeface is small (elite), the loops in some of the characters, like the lowercase "e", tend to clog easily. This might be due to the ribbon, which is one of the two it came with. If this problem persists, I'll try changing the ribbon.

Beside the body color and typeface differences, the ribbon color selector only has an upper and lower position (along with the stencil setting), not the middle, yellow position like my blue machine. (I mean to say that the yellow setting doesn't move the ribbon into a unique, middle position. Perhaps an adjustment issue? Hmm.)

As I indicated in the typed piece, I don't yet know if this one stays or gets sold. I do really like the serif typeface, very elegant.

Now, onto a different topic. I'll be in Tucson, Arizona, this next week. I intend on taking a typewriter and video gear, with the intention of doing at least one Typewriter Video Series episode while on the road. Part of this depends on whether I can, in the next day or two, figure out how to transfer my .WAV sound files, from my digital field recorder, directly into the iPad. Up until now, I've had to use iTunes on my PC. But I understand that if a person installs the Garage Band app from Apple's store, it gives the ability to import such sound files directly to the iPad. Does anyone out there have any direct experience with this? Otherwise, my option will be to have to also take my laptop with me, onto which is installed iTunes.

Since I'm an old geezer who doesn't do Facetunes or Instablab, does anyone know of any typewriter or typosphere contacts in the Tucson area, who'd like to do an informal meetup? I'll be in town from Monday through Friday. If so, just email me.

Finally, I was pleased to have been mentioned on Rodja Pavlik's blog, here.

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