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 It also functions more like a standard typewriter, in the sense that it has a correction feature, along with the now out-of-date ribbon cartridges that print thermally onto regular paper.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.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

On Notebooks

1930 Underwood Portable & Stitch-Bound Notebook
I have a box full of these typewriter-themed note cards, which would make good covers for more handmade notebooks. This also gives me incentive for collecting notecards and other printed ephemera for use as cover art for notebooks.

It's not difficult to see the photographic possibilities intrinsic to typewriter-themed notebooks when combined with old typewriters.


Regarding the handmade notebook, it has 100 pages, a nice size for extended usage. The paper has a nice weight and finish, good for gel and fountain pens. After my frustration with yesterday's assembly process, mainly due to fumbling with the hand stitching process, I was rather pleased with the results. Still, there's room for improvement.

I keep the 1930 Underwood Portable on a small table in our patio room, handy for some quick grab-and-go writing on the front porch. This old machine has a great feeling action to the keys, and seems to be very reliable, aside from the occasional wonky ribbon advance when it gets near one end of the ribbon, which is why, when I'm actually writing with it, I remove the two ribbon spool covers (that have the nifty "UT" logo etched into them) so I can monitor the ribbon motion as I type. I've noticed in many old photos of writers with their typewriters, they often operated the machines with the ribbon covers removed. I recall seeing a more recent photo of Woody Allen at his Olympia, which he apparently still uses for writing, sans ribbon cover.


My intention this afternoon was to just sit in the front patio, type a blog article and smoke a cigar. Then I began to admire the typewriter together with the notebook, and soon the shutter bug in me got busy. I wonder if these beautiful old machines were designed to be this attractive, or is it merely an artifact of distance in time, the effect of nostalgia? I suppose there are some people who are attracted to the beige and grey boxes of 1980's computers with their minimalist modern styling, but they don't, in my opinion, hold a candle to an old typewriter.

Typecast via Underwood Portable onto Clairefontaine Triomphe paper.

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