Monday, November 29, 2010

The Right Tool

It's late fall. At my school that's the right time of year for Sophomores to be seeking letters of recommendation for the ACE program. The ACE program is run by the Maricopa County Community College system. The ACE program allows high school students the opprotunity to take college courses on the weekends and during the summer. The credits earned are usally transferrable to any of the major in-state universities (UofA, ASU, NAU). If a student sticks with the program it is possible to earn around 20 credits. That means that a stuudent could enter with most, if not all, of their Frosh year done. It's a wonderful program and I have been working like a madman to finish all the letters of reommendation.

The messenger of the writing gods.
The nice thing is that the LORs are fill-ins. I don't have to write a full-blown letter. That comes after Christmas holiday when the Juniors start making their plans. The perfect machine for filling in forms has to be my Hermes 3000. The transparent line guides make this task simple. I have a devil of a time filling in lines on my desktop HH. The line guide makes all the difference. The greatest boon, however, has to be the typeface. Petit-Pica is short enough to fit on form lines, while still being easy to read.

Initially, I was resistant to the Hermes. The action felt, for lack of a better word, mushy. Everything I read said that this typewriter was the choice of choice writers. I just couldn't see it. It took me a little while, but I have come around. I really like my Royals; especially my HH standard and late 40s QDL. But, when I need a very good portable the Hermes is the one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Typewriter from the Portugese

My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes
God set between His After and Before,
And strike up and strike off the general roar
Of the rushing world a melody that floats
In a serene air purely. Antidotes
Of medicated music, answering for
Mankind's forlornest uses, thou canst pour
From thence into their ears. God's will devotes
Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine.
How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for most use?
A hope, to sing by gladly? or a fine
Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse?
A shade, in which to sing---of palm or pine?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Typewriters of the 60s and 70s from Holland or Portugal or England, while perfectly lovely machines, seem hollow and empty. They don't have the soul of the earlier ones made in the US or Germany or Switzerland. They represent the last throws of the typewriter industry. Every one stamped out in Mem Martins was a mere shadowy wraith of the Olivers, Quiet Deluxes, Silents that came before. They are a developmental graveyard where every advancement is a gimmick; typebar de-jammers, interchangeable type elements, 3 garish colors. Every one produced is a dollar sign; make money rather than make machines. That's why I like to have them around. These typewriters are the Praetorian guard whispering "Remember, the old replaces the new." They keep it grounded.

No, not that Newport.
My grandfather, who recently moved to the Valley, is a garage sale maven. He has been making the rounds and found this lovely beast for the kids. It came in the largest typewriter case I had ever seen. It was more like an piece of luggage.

How does it type? Well, its much like putting a metal plate on the ground and beating it with a ball-peen hammer. It does have a light carriage return and one of those neat key de-jammers. It is a carriage shift machine. I have remarkably few carriage shift machines in the collection and the Skyriter is the only other one. I can see why on that machine, but a CS on something so large is strange. Also, the shift key on the right-hand side is better than the shift on the left-hand side. Left shift works well. Right shift offers some wacky alignment. The carriage doesn't seat well when you use the right shift. I'll have to do a little adjusting for it to be perfect.

Are you hungry for some guacamole?
I read, via Will Davis' site that, this Sears Newport is really an Messa (as in our production is a mess-a). The same machine could be had from Royal, Brother or ABC with minor variations in color. While it may not be as classy as a '38 Corona Sterling, it is an honest typewriter that will now be put to work.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cheap. Cheap! Cheap?

If you have more than one typewriter that is in need of a ribbon you could always take 1/2 the ribbon from a spool and put it on a spare. Like magic I can make one typewriter into two. Being a teacher makes you a little creative with money...and apparently typewriter ribbons.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Final Assembly

Tonight while watching some television, I finished assembling the panels on the newly painted and freshly platen-ed Travel-Riter.


It wasn't the biggest project, but it was a lot of fun. All I need to do now is wait for the paint to cure. This should take at least a week. Until then I need to be carful and avoid scratching the finish. The hammerite type paint worked very well and is very shiny.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coin Operated Typewriters

My Sophomore classes are reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In the Afterword Bradbury describes how he considers F.451 a dime-novel. It cost him $9.80 in dimes to write at a coin-operated Remington or Underwood. He needed a place to type and the basement of UCLA's library prevented him from wanting to play with his children rather than working on his novel. He indicates that the time constraint really helped him write. Sounds like the NaNoWriMo challenge many people are working on this month.

This started me thinking about coin-operated typewriters. At 30, I am not remarkably old, but I do have a memory of coin-op typewriters at ASU. They were in an alcove on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the stacks. There were about 3-4 IBM Selectrics (the early ones, not IIs) ready for students to use. At the time I think it was a quarter for a half-hour of use.

I called the Hayden Library to ask whether the typewriters were still there, or if they had been taken out. I was saddened to hear that they were removed (or moved) some time after 2004. I put a call into the facilities manager for the library to see if they had just been moved or were completely removed. Knowing ASU as I do, they are probably in some closet gathering dust.

I wonder if there are any still in existence?

On another note, I came across this very interesting video by Bill Hammack on how the A/D converter (the whiffletree or whippletree) in an IBM Selectric works. Even though Selectrics are not my particular brand of crazy, I have seen so many of the type elements for sale (esp. script).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend Project

Between all the regular things you do on the weekend, I began to paint the Remington Travel-Riter that I found. The surface of the old machine was rusty and very ugly. The platen was fossilized. I had it in my mind that this would be an easy project. The first challenge to that notion was the platen.

The first problem was removing the platen. The platen on this typewriter was clearly never intended to be removed by human hands. Bolts, nuts, weird compression-fit line ratchets all met to foil the work. The biggest hurtle to disassembly was a steel rod that extended the entire length of the platen. To remove it I had to take a pair of pliers and wiggle it loose. That took some time.

The dumbest idea was that I could find a suitable replacement for the platen rubber from something around town. I struck on the idea that auto heater tubing might be good. It's made from real rubber and I figured that it would be inexpensive. I went to Checker and asked the clerk if he had something that fit the bill. The tube that they did have fit on the inside diameter, but the outside diameter is a hair larger than the original platen diameter. At the time I thought it wouldn't be a problem. It would later be a problem.

Trying to feed the tube over the platen was a challenge. I won't give you the boring details, but an hour of work let to a newly shod platen and a broken line advancement ratchet. It was attached to the end of the platen via a compression fitting. I popped it off and had to re-attach it. It ended up being alright. When I reinstalled the platen, the size was a little larger than before, so things were too tight. I had to adjust the feed roller and the paper release lever so it would work. After fiddling for a while it seems to be working well. Or at least well enough for me.

The most exciting part was the painting. I hemmed over what color. I wanted something green, but I was concerned over my painting ability. When I was at Ace I noticed that Rust-Oleum had a Hammerite finish paint in colors. Hammer finish paint really hides irregular substrates and has a very glossy surface. The green color was perfect. I followed the instructions and here is how it turned out.


The hammer finish is a look. I like it. I know some people would prefer it to be a mirror finish or something smoother. It says 1950s to me so, it stays. I have quite a few more panels to paint and I will be finishing those over the course of the next few days. When it's all done I'll have a newly painted Travel-Riter.


Friday, November 12, 2010


The process of fixing the Silent's linkage was surprisingly easy. Nothing was really bent. One of the junctions where one part of the linkage connects to another worked loose. I looked at the other linkage connections to see how this one was connected. Five minutes later we were in business. I am always surprised with how easy it is to tinker with a typewriter. I know that the professionals would rather you leave it to them. That makes sense if you are not the least bit handy. If you are...go for it! The Adler was pretty easy. The SC Sterling was a piece of cake. This Silent was no problem. If you know how they work or can imagine the pieces fitting together, they are no more scary to fix than anything else.