Friday, April 12, 2013

Handy for Mistakes

I was able to find a small stash of these around the house and I would love to make them available to anyone who would want one.  New old stock ready and able to fix whatever typing problems you have. 


Monday, April 8, 2013

Magic Margin at 100,000

It's with some pride that I to announce that Magic Margin's 100,000th page views. It's an occasion for me to pause and reflect on what has happened over the past few years. This site–and to a greater extent the Typosphere –has blossomed and become something far more rich, interesting, and vibrant than I could ever have imagined.

In the Typosphere there are people making new parts for their typewriter by using 3D printing technologies. There are people writing novels and poems and essays using a typewriters. There are people creating typewriter art, starting typewriter businesses, and spreading the typewriter good word to all points on the globe. There are movies and books and blogs all about typewriters

To share in the joy of the 100,000th page view and the vibrancy of the Typosphere, I have created a Magic Margin poster based on my logo by Nicole Ray. These 11"x17" posters are a very limited run; only 5 have been made and I want to give them away to the Typosphere.

As eager as I am to give things away to my friends, I ask for something in return. I want your thoughts and brainstorms. I want your prognostications and auguries. In the form of an essay, please.

As much as the insurrection has ignited the imagination of the world, I am curious if we can keep the revolution going? Can we create a permanent revolution in The Typosphere? What are the next steps the Typosphere should take to continue the momentum?
Responses don't need to be essays. My inner teacher took over. Your response can take the form of a blog post, a typecast, a vlog, typed essay, or any other creative genre. There is no minimum requirement as to length. Responses that answer the prompt will curry more favor with me, but that is not guaranteed. If you plan on responding via a blog or web site, write a comment to this post with a URL pointing to your project. Offline responses can be emailed to for consideration. I, of course, will accept something in the mail.

Every entry will be given two scores. One score is based on the Holistic 6-Traits ( and will garner a number from 1 to 6. The rubric is comprehensive and my evaluation will be equally precise. The second score will also range from 1 to 6; one being "meh" and 6 being "wow." Added together these two scores will be the final valuation. I will then rank the scores of all responses lowest to highest. The top 5 will get public praise and a poster. The remainders will also get something, but not nearly as awesome as the poster. In the event there is a tie, Mrs. Magic Margin (an exceptionally gifted Advanced Placement teacher) will break the tie.

All responses to the Magic Margin 100,000 Page View Celebration Contest must be submitted no later than 20th of April.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Clean as a Whistle

The Underwood Universal in my collection had some pretty sluggish type bar segments. I hadn't been able to get them as clean as they needed to be. As such, I had no idea how nice a feel this typewriter had until I was actually able to use it. 

What gummed up the segments was a mystery, but I got to talking to a gun fan about some of the products sportsmen use to keep their firearms clean. We talked back and forth about what factors would gum up a type bar segment. I argued that metal grit, old oil, and fouling from dust would be the main factors determining whether a type bar segment was sluggish.  With barely a moments hesitation he recommended:

Hoppe's No. 9 is a solvent used for cleaning gun bores. Lead, old powder, and other flotsam falls prey to the power of this kerosene-based cleaner which–to my eye–leaves very little residue. Using a skewer, I placed a few drops of this cleaner in the offending segment. I let it do its work and then came back to clean up what was leftover. I am not one for miracle products, but this stuff worked quite well. There was a black residue that worked its way to the surface of the segments. I wiped this away as it appeared and with time–and regular typing–I was able to get the segments as clean as they were off the line.

The difference between what was there and what came out is the difference between night and day. Lithe and responsive, the keyboard is a joy to use.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Corona Sterling #2A 50886

The work on this Corona Sterling Speedline began a while ago; nearly a year as as the original post ( would have it.

This burgundy beauty has been a challenge. The segments were filled with crud and I was able to get the stuff out with carburetor cleaner. I thought everything was fine, but every time I left it overnight the segments would freeze up again. PB blaster didn't help and I got the sinking suspicion that someone previously tried to unfreeze the segments with oil. The oil worked its way deep into the segment block and just would ooze out after I thought I cleaned it out. I eventually got tired of trying and decided to put the machine away and try again at another date.

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Typewriters came and went and I didn't get to this one. It wasn't until I started the restoration work–and subsequently was delayed–on the Underwood (see that I was reminded that I had this beautiful typewriter that needed to be finished. In fact, it was the picture of Tennessee Williams working on the same machine in black that jogged my memory and pushed me to finish it.
I pulled out the machine, found the body panels, and started to work. As I remembered, the segments were still stiff. I cleaned a bit more using alcohol to dissolve the remaining oil in the segment. So far, so good. The type bars are moving freely in the segment slots and there is no sign that the sluggishness will return.

Fully stocked with features, this is a great typewriter. The parallel action is good and the styling is top-notch. I like the Speedlines with crinkle paint, but the glossy ones are really quite svelte. I would prefer to have the black, but the more I look at the burgundy the more I like it. 

This example is a fairly early one coming from 1938 (as the tables tell me) in good shape. There is a small dent on the ribbon cover, but there isn't any chipping.

One thing unusual about Sterlings from this era is the inconsistent appearance of the paper bail. Some machines, like mine, have a bail. Others have fingers. I can't see a pattern whatsoever. I took a look at machines across the Internet and there was nothing leading to a conclusion.

The bail is a charming little device. When you pull the bail back you come to a stop. Wait a half a moment and the bail will move all the way back. It's a fun little addition.

Before I leave you and get to work on the Underwood, I wanted to offer a few more images of this sterling example of a typewriter:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Tennessee

From Wikipedia:
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III (March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983) was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short storiesnovelspoetryessaysscreenplays and a volume of memoirs. His professional career lasted from the mid-1930s until his death in 1983, and saw the creation of many plays that are regarded as classics of the American stage. Williams adapted much of his best known work for the cinema.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Crafting & Typewriter Tchotchkes

Like every typewriter collector I have a drawer filled with typewriter-related ephemera; extra spools, case keys, and ribbon tins. Most of the things in this drawer came as extras stuffed in portable cases. A few were gifts from people who know that I like old stuff. I like all of these things and I want to keep them, but displaying ribbon tins is tricky.

That's when I stumbled on this idea that is really simple for you to make at home. While I am sure that someone has thought of this before, I think my method has the added benefit of being very inexpensive.

First, you'll have to get a few things together.

  • Roll of adhesive magnetic sheeting ($9.90 for a 18" x 12" roll from Michael's)
  • A picture frame with a glass front no larger than the magnetic sheeting ($3.39 from Target)
  • Metal tchotchkes for display
  1. Take apart the frame by removing the backing and the glass. Do be careful with the glass edges. Depending on how inexpensive your frame it, the edges of the glass might be a little knife-like. Discard the superfluous paper printed with the ever-happy family or newlywed couple.
  2. Cut a piece of magnetic sheeting the same size as the glass.
  3. Clean the glass well and then peel the backing of the magnetic sheeting. Apply to the glass carefully avoiding any bubbles or stray bits of grit. 
  4. Reassemble the frame, but in such a way that the magnetic sheet is facing outward. The cutaway below shows what I mean: 

The magnetic sheet should be facing out, the glass under it, and the cardboard backing holding it all in. What you should get it a frame much like the one at the start of this post.

You can adhere keys, ribbon tins, and other interesting bits with ease. If I was more crafty I might have made the magnet facing more decorative, but I like the slat-like look. It would probably look really good in a natural wood frame, but I wanted to match an existing collection of similar frames.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


It was a dollar on eBay.

 Here is a radical/pi:

Shipping was free. Actually, shipping was a Forever stamp. So that's good.

We are all familiar with Smith-Corona's more popular changeable types, but here is Royal's version. It's not a changeable type as much as a changeable type bar. 

They look completely unused.

I don't have a typewriter that can use these, but I thought they were strange enough to hazard the bid. Further investigation led me to one small clue at the bottom of this advertisement from around 1956.

It reads:

Could these be the interchangeable type bars mentioned in the ad?

The logo on the case is the same that Royal used all through the McBee years especially on the Safari. I am guessing they are from the 50s or 60s. The "Select-A-Type" typeface makes me think 1950s.

My mind also started thinking about why you don't see more early electric typewriters around? In all these years I have maybe seen 5 Royal electrics from the 50s and only one of the colored versions. (I kick myself for not spending the $30 on it.) Where have all the electrics gone?

If anyone has some ideas as to what machine could use these interchangeable type bars, I would be interested in hearing from you.