Saturday, April 20, 2013

Typewriter Hacks

When I think of typewriter hacks I think of:


But folks of the digital world that are hooking up typewriters to computers. I haven't decided whether it's a silly idea, as expressed by Strikethru, or something fun as Robert has described. That vacillation hasn't stopped me from giving the USB typewriter kit by Jack Zylkin a go. A few days ago I posted the main board assembled, soldered, and tested. I have a few other pieces to assemble, but my big hang-up was the location of the sensor bar.

As Jack shows on his Instructables page, the sensor bar is attached to the ribbon vibrator cross-member. The reason why he chose this location makes sense. Each key top linkage arm touches this bar and there is a significant amount of play in the trip point. In other words, this is a pretty good place to put a part like this. However, I did not like this location.

The fact I would be mounting something to a moving part made me nervous. I know that most of these typewriter USB conversions use this cross-member, I thought there are plenty of places under the machine to mount a new cross-bar and mount the sensors to that place. This is the location I thought wold be ideal:

So, I went to she shop and started to craft this of aluminum:

And then covered it with Gorilla Tape.

Unfortunately, I didn't take step-by-step photos, but I think you can get an idea of how I crafted it. The curved edge approaches the secondary linkage segment behind the key tops. These small linkages descend only slightly and the clearance is small, but it's enough to make contact with the metal fingers and short to ground. I wanted to mount the sensor bar on the inside of this support bar, but I think the clearance just isn't there.

The great thing about Jack's kit is that's open. You can make the decisions for yourself and go wherever the wind might take you. I decided to make a new crossbar tof my own design that honored my aesthetic sensibilities. You, could do something entirely different.

I am still working on my USB Typewriter. I'll probably be finished with it today, but in the interim I found these two videos on Vimeo featuring a typewriter hack using car door lock actuators and then a profile of the guy who made the USB Typewriter kit.

Before you get too comfortable watching the videos, I want to remind you that today is the deadline for your the prompted questions: Where is the typosphere going? You can find out about the assignment and the reward for those that complete the challenge at this link:

Automatic Typewriter from Harvey Moon on Vimeo.
Handmade Portraits: USB Typewriter from Etsy on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Deadline Ahead

The deadline for the Magic Margin 100,000 Page View Contest is days away. If you want to be one of the lucky few to receive a coveted limited-run Magic Margin poster, respond to the prompt in the post lined below.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It Came in the Post

Soldered by yours truly. This is the first step in a larger project. This project has derailed the Underwood Universal restoration, but I think what's coming will more than make up for it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

November 1956

I found this interesting document and thought I would share it with the Typosphere. Royal's human resources department published this monthly magazine for the benefit of its workforce. While typewriters are present, this magazine primarily lets us have a glimpse inside the everyday life at a major typewriter manufacturer during the 1950s. 

The people who worked at Royal were not typewriter users like us. They worked for Royal and were probably loyal to their employer, but typewriters were not the cultural artifacts they are today.  No doubt, they would thing that owning more than one typewriter was just plain unusual.

Typewriters were devices intended to do a job. So, within these pages you'll see no mention of the power of unplugging from the digital hegemony or any of the usual tropes of the Typosphere. Instead you'll find celebrations of birthdays, information on major medical plans, and pictures of employee barbecues. You might even see the odd typewriter here-and-there. 

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.