Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wrapping Electrons

It was a few days ago and my son and I were sitting on the floor playing cars. We were having a great time. As the the little Mini Cooper crashed into the red truck a thought crossed my mind; these times are fleeting. My son won't be little forever. Remembering these times is important.

We take pictures and tell stories to save these memories for our future. The archiving of our personal libraries is something I worry about. The world is information-rich, but how much of the information is being stored in a permanent way? This is especially true when so much depends on the digital. Our society has started to believe in the permanence of the digital world. In time I think that this will create a digital oubliette where things you thought were permanent prove to be very temporary.

After being frightened by this possibility, I started thinking about Magic Margin. This blog has been a work of several years. In that time I have created over four-hundred posts, took thousands of pictures, and devoted nearly a thousand hours of work. In short, Magic Margin means something to me.

So, I wanted to back it up. I wanted to save my work. Blogger lets you download an XML file of your site and all the corresponding comments. This is a good feature if you want to save it to a hard drive, but I wanted a more permanent solution that didn't offer just another digital file. I dug around the Internet and I found many web sites offering to turn your blog into a printed book. In mind this would be the perfect solution. Prices and options were all over the map, but I came away with the impression that the full-service sites it would be too expensive for a large blog like this. Then, I found BlogBooker.

BlogBooker is a free-to-use blog to PDF converter based on LaTEX and a few other open-source text formatting tools. The process is pretty easy. You upload your site backup XML file, set the date range you would like to archive, pick an output size, and let BlogBooker do its business.

The process is relatively fast. I opted to make my "book" into year volumes with 2010 being the first. It was a short blogging year because it worked out to only be 74 pages. Subsequent years I must have been wordier because 2011 worked out to 290 pages. 

The output file is a PDF paginated correctly. This PDF is suitable for uploading to a print-on-demand service like Lulu. It was Lulu that I picked to print volume I of my opus.

The product turned out nicely. I like the size and feel of a trade paperback and it was fortuitous that I was able to select that. The product looks professional and a gloss full-color cover is standard. The paper feels professional, but the failings of my book is the BlogBooker rendering engine.

All the text is there, but frequently spacing is odd. Also, paragraphs on this blog are separated by a carriage return. BlogBooker strips those out. As the output format is PDF I didn't have a means to edit the content directly. The warts and odd formatting must stay. Since I have Adobe Acrobat Professional, I was able to replace the BlogBooker standard title page with something more to my liking.

I would like to continue with this project, but I need a better way to control the output. I think that I might have to manually go through and set images and text if I want to achieve a higher-quality product. Regardless of the odd hiccoughs, BlogBooker does all the heavy-lifting. I have already completed the second volume. 

In the end I am happy that I have been able to take my digital work and turn it into an analog memory.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Japy by Any Other Name

This last week teachers were back at school getting ready for students. I spent today uncovering my classroom typewriters and diagnosing any problems that might have crept up from the heavy use last school year. It's a multi-day project and I hope to have all the machines ready for student use before the start of the school year; August 5th.

The start of a new school year is exciting and all, but a new typewriter is its own type of fun. This is the new typewriter:

The badge says AMC, but under the stolid grey facade is a French-made Japy. I saw this little machine on eBay for a pittance and thought I would snag it. It's in fair condition, but there is something odd going on with some of the key tops.

As you can see they look as if they are melting. Melting? Yes, melting. It's hot here, but not that hot. More on that later.

I'd never seen a Japy person. In the past I had vague ideas of owning a Script or one of the several other re-branded versions out there. I particularly like the Piccola which was a Swissa version of the licensed pattern from which my AMC is based; all of which come from the Patria.

The Patria can best be described as a faimily of typewriters. This design was adopted by several manufacturers across Europe. Japy was one of those manufacturers. Will Davis and Georg Sommeregger have spent considerable time covering the intricacies of the Patria/Swissa/Japy connection here and here.

This AMC/Japy arrived poorly packed and when I opened the case I was disheartened at the state of the carriage. It was stuck in a very unnatural position. I had the inkling that a jolt had caused the unsecured carriage to shift and then jump past the uppercase shift stop.

I tried moving one of the type bars up to the printing point and it aligned with the bottom of the platen. Curses! Undaunted, and with some brute force, I was able to push the carriage back down to a position that looked more normal. I then started looking for the shift stops. In short order I found them and saw that the screw and set nut were in an odd position. 

Loosening the set screw, the carriage dropped down to a normal height. When the carriage over-shifted it bumped past this stop and jammed itself. Luckily it was an easy fix but the type was massively out of alignment. The slow and steady task of dialing in the correct alignment for both uppercase and lowercase type began. Right now it's not perfect, but the carriage is advancing properly, the imprint is more aligned, and it seems as if no lasting damage was done.

Having completed the biggest task, I looked toward some smaller problems. While deep inside the machine I noticed two springs that were flapping around freely. You can probably guess that they are part of the carriage shift. When the shift key is depressed these springs give a little lift to the carriage. Their job is to lighten the load. 

I had a devil of a time finding where this tail of the spring went until I took this picture. That pivot point looked like it was just the location.

With a quick motion of a needle nose pliers I was able to place it back.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when it fit. The carriage was lightened significantly. I would just be worried about it coming undone again. Thinking on it I came to the conclusion that this spring–and its mate on the other side of the carriage–had jostled loose during shipping.

The fixes are holding, but what about the keys. Here's the picture again.

As to the key tops, that's a mystery. What would cause them to melt like that? The surface is not smooth. They feel rough and the inlaid plastic letters are starting to pop out. Is it be possible that the oils or chemistry of a person's skin could cause plastic to degrade like this? Part of me wants them to look pristine and brand new while a contradictory part wants them to stay just as they are.

As for dating this typewriter the AMC entry in the Typewriter Database doesn't have a sequence for Japy-made machines. If you look at the Japy numbers this serial falls nicely into the 1957-1958 sequence. Given the date on the back of the instruction booklet (1956) I feel pretty comfortable with the assignation.

Apart from the dodgy keys, I really like this little machine. Thankfully the shipping damage din't prove to be permanent. The next step is to clean it up and get it typing. Unfortunately I have quite a backlog here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Get Ready

To whet your appetite for a flurry of new typewriters here is the instruction booklet for a little French chap.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Magic Margin Vlog: Episode 3

If you love typewriters and names and bald[ing] men this is the Magic Margin vlog for you!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Removing an Olympia Badge

No, the title of this post is not a metaphor. Although I am gifted in mystical arts of the metaphoric, what I am taking about is far more literal. I wanted to give you a few tips on removing this troublesome little piece of decorative metal.

Olympia badges on the 1950s varieties (SM-2, SM-3, SG-1, etc.) are high-quality aluminum castings that are adhered to the body of the typewriter by four sprue. Each of these four legs are placed in a corresponding hole and the ends deformed. The deformation holds the badge fast and makes for a very strong connection. Come to think of it I have never seen a badge-less Olympia. Quality German engineering.

Removing the badge is not for the faint of heart. You must drill out the deformed end of the sprue just enough to ease the badge from the mounting holes. To do this you need an electric drill and a steady hand.

I used an electric hand drill fitted with a bit only slightly larger than the sprue. Starting slowly, I drilled out the end taking care to only drill enough to get rid of the riveted end. In place of the rivet-like end you will se shiny, bare metal in a slight concavity. This concavity will play an important part in reassembly. 

After the drilling, I took a very thin bladed screw drive and carefully eased the badge out of the mounting holes. The aluminum badge can be bent easily, so make sure that you are prying up near a sprue.

There you go. Your Olympia cover is badge-less and ready for refinishing.

When you want to reinstall the badge, just fit it back together and put four small beads of JB Weld in the concavities made while drilling. After the JBWeld is cured, you can put the felt back and it should be as good as new. This process can also be done for the riveted badge from the back of the machine. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Promises, Promises, Promises Fulfilled

I just finished typing a letter to Keith Sharon. If the name sounds familiar you might want to check out Mike Clemens' post about Keith and what he is trying to do. Click on this sentence to read it.

It was a few weeks ago that Keith asked me to write him a letter. I promised and put it off. I remembered my promise and was distracted by a new typewriter. I remembered my promise and finally sat down and penned a letter worthy of correspondence.  I even have photographic proof that this letter exists.

Keith is waiting for your letter. He want to hear about the weather, your favorite foods, or how you feel about the Angels. His address is in the photo above. So, off you go. Write a letter and make a new friend.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Oh That's Pink-lympia!

So, the painting is done and the color is striking. I like the color, but I might want to sand and do another coat on top of this one. There are a few sanding marks that made their way through the gloss and it's bothering me. Also, a small bubble has turned to a tiny chip that is causing me hours of lost sleep. 

This typewriter is destined for the classroom. The pink was a decision based on several requests from students. Obviously, original pink typewriters like models from Royal or Smith-Corona are too expensive for my budget, so I decided to turn this machine into a pink wonder. 

SM-9s are the perfect customizer's typewriter. The main body panel is one piece and you can remove it without tools. The only other piece of metal I removed was the back panel on the carriage and that came off with just a couple of screws. I left the rugged grey on the bottom because it looks good and goes with everything. In all, it looks pretty slick. The only odd thing is the ribbon color indicators. I was unable to pop them out again (I super-glued them in when I restored it last). The stencil indicator was the only one that came out, so I just painted over the others. I think it works because the tensioner indicator on the left is just a cutout too.

I have been getting better at painting typewriters, but I would really like to get one finished at a body shop. I have a feeling that the paint might be more durable and look a little nicer.

Regardless, I am proud of how it turned out and I know that there will be a line to use this one in the fall.