Monday, September 29, 2014

A perfect 10

Please join me in admiring the most beautiful Royal 10 I've ever encountered. Made in 1927, this typewriter is still glossy, gleaming, and working like a charm. The shift is easy, the keys are snappy, the decals are bright.

This Royal was driven the 200 miles from Toledo to Cincinnati by the woman who owns it, so that I could service it at The Urban Legend Institute. I spent an hour brushing out eraser shavings and dust (which were much less plentiful than in your average old typewriter), lubricating the carriage rails, wiping the paint clean, polishing the chrome and paint, and putting in a fresh ribbon.

The typewriter belonged to the owner's father. She used it, among other things, to write an A paper in high school in the '70s (this paper came along for the ride, and I got to admire her skillful typing). And now the typewriter is going to write items for her daughter's wedding—a wonderful way to let the spirit of her father participate in her daughter's new life.

The owner says that her father used to spend time cleaning the machine with Q-tips, and it has been kept covered. The moral? Simple but consistent care and consideration will let a good typewriter carry on long after its constructors and its original owner have passed away.

Another moral: condition matters. Look for a typewriter that's been treated well, and it will perform the way it was meant to perform. What a treat!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Short-Order Poetry at the MPMF


One of our WordPlay kids came downtown with Program Coordinator Kirsten Zook ...

... and was soon participating in the fun.

The poetry-making accelerated as night fell ...

... until poems filled the clothesline. 

Here's an account of last year's Short-Order Poetry event on the Chase Public blog.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A quiz from the operating room

I took great satisfaction tonight in fixing a Royal Quiet De Luxe whose owner brought it all the way from Toledo to Cincinnati for medical attention. It wasn't easy to remove the faulty part and install a good one from my parts machine, but after some delicate manipulation, the Royal was working again.

Here's your technical quiz

What are these parts?
Which is the good one, and which is the bad one? 
And what problem did the typewriter have?

I'll confirm the answers in the comments section in about 24 hours.

Friday, September 19, 2014

L.C. Smith typewriter for cutting address stencils

This interesting machine was dropped off for basic service at Cincinnati's Urban Legend Institute (supporting WordPlay Cincy), where I volunteer as the Typewriter Guy.

I've occasionally seen these short-platen typewriters online, but have never before had a chance to inspect one closely. It turns out to be a complicated and mysterious device.

On the left end of the carriage we see not only a fairly conventional return lever, but a crank that moves the metal frame in front of the platen up and down. The frame is suited for holding a 4.5-inch-wide card.

The keyboard is unusual -- notice the numerals, which print the same whether shifted or unshifted.

Another remarkable keyboard feature is the "c/o" character:

The ribbon color selector is nonfunctional—it's unattached to any mechanism. Instead, the machine is designed so that when the card frame is all the way down, the ribbon is activated and the typewriter's shift is engaged. On all other lines, though, the shift is disengaged and the ribbon is out of commission.

Behind the card frame (if that's what it is) is the small platen, which spins freely; its motion is not coordinated with the motion of the frame. And behind and above the small platen is a shaft that can hold a roll of some kind.

The shaft can be removed when you pull on the knob to the right:

A narrow roller presses down onto the platen from above; there are no other feed rollers. In this photo, the narrow roller has been lifted up:

On the right end of the carriage is a knob that can be pulled to the right when you move the chromed retaining piece backwards. This pulls a shaft out from the platen, maybe allowing you to remove the platen -- but I couldn't actually find a way to do so, since the card frame gets in the way.

One more piece of evidence is the serial number. According to Tom Furrier, the G indicates a machine made for the US Government. The serial number dates the typewriter at 1937, if I'm interpreting the Database correctly.

This video shows the machine in action. Note how with the initial turn of the crank on the left, the type basket goes down (shifting to capitals) and the ribbon goes up into printing position. The top of the card frame is just behind the printing point at this stage (in other words, it is serving as a platen). Returning the carriage advances the card carrier up by three spaces, returns the type basket into unshifted position, and puts the ribbon out of commission. You can then type another 5 lines.

So how was this typewriter supposed to be used?

Here are my inferences:

• The machine was used in a government office.
• It types 5 lines without the ribbon in order to create a stencil.
• These lines must have been an address; hence the "c/o" key.
• The top line (all-capitals, using a ribbon) may have been for typing an internal memo or label of sorts about a particular stenciled address.
• The roll is mysterious to me. Was it for making carbon copies of the stenciled addresses? Are you supposed to be able to remove the card frame somehow and use a roll for a separate purpose? In any case, the roll wouldn't be very big—there just isn't much room.

PS: Mystery solved

In their comments, Phil and RobertG identified this typewriter as a device for cutting address stencils for the Elliott Stencil Machine, which was used for printing addresses on mail. See a similar L.C. Smith and the Elliott machine at 5:33 on this 1947 film.

For more information on the Elliott, see these pages from the 1924 American Digest of Business Machines.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A new Cassandre Graphika font

Read this PDF for more information on the Cassandre Classic font.

To download Cassandre Classic along with Cassandre Graphika and Reiner Graphika, visit my website.

To learn more about the Olivetti Graphika, see my post here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dr. Seuss meets the Typosphere?

This fine bit of doggerel from Ping A came in after the close of my contest but was too much fun not to share with readers:

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Typewriter Can

My latest little contest was met with a great batch of thoughtful, clever, and moving answers. I like them all! So I'll present them all to you before announcing the tough choice of the four entries that have won those precious slips of correction film.

Jim Pennington gets us started with an ingenious demonstration of one thing a typewriter can do:

Sure, computers can delete; yes, they can even create strikeout text; but when did you last use one to xxxx something out? Do you even know how?

Tony Mindling also shows us a typescript still in a typewriter -- an Underwood no. 5, if I'm not mistaken -- complete with great stationery, lovely ribbon color, and evocative shadows:

Now, for a grandchild's point of view, consider Jake Fischer's entry:

Speaking of family, we have two entries from the Brumfield family. Here's Ian Brumfield:

... and here's Ian's father, Brian Brumfield:

Brian has contrasted the advantages of typewriters to the disadvantages of computers -- but Peter Baker finds that typewriters are a mixed bag:

Finally, the theme of ambiguity is developed by Taylor Harbin:

Well done, all!

Now, since I must pick four, I declare that the Exalted Winners of the Slips are (in alphabetical order) Ian Brumfield, Jake Fischer, Taylor Harbin, and Tony Mindling.

Send me your addresses, winners!