Thursday, 31 May 2012

Ribbons! Ribbons! Ribbons!

Tee hee! 

Is it wrong to be excited about... ribbons? As a male? Am I betraying my masculinity? 

Well.... if anyone has a problem with it, I dare them to tell me to my face. 

But I've got ribbons! Actually, more accurately 8 ribbons and some correction film. From the USA. And not just any ribbons. I have a variety of ribbons here, courtesy of Jay Respler at the modestly named Advanced Business Machines in New Jersey - USA. The service was excellent, and I highly recommend him to anyone. The special ribbons seem very heavily inked, but considering the machines they are going in, this is probably a good thing. 

I have only a vague inkling of where New Jersey is, but apparently it looks something like this:

So I asked google maps about how to get me there, in case I ever wanted to drop by on the way to getting some milk, and pick up a few more typewriter supplies.  

Nearly 26 thousand K's! I'd better pack some lunch. 

Hmm..... And my Kayak. 

Oh hang on, there's a few too many toll roads in Japan for my liking. Better look at the map again, and figure out if there's a better option... (click to enlarge if you can't see)

I might have to re-think this plan. Not that I mind a bit of a swim. 

True story!

Anyway. I now have.... PURPLE RIBBONS. Oh, how good is it that I can get a purple Ribbon! Now I can complete Project FP, with its finishing touches! Lets not talk about how purple is my favourite colour. My masculinity is already feeling a touch dented. 

I bought a bulk amount of ribbons from Jay for a reason. It's cheaper. They are now sealed in a nice metal tin I bought from Ikea, for future use - when I see fit. Mind you, I have 4 typewriter needing ribbons, so of that 8, 4 are going into service... kinda soon. 

Locally, I can only source black ribbons. They are of a high quality, but I need something with a little more... pizzaz. Standard black and red ribbons have been costing me about... ohhh. $15 each at a time (postage included). when I have gotten them online. Where as buying this amount from Jay worked out far more economically, even if I payed more than I payed for 'The Royal'. And they WILL be used.

I'm happy to be buying from Jay, despite the tyranny of distance. Typewriter supplies at the moment are more or less a boutique service, and are likely to continue to be so in the future. There's plenty of people out there trying to find ways to re-ink or rejuvenate old ribbons, but honestly while we still have these boutique services available to us, I think we should be giving them as much business as we can, to encourage them to keep supporting our hobbies - be that collecting or writing. While there's still money changing hands, there's going to be people willing to provide a service. 

So... cheers Jay! Thanks a heap for the ribbons. 

interestingly, as you can see in the photo Jay slipped in some advertising slips of a Corona electric typewriter unit. He must know of my love for unexpected curiosities of history, because I found these very fascinating!

I haven't been to the USA since the 80's but I always do enjoy getting packages and letters from there.

So here's to an excellent business, with excellent service.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

My weird brain, and the deal of the century.

And yes, there is a missing 'when' from that last sentence of my rant. 

In other news... Tell me what is wrong with this eBay advertisement. 

as seen from my iPad. 

Yeah, I don't think I could beat that ebay price anywhere. I think I'll bid. I'm surprised no one else has jumped on it, considering this is its third week of listing. Deal of the century. 

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Old Machines, new fingers, and a revelation.

Filthy platens, clean kids. 

My typing pool, hard at work. 

Started out simple enough. I had some family and their kids over for a visit, and I thought I'd whip out a typewriter and give them a bit of an 'in the olden times' show. I thought they'd get tired of it pretty quickly, being only 6 and 7 in age and pretty addicted to my iPad. But I was wrong. 

After I brought the Remington out, the other child decided that they wanted to have a play on one as well. So I brought out the Royal Arrow as also, and before long I couldn't get them of the machines. They kept writing questions, for me to come and answer (on the typewriter), poems, and stories about farting. It wasn't until they went to get some lunch about 2 hours later that they finally gave these old machines a rest. 

This was more than just play. Rory, the young boy - who had just turned 6, started picking up new words ultra quickly. He also learned how to spell other words that he had previously had trouble with, faster than he had before. When he learned that you couldn't back-space back over words, his accuracy on the keyboard shot improved dramatically as he started to think about what he was writing. 

At this age, I was itching to get away from the typewriter and onto that amazing new technology called 'the computer'. I kinda expected these guys to tire of it quickly. But they're quite a competitive pair, and they saw these machines as a challenge to master. 

And I have to say, to me it was a revelation to see how quickly they were learning on these machines. 

I photographed the christening of the newest member of their family today, and it was a fair bit of fun. They're a great family, and these are awesome kids. 

So I hope the rest of you had a great weekend. Have a good one chaps and chappettes. 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Royal Arrow lives!

I had a day off from work today. I woke up with a very sore neck after sleeping badly, felt that there was no position to work and needed a break. i'd strained too much lately. So to amuse myself, I set about on some lightweight projects. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Write like you won't write tomorrow.

Yeah, so it's platitudinal mush. Meh! It's what I feel in the mood for this evening.

Incidentally, the royal is running.... 100%. Go me.

Okay. I'm off to find some Vodka to improve my writing.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The typewriter from a very black place - Royal Arrow.

Last week some of you may recall my blog about buying a typewriter explicitly for the purpose of keeping it away from the hands of key-choppers. And that I collected it on friday, the same day I excitedly took delivery of a Hermes 3000.

Well I spent a little time this afternoon assessing, cleaning and fixing the Royal.

I have been calling this typewriter my 'folly' for the past week, and even referred to it as the dark side of the Yin-Yang formed by my white Hermes. But I no longer believe this to be a fair comment on this typewriter. Indeed, closely examining this typewriter has led me to believe that this machine has quite a tale to tell. So grab a beer, settle into a comfortable chair, and let me weave you a story.

My part of this story is only a brief moment, so far, in the life of this typewriter.

I collected it on friday afternoon after several conversations with the owner. Originally the owner had organised for me to collect this machine on Friday from her parents house. But that soon changed, and the arrangements became increasingly difficult.

At first the collection times became vague, and then they were pushing to have me collect the typewriter from her ex-husband. The ex lived in the same suburb as me, so it seemed a logical choice. But they were suggesting a time specifically on friday afternoon, indicating that they were probably leaving the typewriter with them during a child custardy exchange. As the two lived 80 kilometres apart, this seemed near certainly to be the case.

Arriving at or around such an emotional point in time, to me, didn't appear to be the best option. There were too many variables. Too many issues that could complicate things, and frankly I can do with a little less complication in my life, and I expressed that I didn't intend to to business this way.

Eventually we met in my home suburb, but at a set of shops near her ex husbands house. Unfortunately, I had suffered the ill effects of some dodgy italian salad from the celebratory dinner the night before, and when the seller was 35 minutes late, I was also running 35 minutes late for a visit to the toilet.

The seller drove a late model Holden Commodore. The kind that has extra bits of plastic bolted all over it to indicate that it's 'really, really fully sick fast maaaaate'. The holden badges had been swapped with Chevy badges, and there was a southern cross sticker on the back window. The seller, a woman had big dark sunglasses on, and arms covered in reasonably fresh tattoos.

"Oh f*ck" I moaned to myself, before judgementally thinking "Bogans, f*cking bogans".

The seller's shy young son jumped out of the car and opened the boot. The typewriter was buried under a mountain of trash novelties filling the boot, and it took a minute or so of relocating suitcases and pool toys before the typewriter emerged.

I was genuinely shocked by the poor condition of the case. I had never seen something in such a poor state, being sold on eBay. And I had bought it... sight unseen.

No wonder they were expecting to sell this thing as merely Jewellery materials. 

I only opened the case for long enough to check that there was actually a typewriter in there. I handed the boy an envelope filled with cash. I grabbed the case and dropped it into the back of my car, giving the seller a smile as she reversed her Commodore away from me, and drove off. The whole thing took 1 minute, 20 seconds. The one minute being the time taken to find the buried typewriter.

And then I was alone... with my folly.

I arrived home to find the Hermes 3000 on my doorstep. I grabbed the Royal out of the boot of my car and carried it upstairs with the Hermes in the other hand.

They royal sat on the floor of my office for a few days till I could find time and enthusiasm to get to it. I didn't know what to expect. I could open it and find a hundred cigarette butts might fall out. I could touch it and find it suddenly collapse into a pile of ashen powder, its soul wafting up into a tiny cloud of smoke.

This morning I cleared aside the Remington noiseless that I'm at a temporary stand-still repairing, and put the Royal onto my back deck table.

I cracked open the case, which held mostly rigid while threatening to fall apart at any moment, and looked at the machine inside. I couldn't detect any serious corrosion on it, but there was a fair amount of dirt and fluff immediately visible.

Pulled it out of it's case, which protested with a crunch as the top of the lid popped aside before I then placed the typewriter on the table.

The entire unit was filled with a layer of dirt and filth which coated almost every face of this typewriter. Even the keys have a fine film of silt behind their glass faces. The words 'Built in the British Empire' are printed across the front in gold text, and the ribbon was wrapped around the typewriter. But at least it had its original spools.

All the type bars moved freely. The carriage moved when pressed by hand, and so I set about cleaning the unit and replacing the carriage drive belt/string.

After about 2 hours I had a lot of the muck off this unit, and a new line in the carriage. I tapped the space bar and the whole unit lurched into life in near perfect operation. Every type bar shifted in the segment without a hitch, the carriage shuddered mostly without skipping, and it looked like this unit was about to live its second life.

But what about its first? There must have been quite a lot history behind this typewriter before it ended up in the boot of a family race-car.

I went for a walk before I plopped in a new ribbon, and had a bit of a think about things. I wandered down by the river, and saw the row of flood warped trees lining the riverbank when it suddenly occurred to me what has happened to this typewriter to end up in such a state.

So let's step back in time for a bit.

Nothing here is certified fact, and I may have made some assumptions which someone may prove untrue. So don't hang me for this.

First stop in history, is the birth of this typewriter in 1938/39. The 'Built in the British Empire' across the front could mean anything. But like my Remington 16, which has the remnant of a 'built in Australia' sticker on it, I suspect this is a machine that was put together out of parts brought from the USA, under a tax regime designed to stimulate manufacturing employment grown during the great depression. Most likely in Scotland. But this is only an assumption (typosphere? What've you got).

This typewriter was born in the abject poverty of a faltering empire, on the cusp of an era that would be dominated by a ferocious war that would see tens of millions lose their lives, and hundreds of millions displaced and looking for new homes across europe, the UK and the soviet union.

At some stage this typewriter has probably migrated across to Australia with someone in search of a better life, arriving most likely in one of our southern states, before looking for work in the agricultural boom of Queensland.

Fast forward to 10th January 2011.

End of my street, 14th of Jan, 2011

I'd been in my new job for only 2 weeks, and I was frantically calling patients and hospitals all over Queensland trying to get supplies to critically ill patients in remote areas that had been flooded. The day before the 10th I had been up the sunshine coast (coastal area north of Brisbane), grinding my Nissan 4x4 through creek crossings where there hadn't been creeks before. The highway to Gympie had been shut off, but one of our patients had been evacuated to a refuge centre just south of the city.

Brisbane had been guaranteed by previous mayors and politicians that there wouldn't be a repeat of the floods that crippled the city in 1974, due to the massive construction of the flood-mitigating Wivenhoe dam. We all felt safe. But today there was a feeling of impending doom in my office, as my calls had gone from dealing with flood-trapped people in far away and remotes parts of Queensland, to regions closer and closer to home. By 1pm I had patients 5 kilometres away from the hospital telling me that they couldn't come and collect their supplies as they were already flooded in.

As I drove home on the Sunday, the 9th of Jan, much of the farmland around the Sunshine Coast looked like an ocean. The rain was so strong for the 100+ Km drive that I often had trouble keeping sight of the road. By Monday I was almost a wreak myself emotionally.

I'm unsure where this typewriter may have been kept at the time, but I almost certain that the severe damaged caused to the case, and the silt like coating of much across the entire machine, was an indication that this typewriter probably spend a lot of it's time submerged in floodwaters in of a house or storage unit somewhere in either the Sunshine coast, or in Brisbane where the seller and her family had lived at the time.

This machine, is a survivor. Plain and simple. Many other of its like would have been piled up into a skip and sent to one of the rubbish disposal centres around Queensland, post flood cleanup. The fact that it is here today is almost a miracle on its own.

In January 2011 I was living in the suburb of New Farm, Brisbane. My sister called me late on the 10th after seeing the devastation in Toowoomba, Grantham and Murphy's creek on the news on the TV. I assured here that there wasn't going to be a flood in Brisbane, and we would be fine. 

Hours later we learned that one of our Neighbour's parents were missing. They lived in Grantham, and effectively the whole town had been smashed and scattered across the fields by a wall of water that had come down from the mountain range near by. The next morning I learned that one of my patients were missing from Murphy's creek. Another patient needed to be air-lifted to our hospital for critical, but routine care. 

I worked frantically to do as much as I could. My boss was on the phone working through the air-lift of the patient and their needs. I bundled up replacement equipment for the patient in Murphy's creek, and started to organise army assistance to get it to them, if they turned up at an evacuation centre. 

My boss got the first call about what was happening in the world outside our offices, about what was about to happen to our lives. Her neighbourhood had already flooded out, and she was going to have to camp in the office for a few days till the water cleared. Her home was far above water and safe, just unreachable. She however lived much further out from the city than I did.

 Later on I got news that the power was about to be cut to my neighbourhood to protect infrastructure. The politicians were now openly talking about brisbane being affected by catastrophic floods and that we all should prepare.

My home never did flood out. We were quite safe, but I was one of only 20% of the people that continued to work in our hospital during the period around and during the floods. And I did so at a fair personal cost. 

I only lived a few Kilometres from the hospital, but between my home and work, there was only 1 road left open off the peninsula. And this was filled with tourists that had come down to check out the damage, and the flooding in the area. 

My suburb was actually quite above the level that the water reached during the floods, but most of the damage was done by the pressure of the swollen river pushing back against the sewerage, gushing putrified material into a massive waist-high lake that filled our neighbourhood. The smell was indescribable. 

Helicopters ferrying food, and army personnel to crucial areas started flight at about 4:30 in the morning, and typically didn't finish till about 9 at night. Television helicopters also spent hours circling my suburb. The violent rush of the river sounded like a hundred freight trains forever riding past my front door, 24 hours a day. 

My phone only held so much power, so I charged it whenever I got to work. I stopped answering calls, and instead started to regularly update family via Facebook. Either with hourly status updates, or photos taken straight from my phone about the situation developing around me. In this case, Facebook was an amazing help to me, as I could keep a large group of friends and family up to date constantly, without being stuck talking to people during panicked phone calls. 

Cleaning up under a house, a block and a half away from my home. 

I still have the boots that I wore to help with the cleanup after the floods. I could have cleaned off the paint that splashed onto them from an exploding paint can, but I haven't. 

*  *  *

So Sure, this typewriter has problems. But it works. Mostly. There's problems with it that need fixing, and I'm still uncertain about it's identity and it's year of manufacture. But I think this typewriter has gone through a lot of dark times in people's personal histories, yet it lives on. Now able to type another day. 

I'll give it a bit more of a clean, and see if I can sort out some of the smaller problems that remain (quite possibly achievable with just cleaning and oiling). And then.... I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. 

But I do think it is deserving of being given a new life. Don't you? 

Friday, 18 May 2012

The universe is balanced with a Hermes 3000

I now officially have a folly, as I collected the 'Jewellery' destined Royal this afternoon in circumstances that are fitting of it's own blog entry.

But all I can say at the moment about it is..... Oh good grief.

It hasn't been the best day. A work function at a restaurant in Hamilton last night ended up with a lot of co-workers with a case of the 'runs'. A situation that I myself had not been spared from.

After collecting the Royal on the way home from work, I arrived home to find a big white package on my doorstep. It undoubtably contained a bit white typewriter.

I carried it upstairs in one hand, with the black Royal in the other. The irony of this Yin Yang situation wasn't lost on me... Indeed, the Yin Yang would perfectly represent my excitement and disappointment.

So I plopped the white package on the table, and promptly pottered off to the nearest toilet before heading to bed. The Royal ended up on the floor near my desk.

*  *  * 

Before I continue, I need to detail something for the non typosphere readers on this blog, so they can understand my excitement about this package. There's a model of typewriter known as the 'Hermes 3000'. These are a Swiss made typewriter, which generally has a reputation of being the epitome  of refinement of typewriter design and construction. There's plenty of people that may disagree, but the vast majority of users believe that these machines have a superior typing action and reliability to all other typewriters that competed against it on the market. 

They are also typically incredibly expensive to buy on online. Especially the 1950's early 60's versions with the beautiful green colours and unique curves. 

*  *  *

I woke up sometime after the sun went down, and tiptoed out to the lounge. It was like Christmas.... I was eagerly wanting to rip the packaging open and get into the goodies inside. 


And there it was... A gleaming example of a 1972 (yes, I've checked the serial) Hermes 3000. Sure, it's not the metal beauty of yesteryear. But from what I've read this machine is mechanically the same, if not better than the venerated 50's version. 

But there's something different about this machine. A little bit of 'special' that made this machine all the more interesting to me. 

The seller on ebay was just a clearing house of - what I suspect is - deceased estate goods. The typewriter was extensively photographed in its advertisement, but was low on details. I won the auction for it on the same day as the folly Royal, and after postage, this machine came out to roughly the same price as the Royal. An underpayment in my opinion, balancing out the overpayment of my folly. Universal harmony still clearly at work. 

But let's get back to the 'something special' about the Hermes. I spotted it while looking at the photographs. First, I noticed that the Manual had only german text on the front. It wasn't until after I looked at the ad a bit longer, that I noticed something about the keyboard. 

The typospherians will see it straight away, but I will point this out to the more casual readers of my blog: 
I'm sure everyone is familiar with a 'QWERTY' keyboard and why it is called as such. So see if you can form the same word out of this keyboard. 

Uh huh... That's right... It's a QWERTZ keyboard. See all those extra characters on the keys to the right? 

This is a German keyboard (EDIT: SWISS Keyboard. I did think it was a Swiss at first, but discounted it on the basis of the name of the owner alone). But outside of units brought in by collectors to Australia, these are typically thin on the ground here. Very thin.

The owner also had a label stuck onto the side of the keyboard that contained their initials, and their last name and address. Tannenbaum was their last name. 

This typewriter was a piece of migrant history. I'm fascinated in migrant history, and to be honest this was even more exciting to me than getting my hands on a Hermes 3000. Did it come with someone that had moved from overseas? Was it brought here for someone who was stubbornly still working with german keyboards? 

And now here it was. In front of me, ready to be used. It's most recent service receipt (1998) was stapled into the cover of the manual. The service was for a screw that had dropped from somewhere into the typewriter. 

I tried to put a piece of paper into the typewriter, but the platen knob just kept turning freely. It turned out that the knob was missing a screw. 

The rest of the typewriter was perfectly intact and in mostly brilliant condition. The mechanism to drive carriage was smooth and tight. The carriage lever was a quality construction, and the whole unit operated and felt like it was brand new. 

So I plopped some paper in and pulled it into place with the left knob. I touched... just touched... the carriage leaver, and the carriage silently slid into place. It felt so refined compared to others I had. I had never heard a carriage slide silently before as usually they ratchet into place. 

I paused... I thought for a moment... Am I about to be severely disappointed by the action when I press this key? Am I about to find out that everyone's ranting and raving was just... utter bullish*t? 

I pressed a key. It responded nicely. No sticking, no resistance. I felt a slight ratcheting of the action that I had never felt in a key press before. It felt good... but I wasn't having a typewriter orgasm over it as it sounds like others have. 

So I decided I'd use the ancient  ribbon that was in this machine, and give it a go. 

After a minute of typing on it, I could already see why it had such a good reputation. I have two other machines of it's era; An Adler Gabrielle 25, and a Adler Tippa. It didn't jar my fingers like the Gabrielle has, while it felt far more refined and controlled than that of the Tippa. 

The German keyboard wasn't even a problem either. I had no problems navigating my brain around using the re-orientated z-y keys. 

If I am to fault this machine for anything, it's the noise. It's sharp, smooth and direct. And louder than anything else I have, except maybe my 1936 Remington 16.

There's no comparison to the other machines I have. The only machines that come close are the two massive standards that I own. If the 1950's Hermes 3000 typed as nicely as this, then it certainly would have been a revelation to the industry at the time. 

But despite this unit largely looking almost brand new, and very carefully looked after, there were some blights that indicated that it had been used extensively, if not badly. 

The rim of the ribbon cover was smattered with blue residue. As was the paper table. I chipped at it with a fingernail, only to find that it refused to budge, and seemed to be well and truly caked on. I couldn't identify it either. It was in places that ink wouldn't typically be. 

What was it? It must have been off carbon paper. But carbon paper around the inside rim of the ribbon cover? Carbon paper all over the paper-table? 

Further more, there had clearly been a capricious use of 'Liquid paper' (Lickie for my local friends) in the past, certainly taken straight from the liquid paper bottle with a brush. 

Muck, muck, muck, muck.

Time to break out the Uni-solve.... 

Voila! Looks like it is new again! 

So after a bit of cleaning, this whole typewriter now looks new again. The liquid paper was quite difficult, as while I cleaned it, the small lines seem to multiply, and soon I had huge smears of thick lickie all over the place. It took me a good 15 minutes just to clean up my clean up. 


I don't actually mind the style of the design here. It's just has historic as many other setups. This 'The computer age has arrived' look has a charm of it's own, which has yet to come into it's time. The dull aluminium and white colour scheme certainly sits alright with my mac, but had I have ended up with a white and blue unit, I would have been just as happy, as the blue really repeats that blue steel look of the computers of the era. 

Unfortunately, other than my Mac, this typer matches nothing else of my decor, which is largely 1920s/30s/40s Deco. Much of it being restored or reworked pieces. 

So there you have it. I'm going to put a new ribbon on this sometime in the next few days, and possibly knock out some correspondence to someone on it. Anyone else wish to be added to my letter writing list? I wrote a letter 2 nights ago to a new contact in the USA, and I grabbed a handful of airmail envelopes yesterday so I can post overseas. So don't be shy.

Anyhow... I really need to get project FP finished. It's had a bit of a setback after some materials failed me. And now I have another Royal that is going to take some work. The projects are stacking up. It's nice to have a typer that only needs one small screw to get working 100% again. 

Speaking of the Royal..... back to my folly..... 

Oh good grief... 

Monday, 14 May 2012

I didn't need more, dammit!

Damn..... Damn, damn, damn, damn and...


I didn't need yet another typewriter. I really, really didn't. I was just thinking to myself last night about how buying that Remington Noiseless the other week was a completely frivolous purchase that turned me from enthusiast to collector.... And then I looked at ebay.

I spotted an old Royal portable a week ago. It was located about 30 minutes up the highway from my place, and it had those nice, nice glassish keys that Royal produced before moving to the 'finger tip shape' AKA 'tombstone keys'.

The title:

Okay. It was a model that I thought I'd like to own. So I slapped down a token amount.

About an hour before bidding ended, I noticed that the bidding was almost up to my final bid price. So I had a look at the person I was bidding against.

Ahhh crap. I know where this is going. 

What was in the description? 

Dolphins! Starfish! 

'Latest craze of typewriter key jewellery'. 

The typewriter was even co-listed in the Jewellery section. 

I think the dolphins were supposed to represent Coloundra, a shire on the Sunshine Coast.

I felt compelled to bid. Instead of just letting it go to the keeper, I actively pursued it. I started to use aggressive tactics to get the typewriter. And in the end... I got it. 

I have no idea about the state that it is in, or even how well it works. I just... couldn't find myself just letting it go; to be chopped. I'm sure I paid too much, and I'm sure I won't do this again. I promise....

I don't need it, I'm not even sure I know what to do with it. I already have enough projects. Oh well..... At least it's for charity. It is, right? Typosphere... you'd do the same, wouldn't you? 

Uuuurg. There's gonna be a hangover. 

Even most of the pictures just focused on the keys..... 

Oh no. I just won a Hermes 3000 I didn't need. 

                                                                         Actually... it's pretty exciting.