Thursday, 29 August 2013

A quick hello from Bendigo.

            ....Hotel Shamrock

We finished the day at Lake Eppaloch. Which was very beautiful, post storm.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

High heels, and low-Socio.

This Pacific was the first to turn up. At $35 it was the cheapest in the shop. But not cheap enough for me to feel compelled to buy it. 

Many of these typewriters were poorly displayed. This Royal, marked at $90 was rather hidden amongst a room filled with beautiful lamps. 

This Chevron was caged in glass, and out of reach. Which was a real shame. A typewriter needs to be touched!

This wide carriage SM9 in excellent condition really grabbed me. But the $150 price tag meant that it lost its grip pretty quickly. And that case was so huge, I knew I'd have problems getting it back to Brisbane.

This Hermes Ambassador was in fair condition, and I'd personally love to have - or at least try, one. But at $395, I simply said: "Get F****d"!

Oh, Lemir. What can I say!


I bought a nice little marble desk-set, and a few other bits and bobs, and I was soon on my way. 

We walked across the road to a paper specialist, who had a familiar face on display.

How about that... Surrounded by paper you couldn't easily use to type on. Well done. 

The Melbourne writer's festival is on at the moment, and it makes me wonder how many other typewriters have been dragged to town. And... Where was my invite, dammit!

Later in the evening we ended up in a 1920's inspired cocktail bar. 

Incidentally, the cocktail of the day was an 'Ernest Hemingway Daiquiri'. I didn't have one. The ingredients SHOULD have been: one Royal QDL, one Remington Noiseless, mixed, shaken and bled into. 

What a way to celebrate an end to the day of Antiquing. Oh, and I got some new shoes and seriously cool socks. 


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Livin' large... ish... Actually, smaller.

Well, the choice was obvious really. I packed my bags last night ready for my flight tomorrow (I have a dinner to attend tonight) and I slipped in between a some of my shirts my Gossen Tippa.

I was very tempted to go with the Hermes Baby, but in the end I didn't for a very particular reason. And the Kolibri isn't quite ready for travelling just yet.

The Tippa has the right weight x size x usability, so it was more or less the most obvious choice. But the Hermes baby came a very close second. But, there's more...

Many of you are familiar with the 'Crumpler' line of bags. My daily workbag is a Crumpler message bag, and I also have a Crumpler laptop bag. They're excellent bags for people like myself that spend a bit of time on bikes/motorbikes and public transport as they are very strong, reliable and resistant to water.

Also they're something of a Melbourne icon. The company started in Melbourne in the 70's, where they produced bags for messenger workers. As bicycle messaging took off in the 80's and 90's, Crumpler's messenger bag designs along with their reputation for quality construction, took off like a rocket.

Today, they're all over the world. They're a lot more polished company these days, and have internationally dropped the unusual naming of a lot of their products that the locals found humours, but they still retain a lot of their old charm here in Australia.

So why am I mentioning this? Well, because Crumpler still have one of their earliest stores continuing to operate. Further more, you can get made to order custom Crumpler bags here - which was what really differentiated the company early on.

So, while I'm in the area I'm going to see if Crumpler can sort out a bag made specifically for my Gossen Tippa. Something that has good knock padding, and provides a bit of weather resistance so that I can just throw it over my shoulder and take it with me on my motorbike. 

Seem like a good plan? We'll see what transpires. I've been emailing them, and not getting a whole lotta response, so they're either too busy or - just not working at the moment. I might be up for a bit of a disappointment there.

Anyway.... the Tippa it is. See you in Melbourne! 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Off to Melbourne

I have been awfully missing my home city, Melbourne of late.

Oh, the pretentious music scene! How I miss thee..... 

What am I excited about? The pretentious music scene, old buildings that aren't being targeted for demolition so they can build a glass-filled shopping centre or casino, the cultural vibrancy, streets where people actually walk around and do things instead of charging past in a 4WD with a roo-bar and a southern cross sticker... Oh, the list could go on and on.

That little music video above is filled with comic references and twists that takes the piss out of much of Melbourne's contemporary music culture. Just for reference 'the 86' is the tram route number, and 'going down to JB-HIFI, Flick through Indie', is an insult in the Melbourne music scene.

You know, I probably wont even have time to hang out somewhere and listen to some music. Instead, I'll be gorging myself on some of the best food in Australia. The tourists hang out in Lygon Street these days, and you know what... I'm a tourist these days. Lygon street is packed wall to wall with beautiful restaurants and cafes. It is well known for its Lygon Street Italian Fiesta, a huge celebration of Melbourne's Italian migrants and their families.

We're in Melbourne on and off for about a week and a bit. But we've rented a car, and we're heading out of the city to the towns of Ballarat and Bendigo - probably via Castlemaine.  These towns are located in the middle of the goldfields that made Melbourne explode from a southern backwater town, to the massive sprawling metropolis it is today that was once Australia's capital.

We're going down for a two day conference, but I'm also going to be catching up with family. We're at first staying in a Beautiful Art Deco hotel in the city that has been named after a similar Deco hotel in the UK: The Savoy (not under my name). It has been a bit of a crappy year, and I've been sick of late - along with some work/life stress going on. So it is going to be really good to get out of Brisbane.

As there's a few people from Melbourne that read this blog, so drop me a line if you want to catch up for a a type-out/in or just a drink.

Speaking of typewriters, there's an important decision to make. Which typewriter will I take with me to Journal my time in Melbourne? Naturally I have limited my selection to Traveller typewriters, but it turns out I have more of those than any other. So here's a selection which will be the most appropriate.

The Candidates:
Let's drop a few of these guys on the floor next to my luggage and have a look...

The Venerable Hermes Baby in De Luxe case.
Usabilty 3/5
Size 3/4
Weight 5KG Approx.
(lighter 330 gram non-deluxe option available)
Operational condition: 4.5/5
Value risk 3/5

Empire Aristocrat 'Office in a case'
Usabilty 3/5
Size 4/4
Weight 4.6kg
Operational condition: 5/5
Value risk: 4/5

Groma Kolibri 'super sassy'
Usability 4.5/5
Size 4/5 (5/5 out of the case)
Weight 5kg (lighter out of the case)
Operational condition: 4.5/5
Value risk 2/5

Hermes Baby 'Featherlite' DE keyboard.
Usability 3/5
Size 3.5/5
Weight 4kg
Operational condition: 3/5
Value risk 4/5

Gossen Tippa now in QWERTY. Thanks John!
Usability 4.5/5
Size 5/5
Weight 4.4kg
Operational condition 4.5/5
Value risk 3/5

Olivetti DL 'tap-monster'
Usability 4/5
Size 2/5
Weight 5.6kg
Operational condition 5/5
Value risk 4/5

Triumph Tippa 'Jumpy roo' in De Luxe case
Usability 4/5
Size 3/5
Weight 5.2kg
Operational condition 1/5 (can be fixed though)
Value risk 5/5

Alternative option: while checking out the local second hand and antique shops (which I will invariably do) buy one.

The Usability gives a subjective assessment of which is the better typewriter to type on.
Size, is a generalised assesment as to how much suitacase space it will take up.
Weight is important due to limited luggage weight capacity - although I can take it on the plane.
Operational condition indicates what level of operational wear there is to this machine, and how immediate are the problems I'm having with them.
While Value risk rates how which is the better machine to take depending on replacement value.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A wonderful find that could be a special project.

It was in one of my last years of secondary school that I visited the national film and sound archive in Canberra, Australia. Amongst the movie posters and photos of musicians I saw something that I found utterly mesmerising. It was an Edison Phonograph with a shattered black cylinder attached to it.

"This is what happens when you don't preserve our history correctly" The tour guide told us.

To this point I had never heard of, or seen a wax cylinder recording. At the time I was experimenting a lot with electronic music on my computer at home, with software that now would seem arcane. Later, I would use the passion that I gained from the museum that day to work in Theatre, film and music - or at least until it came obvious that I needed to get more stable work that could feed me.

But the image of the crumbled wax cylinder never left me, and I've always been fascinated by them. Wax cylinders, unlike what we know of modern music, is completely live. It isn't remixed or even sent through wires from a microphone to a recording source, but rather performed straight into the cone of a recording phonograph - where it is immediately translated to a stylus that gouged the sound into the cylinder.

For about 16 or so years now, I've grabbed hold of as many of these wax cylinder recordings as I could. I have a small collection of them, and they stay displayed next to my telephones in the display case next to my desk. However, I've never had a player. In those 15 years I have only come across 4 of them out in the wild here in Australia, and the starting price for them - even some really banged up ones, was $1500. I've seen only a handful of others as well, all of which were tucked away in corners of museums. In total, I've probably seen 9 - with only 6 of them carrying the expensive crystal in the stylus needed to play the recordings.

This is the one at the national film and sound archive:

Yesterday Ms Jane and I went with a friend of ours, Michael, to check out the Ipswich Antiques and Collectables Fair. This was the same fair that I went to a few months ago, where I engaged in a morning of typewriter spotting in searing heat before being so cooked in the hot shed that I was motivated to buy a beautiful old fan that I found hidden under a table.

This time around I only spotted one typewriter :- a case-less Remington Quiet-riter that had seen better days, which was selling for $35.

Naturally as I already had one of these I passed up on it. I did a few rounds of the fair and found pretty much nothing of interest, and just followed Michael about for a bit while he looked for items that would match his 50's-70's moderne decor.

As I did, I stumbled across a box of wax cylinders that was perched dangerously on the edge of a table, waiting to fall off. The whole box was on offer at a great price, and quickly I whipped out my wallet and gave the chap a smallish note for the lot of them. I'd never purchased these things for such a cheap price, ever! I checked over all the cylinders before I bought them though, just in case a few of them had exploded into a pile of wax-dust by being dropped. They were all intact, but a bit mouldy and would need a but if a clean. But that's something that I can achieve.

The guy was selling old 1930's and 40's restored record players, along with the records. As such he was garnering an awful lot of attention from market 'Have-a-chats'. I made my purchase and stepped quickly away from the chaos, but looked back to try and find Ms Jane.

It was then that I spotted something under the table. The guy had a few of his other record players stored there to put up on the table to fill the gap the moment he sold something, and sitting amongst them was a beaten and scratchy wooden box that looked quite neglected but strangely familiar.

It was an Edison 'home' Phonograph, with a rather scratched and inglorious looking early metal horn.

I had a little discussion with the owner, and an inspection of the machine where I discovered that the Stylus crystal was still in place, and the reproducer was largely in working condition. The price was more than right, and by the end of the morning the Phonograph was in the boot of my car.

The phonograph is complete, but not in working condition. I spent a bit the evening after buying it inspecting it, and just generally trying to figure out how it works. I managed to crank the cylinder by hand, and was surprised when I heard a bit of sound crackling from its cone. I took some video and put it up on facebook, where it unfortunately is difficult share through Blogger.

Like typewriters, these are prone to a case of 'metal cancer', and this machine has clearly been exposed to a bit of water. But oddly it isn't all that far off from being operational. However there are two components which will probably need to be replaced - the advance shaft (a screw threaded shaft that drives the reproducer and stylus along), which is probably rusted beyond recovery, and the mainspring - which appears to be not functioning. That said, I have yet to extract the mainspring to inspect it.

Can I just say... Holy cow! The mainspring is huge. Think of the biggest drum you have seen on a typewriter, and increase the width by at least 5 times. It must have some serious kick! That said, I may get inside of it and just simply find a tiny little spring encased oddly in a huge drum.

The big question is: Do I want to actually restore it? The cylinders themselves actually break-down progressively the more you play them, so I'm not actually in a hurry to do so. There's nothing wrong with keeping this as a display piece, and keeping the cylinders safe and preserved. 

At the same time, I want to listen to these echoes of the past - and the 'restorer' in me wants to see it working, just like my Typewriters. Could you imagine this on display next to my Oliver 5?

Consensus around me seems to be 50/50,  with people either having the view that I should preserve the history of the machine, and what every scar and nook holds - against the excitement of making one of these usable.

But what a project! I get excited by this thing just seeing it sitting in a box on the floor. The lid of it is in a bit of a dismantled state, and needs serious work - which if anything would be the first repair I do. And I can just see the lid poking out of the box right next to my desk, which gets me enthused every time I see it.

The phonograph wasn't my only purchase for the day at the antique fair. I also grabbed hold of a beautiful little writing folio that is perfect for me to pack in with one of my traveller typewriters when I'm away from home. At a whopping $8, I'd bought it before I could even think about it.

It has space to hold a pen, a writing pad, two lots of stamps (overseas and local?) and a pouch which I would use to hold both envelopes and other people's letters. All about the size of an iPad. Actually, it almost seemed like it was made to hold my iPad in it, as it fit snugly in the pouch when I gave it a try. The design however is at least 40 years old. 

Also, another little find that cost me just a few dollars was a great little book to compliment my other collection: my telephones.

There's a few other books in this series, including 'The Kettle', 'The Radio', 'The Teapot' 'The chair' and 'The Watch'. The seller didn't have the whole series, and I feel that it is a bit of an oversight that there isn't a 'The Typewriter' book, but I guess not everyone shares the passion for the design of typewriters that many of us do.

Mind you, Rob Messenger's '101 great typewriters' book, is much better than any 'The Typewriter' book would have been anyway.

So that was my haul from Ipswich. However, on the way home we detoured down towards the Gold Coast slightly, to collect a typewriter from the Gold Coast hinterland - the beautiful mountainside that surrounds Australia's bogan mecca city (Gold Coast), which is an astonishingly green contrast to the concrete and glassy glamor of the city that it neighbours.

The owner of the typewriter had moved to England, and had been left in her Mother's shed. She had originally bought the typewriter after playing with her mother's one, but clearly the Olivetti Studio 44 was too heavy and too large for her to take overseas.

The house that I collected it from was amazing. It had a wonderful garden that was the playground to a kennel of dogs, and it was surrounded by acreage that the owner grew their own sheep and goats on. They had essentially created a 'sustainable' existence there, producing their own fruit and vegetables, as well as meat. I was hardly surprised to hear that there was another typewriter hiding out inside amidst all of this.

The typewriter looked a bit of a wreck, but it is in-fact in pretty good condition. One thing I have learned with the Olivettis is; don't assume what you are looking at is rust. The paintwork on the Olivetti's tends to hold and often be home to a kind of mould that often looks like rust-spots, as is the case on this typewriter.

A little while ago I cleaned up a 'rusty' looking Lettera 32, to find the paint which looked battered and broken, was in fact in perfect condition. The typewriter now resides at friends place, and actually looks rather out-of-the-box new.

Let's see what can happen with this Olivetti. It is mechanically sound, but a bit glued up.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A happy accident, and a silly accident.

As they say in science: You always learn from failure, but rarely learn from success. And really the only people that will ever tell you otherwise tend to be the kind that shove the word 'Success' into almost everything, and charge $1000 for tickets to their 'motivational success seminar'.

However, I digress.

I had a bit of a modern technology fail yesterday. Via Email I chided Robert Messenger for his 'Pointless Tippa', with a post that was dripping with eye-rolling.

The problem was that I actually meant to write 'paint less', but the iPhone I was typing on while sitting back and enjoying the cool afternoon air outside of the hospital I work at decided that 'pointless' seemed my accurate. This was simply because I didn't put a space between the words. 

Rob's been on my facebook long enough to have probably seen me intentionally and subtly twist words when I'm in a bad mood to deride a politician or public figure. And on a really bad day, close friends. 

A few hours later Rob politely replied that he'd figured out that I had meant 'paint-less', but I suspect he might have been originally a bit taken aback. And rightly so, even if it was far from my intention.

The really annoying thing about this was that I actually had my Gossen Tippa in front of me at the time; a device that would have not re-translated me for my reader, and just left the mistake in all of its much more readable glory. 

Thanks Apple developers. Thanks a heap. And again, sorry about that Rob. 


There are sometimes happy accidents. 

If you recall I bought a Royal Portable typewriter with the intention of using it for parts to get my Royal Chrome back to life. However, when push come to shove I wasn't able to use that machine to do so. Subsequently the typewriter has sat idle in a box, in its quite worn and inglorious state rather unused and unloved. 

One evening I had a bit of a brain-fart and I decided that this structurally sound but beaten and battered old machine, could used for a very special and particular purpose. And so the fate of this machine was decided during a bout of insomnia. 

The next day I immediately set about working on this machine. The nickel on much of the typewriter's adornments was in very poor shape, and so I decided to try and strip the damaged nickel off the key-rings and other pieces of the typewriter. 

Some time back I had been investigating how to strip chrome off parts easily and I read a suggestion that chrome can be removed by soaking it in Coke for a period. Coke eats away the chromium oxide, and leaves the nickel undercoating behind. 

Everyone that had attempted this had detailed how a nickel coat was left behind, so it was pretty clear coke wasn't going to eat through nickel, or at least wouldn't be as useful in removing it. But I decided I was going to try it anyway and see what would result. 

Most of the metal stripping from the typewriter remained un affected by the coke. As it was, it too heavily worn for anything to happen anyway. However, something very unexpected happened with the key rings. 

A corroded key ring.

I'm sure most collectors have seen these rings looking quite damaged before. When I was repairing the rings on my Royal Chrome, I spent a good hour or so just rubbing the surface of these down with a piece of 0000-steel wool and Silvo, to try and get them shining up nicely again. It actually took a lot of work, and was frustratingly fidgety. 

This time around I threw about a dozen of these into a ziplock bag and poured coke in with them in the hope of maybe removing the nickel, then I left them in the bag on the windowsill for 24 hours. However that also turned out to be something of a failure. I drained the coke out and dropped the rings onto the table, and despondently looked at the corroded rings in front of me. 

By this stage I had other ideas, so I decided to prep the rings for my next experiment. I needed to get the coke off the rings before they went a bit sticky, so I grabbed a cloth and just started to wipe them dry. 

Then something unexpected happened. 

Without any real effort the corrosion just wiped off. I'm not saying hard rubbing, scouring or grinding. It literally just wiped off as though I was wiping dirt off. 

I immediately attempted to repeat this experiment with a bit of a variation, with some more of the rings. I dipped them in for about 5 minutes, and then tried to wipe them off. The corrosion remained steadfast and defiant.

So I threw them into a bag again and then sat them in a coke bath overnight. To my joy the experiment was repeated successfully. At this point I threw the rest into the bag and soaked them, then forgot about them for... oh, two weeks.

It was at this point that I discovered that one of the rings had been replaced with a chrome plated one. The shape of the ring was slightly different to the others, so I should have realised earlier. And true to the information I had gained from the internet, the ring was stripped of its chrome which left a dull and slightly brassy coloured finish. Mind you, the finish is still nicer to look at than the corrosion. 

I told John Lavery and Steve Snow about my findings, and in true form John's response was quick and witty. "You know what you've learned from this, don't you? Don't drink Coke"! 

I saw on Teeritz's blog that he was working on one of these machine recently, and attempting to remove the rings. I posted a quick mention of the coke soaking in his comments, as it may save him a lot of pain. I'm now trying to figure out what other parts I can experiment on, to see what may result. 

Now.... Let's get back to trying to finish that project of mine.