Sunday, May 25, 2014

My First Typecast

Others do it. I haven't. Today, that changes.

One by one, in reverse order, I will introduce you to the whole family.

Until I figure out Blogger's settings, open the image in a new window so you can zoom in on the text.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Update on President Typewriter

It turns out that the Windex wasn't enough to keep the keys clean. A friend lent me a bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol. At first, it seemed to do the trick. The keys freed right up and I let it sit for a few hours.

Big mistake.

If anyone is reading this and plans on cleaning a typewriter soon, let me be clear: DO NOT use 70% alcohol!

I never gave thought to what the other 30% was. When I came back, the joints in the type basket were rusted! Sure enough, on the back of the bottle, the principle inactive ingredient was purified water.

The first thing I did was go into panic mode.

Nooooo! I've ruined my new typewriter! I'll never get to hear it click and clack! I'll never use it to write a novel! Stupid jungle! Stupid quicksand!

Then, I consulted an expert: Richard Polt, a fellow typewriter enthusiast with loads of experience and free advise at his website here.

Richard gave me a sure-fire recipe to fix my problem. I sped to the local hardware store and picked up a bottle of carburetor cleaner and some denatured alcohol. A few squirts of the carb cleaner took care of the rust and the alcohol seems to be working on the keys.

Some of the keys are still sluggish. I sat down and typed a letter last night. Keys like P, T, and the period need more attention. They don't fall free after striking the platen. If I typed too fast, the machine would jam. However, I love the touch and feel of these keys. Once I get the keys completely gunk free, I'm sure it'll type like a sewing machine.

Most enthusiast websites claim that no one can predict how many alcohol rubs it takes to clean the keys. I'll just have to keep trying until I succeed.

Power to the pen!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

And Then There Were Four

I was late, yet again.

But I have good reasons for it. As of last week, I'm done with the semester!

But I have even better reasons.

Last week, my beautiful and insightful girlfriend became my beautiful and insightful fiance!

Few things have made me as happy as my love saying "yes" to the big question. That was Thursday.

On Friday, I helped her set up a display of her artwork for the senior show at her collage.

On Saturday, she got her Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design.

On Sunday, we went to church and visited with the family. Then we stayed up late playing Nintendo games.

On Monday, we did whatever we could think of.

On Tuesday, we went to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

And today, Wednesday, we went to an antique store in Franklin, TN called Carpe Diem.

And I came home with another typewriter.

My new addition: a Tower President portable 

Yes, I'm a hopeless case. Truth is, Carpe Diem had a pretty good selection of machines, far more than most antique stores I've seen. The shop next door only had one, an electric. 

This little puppy is called the Tower President. It's a portable, and as you can see, is in pretty good shape minus the spots (I was seriously considering nicknaming it "Spots" if those stains wouldn't come out, but they did). 

It was a hard choice! I was debating between this machine and a Royal Quiet Deluxe. In the end, I was intrigued by this brand I'd never heard of, and my curiosity won out.

Here's what it looks like now after a thorough Windex bath:

Spot-be-gone! Still needs a little paint in some areas. The white-out stains on the rollers were a pain, but finally yielded with enough scrubbing. 

I've only put a few minutes of research into this, and it was more confusing that my Underwood Touchmaster Five. 

According to the internet, here's what happened.

Back in the day, Sears Roebuck started buying machines in bulk direct from the manufacturer and rebranding them. A number of Underwoods, Olivettis, and even Royals were simply repackaged and sold at dirt cheap prices. 

Serial number, beneath the ribbon cover. Standard location for many Smith Corona portables.

Any doubt who this was made for? Oddly enough, the phrase "Model Number" has nothing to do with identifying it beyond an affiliation with Sears.

They did the same thing with Smith Corona, and that's how the Tower series came into being.

Finding out when this thing was made required an unorthodox method. Instead of looking for the list of Tower numbers, I was told to find the Smith Corona numbers. 

The serial number on this machine is 5TT565441X

According to the guide I found, this machine is basically a Smith Corona Super/Silent-Super, which means it could have been made at any time between 1953 and 1961. Another guide leads me to believe the exact date is 1957.

Portable typewriters accounted for over 50% of the market after WWII. Like modern smart phones, everybody was trying to add that one feature that would put them ahead of the rest. Some of them were really expensive. The President XII retailed for about $115 when it was first introduced, that's with $5 down and $6 every month (yes, people financed typewriters).

According to an issue of the Pittsburg Press from May 1959, the President could retail for as much as $89 new! 

I bought this one for $42, with tax. So, did I get my money's worth?

As always, shoppers, check before you buy! I've never been denied a piece of paper for this reason. The ribbon is in great shape and everything that should work, does. The font seems to be a 12 pnt Roman variant of some kind, but it could also be Courier. 

The only problem I discovered at the shop was a number of sticky keys. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest problems to fix. I took it home and began apply lots of Windex. After and hour or so, the only keys continuing to give me problems are the period and question mark. Not sure why. They're either very dirty or the type bars themselves are bent at such an angle to cause friction.

If it's gunk, Windex might be A) Not  powerful enough to dissolve it, or B) I'm not using enough. I don't think the bars are the cause of the problem. Most websites say that the cleaning process can take a few minutes or a few days, depending on a lot of factors.

While I was cleaning, I noticed that the 1 key didn't work at all. Thankfully, it was simply disconnected from the lever that pulls the slug forward. The bar was bent, and it took some maneuvering to get it back into position, but I fixed it and am quite proud of myself. This key also required some Windex to unstick.

One unique thing about this machine is the dealership label on the front.

North Carolina? You're a long way home from home!
This little plaque right here makes my new Tower even more special. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Raleigh Typewriter Exchange was bought by Global Imaging Systems Inc. in February 2003. It was to function of Copy Service and Supply, also owned by Global ( 

I'll bet the phone number doesn't work, but I'm tempted to try...

The strangest thing about this machine? No carriage lock! Portables, heck, any typewriter can be seriously damaged if dropped. Carriage locks were introduced to insure that wouldn't happen as easily. It also makes it easier to center the carriage before putting the machine in its case. This President only has a carriage centering lever. No lock.

I'd say that I definitely got my money's worth. 

I've had a lot of fun being with my lovey-dove and relaxing. Very soon, however, I'll begin editing my latest book. I've already got a few agents in mind...when it's ready, of course.

Power to the pen!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Wore Out My Shoes!

Well, last night was one I'll never forget.

I went to a party!

Yes, a real party, one with food, drink, and dancing! You know, those things people used to go to before we took all the fun out of them by inventing clubs.

The semester is just about over for me. I've been involved in a living history group since I began my Master's program two years ago. Last night, we re-created a 1940s era United Services Organization (USO) dance party! I went as a character: a farm boy named Pat who was rejected from military service because of his flat feet, and then got a deferment because of his job. I also threw in a story about working at a POW camp with Italian prisoners.

The USO has been putting on benefit shows for the troops in ever war since 1941. They go into towns all over the world and give people and soldiers a chance to have fun. The object was to throw a party as it would have been done in 1944.

And I had a lot of fun. I mean a lot of fun.


It was my very first, authentic dance party.

You see kids, there was a time when "dancing" used to be an exercise between two or more people involving a bunch of memorized steps. At its basic level, it was repetition. When I was a young boy, The Macarena was insanely popular. If that song came on at the skating rink, you just had to do it.

Beyond basic repetition, a dance party is the one place where you can see the power of music. To be good at dancing, you have to learn how to feel the beat of a song. It controls everything you do. If you let that happen, then you start free-styling, adding kicks, spins, and swings in and around the basic steps.

In the 1940s, dancing wasn't about grinding on people to live out some sexual fantasy. It was art. It was a kind of sport, just like playing golf or tennis. In Europe, the nobility held lavish balls with dances. Why? Lots of reasons, but dancing was a way of saying, "Look at me! I don't have to work sixteen hours a day for my food, so I get to spend time learning the waltz and listening to Mozart."

I grew up in a Christian house. I've heard plenty of sermons on the eeeeevuls of dancing. By the time I was a teenager, things had changed quite a bit. Britney Spears, Cristina Aguilera, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys were introducing new fads. It's not hard to see where modern "gyrating" got its start. What began as two young people in nice clothes doing swing to a live band became scantily clad women and boys with drooping waist lines doing something completely different.

When most Christians hear the word "dancing" they automatically think of this. They think that dancing serves no other purpose but to stimulate lustful thoughts in youngins, and that's not fair.

Truth be told, there are plenty of wholesome dances. The waltz is one of them. So is The Charleston, The Jitterbug, The Lindy Hop, and The Box Step. There are clubs and competitions still going on all over the United States. They aren't topping the Top 40 anymore, but they endure in our culture.

Granted, people are people, and they'll do whatever they want. I'm sure somebody's thought of a Cyrus-version of The Grizzly Bear.

Yet, it's worth noting that even some modern songs have given us a few good dances. These include The Cha-Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle (note to self, learn those...).

I called dancing an exercise earlier. It is. I was exhausted when I got home. I woke up even tireder! Had to take a nap! There was food at the party, and I ate almost none of it. I was too busy because I knew I'd probably never get this chance again. The music was fabulous and I had a wonderful time getting to know the people.

Thank goodness I do so much cardio at the gym. It helps to have a good heart.

I can't think of a better way to end the semester.

In other news, I'm just about finished with the first volume of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. I figure after reading these, my palette will be cleansed enough to start editing my novel.

Power to the pen, and the cobbler who'll be fixing my shoes...